New York City will track its hundreds of building inspectors with GPS technology to make sure they are actually doing the inspections they report, the Department of Buildings said Friday.
The new scrutiny comes after an inspector was charged last year with faking a report that he had inspected a crane days before it collapsed and killed seven people.
Electrical, construction, elevator, crane and other inspectors will now have GPS tracking on their mobile phones so that department heads can follow their movements in real time through a web-based program.
Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri said the system will "ensure inspectors reach their assigned locations and are held accountable for their important work."
Last year city crane inspector Edward Marquette was indicted on criminal charges of tampering with public records. According to the indictment, he indicated on a Department of Buildings inspection sheet that he had inspected a construction site on East 51st Street on March 4, 2008, when in fact he had not.
The crane collapsed 11 days later. Officials said it was unlikely an inspection would have prevented the tragedy, but the incident sparked an agency-wide examination of its inspection processes.
For years, other states and municipalities have tracked inspectors and employees using similar technology. Chicago follows its fire and buildings inspectors, and some state building and engineering inspectors in Massachusetts were suspended when they resisted the mandate a few years ago.
The union representing most of the New York City building department's inspectors said members were disappointed by the announcement Friday but did not threaten to oppose the monitoring system.
"It seems no matter how hard these guys try, management won't let them move past the transgressions of the past," said Joseph Corso, president of Local 211 of the International Union of Operating Engineers.
The New York City system will not only allow unit heads to track inspectors, but will also store the daily routes of inspectors in a database.
The city said GPS technology will also enable officials to identify the closest inspectors to assign to emergency incidents.
In the last fiscal year, buildings department inspectors logged more than 445,000 inspections.
The tracking will begin Monday with the first group of inspectors; all 379 will be monitored by the end of September, the city said.