By the beginning of the year Oakdale crime victims will be able to make a police report themselves without the need to have an officer come to the scene.
At the Monday, Nov. 3 Oakdale City Council meeting, officials approved a request by Police Chief Lester Jenkins for the department to spend $15,000 on report writing software to allow police reports to be made to the department over the Internet.
Jenkins said the type of reports would be limited to minor crimes and services such as lost property where insurance companies require a police report.
The chief stressed that even though some neighboring agencies require online reporting of minor incidents, the practice in Oakdale would be for it to be optional due to some in the community not having the knowledge, availability, or comfortableness to make reports with their own computer.
“We’re going to start with it being an option for citizens,” said Jenkins, stating victims would still have the choice of having department personnel respond for the report. “People will know (in advance) what they can and can’t report.”
Jenkins told the council that the department has been operating at extremely low staffing levels, only 16 active officers with some personnel off injured, and online reporting would free patrol officers to be more available for incidents with higher priority as well as be more visible for prevention.
“I see a lot of positives for this,” Jenkins said. “It will increase our efficiency.”
Having the ability for online reporting will also allow crime victims to make the police report at their convenience without having to wait for an officer if they are rushed or on a tight schedule.
Another benefit will be that citizens can also submit crime tips on the system that will be on the department’s website.
The system, known as “Cop Logic” is a browser based system that allows users to easily fill out the forms from a personal computer or mobile device. It also allows the user to file the report in different languages so that language barriers won’t be an issue.
According to Jenkins, over 300 police agencies in the U.S., including nearby cities of Tracy, Manteca, and Ceres, use Cop Logic which interfaces with the department’s existing CAD software. Those agencies reported up to 30 percent of reports were now taken via the online system.
After spending the initial $15,000 for the system and training of personnel, the department plans to spend a yearly $5,000 to keep the system in place and for updates.
Financing for the implementation of the online reporting is covered by funds the department receives from the state for the mitigation of AB 109 – the revolving door of low-level inmates cycling in and out of state prisons to now a county jail responsibility– that was signed into law by Governor Brown in 2011.
“Property crimes have skyrocketed since AB 109,” said Jenkins, pointing out an influx of criminals being released early. “That’s why I see this as an appropriate use of these funds.”
Sergeant Brian Shimmel, who researched the project for the department, also addressed the council and answered questions, pointing out that Cop Logic worked with either Mac or PC computers and was accessible through mobile devices such as smart phones and tablet devices.
Shimmel said that operational policies for online reporting were being drafted from local police agencies already using the practice.
Reports submitted online would be reviewed by a patrol watch commander for trends, leads, and if additional follow-up would be necessary.
“Obviously if someone submitted a sexual assault or high-dollar felony (online), we would want an officer to take that report and investigate it,” Shimmel said.
In another action, City Manager Bryan Whitemyer presented a mid-year budget review.
Highlights of the review showed the city received $56,000 more revenue than anticipated and cut expenditures by $112,000.