Website may counter crime

A recent report highlights SeeClickFix, an online tool that city residents can use to report nonemergency issues in their neighborhoods, as a potential tool to fight crime in New Haven.

The website, first founded in New Haven in 2008, allows residents to report a wide range of local issues, including cracked sidewalks, downed trees and the need for a supermarket closer to a given neighborhood. In its “Community Index” report released in October, DataHaven found that neighborhoods that file more requests through seeClickFix typically witness less crime.

“The number of SeeClickFix reports are inverse to the amount of crime in a neighborhood,” said Ben Berkowitz, CEO and founder of SeeClickFix.

Approximately 13,000 New Haven residents have created SeeClickFix accounts since the service’s debut, Berkowitz said. He added it now serves as the primary means of communication between residents and City Hall.

Once an issue is documented, that report is sent to the local government and other neighbors. Other viewers can share, comment on and vote up problems they would also like to see fixed to increase urgency, Berkowitz said.

The report shows that, neighborhoods in the Elm City with lower crime rates tend to have more active SeeClickFix users. However, this does not necessarily mean that SeeClickFix is causing a decrease in neighborhoods, said Ward 7 Alderman Doug Hausladen ’04.

“The conclusion isn’t that SeeClickFix doesn’t decrease crime,” Hausladen said. “But it helps collect information on problems in neighborhoods.”

Hausladen attributes his election to the Board of Aldermen in part to his ability to bring about small improvements in his ward through problems posted on SeeClickFix. He added that he often uses it for problems that arise in his ward, and he cites its use for solving a recent flurry of complaints about garbage trucks driving through the ward too early in the morning and waking up residents.

Hausladen partnered with Common Ground center to teach 40 New Haven residents how to use SeeClickFix at the Wilson Branch library in 2009. After that event, the reporting platform saw a spike of abandoned land related issues.

“It is an outreach effort. When you make the outreach, you see the user activity,” Hausladen said.

Although the use of SeeClickFix in New Haven is becoming more prevalent, Berkowitz said the organization has a long way to go before the platform is adopted by the majority of New Haven residents.

“We have some super users that truly get around to all neighborhoods,” Hausladen said. “But I have noticed that there is a gap in usage.”

Seven New Haven residents surveyed on the New Haven Green had not heard of SeeClickFix, but all agreed that they see its potential as a useful tool in improving their neighborhoods.

New Haven resident Charles Ellwood Sr. said he is “sick and tired” of seeing the same structural issues in his neighborhood. He said he is a proponent of SeeClickFix if it will help regulate citizens’ complaints and guarantee that people responsible for repairs are doing their jobs.

SeeClickFix is organizing a meet up on Nov. 21 to discuss how to increase use of its platform in the city’s troubled neighborhoods. Berkowitz said he hopes this conversation will help spread the word about SeeClickFix in areas with low usage.

SeeClickFix is used in 25,000 towns and 8,000 neighborhoods worldwide.

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