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Published: Wednesday, 8/25/2004

Northwood: Police online reports 1st in area

BY ERIKA RAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Northwood Police Department recently became the first in the area to offer daily crime and crash reports online, Police Chief Jerry Herman said.

All police reports dated after Aug. 1 are available through the Northwood Police Department's Web site. Those without Internet access will have access to the paper copies, which will be on file at the police station, he said.

The five to 10 reports the department makes in an average day have been available online for a little more than a week.

"Technology is starting to allow us to do these types of things," the chief said, adding that he got the ball rolling on the project after noticing the public had online access to police reports on a North Carolina police department's Web site.

He contacted the company, policereports.us, and arranged to put his police department's reports online for free, available through policereports.us. It's the only department in the state to use that address.

The department bought the computer software needed for less than $400, Chief Herman said.

Northwood police officers enter their reports into the department's own system, and the reports are then entered into the policereports.us centralized database when the print button is clicked. Officers then have to enter in a few extra query fields and redact any information that is not public record - Social Security numbers, for example - before the report is available online.

"It comes out exactly the way we would have it if you were to come to our police station to come get our reports," he said. "It was a real simple procedure to give to the public the same report we'd submit to the state."

Anyone wishing to access these reports should go to www.northwoodpolice.com and click on the "police reports" link on the right-hand side of the home page. To view the reports, which are updated daily, a user's browser must support JAVA script.

If users would like to search through all the police reports, they should click the "search" button without entering any data in the fields to bring up all available reports.

Northwood Police Department's 28 full-time and three part-time employees serve the city with a population of 5,471 people, according to the 2000 Census.

Vickie Smith, 48, of Northwood said she doesn't mind having her traffic report available online, but thinks others may have objections.

"If they don't put the Social Security number on [the reports], I guess it'd be alright because it's public knowledge anyway," she said. "Some people won't like it - those who don't want their business known."

Chief Herman said he doesn't foresee any problems with offering the reports online and views it as a convenience for people so they don't need to drive to the station to get the reports, which cost 25 cents a page for copies.

"It's public record," he said. "So I don't see it as a problem."



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