By Jeff Bahr
With automation buzzing through our culture like a chainsaw through wood, perhaps it was just a matter of time until a police department – in this instance Nutley’s began to explore alternative (read that digital) methods for citizens to file reports and complaints within the department.
Proving that the future is indeed now, Nutley Mayor Alphonse Petracco, who is public safety director, has announced a new online police reporting option that was recently made available to the public.
Citizen Online Police Reporting will go where no other reporting method could ever hope to – straight to the computer keyboards of those wishing to file reports.
“It was kind of taking off on the west coast and all around the country,” explained Nutley Police Capt. Tom Strumolo of the system’s burgeoning popularity. “A lot of departments are starting to utilize this as an avenue to report non-emergency type stuff… So with that, our police commissioner, chief and mayor who are always up for finding easier and more efficient ways to provide services to the town, talked about it (the service). They were really onboard with it so we started doing it.”
The service represents the epitome of convenience to people who haven’t the time or inclination to drop by headquarters to file a report, according to Strumolo. It could also save citizens the annoyance of being placed on hold when a report is called in during busy periods.
But, says Strumolo, the new service is purely optional. It exists as an extra for those who’d prefer to file their reports online and in no way replaces the old tried-and-true call-in or walk-in procedures.
Actually, it’s somewhat misleading to call the new service new. New to Nutley is more accurate.
According to Coplogic Inc., the San Ramon, California based software firm that provides the service to the township, “100 agencies across North America” presently use the service and “hundreds of thousands” of police reports have been filed through the citizen online system. Many other companies also provide the service across the U.S.
The Desk Officer Online Reporting System was devised by an active duty police officer as a way to enable police departments – greatly stressed by economic cutbacks that have forced a lessening in their ranks – the ability to reallocate patrol and detective services where they’re most needed.
In a nutshell, the system acts much like a live desk sergeant by taking down pertinent report information on a standardized template, and then submitting it to the proper departments for review.
“There’s screens that the citizen will walk through and at the end it completes it all into a report,” said Strumolo about the system’s ease of use.
Incident types covered by the new service include thefts, vehicle burglary, lost property, harassing phone calls, I.D. theft/fraud, and crime tips, according to the department.
The public will be able to print a temporary copy of the report when they submit it. Police personnel will then review the report and, once it’s approved, an email message with a copy of the report attached will be sent to the sender without cost.
“The report will transfer into the Nutley Police Department’s records management system and receive the same investigation and statistical analysis ability as if the report had been filed by a police officer,” says the department.
Strumolo says that the system cost “$15,000 to get up and running” and will cost roughly $5,000 a year to maintain. When such expenditures are tallied against the cost of processing reports person-to-person, the system will save the department a great deal of money, says Strumolo.
The Nutley Police Department believes that users will embrace the system for its ease of use and convenience.