hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

January 17, 2013

City right to create network of smart phone users to report problems

The Haverhill Gazette

---- — In a community of nearly 35 square miles that is suffering growing pains, you can never have enough eyes and ears.

And in this day of ever-expanding technology, added eyes and ears can lead to city officials being quickly notified of problems as simple as a pothole or as serious as a tree branch lying on power lines.

With the number of people carrying cell phones these days, there are plenty of observers who can help the city jump on problems, both big and small.

Mayor James Fiorentini said Haverhill has received grant money to set up a system allowing people with smart phones to report problems. (See story, Page 1.)

The city is right to enlist users of smart phones to help keep an eye on problems in the community.

Once the system is operating, all the smart phone users have to do is take a photo of a pothole or other problem and forward it to city officials, and they are expected to take care of it. The reporting person receives a tracking number, allowing him or her to follow the report to its conclusion, hopefully a solution.

“This new application will allow residents to report issues immediately and see when the problem has been corrected,’’ the mayor told reporter Mike LaBella.

Haverhill is a dynamic city. From the urban center to the rural outskirts, there is more going on than city officials and workers such as police can keep an eye on.

But with a population of more than 60,000 people, thousands of whom are carrying smart phones, the new program will create a network of observers.

Someone driving on a rural back road might notice a big pothole where police or other city workers seldom travel. Someone walking his dog on a weekend afternoon might notice graffiti on the back wall of a school.

Someone else might notice something more serious, perhaps a broken window in a city building that needs replacement.

The test of whether the system works will be seen in how the city responds. The information sent by smart phone users is only as good as how it is used. We hope the city does what the mayor promises: Take reports seriously and get to the ones that are the most serious as quickly as possible.

But one thing is certain — whether people notice something that is simply a nuisance or an emergency that needs immediate attention, Haverhill was right to create this new reporting system.

It can only help make the city a safer, cleaner place to live.