Victims of thefts or property losses valued under $950 can now file a police report at the push of a button, thanks to a Web-based program launched last month by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
The Sheriff's Online Report Tracking System can be accessed 24 hours a day and promises much faster results — a response within 48 business hours, compared with the previous 10-day response time.
Officials have been working to synchronize the software so that information filed in online reports can be cross-referenced throughout the department's database, according to Deputy Juan Galvez, a project manager in the field operations support office.
"That was a lot of the hang-up," Galvez said of the six-year process. "On the user end, it's very easy to process the report."
The sheriff's department estimates that processing low-value property crimes and losses, from initial report to approval, takes an average of one hour and 10 minutes. With SORTS, that process can be reduced to six minutes.
For people whose insurance companies or banks are waiting on police reports to compensate victims, a shorter processing time means a lot, Galvez said.
The system is not intended to replace face-to-face dealings, but to streamline the process for residents while freeing up patrol units for on-the-ground work, said Sgt. Darrin Walker, a watch commander at the Crescenta Valley Sheriff's Station.
"It allows … units to stay out in the field and patrol more serious crimes," Walker said. "On our end, it allows us to cover more area," and the public is "getting the same exact services they would if somebody came to their house."
SORTS is intended only for thefts or losses estimated at $950 or less and incidents without witnesses, video surveillance or injury, Galvez said. Once a report is submitted online, it is received by deputies at each station, who approve the information or ask follow-up questions by email.
Galvez said specially trained deputies will answer questions about the process, and will respond in person to any reports that present extenuating circumstances requiring personal follow up.
"If there's anything wrong with this, or if the public is not comfortable at all, we're going to send out a car," he said. SORTS "doesn't change what we already do. It only adds to it."