Online crime report system scrapped until February

The Minneapolis Police Department has scrapped its online crime-reporting system.

For now.

Deputy Chief Tim Dolan said the electronic crime reports started in Summer 2003 so people could report minor crimes, get a case number and file an insurance claim.

For instance, someone might have used the electronic system to report that a vandal broke a car window, Dolan said. Instead of sending an officer to do an investigation with no leads, an individual could get the insurance process

rolling electronically.

The police disconnected the online reporting system in early September because of user confusion and technical problems, he said.

Residents e-reported crimes that had enough information to investigate, he said. For instance, if someone wrote, "Johnny Johnson from down the street came over and stole my hose," the police could and would investigate.

Because of this, investigators had to go through each e-report to see if it could be investigated. "It was very cumbersome," Dolan said.

People also reported thefts on the electronic system -- offenses that the police include in government-mandated crime reports, Dolan said. Since the online reporting system was not compatible with the rest of the Department's computer system, staff had to retype each of the theft reports into the right computer.

Lastly, the e-report system allowed people to type in erroneous addresses -- unlike the other police computers that reject nonexistent addresses, he said.

The electronic crime-reporting system should have gone through more testing, Dolan said. The Police Department left it up as a citizen service, thinking the computer bugs would get fixed.

However, police computer programmers couldn't fix the e-report system because they are overhauling the payroll programs and the record management system, Dolan said. He expected the service to go back online by February, with some improvements.

New features could allow people to file complaints against officers online, he said. Another option would allow people to file graffiti complaints electronically.