When Donald Perez hits the street in downtown Providence wearing his yellow jacket, a utility belt with an iPhone, flashlight, radio, disposable gloves and dining guides, he’s pretty much ready for anything.
“I’ve had people tell me about someone suspicious in a parking lot trying to open cars or about an intoxicated person sleeping in the doorway, or about graffiti,” said Perez, safety team leader for the Downtown Improvement District and one of three people in the city with an iPhone with an app that allows access to the new SMART system.
The three phones are the on-the-street feed in a pilot program launched in Providence by the operations management company Block by Block.
The SMART system connects the Downtown Improvement District ambassadors with city departments and organizations outside the government, such as National Grid. Work orders with the time, date, photos and details whiz through the database-driven SMART system and allow everyone concerned to immediately be part of the process of getting the problem fixed.
“If I see graffiti or a light out, I pull out my phone, take a picture of it, add a short, detailed summary and put in what’s to be done,” Perez said. “Once it’s in the system, we’re all on the same page.”
The work order goes to the police if it’s a safety issue, to National Grid if it’s related to an electrical outage or to Providence Public Works if it’s a city repair issue.
Even though it’s been too short a time to expect major changes since the SMART system launched in October, Lisa Newman Paratore, owner of the Homestyle shop on Westminster Street, said it’s a positive addition for property owners.
“No one has come in and complained lately. So to me that means the yellow jackets are able to handle things much more quickly,” Paratore said of the members of the Downtown Improvement District teams who patrol for cleanliness and safety issues and are known by their bright, yellow attire.
“If they see something, it goes directly into their iPhone and they can get cracking and get it taken care of,” said Paratore, a member of the board of the Downtown Improvement District. “It definitely keeps things from falling off anyone’s radar and it holds everyone accountable.