CIVIC DATA MANAGEMENT: 311 Sanitation Complaints


Project Lead
Sarah Williams

Research Associate
Nick Klein

Support from
New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY)


In 2003 New York City introduced the 311 call system, the “phone number for government information and non-emergency services”. The 311 system has increased citizen knowledge and improved their ability to provide feedback on municipal services such as trash pick-up. The 311 program gives New York City’s Department of Sanitation (DSNY) the ability to create new statistical analysis techniques for their complaint data.

With this sort of information, DSNY has a novel opportunity to explore the impact and quality of their services spatially. DSNY also benefits from 311’s advertising campaign because it has widened the amount of people who are aware that they can call 311 about trash collection. The combination of the geographic location information and the new 311 system has caused DSNY to review how they evaluate their complaint data. It has also created a heightened awareness about using the data to look at the spatial relationship between high complaint areas and socio-demographics.

This study looks at the spatial patterns of DSNY missed pick-up complaints. It also analyzes whether there is a relationship between spatially clustered complaints and neighborhoods with low density housing, people living in poverty, and minority status.

The two maps show the results of the hot spot analysis. The map on the right shows “cold” spots spatial clusters or regions where there are locally lower levels of collection complaints. The left map shows “hot” spots areas where there are higher levels of collection complaints.