City to limit overnight 311 calls to urgent only

April 03, 2009|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,

Starting April 10, Baltimore's 311 Call Center will take only urgent requests for service between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., saving the city $500,000, officials announced Thursday.

Urgent requests such as animal control, water service interruptions, water main breaks, overflowing sewers or flooding basements, traffic signal outages or debris in roadways will be directly routed through a telephone tree to radio dispatchers for appropriate departments, such as Public Works or Transportation.

Shrinking the hours eliminates 11 positions, but no one is expected to lose their jobs because operators are expected to transfer to other openings.

Operators log about 1.1 million calls annually, but only about 52,000 - less than 5 percent - come overnight. As a result, each call costs about $10. And of those, 1,900 were urgent requests.

"Every call we get is not an emergency call," said Michael Barocca, the city's interim chief information officer. About 40 percent to 45 percent of calls result in service requests, he said, and the rest are calls for information, such as professional sports schedules and locations of city offices. "They look at this as the city's information bank," Barocca said.

An additional 30,000 requests are submitted online yearly at, and residents can continue to submit online requests 24 hours a day even after the call center's hours change. People can also reach 311 online by going to and clicking "311 online" in the left-hand rail.

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