Law enforcement officials on Friday announced the death of Crime Check in its current form. For 34 years, the service has allowed residents in Spokane County to report crimes.
Unfortunately, it’s become so well known that callers have abused Crime Check to inquire about everything from the road conditions on mountain passes to how to find a missing pet.
Starting tonight at midnight, 456-2233 will cease to be the number that residents should use to report nonemergency crimes, Police Chief Roger Bragdon said. The new number is 532-9266.
“Dropping that number will be the most confusing part. It was a tough decision,” he said of the old Crime Check number. “But it’s the only way to start the new system. This change saves hundreds of thousands of dollars for all of us in law enforcement.”
Because of budget cutbacks for both Spokane Police and the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, residents will no longer be able to call in nonemergency crime reports 24 hours a day.
The new system is named the “Spokane Crime Reporting Center” and will operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. There will be no operators taking calls on Sundays or holidays.
There is no change in the emergency 911 line.
Residents with computers can still report crimes anytime at www.spokanecrimereportingcenter.org.
Sheriff Mark Sterk said he faced a choice between fully staffing Crime Check or cutting three detectives who investigate property crimes in Spokane Valley and the unincorporated areas of the county.
“One thing that bothers residents most is people breaking into their houses,” Sterk said. “Do we pull those detectives who investigate those crimes to keep a 24-hour Crime Check? I think it makes better sense to keep those officers on the street.”
Emergency Communications Director Lorlee Mizell said Crime Check received 274,000 calls in 2003. Of those calls, 47,000 crime reports were generated.
Mizell said total calls from 2004 have not been tallied, but they generated 49,000 crime reports.
“A lot of those calls are for information or for referrals to other agencies,” Mizell said. “I know people have called to say, ‘I have an injured parrot. What do I do with it?’ Those kinds of calls inflate the call numbers.”
On average, only a handful of crime reports came in after midnight, she said.
“We decided this was the best service that was the most cost-effective,” Mizell said, referring to the reduced hours.
Sterk commended Crime Check, which became a victim of its own popularity.
“It became that number that people could call to get information,” Sterk said. “Crime Check operators gave good service. They said, ‘We’ll look up the information.’ But it wasn’t the crime-reporting function that it was designed to be.”
The old number will be retained for some time. But callers will get an automated system that routes them somewhere else, Sterk said.
“If it’s an emergency, we still have 911. Nothing is changing there,” Sterk said.
But residents need to learn the new 532-9266 number to report their stolen bikes or missing car stereos. “Because it is a nonemergency, they should have time to look it up,” Sterk said.
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