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Washougal police launch online crime reporting system

Service seen as essential, path to greater efficiency for department

By , Columbian Breaking News Reporter
Published: March 1, 2019, 6:00am

The Washougal Police Department is inching closer to the 21st century with the launch of an online crime reporting system.

Washougal residents can start submitting reports today for nonemergency and nonviolent crimes through the police department’s Public Safety Citizens Service Portal: https://cityofwashougal.us/reportacrime.

Crimes that fit the criteria for online reporting should generally not need an officer to respond to the victim’s location, the Washougal Police Department said in a news release. Burglary of an open garage, vandalism or graffiti, and identity theft or fraud are listed among the reportable crimes.

The new service should allow officers more time to focus on serious and time-sensitive crimes, and “will hopefully decrease response times to those calls,” the news release said.

Chief Ron Mitchell said in a prepared statement that his desired goal for the new system is twofold: First, the system will simply bring an essential service to a new platform. Second, the police department will deploy its limited resources in a more efficient, cost-effective manner.

Since before development of the system started two years ago, a number of people have called and asked if they could file a report online, Commander Allen Cook said.

“There’s definitely a segment of people who would prefer to do it online,” Cook said.

The department employs 21 sworn officers, as well as support staff, who face significant challenges with the town’s steadily growing population, which has added 2,700 residents over the past decade. The 2017 Census, the latest available data, recorded 15,711 people living in the eastern Clark County town.

In 2005, Washougal police officers responded to 8,147 calls. Last year, they responded to 13,379 calls, Cook said.

“Our staffing levels have remained largely the same despite the increased load,” Cook said. “We can’t keep up with that number of calls. It’s not sustainable, especially if we’re going to concentrate on the more serious calls that deserve it.”

People are encouraged to submit minor and insignificant incidents, even if they wouldn’t normally.

Smaller crimes can be linked to larger problems or a known suspect, the police department said.

The webpage for the portal begins with a list of questions and informs the reporting person that they must answer no to all in order to submit online. The questions include:

• Is this an emergency? If so, call 911.

• Did the incident occur on a state highway?

• And, did the incident involve firearms?

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