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Oxford Police Department launches new online reporting system

<p>Over the weekend, OPD cited six students for violating the city&#x27;s ban on gatherings of more than 10 people. At least five of the six cited students were also supposed to be under quarantine at the time of the incident.</p>

Over the weekend, OPD cited six students for violating the city's ban on gatherings of more than 10 people. At least five of the six cited students were also supposed to be under quarantine at the time of the incident.

The Oxford Police Department (OPD) launched a new online platform to report certain crimes on Friday, March 20. 

Reports can be filed at for crimes including theft, fraud and lost property. Emergencies and crimes that did not occur within Oxford city limits should not be reported through the platform.

There have only been three reports submitted, but OPD lieutenant Lara Fening said they were more descriptive than she anticipated. Fening said she is glad the department has the system but that officers would rather talk with community members face-to-face.

“There is a lot of information to be gained by talking to someone in person or at least over the phone,” Fening said. “A report cannot ask questions.” 

When utilizing the online system, users  are asked for the type of crime, when it began and ended, where it occurred, victim information and contact information, a description of the incident, if there is evidence to be collected, and for any pictures or videos that might be of help. 

OPD sergeant Josh Jenkins and technical assistant in the Oxford Community Development Department Andrew Wilson created the website together and modeled it off Dayton’s online reporting system.

“I’m happy to help the police as much as I can,” Wilson said. “I really value the working relationship with community development, where I work and Oxford police and fire. We work pretty well together, and we can get things done fast.”

Wilson said the system is still a work in progress, but that it’s an important tool for the police department to have during the novel coronavirus pandemic. They were able to create the system with resources the city already had, so it did not cost any money to develop. 

Sergeant Adam Price said officers have found the system very helpful, and he thinks it encourages the community to report some crimes they otherwise might not have. He said reporting online takes only a few minutes and can be done at the convenience of the reporter, while talking to an officer takes much more time and is not always convenient. 

Once an online report is submitted, it is assigned to an officer who will file a police report if there is enough information and if they do not have any questions for the person who submitted it. If the officer has questions, they will follow up over the phone or in person, if necessary. 

Fening urged reporters to be as descriptive as possible when using the online system. 

Price said the system is helpful for the current conditions they are working under due to coronavirus, but there will still be a need for the online reporting system long-term. 

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“We have never considered [online reporting] before, primarily because we want that face-to-face contact,” Fening said. “We want to be able to talk it through with the person making the report, but that’s obviously not encouraged right now. It’s in everyone’s best interest right now that we can still get business done, but get it done safely.”