311 Usage Declines

311 is a service that connects Philadelphians to various services offered by the city, including garbage and trash removal. According to the City of Philadelphia’s data on 311 Service and Information requests, the total amount of garbage-related requests in 2018 was 52 percent of the total in 2015. Besides a notable increase in illegal dumping and vacant lot clean-up requests in 2016, the most substantial trend is a consistent decline since then. James Morse, the dataset contact for the “311 requests” dataset, has not responded to requests for comment.

Several residents have spoken of frustrating experiences with using 311 to handle these issues. “I have used the 311 app to report illegal dumping in East Germantown. Twice now, I found it to be convenient, but ineffective. I was at the exact location, uploaded pictures and a day or so later the response from the 311 app administrator was they could not find the location and marked the job complete. The trash was there for days, until I called our councilwoman’s office,” says Germantown resident, Nicole Viaud.
However, Sue Patterson, another Germantown resident argues that the collective use of 311 among residents is still important and will draw attention to ongoing issues with trash in the area. “However long it takes, using the 311 app helps. You don’t have to wait on the phone, you can report it at all hours, anonymously or not, and an accumulation of reports in a certain area will eventually direct/allocate more resources for best use of them.”

Block Captains offer a solution

Residents of Germantown, as well as other neighborhoods around Philadelphia, have the opportunity to become Block Captains of the area they live in to make the area around them nicer.

The Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee (PMBC) is a corporation that works to support Block Captains to make the streets of Philadelphia more beautiful. Block Captain’s work to clean up neighborhoods, maintain abandoned areas, and serve as a reminder to clean trash off the streets. Neighbors who want to clean up their area have the ability to sign up to become a Block Captain via the PMBC website.

In the summertime, residents in Philadelphia clean their blocks to be rewarded most beautiful block. This is a week-long event that travels to different neighborhoods to try to beautify their blocks by making it a competition. Each block is escorted by the police to ensure safety.

Madeline Ayala from the 3900 block of Reese Street was pleasantly surprised with how the community came together to beautify the block.

“My goal was to unite them and have all the older residents meet the new residents so that everybody can know one another,” she said. “I told our residents, at the end of the day, it’s really not about winning, it’s about showing them that we can do this as a unit.”

The summer’s cleanest block contest is part of a larger effort by Germantown residents to take matters into their own hands to beautify Germantown. All have one common goal, to see their neighborhood clean. These efforts contrast with declining usage of 311 services in Germantown’s largest area code.