Instead of waiting for a police officer to get to the scene of a car break-in, victims of low-level crimes may soon be able to file a police report right from their smartphone.
The Los Angeles Police Department is mulling a move to streamline its reporting process by going digital, which could increase reports of crimes that victims often see as a waste of time reporting.
"We live in an online world," said LA City Councilman Mitch Englander, who proposed the project. "I know the time it takes to go on calls and file reports."
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Police agencies around the country, including in LA, have embraced Web tools – among them Nixle, a free website that lets law enforcing issue advisories and news releases to the masses. LAPD already uses Twitter, Facebook and text alerts to inform the public.
Angelenos can anonymously report crime tips on LAPD’s website, but those reports are first funneled through Crime Stoppers before making it to police. The new system would give victims a direct line, online, to law enforcement.
Some 325 police agencies in 37 states let their citizens file police reports online, according to CopLogic, Inc., a California-based company and one of the biggest suppliers of this tool for police.
The push for the LAPD to get on board was made in February by Englander, a reserve LAPD officer. He said it’s about time the country’s third largest police agency goes digital to not only make people’s lives easier, but to potentially save millions of dollars and hours.
The LAPD handles more than 1 million non-emergency phone calls per year. The $23 it costs for a citizen to get a copy of the crime report is a small fraction of the cost it takes officers to process and investigate it, Englander said.
No cost estimates for LAPD’s program have been floated so far.
The department will now draft a request for companies to put in bids to create the system. The City Council will have to approve that submission before LAPD can implement it.
Other California cities, including Riverside, Pasadena and Sacramento, are also using the tool.
Cal State Northridge campus police started using the system in March 2012, according the university’s student newspaper. School police said they initially saw a small number of mostly property crimes reported through the system, but they are encouraged.
Reporting minor crimes online is less time consuming and more convenient, officials said. Victims don’t have to drive to a police station or wait for an officer to arrive to take a report, shaving hours off the time it could take to process.
LAPD’s proposed system would handle low-level crimes, such as property crimes, vandalism and petty theft, not violent crimes.
Andrew Cartwright, a CopLogic spokesman, said the public is demanding this kind of instant service as digital tech grows.
The hope with the online reporting system is that more people will report crimes.
Officials are well aware that with the ever-broadening of an open line of communication with police, there’s a potential for more false reports.
But to those scofflaws, Cartwright has a message: "Creating a false report is a crime. The agency has ways to figure out who you are."