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Wheeling Police Deparment Launching Online Option Tuesday for Reporting Minor Crimes

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WHEELING — City residents will have the choice starting Tuesday of reporting some crimes online.

A Wheeling resident can still call into the department for any reason, Deputy Chief Ken Prager said. Yet for smaller crimes with no known suspects, that resident also has the option of logging the complaint at wheelingwv.gov/onlinecrimereport. Those types of incidents include harassing phone calls, hit-and-runs, identity theft, lost property, thefts, traffic complaints, vandalism and vehicle tampering.

Police said the site is designed to collect data on minor incidents for additional investigation, statistical analysis, and state reporting while eliminating the requirement of an on-scene response by officers.

The online system is available only for those listed crimes with no known suspects, and Prager said anyone more comfortable speaking with an officer in person is encouraged to do so.

“It can still go in through the old, traditional system of calling dispatch or coming to our front desk to speak to an officer,” Prager said. “If that’s something they’re more comfortable with, there’s absolutely no problem with it. This just gives people the ability to do so, if they’re more comfortable reporting from home online, and don’t want to make contact because of COVID or for whatever reason, they can file online.”

Prager said that in many cases, a person may need to file a police report for insurance reasons, which he said the online system should expedite.

“This isn’t (for) a crime in progress; these are things where if your car was vandalized or if there was a hit and run, typically a non-emergency incident, … a lot of times, … an insurance company requires something to be filed, so it’s just an easy outlet,” he said. “If you have no leads, no sources, no emergency, it’s just a simple way of knocking that out.”

Prager added that the site will be monitored consistently, as every patrol supervisor can access it, along with some civilian staff and retired officers. He hopes that people using the site would notice that the reportable incidents do not cover major, active crimes and would instead call the police.

“Every day, it should be the habit of everyone to check that, and make sure there’s nothing active,” he said. “… If it’s a crime in progress, I sure hope they’re calling 911, and not checking a box online.”

The system could free up resources for police to be better used in other ways, Prager said.

“A police officer on patrol, instead of being dispatched to a location, gathering information, bringing it back here, and completing an incident report — a lot of time … with no suspects, no ideas how to follow up — you’re keeping them free of that,” he said. “In the midst of COVID, people are concerned about making contact with other people. That’s a non-issue if it’s completely computerized.”

Ward 2 Councilman Ben Seidler said Friday that he was unaware of the impending launch of the online reporting system. After being informed of the move, he said he was excited to see technology brought to bear in useful ways to improve policing.

“It goes without saying that I am a huge proponent of technology and revising processes to allow our officers and city staff to be more productive with their time,” he said. “This tool should allow officers to prioritize the more pressing calls around these less pressing types of calls which may not require the same level of expedient response. I am all for leveraging new technology in the interest of increasing productivity.”

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