The department is short hundreds of officers and has struggled in recent years with response times. Officials hope the online reporting system will help speed response times to emergency calls.
(TNS) — Faced with staffing shortages, Dallas police officials want to cut down on the time officers spend on police reports.
Commanders on Tuesday announced a new online reporting system in which people can fill out their own reports for lower-priority incidents such as harassment, theft and credit card fraud. Taking such reports sometimes take more than an hour of an officer's time, officials said.
The online reporting system rollout comes as violent crime in Dallas is up about 14% so far this year, according to the department’s latest crime statistics. The department is also short hundreds of officers and has struggled in recent years with response times.
Officials said they’ve worked for months on the online system, which they introduced this week and highlighted during a news conference Tuesday at police headquarters.
Assistant Chief Angela Shaw said police have already received 88 reports through the system. She believes the tool will allow officers to focus on higher-priority calls and proactive policing efforts.
Officials estimate that the new system will free up several hours for patrol officers each day. According to police statistics, the average response times for lower-priority calls in 2019 have averaged about an hour to an hour and a half — missing the department's goals.
The department has about 3,000 officers — down from more than 3,500 a few years ago. The reporting system is another example of police efforts to use technology — such as cameras, license-plate readers and bait cars — to supplement crime-fighting efforts.
“The Dallas Police Department is continually working to leverage technology to make our mission more successful,” Shaw said.
Other major cities, including Los Angeles, Houston, Phoenix, Austin and Seattle, already use online reporting systems.
Shaw said the department also is working on a Spanish language form. She said the department hopes to have that option available by the end of the year.
To submit a report, anyone can go online to dallaspolice.net. Police said the incident is reviewed, and if it meets the criteria for an offense, the report will be forwarded to a detective.
Incidents that can be reported online include car burglary, credit card abuse, criminal mischief, fraud, graffiti, harassment and theft below $2,500.
Those who submit an online report will receive a tracking number so they can follow their case's progress.
©2019 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.