Thursday, July 19, 2012

Fingers crossed

Well, it now appears that Plan B will replace the previous plan to drop the investigation of non-injury traffic crashes by police officers in a budget cutting move. Plan B is to institute a $15 fee for a copy of the officer's report, which are now distributed free of charge on the Internet.

If all goes well, we should sell 10,000 of those annually, generating about the same amount of money that we would have saved by cutting the service. Before we began distributing reports on the web (we were the first in the U.S. to do so) back in the mid-1990s, we used to sell even more than that, at $2 each. There are fewer crashes today, though, and we can only speculate on the impact of the $15 charge.

My fingers are crossed.

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wonder if this will cut down on the mail from the "ambulance chasers" if they have to spend $15 on each report to get accident information? That would be a nice side effect... :)

Steve said...

Why not do like LJS and most any other web site, post the accident reports as you've always done, but litter the page with pop-up ads to bring in the money. (As I understand it, you could even do that with your blog page. :)) I will miss being able to check out the details of an accident I heard about or passed by during my travels around town. Still, I'd rather have the police do the reports and have to pay for them than not have them at all.

Tom Casady said...

6:53,

Interestingly, though, both the online survey and the live public forum identified this as the lowest priority, when lined up with eight other City services, including a shortened single bus route, and a senior companion/foster grandparent program. I was at the public forum. When the small groups reported back, 7 of the 8 ranked this last! Perhaps this is simply a reflection that comparatively few people have a crash in any given year, but on the other hand, it's a few thousand more than ride the VA bus route. I suspect that more dialog around the water cooler has caused people to rethink the implications.

7:19,

You would think that they would have to be a bit more selective, at least.

Anonymous said...

If memory serves me correct at one time the Attorney General issued an opinion saying that only resonable cost, less than 5 cents a page could be charged for copying fees by public agencies.

Car 54

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 8:03
I would assume this will be similar to Criminal History checks. LPD charges $10 for them. Plus one could argue that you aren't paying for a copy, you are paying for the service. LPD has every right to recoup the cost of providing this service.

Anonymous said...

Like I wrote in the post you didn't allow through last week, it's standard campiagn-365-days-a-year method to threaten cutting public safety in some way during budget time, and then, through "hard work" and whatnot, miraculously save the day and not have to cut public safety at the last minute, thus becoming a hero or something. It's transparent politics, setting up sucker voters for the mayoral re-election in May of 2013. It's a tax increase by another name, even if it's called a "fee". Why not just bump up the city portion of prop taxes a hair instead?

Because then he can run for re-election in May, and say "I didn't raise taxes" - even though he effectively did. I've got no problem raising taxes a bit to fund public safety, as long as the tax increases are called tax increases.

You want to cut the budget a lot? Sell 10% of the LHA properties, and cut off the least-deserving 10% of the LHA tenants. The ones who aren't elderly or disabled in any way, just lazy system-gamers.

Tom Casady said...

Car 54,

We checked with the Cuty Law Department on this, and they are reasonably comfortable. The $15 fee is well-within the cost if the time it takes for a police officer to collect the data and produce the product. The fact that the State Department of Roads itself charges $15 would tend to support our position, as well.

Tom Casady said...

Whoops, let's make that CITY Law Department.

Tom Casady said...

10:26,

When half of the tax-funded City budget is public safety, it's difficult to continue to take all the cuts on the backs of everything else. As far as a strategic tactic, I listed all the various programs that have been cut from LPD a couple days ago, and those have been substantial. The whining is loud when Mayors have proposed such things as cutting hours at libraries, closing pools with low attendance, or shortening up a lightly used bus route. And without evaluating the merits of your proposal, I would just point out that the City of Lincoln does not fund the Lincoln Housing Authority, and changing it or eliminating it would not affect the City budget.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes it would affect the budget, and in a revenue-positive manner, because it would put that 10% of the LHA properties back on the prop tax rolls.

Steve said...

Tom:

I don't doubt that the online surveys and even the public forum put this issue at the bottom of the priority list. Surely, you know that this doesn't necessarily give an accurate picture of what the public as a whole feels on the issue. A scientific survey, which could have been done, would be a much better tool to rely upon.

Thankfully, I believe the Mayor saw enough of a public outcry after the original announcement to change his mind. I think the alternative he has proposed is reasonable.

Steve said...

I just discovered a poll on this topic on the LJS website. I realize this is no more scientific that the city's budget poll, but, right now, 54% of the respondents want police to continue to investigate non-injury accidents.

Tom Casady said...

11:37,

I get your point now.

Anonymous said...

10:26AM

"Like" button

Anonymous said...

I think if the accidents were not investigated there would not be as big of an effect as people think there would be.

