The citizen online reporting program that the CSUN Police Department started in March is offering students a new way to report non-serious crimes.
The online reporting program allows students to go on the CSUN Police Department website and report a crime instead of meeting with an officer.
“Instead of having to wait for an officer to respond, or having to come in to the police station, students can report it online at their own convenience,” said Christina Villalobos, CSUN Police Department’s public information officer.
Garrett Wheatly, 21, biology major, believes the online reporting tool can be effective, but does not think he will ever use it.
“I can see how it will save time for the police and students, but if something of mine got stolen, I want to talk personally to the police,” Wheatly said.
The online police reports will not be treated differently by the CSUN Police Department, Villalobos said.
“The only difference in reporting a crime online is that the first line of communication will be a computer instead of an officer,” Villalobos said.
With the online reporting tool, Villalobos said that officers can spend more time in the field dealing with serious crimes.
So far, 77 police reports have been made through the online reporting tool since the first online report was filed six months ago. That is a relatively low number considering that in 2011, 1,613 crime reports were taken by the CSUN Police Department. The two most common reports were of property crimes and vandalism (360 and 194 reports respectively), which are both now reportable online.
Villalobos expects the number of online reports to grow once word gets out about the online reporting tool, but that may be counterintuitive to the objective of the tool.
Assistant sociology professor Ellis Godard said that when police make crimes easier to report, it opens the door for more frivolous reports to be made, and for police time to be wasted.
“It may generate a fair bit of nonsense,” Godard said. “People might report things like parking at a crooked angle (because it’s so easy to).”
Villalobos is confident in the online reporting tool’s effectiveness because it is pretty restrictive in what can and cannot be reported.
There are eight options for students to choose from when reporting via the online program. The options are harassing phone calls, lost property, vehicle burglary, hit and run, theft, vehicle tampering, identity theft and vandalism.
The only other criteria an incident must meet for the online reporting program is that it happen on campus. If the incident has a known suspect or is an emergency, the police department requests that the crime be reported by phone instead of online because it is more urgent.
Once a crime is reported, a detective is assign to the report if it is warranted. If any other information is needed for the report, the police will contact the reporter to get it, Villalobos said.
Other urgent crimes that must be reported in person are violent crimes, hate crimes, sex crimes, missing persons, stolen vehicles, lost/stolen license plate, domestic violence, assault and battery and serious traffic accidents that are not hit-and-runs.
“I don’t know why they restrict the online reports to only non-serious crimes,” Godard said. “If they opened it up to other things, it could be more effective.”
At this time, the CSUN Police Department does not have any plans to make more serious crimes reportable online because they feel those crimes should be handled by officers, Villalobos said.
“There are a lot of questions for things like robbery and rape,” she said. “We need more information on those types of things.”