This morning, the Seattle Police Department launched an online program that allows residents to report select low-priority crimes immediately, without having to call 911 and wait for an officer to respond and fill out a police report.

Call me. Or not. Whatever.
  • El Gregein via Flickr
  • Call me. Or not. Whatever.
"On busy nights, people often get upset that it takes a couple hours to respond to a low-level theft when all they want is a case number for insurance purposes," explains Detective Mark Jamieson. "If someone steals your stuff and the suspect is still there, it's best to call 911. But if you wake up in the morning and notice that your lawn mower is gone and there's no physical evidence, this is an option."

The new Community Online Reporting Program (CORP) is a tool for reporting property destruction, car prowls, low-level property theft, and identity theft. The system allows you to submit a report, get a General Offense (GO) number as if an officer had come out, and then immediately print a copy for your records. Once submitted, a police supervisor reviews your report for missing information (in which case you'll be contacted). Then the supervisor signs off and the report goes into the system. Using your GO number, you can call the department for updates on the investigation.

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While the online program is new for Seattle, Jamieson says the system has been widely used in California and in other cities since 2005 and by all accounts, "the public loves it. It empowers people. Cities using this system have seen a decrease in the number of calls for these types of crimes."

Still, Jamieson says, it's not for everyone. "There are people who don't have access to computers and other people who like the sense of security they get from interacting with an officer—and those people are still welcome to call us. We're not trying to replace anything, we're trying to give people more options. So for people who want to use this system, it's now available."