I agree that 'Plan B' is a tax but the only people paying the 'tax' are the ones that need an accident report. If you raise the property taxes as a whole to pay for officers investigating accidents then I'm paying a tax increase that won't help me if I don't have an accident.

Maybe the City should send people that call the police a bill. I know that would never happen or work but it's a thought.

Steve said...

Nobody is forced to "buy" the report once it is compiled. It is not a tax, but a service. I liked having it available for free online, but I'm quite certain it would be worth $15 to me or my insurance company, if it was evidence to prove fault on the other party.

Anonymous said...

7:19

You do realize you can view LPD accidents reports online, yes?

Anonymous said...

Most accidents are also going to have to be reported to the State by the driver of both vehicles using an SR22 form and you need a copy of the accident report to complete that form so most people are going to have to pay to get an accident report.

It may be considered a fee for services but if the money is going to go towards keeping 2 cops on the payroll then I consider it a tax. The only time you'll have to pay it however is if you are in an accident and need a report so it doesn't effect everyone.

MRDRIVEDRUNK said...

Just shift the responsibility to the insurance company who in turn will raise rates. And the person with no insurance gets another free ride.
What this really is about is your need to "hide" and limit public access to documents.
This entire plan is going to be a disaster as more people discover you need ah stiff neck after a collision, to get a report made. This is a BIG win for the insurance company, they can exceed the rate increase that is passed on to policy holders and make a huge gain (they have to guess how many reports they pay for going into each year). Every day I learn how much career politicians suck!

MRDRIVEDRUNK said...

Just shift the responsibility to the insurance company who in turn will raise rates. And the person with no insurance gets another free ride.
What this really is about is your need to "hide" and limit public access to documents.
This entire plan is going to be a disaster as more people discover you need ah stiff neck after a collision, to get a report made. This is a BIG win for the insurance company, they can exceed the rate increase that is passed on to policy holders and make a huge gain (they have to guess how many reports they pay for going into each year). (keep job)

MRDRIVEDRUNK said...

Steve: Insurance companies will buy EVERY report, and you are going to pay for the "service", every time they click, by higher rates. Look I know you are not a whack job, so why not look at this like it is. It (the tax on insurance policy) is revenue to continue to pay for over bloated government services already in poor condition. And 2 (TWO) LPD positions is micro booger in a full nose tissue. Shifting the burden, how is that hope and change doing for all of you?

MRDRIVEDRUNK said...

Steve: Insurance companies will buy EVERY report, and you are going to pay for the "service", every time they click, by higher rates. Look I know you are not a whack job, so why not look at this like it is. It (the tax on insurance policy) is revenue to continue to pay for over bloated government services already in poor condition. And 2 (TWO) LPD positions is micro booger in a full nose tissue. Shifting the burden, how is that hope and change doing for all of you?

MRDRIVEDRUNK said...

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150923742330773&set=a.10150304121645773.343817.58718055772&type=1&theater

Anonymous said...

"Maybe the City should send people that call the police a bill. I know that would never happen..."

Apparently, you missed the fee for excessive false alarms.

One thing that eats up a ton of resources is dealing with nutjobs who have a serial history of threatening to off themselves. They do things like call or text someone and allude to doing themselves in, then get drive all over seeking attention. LPD and LSO have to find them and EPC them. It would be good to give them attention - in the form of a bill for all the resources they burned up.

The owner of this blog could probably tell you how many officer-hours were used up in 2011 on suicidal person cases.

Dysfunctional relationships can result in a lot of calls to the police, both emergency and non-emergency, and some of these train-wreck couples and families really make a full-time career out of using up police time. I'd bill them too, beyond a certain number of calls per year.

Steve said...

7:19

Well, accident reports were available online for free. My understanding is that under this change, they will no longer be offered that way.

Tom Casady said...

Steve,

Yes, that's the whole idea. We'll be requiring a credit card, just like other City online paid services.

Anonymous said...

Jeez Tom-I was going to ask your opinion of the new M&P Shield by Smith and Wesson, but I waited until now because I remember back on July 6th you said you were taking a break from the blog......

D256

Tom Casady said...

256,

Half inch shorter and 6 oz. lighter than my Sig P239, but two less rounds. I'm not completely sold on polymer frames. Call me old-school.

I suppose it would be a nice choice in .40, with a Tritium front sight, to replace my old S&W 3913.

Anonymous said...

Here's another call type that might merit billing after some number-of-annual-calls threshold: Runaway brats. I don't mean little kids that wander off, nor special-needs persons of any age, from child to elderly adult. Those individuals are unable to grasp the full impact of their actions on others, and they need to be found.

I mean normal-functioning adolescents and teens who make a habit of taking off whenever their parents or guardians won't let them do every little thing they want to do. They use up a lot of police time too, and maybe a bill for services needs to be sent in their general direction after a certain point.

Steve said...

The tritium sights are nice. I have them on several of my handguns. The trouble is, I can never get the bad guys to show up at night when they'd be most useful. :)

Steve said...

You know, Tom, if you had the Rainbow version of the P239, you'd be politically correct if the proposed fairness ordinance changes are passed. :)

Anonymous said...

Tom-You're not old school. I just bought a nickle 2.5 inch Model 19 .357 to replace one I sold for about $150 back in my LPD days. Now THAT is old school. And I have an actual LEATHER holster instead of Kydex. Now if I just had a '76 Torino ,a Kojak light, and more hair, I could REALLY be old school......

Kinda scary when I think about it.

D256

Steve said...

I still have the two sticks I used to rub together to start a fire and cook my dinosaur meat. They'd probably be considered concealed weapons now. :)

Anonymous said...

That aluminum frame on the guns we have now is much better than the polymer framed guns......except the ones that wear out at the slide release lever, but the rest are better. Well, except the ones that the sights fell off of. Other than that, they are much better than the polymer framed guns. Other than the ones the slides cracked on, the aluminum framed ones are much better than the polymer ones.

Anonymous said...

Trying to get back on topic...


I believe public information is something which should not have to be paid for and over spending is a lot of the reason for this debate in the first place. If the public is going to pay a "fee" for services, then rather than they should be applied to the person who caused this service to be necessary. Any driver involved in an accident where a report is made, should be assessed the fee. Once the report is done, the city can apply the cost of a stamp and envelope, to mail the report to each party involved.

As a member of the public, I want access to determine what is happening inside our government. Knowing who is doing what and how money is being allocated should be public information always. Any activities, meeting minutes, expenses and problems, available through memos, documents or reports should be available for free.

I would prefer not getting (no less than 34) letters from attorneys offering their services after my fender bender, because they scour the daily accident reports. It is and should be public information.... for no cost, to whomever wants to see it.

By forcing people to pay for a report of any sort because the information is not required for some other need, will reduce the number of reports viewed online.

Redacting personal information like name, addresses, phone numbers, license plates and vehicle ID numbers would go a long way towards reducing attorney and insurance company letters and emails. Those folks SHOULD have to pay as they stand to gain financially with this information.

The number of reports viewed online is easily tallied. How many of these views are from a casual user like myself, when the news does not report more specifics about a crash?

The difference in online downloads for those with casual interest in a particular wreck versus someone with a legal reason to view the report will be reduced substantially and not generate the desired results, more money in the city's bank account.

As it stands now, the public pays taxes for city services and any "fees" should be for specific items like obtaining a permit not for some agency to perform a task.

Less than 20% of my property taxes are applied to the City of Lincoln and more than 50% go to LPS. A HUGE percentage of all fines go schools.

Both local government and school districts are whining that they can't do with what funding they have so they use bonds and "fees" to offset some of the deficiencies, only because the public allows it to happen.

While some increase in costs are expected, these agencies need to start living (functioning) within their means, just like the public has to do.

Herb said...

Mr. Director:

As a salesman, I try to phrase my pitch so that the receiver )(he customer) is more receptive to the message.

You wrote: "
If all goes well, we should sell 10,000 of those annually..."

I, for one, would be more comfortable if you were to say something along the lines of: "We are predicting we will be asked to provide 10,000 annually..."

You aren't in the business of selling reports, you are in the business of investigating, with a resulting report of the results of the investigation. While it may be a trivial game of grammar, it also keeps you true to the mission of a law enforcement agency.

Tom Casady said...

Herb,

Agreed.

I guess the reason my fingers are crossed is that I represented this to the Mayor as a proposal that should return in revenue roughly the same dollar amount that the cut would have saved. I just don't know how many reports will be provided, at a cost of $15. My estimate is based on our recollection of the volume back in the early 1990s when accident reports were $2.

Anonymous said...

So the free reports from the Internet will be going away? That's too bad, following my hit and run accident I was purusing those reports daily, looking for a vehicle that matched the vehicle that hit me. By removing these reports the Mayor is only serving to hinder victims.

Steve said...

I noticed the quote Herb mentioned and had a similar thought about it. However, I understood the meaning behind your statement and let it go at that. Some, perhaps, didn't quite make the connection and may have gotten the wrong impression. Though I would like to see the free reports continue, as they do have benefits to those other than insurance companies, I can accept the fact that this may be the lesser of two evils.

Adam Beltz said...

Crash Report black market...http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20120809_Chiropractor_charged_over_access_to_accident_reports.html