Thursday, April 11, 2013

Report it online

The Lincoln Police Department has just announced the availability of online reporting for citizens who wish to report certain kinds of property crime with a loss of less than $500. If someone walked off with your walking lawn sprinkler, broke the sapling in your side yard off, or lifted your cell phone from the bench at the gym while you showered, you can now make a report online if you prefer.

We're more than happy to dispatch a police officer to these crimes, too. It's entirely up to the victim. We will handle these like any other crime report: the case will be reviewed by the shift commander, follow-up investigation will be assigned if it appears likely to be fruitful, and we will notify you if we subsequently locate the stolen property or make an arrest.

Online reporting has been discussed here in Lincoln for years, and many other cities have implemented this previously. We have intentionally delayed because we frankly prefer to investigate even minor crimes in person. There is, however, a growing demand for online reporting from people who want to let us know about a crime, make sure there is an official record, and would prefer to do so as conveniently as possible. People have been finding ways to report electronically that aren't very efficient: sending an email, for example, or even posting on my blog. I The demand has risen to the point that we think online reporting, rather than representing a downgrade to our customer service, is actually an enhancement.

I'm one of those people who would appreciate the convenience of online reporting.  If I were the victim of a small-loss vandalism or theft with no suspect, I would still feel obligated to report the offense. I'd want to police to know about my minor crime just in case it is part of a larger series, an emerging pattern, or in the event that the miscreants have been identified from another related case. The easiest way for me to do so, however, would be online submission. If I could make the report in my flannel jammies and fuzzy slippers, that would be my preference.

Last time I showed up in jammies and slippers at HQ, people looked at me funny.


Anonymous said...

"Last time I showed up in jammies and slippers at HQ, people looked at me funny."

When did you literally do that?

Anonymous said...

I know it just launched but hoping your version 1.1 uses responsive web design - so we could use it on our smartphones.
The ability to take a picture of our damage from the phone, and pin it to our report. Makes a cool thing cooler.

Tom Casady said...


Well, there were several instances where I spent the night. Would that count?


Do-able, but since these are low-dollar loss and no suspect cases to begin with, it's probably not worth the complication: someone would have to process those photos, tag them as evidence, preserve chain of custody, and so forth. I'm not sure we want to put six 16meg snapshots of "Class of 13" magic marker graffiti into the pipe....

Steve said...

Those photos of the graffiti could be analyzed by a handwriting expert and compared to a national database of graffiti artists much the same way we do with fingerprints. On CSI, a suspect can be identified from an iPhone photo of a bloody fingerprint, the murder weapon identified (along with where it was purchased and the angle of attack),his location can be ascertained, and he can be arrested, all in less than five minutes of the crime.

Steve said...

On a more serious note, I think this is a great idea that may warrant expansion to other crimes or higher loss values at some point.

I don't understand the purpose behind some of the "qualifiying" questions. Why does it matter if the house or garage were broken into? Say someone broke the glass and entered my garage to steal a bicycle stored in there. How is that substantially different from stealing it off my back porch for example? Also, it appears that if a gun or weapon is involved, you can't report it online. So, why is there a choice for slashed and/or bullet under the graffiti or damage category? Would that not involve a knife of some kind or a gun?

Anonymous said...

It was an honor to be the first person to use the new online reporting system, even if it was just for a lowly "Class of 2013" tagging.