Have you walked through the parking lot to find that your car has been broken into?
Or maybe graffiti suddenly appeared on your shed?
Your first instinct may be to call the police to get a report written for insurance (and maybe the hope of finding the bad guy).
But some police agencies including Miami-Dade County and City of Miami give people an option of filing their own reports online, without ever having to come in contact with an officer. Other agencies, including the Broward Sheriff’s Office, do not offer online reporting.
The tool is especially helpful as people practice social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Alvaro Zabeleta, a spokesman for Miami-Dade police.
“We are hoping people will use online services, which helps limit the amount of human contact,” Zabaleta said. “This service is just as efficient as calling for an officer.“
So how does it work?
It varies by department.
For starters, there are only certain crimes that can be self-reported. Crimes that can be reported online include: thefts, harassing phone calls, vandalism, and crimes where there are no known suspects or evidence.
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The rules can vary by department, but the warning is the same: “Filing a false police report is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment not to exceed one (1) year.” Officers follow up on the reports as they would if they were taking the report themselves, Zabaleta said.
While Miami and Miami-Dade police said they are continuing to respond to calls, they are encouraging people to do what they can to reduce human interaction.
Meanwhile, arrests and the jail populations are down as officers, lawyers and judges tackle justice while battling a pandemic.
“We’re strongly encouraging our residents to file reports online during this time,” said Kiara Delva, a spokeswoman for Miami police. “Once again, this is all in an effort to minimize as much contact as possible, and to keep everyone safe.”