Online citizen reporting systems are different than nearly every other product purchased, as they are one of the few products that law enforcement agencies purchase for citizen use. Luckily, many agencies have already ventured into the world of online citizen police reporting and have gained experience and knowledge of what works and what does not. With that in mind, there are some basic factors to consider before searching for an online citizen police reporting system:
Will it benefit your agency and staff?
Aside from the obvious savings in time and resources, there are some other benefits that are likely to be noticed after launching. Alternative service units will have a reduced backlog of reports and call-backs. Patrol units will be able to address crime trends proactively instead of writing reports for crimes that have no suspects or evidence. Front desk officers and personnel will be able to focus on major reports if a kiosk is used to handle minor reports.
Will it benefit your citizens?
Citizens have come to expect immediate services available online, and service provided by law enforcement is no exception. While the convenience offered to citizens should not be undervalued, some online citizen police reporting systems meet ADA requirements and come with multi-lingual support, ensuring that your agency can reach out to parts of the community that have historically been less likely to report crime.
How will it affect your budget?
Although online citizen police reporting has become a service enhancement, it was designed to combat the effects of shrinking budgets and staffing shortages. As such, companies providing the service had to ensure that the systems were cost-effective and generated an apparent return on investment. A reputable company is not only likely to offer several purchasing or leasing options, but will have the ability to demonstrate how other agencies have experienced a return on investment.
Finding the solution
After making the decision to move forward with online citizen police reporting, the next step is to find a system that is the best match for your agency. The system should have some basic requirements so users can fully benefit from it:
Interfacing to your RMS
An online citizen police reporting system that interfaces to your RMS will provide your agency with substantial time- and resource-saving benefits. Without an interface to the RMS, the system will benefit citizens and patrol officers, but agency resources will still be required to manually enter the reports into the RMS. It is important to inquire about a vendor's ability to interface to the RMS since some vendors have partnerships with existing RMS vendors or the ability to interface to the RMS, while other vendors do not or cannot build the interface to an RMS.
Being able to receive reports in multiple languages is not very useful unless the online citizen reporting system is able to display the report in English for the personnel responsible for reviewing the reports. Be sure to ask the vendor how they handle reports filed in languages other than English.
Taking supplements to reports
There will always be reports that require an officer to respond to a call and take a report. However, for certain reports such as commercial burglaries, some online citizen reporting systems can take supplements to reports. Allowing the citizen to file their property list online not only frees the officer from spending time on data entry, but also allows the citizen to take an active part in their report, which often leads to a more thorough documentation of stolen property.
Some online citizen reporting systems offer little to no flexibility. Many homegrown systems tend to be difficult to edit, change or expand. Finding a system that allows for growth and the ability to create new incidents easily and quickly will ultimately benefit the agency in the long run. The ability to control the types of reports collected also allows the agency to use the system for crime tips, extra patrol requests, traffic complaints, property registration, etc.
Purchasing a relatively new technology means that the companies are likely to be new names in the law enforcement community. In a young market, it is important to not only consider the product you are choosing carefully, but also the company providing the product and services. Before signing, ask your vendor the following questions: