Code enforcement processes in Eastvale were inefficient and antiquated, resulting in resident submitting complaints to city officials about issues not being addressed.
Code Enforcement is an often-undervalued component of a city’s service delivery and citizen engagement efforts. In the City of Eastvale, CA (pop. 75,000), the Community Enhancement and Safety (CES) team was tasked with doing work that helps improve the quality of life for Eastvale residents: ensuring properties were maintained and that public rights of way were clean and free of illegal dumping.
The city had a request management software in place for residents to submit violations, but all other steps in the process, including communication, were inefficient and managed entirely by the city staff using paper-based workflows. Documentation is crucial within code enforcement in the event that cases go to court. In Eastvale, staff on the four-member CES team used paper files to manage their notes, as well as their inspections, photos, letters, and follow-up actions and spent hours in the office communicating status updates to residents via email or phone calls. Because of the paper-based workflows required to track and address violations, it became hard for the staff to move code enforcement cases through to completion. With each team member doing up to 40 visits per week, the CES team was being buried under the flow of new cases with no system in place to efficiently track active cases and move them to the next step.
“Organization is essential in code enforcement, particularly when tracking case progress”
“Some cases only require one visit from staff to be resolved, whereas others need multiple follow-up visits and additional enforcement action. Using paper files to manually track hundreds of cases limited our ability to effectively manage the caseload and sometimes cases got lost,” said Johnny Terfehr, Eastvale’s Interim Community Safety Director.
Unfortunately, the cases that fell through the cracks or didn’t get pushed along in a timely manner resulted in complaints to city council members and the city manager about the effectiveness of the code enforcement program. Eastvale needed a more efficient way for its staff to manage and communicate around code enforcement cases, and with complaints from frustrated staff and impatient residents, it was clear that now was the time.
A digital code enforcement process allowed staff to better manage and document enforcement cases, reducing complaints from residents.
Previous violations that were submitted were tracked using paper-based workflows. Now, staff can document inspections, set follow-up reminders, and view all previous interactions with a particular property using GOGov. The entire code enforcement process was updated, including how the City reached and notified residents. With the new MyEastvale app, the city can enhance communication with residents without sacrificing staff time using automated notifications.
The Interim Community Safety Director, Johnny Terfehr, had historical knowledge from previous roles in public service about the value of a digital code enforcement process to centralize and track information.
With the process improvement, the CES team was able to work on hundreds more cases per year than before, and even better, citizens saw the difference. As the level of customer service increased, fewer complaints were submitted to the city council and the city manager about cases being dropped or not being handled.
When complaints are passed along to the Community Enhancement and Safety department from the city council, staff can now quickly access the file and send along a complete history of their work on the case for the council to share with the resident. In the past, paper-based workflows would have meant digging through files to find the relevant documents. Similarly, if an enforcement case goes to court, the team can digitally access the necessary files. "Embracing technology has allowed the team to more consistently fulfill the mission of Community Enhancement and Safety”, said Terfehr. “My staff can work with greater efficiency and residents can have more confidence in our ability to better the community."
Moving processes to digital also uncovered a new tool that can improve processes and make them more efficient: data. Rather than view each code violation independently, the GIS function allows city staff to look at code violations holistically. Staff can now identify what areas of the city experience the most frequent violations and allocate their time to more proactive outreach in those areas. The visualization aspect also makes reporting progress to the city council and city management easier.
Equipped with a tool that organized and simplified the customer service and processes involved in code enforcement, the Community Enhancement and Safety team looked for ways to integrate it with other software and departments. Examples of successful integrations include the city’s permitting platform, integration with an outsourced citation processing company, integration with a short-term rental identification contractor, and integration with the city’s GIS system.