Idaho police using self-serve system for crash reports

By Nick Draper
The Post Register

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho Since the accident reports went online in May, the Idaho Falls Police Department has saved some big bucks and time.

The Idaho Falls Police Department's new practice of putting accident reports online is not only saving officers time, it's saving money.

All crash reports went online May 25, and since then, there's been a significant drop in people coming to the Law Enforcement Building requesting pages of documents.

Before then, Officer John Burnham, who helps man the IFPD's information desk, said he'd distribute seven to 10 accident reports when he worked Mondays and Tuesdays that could total more than 40 pages of paper each day.

Now he only processes two to three a day, which he said gives him more time to answer people's questions instead of copying reports.

"I rarely ever see the insurance adjusters anymore," he said.

But the real savings in the online move has been in labor costs, IFPD Capt. Steve Roos said, because the clerks in the records office can now spend time doing other things, such as verifying officers' crime reports, rather than handing out accident reports to the public.

If you're involved in an accident, your insurance carrier won't settle your claim without an official police report that reveals who was at fault.

It wasn't uncommon for insurance agents to plop down a file an inch or two thick with claims that needed accompanying accident reports, Burnham said.

"We would have literally had to hire another person to handle these requests," records clerk Andrea Johnson said. "We got flooded with all these requests."

With the Idaho Falls City Council currently mulling ways to fix its budget, adding another records clerk probably wasn't an option for the IFPD or the city.

That's where www.policereports.us came in, Roos said.

The city pays about 80 cents a report, or about $2,000 a year, to post the reports on the Web site, Johnson said.

"It's a bargain compared to having to hire another person," she said.

It's also a bargain for residents, who aren't charged a dime when they log in and print an accident report. Plus, they can do it 24 hours a day from any computer.

The IFPD is the only department in the state as well as the region that offers accident reports online.

The Blackfoot Police Department doesn't see a need for it, said Sally Carson of the BPD.

"We're not dealing with the volume that you are with a larger city," she said.

The Rexburg Police Department receives several calls a day regarding accident reports, but there are no plans to put them on the Internet.

"We haven't thought of that, nor do we have any intentions of doing that," Rexburg Police Capt. Randy Lewis said, adding there's probably not a big discrepancy between accidents in Idaho Falls and Rexburg.

For the IFPD, though, the financial and physical savings have been significant, Roos said.

"I can help people who come through the door immediately rather than working on accident (requests)," Burnham said.

How it works

Log on to www.policereports.us and click on Idaho on the United States map. Then click on the Idaho Falls Police Department link. You can search for a report by entering one of the following: the report number, date of the report, driver's name, or location of the accident.

Copyright 2007 The Post Register

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