Almost 75,000 complaints were called in to Ottawa's 311 in 2010. City wards in this map are shaded by number of complaints per ward resident, with red wards having the highest percentage of complaints, followed by wards coloured orange, yellow and green. Click on a ward to see what issues are riling up the neighbourhood.
People in Ottawa are whining, complaining and telling tales about their neighbours' pets, noisy teenagers and illegally parked cars, but they aren't venting their frustration to their friends across the street: they are picking up the phone and calling the city.
Ottawa residents called 311 to complain about by-law and parking infractions 74,501 times in 2010, almost triple the number of complaints in 2000 and more per capita than any other city in the province.
Calls to the city about parking make up a third of all complaints, or 25,262 calls, with the biggest parking issues being disputes over designated parking spaces, late-night (overtime) parking and laneway parking.
Calls about animals were the second biggest complaint, accounting for 13,736 calls, while noise complaints — including a spike during the Santa Claus Parade — made up 13,328 of the calls.
Thousands of people also picked up the phone to complain about property standards, signs, licensing, care of streets, parks, zoning and graffiti.
"In the past decade, complaining about neighbours has become the civic sport in Ottawa," said Councillor Rick Chiarelli.
"Ten years ago people used to go next door and speak to their neighbour," said Chiarelli. "And now I guess...it's more convenient? I'm not sure what, but it's easier for people to call the authorities and get someone else intervene and then they don't have to face their neighbour. But there's a cost to that."
|Most common calls to 311|
|Care of streets||1,749|
|(Source: City of Ottawa By-law Services)|
The city said the typical call costs about $200 for city staff to respond, with the total cost to taxpayers about $6 million annually.
Calls encouraged in some neighbourhoods
In some areas of the city, calling 311 has emerged as a legitimate strategy for dealing with residences where neighbours suspect unlawful or criminal activity. For example, police and community groups have actively encouraged Sandy Hill residents to call in noise complaints in their area, and as a result, Rideau-Vanier had 2,538 noise complaints, about four times the city average.
However Chiarelli said some complaints are more legitimate than others.
"We got a call from a woman who wanted us to stop her 13-year-old from playing her music so loud," said Chiarelli. "Her own 13-year-old, in her own house, from playing her music too loud."
Count Caroline Kearney as one Ottawa resident not afraid to use the service. She said she calls the city at least a couple of times a day to complain about the drivers who park on her street.
The area is a no parking zone, but drivers often ignore the signs, she said. So she said she had enough and began calling the city every time someone parked there.
"My spouse is on a first-name basis with the 311 operators. It's that bad," she said.
Susan Jones, the head of the city's Bylaw Services, said many times the person complaining hasn't actually spoken to the person they're complaining about, meaning her employees have to wear multiple hats.
"We try and bring both parties together," said Jones. "If you look at our bylaw officers, they're not just enforcement officers; they're almost psychiatrists, they're social workers, they're continually having to negotiate a resolution."