Mayor Bloomberg has unleashed a fleet of satellite-guided, scooter-driving inspectors on city streets to target trash, potholes, and other banalities of urban living, City Hall announced last week.
These roving investigators, called the Street Conditions Observation Unit Team (or SCOUT), ride around with Blackberry-like devices to transmit reports on litter, graffiti, potholes and other quality-of-life problems directly into the 311 system.
The teams started fanning out on Aug. 6 — about 10 days before the mayor unveiled the $1-million program at a press conference last week.
“The program will give the mayor’s office an opportunity to see first-hand the quality-of-life conditions that impact every neighborhood in the city,” said Jeff Kay, director of the Mayor’s Office of Operations. “With inspectors in the field, we can provide city agencies with a real-time snapshot of those conditions, and ensure they take appropriate action.”
Local pols lauded the idea of more eyes on city streets.
“I look forward to working with the teams,” said Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge). “Street inspectors are good because they are an extra set of eyes and ears. Before, the city would rely on citizens to report potholes, dangling street signs, graffiti, overflowing street garbage, etc. Now the city taking a proactive role in keeping the streets clean.”
The 15 inspectors, on loan from other city agencies, are expected to each cover 20 miles and make up to 200 reports per day, according to the mayor’s office.
The busy teams don’t have the pleasure of handing out fines; City Hall says the goal is simply to hold agencies accountable to their customers, the public.
Local politicians praised the initiative, but a handful of civil-liberties-minded residents questioned the logic of having more eyes on the street, not to mention the increased congestion that would be caused by the scooters.
“This is an awful idea,” said resident Phil Millard. “First, the mayor pushes a commuter toll to decrease congestion, and now he is sending scooters out on the streets to drive around all day looking at things.”