From the April 2004 Idaho Observer:

Michigan township recruits electronic tattletales

On-line code enforcement complaint form opens Pandora's box of mischief, meddling, petty disputes and...job security for code enforcement officers

Waterford Township, Michigan, is sponsoring a new program to encourage compliance with the local planning and zoning ordinances, building codes and other statutory restrictions being enforced by local police. Citizens are provided a web page for reporting code violations of their neighbors.

The form is available online at

“This is outrageous,” commented property rights activist Bill Munro. “The opportunities for abuse are almost limitless with this program,” he added.

The form is confidential. Complainants are not required to disclose their identity. They are able to file a multitude of complaints on whomever they desire by typing a few characters and hitting the send button. From the comfort and virtual anonymity of their own homes, angry, petty little people can wreak all kinds of havoc in the lives of anyone they don't like. And the accused has no opportunity to face their anonymous accuser.

Of course, once a report has been filed, the statutory authority takes over and the accuser is no longer necessary as the code enforcement officer will be able to determine whether or not a violation is been or is being committed and is then authorized to handle the situation as provided in code.

Such a program, if abused by the public in our increasingly adversarial society, could turn the community into secret informants encouraged to keep telling on one another. Such a program could also be easily abused by code enforcement officers trying to stay busy, expand their enforcement authority and to use their increased work load as a means to justify hiring more personnel and a larger budget.

Did Waterford Township consider the potential abuses available through their electronic code enforcement enhancement program or was it put online oblivious to the opportunities for abuse?

Time will tell.

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