More than 10,000 problems fixed through ‘Improve Detroit’ cell phone app

Dumping site on Detroit's east side. Photo by Steve Neavling.
Dumping site on Detroit’s east side. Photo by Steve Neavling.

In a city that is large enough to fit Boston, Manhattan and San Francisco, it’s not easy for Detroit workers to find – and fix – thousands of problems that exist in many long-neglected neighborhoods.

But that has changed with the introduction of a new cell phone app, “Improve Detroit,” that allows users to easily alert city hall to potholes, illegal dumping sites, abandoned cars, water main breaks, busted traffic signals and broken hydrants.

In the six months since Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration launched the app, more than 10,000 problems have been fixed, city officials said today.

About 6,500 people have downloaded the app since it became available in April.

According to the city, the app has helped:

  • Clean up more than 3,000 illegal dumping sites.
  • Repair 2,092 potholes.
  • Shut off running water to 991 abandoned structures.
  • Remove 565 abandoned vehicles.
  • Repair 506 water main breaks.
  • Fix 277 traffic signal issues.
Mayor Duggan
Mayor Duggan

“The Improve Detroit app has ushered in a new era of customer service and accountability in city government,” Mayor Mike Duggan said. “It’s never been easier for Detroiters to get their voices heard and their complaints taken care of.”

Residents have long complained about city hall ignoring litter and broken utilities. But the app has provided a more transparent and direct approach to fixing problems.

“It saves time, it gets results, and I love how I can follow the progress being made on the complaint,” said Dan Wroblewski, who lives on Detroit’s far west side and uses the app to report issues while patrolling his neighborhood.

Since Duggan took office, the city also launched an app called “Detroit Police Connect,” which provides up-to-date information on the police department and ways to contact police anonymously. The city also launched “DDOT Bus,” an app that provides riders with real-time location, movement and arrival times of buses.

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.

  • Tracey Scanlon

    Such a smart, practical app. It’s Waze for cities. I’d love to see one made for Philadelphia with an emphasis to put trashcans on more sidewalks. #CleanPhilly

  • Robert Anderson

    I would like to get a copy of this app and modify it for Puerto Rico. We could use it here. Any idea who I could contact?

    • Julia Notar-Francesco

      Hi Robert! Sorry I’m seeing this so late – would love to connect if you’re still interested ( I work for SeeClickFix, the company that created the Improve Detroit app.

      Chat soon! 🙂

  • joshuacalebs

    Every city needs this kind of feature to alert officials of ongoing problems. Preferably a bit more open-sourced though in nature for better transparency, and evidence of it being fixed maybe?

    • bebow

      There should also be evidence it isn’t for New Detroit only, proof action takes place all over the city.

  • Wesley Parish

    Kudos to Detroit for this. I had a similar idea in Christchurch, New Zealand back in 2011 after the Feb 22nd earthquake, tried to get sponsorship first from NZ Telecom and then from the Christchurch City Council to write the app, but no interest – or at least they never bothered to get back to me.

  • javierjuanmanuel

    I think its pretty easy to find and fix these things. Most cities have a code enforcement officer, and you can call city offices and say your neighbor has 10 dogs, or 5 cars parked on the lawn, or a hole in his garage roof etc, he will be promptly ticketed, and have to go to court. People that refuse to pay the fines, it goes on their taxes, and they can lose their home, then a good person will buy it.

    Its not hard, I would be happy if detroit just cleaned up front yards, and the front of homes, they can pile trash in the yard, have the garage fall over etc.

    Just keep the street clean, front of homes in good order, lawns cut, edged, and all the trash off the front porch.

  • bebow

    Oh, we need another app. There are reportedly almost 200 teacher vacancies throughout DPS. Substitutes are in the classrooms warming seats with no lesson plans. At Renaissance, the district’s premier high school, students in multiple classrooms are allegedly entering the 2nd month of school with no permanent teachers, no lesson plans, and, in some cases, no textbooks. DPS is said to have no pool of teacher candidates from which to select.

  • bebow

    The mayor’s office, district managers, city council members, and land banks have all been informed. Crickets. Is that customer service and accountability? The crews are smashing their equipment into residents’ properties and driving off without a word.

  • Jay Jay

    yes 3671 Field st they damage my fence and side walk ,But the killing is building/safety told me to buy the lot and they will replace the damage side walk,So I did now the engineer dept told me I got to pay for the side walk?I can’t afford to pay for the side walk their demolition crew destroyed,Is this a new way to rip off the citizens of Detroit?What can I do? I wrote a letter to the Mayor office and my council women Mary Sheffield, Nothing done yet?The city was given 100 million dollar they can’t or won’t replace the side walks with some of the money?Once again the city pays the big guys and rip off the little one’s.

    • javierjuanmanuel

      You definitely should not put any money into the sidewalk, wait them out.

      Or deal with it cracked. Thats the cities problem.

      The fence, you should be able to get the contractors insurance, and make a claim against it.

      Bankruptsy only protects the city for debts pre bankruptsy, new debits are new debts, new damage is enforceable.

      • bebow

        The land banks are covering for the perpetrators. As for the rest of our super-accountable, customer service oriented public servants…well. Crickets, JJ, crickets.

        • javierjuanmanuel

          You would know best, you live there. Freedom of information act should be able to get you all the stuff they dont want you to have.

          The contractor has to be licensed for demo, and has to have a multimillion dollar liability policy. I know that much for sure.

    • muckraker_steve

      I’m working on a story about the damage that Land Bank contractors are causing to property in Detroit. I’ll get in touch with you, and hopefully that will help get the ball rolling so that the sidewalk and fence are fixed. The contractor is required to have insurance in case this happens. Did you catch who the contractor was?

  • bebow

    Land bank crews are tearing up residents’ fencing. Is there an app for that?

    • muckraker_steve

      And their sidewalks. I’m working on a story about that. If you know of any particular addresses, please let me know.