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TMCNet:  Brownsville police unveil online reporting system

[February 13, 2013]

Brownsville police unveil online reporting system

Feb 13, 2013 (The Brownsville Herald - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Brownsville crime victims now have another way to call police: The department has launched a system for filing reports through its website.

"This will allow people to be able to communicate with us directly," Police Chief Orlando C. Rodriguez said. "It's a proven system. It's being used by 150 police agencies across the nation." While the system is not meant to replace 911 for emergencies, it allows people to file complaints about minor issues from their home computers, public computers or smartphones. It provides time-saving convenience for the victim and an efficient way for police to utilize resources, police said.

"Oftentimes people are hesitant to make police reports because they don't want police cruisers in front of their house for whatever reason," Rodriguez explained.

If people don't have an Internet connection in their home, he said that Brownsville's police stations will soon have computers in their lobbies -- and there's always the library or a friend's house.

The software, which cost the department $20,000 and a yearly fee of $10,000 for maintenance out of the forfeiture fund, will put the department on a greener, more efficient track that will reduce paperwork and hours used to file paperwork, he said.

"That is what makes the system very efficient," he said. "That's going to reduce paperwork and it's also going to save personnel hours because people won't have to duplicate what an officer wrote." All of the digital reports will be forwarded to a supervisor who will vet them for seriousness and immediacy of action. Hard copies will be printed only as needed.

"This is not for an emergency," Rodriguez reiterated. "You still need to call 911 for that." The software will enable more officers to continue their patrols rather than catch up to people who have called to file a police report.

"We don't like having people wait to file a report," he said. "What this does is it allows us to use our officers for other calls where it's needed. This allows people to report at their convenience." People file police reports for numerous reasons including insurance documentation, for legal proceedings, for their own documentation and, of course, to let the police know a crime has been committed.

Rodriguez said the software will streamline that process.

The Brownsville Police Department's website has a link in the upper right that will direct people to where they can file a report.

The page is laid out well and guides people through the filing process.

While the feature is only in English now, Rodriguez said a Spanish version is being worked on and should be available in a couple of weeks.

But if a police officer is needed, you're not out of luck.

"If you do need an officer, an officer will show up," the chief said.

mreagan@ ___ (c)2013 The Brownsville Herald (Brownsville, Texas) Visit The Brownsville Herald (Brownsville, Texas) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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