NOPD non-violent online reporting praised as a useful tool

NOPD non-violent online reporting praised as a useful tool

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Even some cases of auto and bicycle thefts the New Orleans Police Department posts on its own YouTube page are crimes investigators say no longer rise to the level for a victim to call 911.

"We feel that the best use of our time is focused on violent crime and focused on crime with evidence where the perpetrator is known," NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison said.

The NOPD's Online Non-Emergency Crime Reporting tool introduced Wednesday allows victims to fill out their own report and not wait hours for an officer write one.

Officers will follow-up with a victim of a non-violent crime if more information is needed, such as when there's evidence left at the scene of the crime.

"Certainly, the ones that have broken windows, there could be a blood trail, we want the citizens to call us for that, That's evidence. If the perpetrator left something behind, that's evidence. Call us. We'll come. But most of them are very fast snatch and grab that don't have evidence, and it's very difficult to identify a perpetrator on that anyway," Harrison said.

Harrison said if a victim of a non-violent crime demands an officer write their report, an officer will be sent to the scene but it could take hours.

More than 300 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and Canada now use online reporting, according to NOPD.

Cities like Los Angeles and Chicago have websites of their own.

"[NOPD officers] need help, and I think this is a great tool to not tie them up for something that could be taken care of by the victim," Lakeview Citizen Watch's Gino Ascani said.

Ascani was recently shot at when he encountered four people breaking into vehicles near his home.

He sees the online tool as a step forward but also believes it could lead to increased crime numbers.

"I know a ton of people personally that don't report when their vehicles or small crimes happen because the police take forever to get there because they're under staffed and low manpower," Ascani said.

"I don't see this being a big insurance issue as much as it is training the public on how to use the police in a more efficient way," Eustis Insurance President and CEO Thomas McMahon said.

McMahon said the new online tool should not impact insurance costs, but he does warn it could lead to more cases of insurance fraud with people reporting their own crimes.

"I think you'll have some degree of that, but if this means the police will have more time to get violent criminals, I think it will probably be accepted by the public over time," McMahon said.

Loyola Criminologist George Capowich believes the new online reporting is a positive.

Capowich said many times for non-violent crimes there is no physical evidence and arrests are not likely.

The criminologist advises victims use the online tool because police need to know if a certain area is being targeted.

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