The Longview Police Department is asking citizens to file reports about more types of crimes online in order to increase the efficiency of that process and allow for more effective use of police staff time.
Having more crimes reported online by the public will give Longview patrol officers more time to do more proactive community policing and conduct their own investigations instead of spending most of their time writing reports.
Online reporting will allow the department’s community service officers (CSOs) to make better use of their time and skills, too. For example, CSOs will be able to respond more quickly to burglary calls and abandoned or derelict vehicle complaints, share crime prevention tips with citizens and businesses, and attend community meetings.
In addition, more online reporting will enable the department to keep its highly productive Street Crimes Unit fully staffed.
Online reporting is convenient and easy to do. Reports can be submitted from a home or business computer 24 hours per day, seven days a week. Those who do not have a computer may file a report online at the Longview Police Department’s main station, its Highlands Satellite Office, or the Longview Public Library. Another option is to have a friend or family member file a report on a victim’s behalf.
A CSO reviews each online report, as does the detective sergeant to make sure it qualifies for online reporting and meets established criteria. Reports with information worthy of an officer’s follow-up will be forwarded to a supervisor for assignment. As a result, when an officer is truly needed, there will actually be a greater likelihood of an improved response time.
Effective March 1, Longview officers will no longer respond in person to the following types of incidents:
• unattended hit-and-run with no injuries (parked vehicles with no one inside)
• identity theft
• lost property
• theft from a vehicle (also referred to as a vehicle prowl)
• vandalism of a vehicle (such as broken windows, slashed tires, etc.)
(Officers will still respond to attended hit-and-run incidents, which means someone was in the victim vehicle when it was struck by another vehicle that fled the scene afterward.)
Citizens who wish to report these types of crimes will be required to file a report online if the following criteria are met:
• the incident is not an emergency
• the incident occurred within the Longview city limits
• there are no known suspects or evidence
• the incident did not occur on a state freeway
• the victim has a valid email address
For some perspective, in 2007 the Longview Police Department received a little over 34,000 calls for service. Without any increase in patrol officers, that number increased to about 46,000 in 2016. The department has been responding to about 125 calls per day with many responses requiring a sworn officer to submit the type of report that most citizens can actually do just as quickly and accurately, or more so, themselves.
Online reporting and its expanded use is certainly not new. Other police departments across the country long ago decided their officers would no longer respond to certain types of calls due to limited staff resources and the need to go to higher priority calls such as domestic violence situations, assaults, robberies, and other crimes in progress.
Longview police staff have discussed the idea in the past, but held off until now on saying no to responding to every type of incident reported. According to Patrol Captain Robert Huhta, “We are now at the point that we truly need to do something to free up our officers to respond more quickly to higher priority calls and to give them more time to do more thorough patrol and investigations.” Captain Huhta said it was not an easy decision to make because some people will probably perceive it primarily as a reduction in officers’ personal contact with the community, whereas the goal is actually to make that contact and other police services more effective within the limits of existing resources. “We simply can’t afford the level of staffing that would enable us to do things the way we’ve always done them.”
“We see online reports as a win-win,” Captain Huhta continued. “Online reporting is convenient for citizens because they don’t have to wait for an officer, they can file reports online at any time, and it fulfills insurance companies’ requirements to file a police report. On top of that, greater use of online reporting will free up our officers to use their time more efficiently and productively. In that sense, it’s exciting to think about the improved service we’ll be able to provide to the Longview community.”