Small city crimes can now be filed with Web-based system

by Hank Long

University junior Sarah Scripps parked her convertible one night in November on the street near her Marcy-Holmes neighborhood home only to find it broken into the next morning.

Scripps said the thief broke in through her convertible top and took her CD player and several CDs, but she said she did not report the crime.

“I didn’t think there would be anything the police could do to solve the crime because it really wasn’t the biggest of crimes,” she said.

Now, Minneapolis residents such as Scripps can report certain small crimes online.

The Minneapolis Police Department developed its online police report system last November to save department resources and help encourage residents to report small crimes. Residents have filed more than 500 online crime reports since its Nov. 20 debut.

The department’s support systems manager, Mike Ridgley, who helped develop the Web-based police report system, said students who would not normally take the time to report small crimes will benefit.

“If you get your car broken into and someone steals your cell phone or stereo, this Web-based system is ideal for those types of crimes,” Ridgley said. “It only takes 10 minutes to enter the report.”

The police department began developing the electronic report last August when Ridgley noticed many departments throughout the country had Web sites with which citizens could report minor crimes.

But Ridgley said those departments still had to read and transcribe the e-mailed reports.

With the Minneapolis e-report, a resident fills out an online form that is transferred directly into the crime report database. The system is the first of its kind, Ridgley said.

Police officers often use the database to find trends and patterns of crime throughout the city. Ridgley said he hopes the online reports help develop those trends.

A person can report a crime online when there is no suspect information available, and it is not necessary to have a police officer sent to the location.

Ridgley said citizens who knowingly provide incorrect information in an e-report can be prosecuted for perjury.

The e-report system also helps people who want to file an insurance claim on stolen or criminally damaged property and need a crime report for verification, Ridgley said.

Scripps said she would have filed an e-report for the theft in her car had she known about the new system.

“I think it’s an excellent idea,” she said.

University police Capt. Steve Johnson said the University Police Department have no plans for an online crime report Web site.

“We prefer to have face to face contact with those kinds of crimes,” Johnson said. “We want to be able to give people on campus as much customer service as possible.”

Johnson said no matter the size of the crime, students on campus should always report it to the police.