St. Paul officers won’t respond to some lower-level crimes anymore, will direct people to file report online

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ST. PAUL — St. Paul police officers won’t respond to some types of lower-level crimes anymore — people are now being directed to file a report online.

The St. Paul Police Department began giving people the option of reporting certain types of crimes online in 2015. As of Monday, Feb. 24, in nine categories, reports have to be filed online with some exceptions, including if the crime is in progress.

“This is about us using innovation to be more efficient — and make sure our officers are available to help the people who need them most, where they need them,” said Steve Linders, a St. Paul Police spokesman.

A staffing study released by the police department in January showed 911 calls in St. Paul increased nearly 32 percent from 2013 to 2018, while the department’s authorized strength increased by less than 3 percent during that time.

St. Paul Police Cmdr. Jack Serier, who was previously Ramsey County sheriff and who conducted the study, concluded the department needs 103 more employees, mostly officers. Serier is scheduled to give a presentation to the City Council about the study on Wednesday morning.


While Paul Kuntz, who heads the St. Paul police union, said he thinks additional online reporting “will allow cops on the street to focus on areas that need to be focused on and provide a service to people,” he also said it’s a sign of understaffing in the department.

“We have to provide the resources we have to the problems that we have,” Kuntz said Tuesday. “If we don’t have the numbers of officers to answer those types of calls in person, then we have to come up with a different way to do that.”

Online reporting already on the rise

People who call 911 or the police department’s non-emergency number about the following kinds of cases will be directed to fill out an online report:

  • Criminal damage to property
  • Illegal dumping
  • Harassing phone calls
  • Lost property
  • Theft from auto (exception of stolen license plates)
  • Fraud and forgery
  • Detached garage burglary
  • Informational reports
  • Theft (except guns, motor vehicle thefts, license plates)

If a suspect is on the scene, and in some other circumstances, an officer would be dispatched, Deputy Chief Matt Toupal wrote in an email to members of the police department. People who don’t want to fill out an online report can still file a report over the phone to an officer.
What happens after someone files an online report?

“These reports don’t just go into the Internet and disappear,” Linders said. “Officers review them and follow up on them.”

The cases, though, often lack facts to solve them and people may only need a report for their insurance company, according to Linders.

Even before the policy change, the police department has been encouraging people in recent months to make greater use of online reporting — and more people are, Linders said. In January 2019, 153 people filed online reports. Last month, there were 425 reports filed.

Online reporting also means that people don’t have to wait for an officer, according to the police department. Because calls to police are prioritized based on their seriousness, someone reporting illegal dumping, for example, may have had to wait two hours or more for an officer, if police were busy on other calls, Linders said.


The reports can be filed from a computer, cell phone or tablet. Those without access to electronics or the Internet can use computers that are available in the lobbies of the Eastern or Western District police stations, along with the headquarters building.

The police department also provided all St. Paul libraries with informational signs about online reporting, which will be displayed at some computer stations in the libraries, according a St. Paul Public Library spokesman.

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