Central Illinois police departments move toward online crime reporting

Local News

CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA)– The Champaign Police Department is the latest department in the region to launch a new online crime reporting system. It went live a month ago, and by the numbers, it’s already proving to be a success.

Since Oct. 14, a quarter of the department’s reports have been made online, just short of 200.

The system lets you report less serious crimes without needing an officer to respond.

“The main goal is to ensure that we have officers available to respond to emergency incidents,” explained Champaign Police Lt. Kevin Olmstead.

Champaign had a version of an online reporting system for years, but you had to download a form, fill it out and then either email, fax it or drop it off at the police department.

The new setup is entirely digital. You can find it on a computer, your phone or any device that has internet access.

“A lot of the departments started to transition to an online reporting option, simply because of COVID[-19]. It allowed citizens to have a contactless way of reporting crime,” Lt. Olmstead said.

That was just one of several reasons to make online reports an option, according to Olmstead. And it is an option. He said it won’t keep officers from responding to calls.

“It does alleviate the need of officers to respond to non-emergency calls for service, makes them available for emergency calls for service,” Olmstead added.

In July, Champaign police hit their most dire staffing level ever. They were short 21 officers. Now, they need 23, according to the city’s communications manager Jeff Hamilton.

Other Central Illinois cities are working toward a similar goal.

Decatur’s Interim Police Chief Shane Brandel said he would like to put a portion of the city’s American Rescue Plan money into an online crime reporting system, among several other technology upgrades.

“We’ve got to look at how we’re deploying our resources,” Chief Brandel added.

When we spoke to him last week, Brandel said the department was down 18 deployable officers. He said it’s affecting response times.

“So online reporting, in a good system, will encourage citizens to use that rather than have to wait three or four hours to make a report,” he said.

In Danville, Chief Chris Yates said they’re beginning the conversation of adding online reporting. It likely won’t happen until next year.

Back in Champaign, Olmstead assured online reports are followed up on just like a report made by an officer.

“In light of short-staffing, we always are looking at technology and how we can improve our processes, so yeah, it is very valuable to us,” he concluded.

As far as exactly which crimes can be reported online, he said that varies by department.

Here’s a list of the types of reports that can be submitted online in Champaign:

  • Custody order violations
  • Harassing phone calls
  • Identity theft
  • Lost property
  • Theft
  • Car break ins
  • Traffic complaints
  • Vandalism

Click here to file a report with the Champaign Police Dept.

Chief Yates said Danville police are looking at allowing online reports only for misdemeanors where there is no suspect. Nothing is set in stone in that planning process at this time.

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