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Police encourage filing reports online
Federal Way residents wishing to file a police report are sometimes told that coming to the station is not the best way to do so. Police personnel tell some residents who come to the station to call 911 for an officer to take a report. Other times, residents are told to file an online report.
An officer must be present to take a report of a crime that requires an investigation, police spokeswoman Cathy Schrock said. The city is split into four sectors. An officer representing the sector in which the crime took place must take the report, she said. Officers are not always at the station to take reports, so the victim must call 911 and wait for an officer to be dispatched.
Victims or complainants are required to summon an officer, instead of reporting a crime to the records department, so that details are not lost during a third-party interaction, Schrock said.
“Someone is reporting something that requires an officer’s response, and we at the station cannot insert ourselves into the dispatch process of the officer,” she said.
While those reporting a crime eventually do speak with an officer in person, this is not always the case for citizens filing an online police report.
Online reports can be filed in cases of non-emergency incidents of lost property, theft, harassing phone calls, vandalism, hit-and-run or vehicle tampering, according to the department. Crimes with no known suspects or evidence may be filed via an online report.
“This entire system is designed for the convenience of citizens,” Schrock said. “Sometimes personal contact isn’t always necessary because online provides all the information necessary to complete a report.”
These reports are reviewed and a case number is assigned to the incident. Several people who file online use the system to obtain a case number so they may file a claim with their insurance company, Schrock said. An officer does not personally respond to the report unless asked by the person filing the report to do so, or unless further investigation is needed, she said.
“It’s not intended to replace an officer response,” Schrock said. “It’s up to the citizen to say ‘I appreciate (the opportunity to file a report online) but I’d like a police officer to respond.’”
To Glenn Sawyer, a former King County Airport police deputy, online reporting is impersonal and damages the police department’s public image. He and his family have filed several police reports online. They involved vandalized and stolen property.
In each case, Sawyer was instructed to file an online report after he called 911, he said. He was never told an officer would not respond to him if he chose to file in this manner, he said.
“It’s more personal if a police officer came out to take the report,” Sawyer said. “You’d build kind of a rapport with the police.”
When a person is a victim of a crime, it is comforting to know the police care, he said.
“Even small crimes against a person really upset people,” Sawyer said. “We voted for more police officers. I think it would be better public relations if there was an in-person meeting.”
Sawyer has not been contacted about any of his five online reports, but said he is satisfied with the police department’s ability to tackle crime. His only complaint is the department’s ability to connect on a personal level with the citizens it serves.
“Public relations suffer when you have to file a report online,” Sawyer said.
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Each month, about 200 of about 1,600 Federal Way police reports are made online, spokeswoman Cathy Schrock said. The practice of filing a Federal Way police report online began in 2006. Through June, 9,612 crime reports have been generated. Of those, 862 have been handled by the telephone reporting unit and 811 of them have been online reports, Schrock said.
To file an online report or learn more about the process, visit www.cityoffederalway.com/Page.aspx?view=68 and look for the “File a Police Report Online” link.