The 411 on 311

What happens when you dial 311 for City Services

By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer

There is always a lot going on in Chicago and sometimes it might be tricky to figure out where to turn if you need help or information about the city. The answer is to dial 311, the middle ground option when you need to talk to a city official, but don’t want to place a 911 call.

Last year, 3.1 million calls were placed to 311, according to the city. Call 311 to report service needs, check the status of previous service requests, obtain information regarding programs or events throughout the city and to file non-emergency police reports.

According to the city website, “a call to 311 triggers a series of events.” When you first dial the number, you’re immediately told that your call will “be answered in the order it was received.” There’s no numerical prompts like “press one for police.”Callers are placed on a brief hold and then connected to a live human ready to help.

When you connect with the operator at 311, the operator is shown an “intake screen” to create a service request. A tracking number is assigned to each case, and prompts a checklist of steps that can be taken to solve the issue. The system then generates the necessary work orders to ensure cases aren’t lost or forgotten.

“If the caller needs information, a few keystrokes will give the 311 operator access to a database with City information,” the city said. You can find out prices, times, rules and regulations for things like library programs, parades, and festivals at Grant Park and Millennium Park.

If you have a concern that doesn’t quite scream “emergency” but warrants a phone call to the authorities, 311 can help you file a non-emergency police report. The operator can connect the caller to the Chicago Police Department’s Alternative Response Section for assistance or help you reach police personnel in your district.

If you want to get involved with your local police force, 311 can also provide the police district and beat you live in, and give you the date, time and location of the next
beat meeting.

“The Call Center operators have received extensive training and are prepared to treat every caller as a valued customer,” according to the city website. All operators also have access to a language bank where they can get help from translators who speak more than 100 languages.

Services requests and inquiries can also be made online or sent via ChiText, Chicago’s city services app. If you’re outside the city and are looking for information or have a concern, dial (312) 744-5000 to reach the same line.

Published June 3, 2018

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