O’Fallon is a thriving community of about 30,000 residents located in the southwestern corner of Illinois. City professionals are committed to maintaining O’Fallon’s beauty and fostering a safe environment for its residents. As part of this commitment, the city has taken a proactive approach to managing and maintaining residential rental properties.
The O’Fallon Crime-Free Housing Program is a partnership between the Community Development Department, the Police Department, residential property owners, and renters. The purpose of the program is to reduce misdemeanors in and around rental properties by taking a proactive approach against crime.
In order to obtain a residential rental license within the city, property owners must comply with the requirements of the O’Fallon crime-free rental housing ordinance. This includes:
- Participating in crime-free training seminars
- Conducting residential inspections
- Renewing annual licenses
- Including crime-free addendums in rental leases with accompanying signatures
This combination of education, inspections, and licensing has proven essential to the success of the program, but keeping track of the data and paperwork can be a daunting task. City employees found themselves bogged down with the complexities of tracking the ordinance requirements, and they needed a way to better manage and simplify its processes.
The City of O’Fallon is a longtime user of Cityworks AMS, and they decided to expand to Cityworks PLL (permits, licensing, and land) in 2017. Today, the crime-free housing program is just one of many community development initiatives managed within Cityworks PLL.
“Cityworks expanded upon our previous capabilities,” said Jessica Short, community development coordinator at O’Fallon. “Record keeping in general with Cityworks is much easier than what we had before, and it allows us to retrieve accurate data quickly and easily. Our transition to Cityworks PLL has been nearly seamless.”
Collaborating Across Departments
One of the critical components of the crime-free housing program is the collaboration between the Community Development Department and the Police Department. They needed a way to share real-time ordinance information across departments.
The Community Development Department handles the administration of the program in Cityworks, including issuing licenses, collecting fees, sending renewal notices, scheduling inspections, registering licenses for training seminars, and more.
Meanwhile, the Police Department hosts crime free training seminars for property owners, responds to calls for service, and ensures property owners and managers are made aware of calls. They help identify rental properties that are not registered in the program and confirm whether a property is vacant and no longer requires a license.
The two departments share information through Cityworks and use the streamlined workflows to view the status of licenses, inspections, and seminar attendance.
Communicating with the Public
The success of the program also relies on a reliable record of communication with the public. Currently, the city uses Cityworks PLL to track nearly 3,000 licenses, representing more than 3,800 rental units. The community development department sends regular notices to each licensee regarding upcoming deadlines for fees, inspections, and seminars attendance. Copies of these communications are attached to each case so they can be easily pulled without having to locate a separate file.
“Having access to this communication history is especially helpful if we ever need to go to court,” explains Short. “We can also link cases in PLL so we can easily navigate from one to the next and keep all related information together.”
Visualizing Trends on a Map
In addition to having the data in one central location, Short says the team is now enjoying the benefits of having a program that ties into GIS. This is especially helpful for city inspectors who track their work on iPads in the field.
“The mapping component gives us a visual look at the rental properties and concentrations within neighborhoods,” Short said. “We have been using workflows and maximizing that functionality, and the inspection and reporting capabilities have been very useful.”
When it comes to return on investment, Short feels the success they’ve experienced so far speaks for itself.
“Although we haven’t performed specific measurements yet, we can absolutely see it saving us time, money, and physical resources. Cityworks has enabled us to do a lot of things electronically we couldn’t before.”
In the future, the city plans to implement additional efficiencies within the workflows to save time, paper, and money. They also hope to implement online solutions that enable the public to submit permits, pay fees, and renew licenses. With each process improvement, the Community Development Department improves the level of service they provide to their residents—ultimately enhancing quality of life citywide.
Lindsay Ferguson is a contributing writer for Cityworks.