Citizen Perceptions of Online Crime Reporting Systems

Can technology be used to improve the process of submitting crime reports to law enforcement agencies? In the last 20 years there has been a radical change in the way technology is utilized in most people’s day-to-day lives. The Internet has shaped society’s shopping habits, as Amazon and other online retailers have humbled once-mighty juggernauts like Sears, and Netflix and Hulu obliterated the once-thriving home video market. Email has replaced the pen on paper letter, Facebook and Instagram have replaced the traditional photo album, and text messaging has replaced passing notes in class. There’s no denying that technology plays a major role in people’s lives, but can it be smoothly utilized to report incidents to police?

Since the early 1980s, departments have been utilizing differential police response (DPR), which allows calls that don’t require immediate attention of a police response unit to be addressed through a variety of means, such as using civilian personnel to take reports or having officers take reports over the phone. These methods are generally low-priority incidents such as non-injury traffic collisions. A benefit of using DPR methods is that they free up officers to deal with more urgent and life-threatening situations. A recent innovation in DPR is the use of Online Reporting Systems (ORS) that allow citizens to submit reports online via a police department’s website.