Since D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams took office in January, the city's Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs has rushed to eliminate a persistent backlog in housing inspections. Now, the department plans to use satellite-linked portable computers to prevent any future bureaucratic gridlock.
Yesterday, Williams (D) and DCRA officials announced that some inspectors will begin using book-size computers that will allow housing officers to immediately get information on properties--and print out violation notices in seconds.
It's called the Remote Access Inspection and Dispatch System and is the first computerized inspection/dispatch system of its kind in the country.
Williams, who has stressed the use of technology to make D.C. government more efficient, said during a news conference yesterday that the system "moves the District from the Stone Age to Space Age in neighborhood preservation, all in one step."
District officials hope the new system--which is part of a $149,000 pilot program that could be expanded to a larger system for a one-time cost of $450,000--will help prevent neighborhood blight and allow housing officers to crack down on substandard properties more quickly.
The system was designed for the District by a local software engineering company. It prioritizes inspection assignments, provides digitally illustrated street maps and preferred routes to properties, offers detailed information on residential properties, and allows inspectors to enter additional information about the property and surrounding area.
DCRA has issued the computers to five inspection officers, who now will not have to spend time traveling to and from their offices several times a day, officials said.
Each year, DCRA responds to an estimated 12,000 complaints regarding substandard housing conditions, conducts neighborhood surveys and monitors properties under consideration for condemnation. In all, the agency conducts more than 38,000 inspections and reinspections annually, while issuing more than 15,000 violations notices.
The computer system "will revolutionize housing code enforcement," said DCRA Director Lloyd J. Jordan. "This system will dramatically increase productivity by speeding the entire inspection process. Operations that took hours or days under a manual process are now completely automated."
D.C. officials estimated that the computer system, once fully implemented, would save the city $400,000 a year by reducing manpower by 14,000 hours.
"It propels us into a new age of community preservation, stabilization and revitalization," Williams said. "This is preventive maintenance for neighborhoods."