Dirty alleys still an issue
Baltimore’s response to 311 calls depends on where you live
Judy Taylor keeps track of every call she makes to 311, jotting down the date on a piece of lined paper that she keeps on her fridge. She frequently requests that city crews come to her Carrollton Ridge neighborhood to clear piles of trash from the alley behind her rowhouse: abandoned mattresses, overflowing plastic bags, discarded liquor bottles.
“I call and call and call,” says Taylor, 78. A Baltimore Sun analysis of city data shows that if a resident in southwestern Baltimore, where Taylor lives, calls the non-emergency help line to report a dirty alley, a resolution almost never comes by the recommended deadline of seven business days. That’s a stark contrast to the city’s southeastern area, where nearly 100% of “dirty alley” requests are completed on time.
Baltimore — the first city to deploy 311 as a non-emergency request center — fields thousands of calls for broken streetlights, graffiti removal and illegal dumping. Alley cleanup is among the most common requests.
The dirty alleys in the city garnered national attention this summer when Fox News ran footage of blight and trash in West Baltimore, sparking a White House tweetstorm in which Republican President Donald Trump called Baltimore “disgusting” and “rat and rodent infested.” Residents criticized the president’s verbal assault on their hometown, but some also said the city hadn’t done enough to clean up their neighborhoods.
To respond to 311 calls related to trash, debris and other litter problems, the Department of Public Works’ Bureau of Solid Waste divided the city into five