Alternative methods for responding to low priority calls have ranged from taking walk-in reports, mail-in reports and staffing call centers. While these methods have addressed the need of freeing up patrol officers from paperwork, they still require a significant amount of time and resources.
Online citizen police reporting is becoming increasingly popular across the country. So far, numbers indicate the system has been well received. The Fremont Police Department in California takes 25 to 30 percent of its reports online and spends only minutes reviewing them before exporting approved reports directly into the records management system (RMS) — without the need to transcribe.
Likewise, the San Francisco Police Department reported having received 10 percent of its overall report intake via this method in the first month of offering the service on their Web site. Since then, they have continued to receive a steady flow of reports online, as well as praise from citizens who have filed reports on the system.
Results are the same at large and small agencies, including those in Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, as well as in the Canadian Provinces of Alberta and Ontario. In each place, online citizen reporting was touted as increasing the effectiveness of patrol officers and reducing resources spent on collecting citizen reports.Will it work?
With so many citizens already filing tens of thousands of reports online, it is clear that the system is graduating from a "new" technology to "proven." The decision to implement it relies on the benefits of the system outweighing the costs.
There are several major benefits to implementing an online citizen police reporting system. Chief is the reduction in time and resources spent on responding to and writing reports for minor incidents that rarely have a suspect, and are primarily filed for insurance purposes.
For example, lost property reports can be submitted online, eliminating the need for an officer to respond to the call. If the system interfaces with the agency's RMS, personnel simply have to spend a few minutes reviewing and approving the report. The information is then automatically imported into the RMS and treated the same as an officer's written report.
Agencies also will be able to reach parts of the community that had previously posed communication barriers, since most online reporting systems are equipped with the capability to receive reports in multiple languages.
And the systems can do more than just minor crime reporting. Some agencies collect crime tips that are routed to specific units, such as house watch request forms, property registration and explorer applications with online reporting. Agencies are even allowing individuals with special permissions to file reports not accessible to the general public, such as a security guard filing shoplifting reports online.
The early adopters of this reporting method expected a citizen backlash upon implementation. To their surprise, law enforcement administrators began receiving praise from citizens for "catching up to the times" and providing a convenient way to report crimes.
Since citizens do not plan on being the victim of a crime, the ability to quickly and immediately file a crime report with the Internet is a tremendous service enhancement. Furthermore, most online citizen police reporting systems come with the ability to send the citizen a copy of their police report once approved by agency personnel, saving the citizen the hassle of picking up a police report to file with their insurance company.Making the right choice