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Help enhance community service with online reporting

Citizen-reporting tools for minor incidents can help free officer manpower and increase community engagement

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Sponsored by LexisNexis Risk Solutions

By Randy Burkhammer for Police1 BrandFocus

Most law enforcement agencies agree: creating an increased sense of safety, security and engagement with police will ultimately create stronger bonds with the community. But that’s easier said than done.

Every day, your department is inundated with hundreds of calls regarding minor motor vehicle accidents with no injuries, petty vandalism, theft from unlocked cars or lost cellular phones. While these non-emergency incidents may seem of prime importance to reporting citizens, they distract from your limited resources and divert much-needed manpower from immediate community issues.

Documenting these reports is important for statistical analysis and future investigative needs but can still result in an overall sense of frustration as trained officers find themselves up to their elbows in never-ending paperwork that accompanies the reporting of these low-severity incidents. Your department is unable to reallocate valuable officer resources toward proactive policing and public safety issues that are of paramount local importance. Ultimately, community satisfaction in law enforcement services spirals downward.

Help free up time and manpower with an online citizen self-reporting solution

With your department’s competing priority of providing your community with the highest level of service for both emergency and non-emergency incidents, consider this: what if citizens could quickly self-report minor incidents and crimes? And what if they could do it right from their smartphone or computer – 24/7, without waiting for an officer to arrive on the scene?

The benefits could be enormous. Your officers could be more readily available to assist a citizen who is the victim of an in-progress crime instead of diverted to minor non-emergency incidents not requiring officer presence. Once your agency approves the citizen’s self-report, the report can be routed into your Records Management System (RMS).

Certainly, citizen self-reporting tools are a solution whose time has come. An internal survey of more than 400 law enforcement agencies across North America using the LexisNexis Desk Officer Reporting System (DORS) showed that more than 965,000 incident reports were filed by citizens in 20171, saving the agencies from 30 minutes to over 3 hours per report.

It’s easy and convenient to automate non-emergency incidents

Here’s how DORS works to assist with reducing the amount of time police agencies spend reporting minor incidents: If a non-emergency crime occurs like minor car damage, property loss, vandalism or harassing phone calls, the victim can file a report from nearly any internet-enabled computer or mobile device through Mobile Quick Connect. The DORS Mobile Quick Connect service transfers non-emergency inbound callers to an agency-dedicated number that automatically texts a link at which the caller can submit an online report. For example, when a minor fender-bender occurs on a street or on private property in a jurisdiction, a citizen can go online to their police agency’s branded portal and quickly list those involved, what happened and even upload images of damage and insurance documents.

With the prevalence of smartphones, the general public has become more tech savvy and expects immediate responses. Through Mobile Quick Connect, citizens can submit a report to your department using their smartphone and avoid having to wait for an officer to arrive at the location of the minor incident. Instead of sending an officer, a dispatcher can simply transfer an inbound citizen caller to Mobile Quick Connect, which will then send a text message to the citizen’s smartphone with a link for submitting a report from the incident location. The citizen caller will also have the ability to go directly to the agency’s website, locate the online accident-reporting link and follow instructions there to file the report.

An authorized officer from within the police agency then reviews the citizen’s online report. That officer will have the ability to approve, approve with a note, issue a follow up, or reject the report. They will even have the ability to merge reports should two people be reporting the same incident, such as a motor vehicle collision. Only when the report is approved will it be given an official case number. The report will then be integrated into the agency’s RMS. Once in the RMS, it will remain there as if it were a report taken in the field by an officer. At the same time, citizens can print out a copy of the report for their insurance company rather than wait in line for the police department to provide it.

DORS is configurable to capture the minimum required fields needed by an agency’s RMS, including the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) or Unified Crime Reporting (UCR) fields. If officers need to go back to the report, even months or years later, they can quickly search and retrieve reports based on status, person who submitted the report, reporting district, incident code or other data fields. And, since the system is run on dedicated servers hosted by LexisNexis Risk Solutions, no additional infrastructure is needed, and no significant disruption occurs.

DORS also allows the agency to create various incident types for which they would like to allow online entry at any time.

The result: Greater engagement, more efficiency, better resource allocation

An online citizen reporting system like DORS could be good for the community and good for your agency. It can help boost community members’ confidence that their non-emergency incidents and crime tips will be processed in a timelier manner by your department.

This self-reporting tool also enables your agency to more efficiently prioritize where officers should direct their attention. As a result, because fewer officers are tied up doing administrative paperwork or chasing down low-priority reported incidents, response times for high-priority calls can be improved and your department can proactively focus on crime trends. In this belt-tightening environment, a self-reporting tool acts as a force multiplier that can help yield significant cost savings through the automation of minor crash and incident reporting.

1LexisNexis Risk Solutions, internal analysis of over 400 agencies. Work hours based on a conservative estimate of one hour per report filed; report times vary by type of report. Agencies using the solution, in general, advised the solution has saved them anywhere from 30 minutes to over 3 hours per report.

About the Author

Randy Burkhammer is Director, Coplogic Solutions, LexisNexis Risk Solutions. Randy served in the U.S. Army from 1985 to 1989. He started his career in Law Enforcement as a Sheriff’s Technician with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department. He went on to become a Deputy Sheriff assigned to the Santa Rita County Jail, and then became a Police Officer with the Newark, CA Police Department. In 1996, Randy joined the Fremont Police Department and recently retired from the department. In 2003, Randy founded Coplogic, an online citizen reporting software company, acquired in 2014 by LexisNexis Risk Solutions.

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