Suffolk County residents no longer have to scour the county directory to figure out which department to contact to report issues such as potholes and downed trees or inquire about social and health services and park information.
Instead, one call to the new Suffolk County 311 hotline will centralize calls and remove the guesswork, officials said.
County Executive Steve Bellone announced the new service last Tuesday, fielding the first ceremonial call about a pothole from the county complex in Hauppauge.
“[The 311 system] is designed to improve collaboration and cooperation at all levels of government,” Mr. Bellone said during the press conference.
Operators at the call center will use software to capture details about each call. Through cloud-based software, specific departmental employees can log when the service or request is complete, officials said. “It’s a fascinating way to manage our resources,” Deputy County Executive Jon Kaiman said during an interview last week, adding that it will help the county collect insight into issues communities are facing and make their response more efficient.
The software cost approximately $600,000 to install, he said, and the center is currently staffed by six operators. Mr. Kaiman said the new center will also provide real-life training experience for 911 operators.
Calls that the county may be unable to respond to, such as state or town issues, will be forwarded to the corresponding municipality.
Residents can reach the 311 line Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and leave messages after hours. Calls can be made from outside of the county by dialing 631-853-6311.
Officials said the hotline will also help curb tens of thousands of non-emergency calls placed to 911 each year.
In a statement, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said the department welcomes the new system. “The program will be an asset to public safety as it allows us to remain laser-focused on emergency calls while non-police related calls are handled by Suffolk 311,” she said.
Suffolk County is the first suburban county in New York State to implement a 311 system.
The measure was praised by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a statement when the service was announced in April. He said the system, which has been in place since 2003, has been a success in the city.
“Residents and visitors use it to get information and report issues, but also it gives government leaders data that can help them direct resources and solve problems,” he said.
Since 2003, New York City has adopted a 311 text message hotline and mobile app, which is in the works for Suffolk County as well. Mr. Bellone announced Monday that the Suffolk 311 Facebook page was up and running, with a website, mobile app and additional social media platforms coming soon.
Residents can message the Suffolk311 Facebook page and have their questions answered during business hours, officials said, but are still urged to call the hotline for immediate assistance regarding non-emergency matters.
“As we continue to grow our 311 system, it is important for our residents to have on the go access available at their fingertips,” Mr. Bellone said in a statement Monday. “The Facebook page is just the latest addition, and we will continue to add new departments, social media platforms and a website so our residents have a variety of options to choose from.”