New London's online minor crime reporting system helps police, public

New London - When Gary Seitis found out his GPS unit had been stolen out of his unlocked car on Bank Street one night last month, he almost didn't report the theft.

The probability of it being found, he figured, was slim.

At a friend's urging, Seitis called the police department later that November day and was directed by the officer to the department's website. There, as of mid-October, people can report crimes, like the GPS theft, that have "little to no solvability factors" like vandalism, petty larceny or other suspect-less crimes, police Deputy Chief Peter Reichard said earlier this month.

"I was told all emails are checked by an officer within a day and someone will get back to you if something happens," Seitis said.

Paid for by a $10,000 grant, the CopLogic system as it is known, saves the city time, resources and money, Reichard said, and is a convenient service for the public. The Waterford Police Department has a scaled-down online reporting system that accepts reports of underage drinking, traffic complaints and suspicious activity, but no other local department employs the more advanced CopLogic system.

Reichard estimated the city has saved about $1,000 by the approximately 20 uses of the system in the two months since its inception. Each such case, which "essentially are documentation reports that are filed for a complainant," Reichard said, generally requires an hour and a half of work by an officer. Many times, people file such reports just for insurance purposes, he said, and don't necessarily expect the case to be solved.

"More importantly, this reporting system has freed up more than 24 man-hours of time in which the patrol officers have been able to concentrate their patrol and enforcement efforts within the sectors of the city they patrol," Reichard said in an email.

For Seitis, the system was simple. A series of questions with drop-down boxes for answers asked where you live, what happened and what type of offense occurred, Seitis said. Then, there's a free text space where Seitis wrote that he hadn't suffered damage to his vehicle but wanted to file a report in the event an officer found the stolen device, which he valued at a few hundred dollars. He also entered the GPS serial number.

"If you can read, you can do it," he said of the reporting system.

Reichard said each report is reviewed by the shift supervisor, who determines whether the crime and report fits the criteria necessary to enter online. If not, he said, an officer will contact the complainant and either take a report over the phone or respond to the victim's location for further investigation. Once someone files a report, they will receive email confirmation, Reichard said, and can go back and amend the report to add information "including make, model, serial number of lost or stolen articles."

About 10 days after he submitted the report, Seitis received a call from a detective. A GPS unit with a serial number matching his had turned up at a local pawn shop. An arrest was pending earlier this month and Seitis learned he would get his stolen equipment back soon.

It was an exciting, if unexpected, result, said Seitis, who had faith his case was being taken seriously, despite the lack of human interaction.

His case is the only one that has been solved.

"I wasn't doubting the system because why would they have it if no one was checking it?" Seitis said.

Reichard encourages anyone who feels they were the victim of a crime meeting the online reporting criteria to visit www.newlondonpolice.com or the city's site, http://www.ci.new-london.ct.us/content/27/619/default.aspx

s.goldstein@theday.com

How it works

Please confirm the following to find out if online citizen police report filing is right for you:

• This is not an emergency? (If this is an emergency please call 911)

• This incident occurred within the New London Police Department city limits?

• There are no known suspects?

• This did not occur on I-95?

• To the best of your knowledge, there are no firearms involved?

If you answered yes to all of the above questions, you are ready to file your report online.

Upon completion of this report process you will:

• See the words: "Your online police report has been submitted" showing that your police report is complete.

• Be given a police report case number.

• Be able to print a copy of the police report to keep for your records.

Please Note:

• All cases filed using the Citizens Online Police Reporting System will be reviewed; however, this report may not be read by an officer for up to 24 hours. If this requires immediate attention, please call 911 for emergencies or (860) 447-5269 for non-emergencies.

• Upon review, if further investigation of your case is needed, you may be contacted.

• You will need a valid email address to file a report on this system

• Filing a false police report is a crime.

Source: City of New London website

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