What does the city do if it can't afford enough inspectors to enforce municipal code violations?

Easy: Enlist everyone in Palestine to help out.

That's the idea behind a new smart phone app, available for download from the Google Play Store and Apple App Store, that enables residents to report code enforcement violations immediately – and police to respond in real-time.

Palestine police made the free app part of their tool kit Thursday – and the department encourages every one in Palestine to do the same.

Palestine District 2 Councilman Mitchell Jordan, who in November installed cameras in his district to curtail illegal dumping, called the idea awesome.

“I've already downloaded it,” he said. “When people start using this app, and authorities respond in real-time, code-violators will know they are on notice. This is going to be huge.”

The technology will put eyes everywhere in the city.

The app is called Report Illegal Dumping, or “RID,” and it's commissioned by the East Texas Council of Governments. It went live three weeks ago.

Palestine Police hope the app will help solve a longstanding problem: Lax code enforcement leading to frequent violations of city laws, such as illegal dumping, animal cruelty, and unkept property.

“It's going to promote better service from the city to its residents,” Palestine Police Chief Andy Harvey told the Herald-Press Thursday. “This is a great new resource that can help at the local level.”

With RID, residents can use their Android or Apple smart phone or device; they can even upload a photo of the suspected violation.

The report goes to the East Texas Council of Governments in Kilgore, which in turn disseminates the information to local law enforcement.

In Palestine, the police department's police, litter abatement, animal control, and code enforcement (PLACE) team will receive the calls.

The PLACE team, created in January, has a dedicated phone line. It can be reached at 903-731-6003 during normal business hours. In case of emergency, Harvey said, residents should always call 911.

Julie Burnfield, ETCOG community services manager, created the app that's already used in 14 East Texas counties.

“We used to have an illegal dumping hotline, billboards, and things like that,” she said. “We had to update our technology to keep up with the times.”

Burnfield said radio, television and online ads promoting the app – much like the “Don't Mess With Texas” campaign of the 1980's – are in the works. Effectiveness of the advertisement, as well as of the RID app, will be evaluated next year.

The RID app can be downloaded from the Google Play Store at:

https://tinyurl.com/y9hhj7sw

or from the Apple App store at:

https://tinyurl.com/ya7jeysz