Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Don't Call the Cops

[ed. Calling all criminals! Burglaries, stolen cars, vandalism, arson... no problem!]

Janelle La Chaux paid a visit to Oakland police headquarters Friday to fill out a crime report. She believed her former roommate on 31st Street had stolen her 22-inch flat-screen and she wanted to document the theft.

"I could have called them when I was at the place where it happened, but I just decided to come down here because I don't want to wait," La Chaux, 30, said as she filled out a form in the lobby. "Sometimes I call them and it just takes a long, long time to come."

Nowadays, police may not come at all.

On Tuesday, the city laid off 80 officers to help eliminate a $30.5 million budget deficit, prompting the department to announce that officers would no longer be dispatched to take reports for most nonviolent crimes. "With current levels of staffing, we are unable to respond to many lower-priority calls," said Officer Jeff Thomason, a police spokesman.

Instead, Oakland residents now have to file certain crime reports online or visit a police station. Those without a computer can ask that a blank form be mailed to them or pick one up at a library. Residents can still call 911 to report emergencies and crimes such as shootings, robberies, rapes and assaults.

'Never going to hang up'

No matter how crimes are reported, police said the department still wants to hear about them - even if the layoffs mean that no one will investigate if a suspect can't be identified or is long gone.

"You can still call the Oakland Police Department and say, 'I need a report.' We'll always direct you to the right place," Thomason said. "We're never going to hang up on someone and say, 'We don't do that anymore.' "

Crime analysts will use the reports to discern patterns, said Lt. Jim Meeks, who oversees investigations of property crimes and theft.

"It's designed to still provide us with intelligence," Meeks said. "It still counts. The only way we're going to know that something is going on is through the reporting."

Over the past two years, residents have been able to go to oaklandpolice.com and report lost property, theft, vandalism, vehicle burglary and vehicle tampering. In the past, however, people could ask for an officer to come take a report. That will no longer be the case.

By Aug. 2, Oakland police intend to expand the online system - called Coplogic - so residents can report seven other types of crimes, including residential burglaries in which the suspects aren't known.

"There will be no follow-up investigation and the primary purpose for filing the report is for insurance purposes," according to the department.

by Henry K. Lee, SFGate |  Read more:
Image: Chris/Kevin