ASHEVILLE—City government recently unveiled SimpliCity, a custom-designed search engine touted as a way to “find out what’s going on all around you in an easy-to-use format,” as the city’s blog put it.

The program, which was developed by city IT staffers, is the latest of several Asheville initiatives to expand circulation of public information. It provides quick online access to data about crime, property and tax values, sanitation services and other neighborhood concerns.

Users can enter a location in the city and see which public info is readily available via the search engine.

For example, we entered the address of Carolina Public Press’s office, which we rent at 50 S. French Broad Ave. in downtown Asheville, and retrieved the following information, among other data:

• The building, land and total appraised value of the property, with ready access to the same info for neighboring properties.

• A list and map of crimes committed within a quarter mile of the office in the past year, with a breakdown of which types occurred where, according to law enforcement. Case numbers are included, while names of alleged criminals and victims are not.

• The days our trash and recycling is picked up.

• A summary of development permits issued for nearby properties in the past year.

Users can restrict their searches to shorter time windows and smaller areas of streets or neighborhoods, if they choose. The data, a city announcement said, is updated in real time, making search results as current as possible.

Here’s a brief instructional video for using Simplicity, provided by the city.

YouTube video

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Jon Elliston is the lead contributing open government reporter at Carolina Public Press. Contact him at

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