Kent State Police see no reason for online blotter

Simon Husted

Campus police blotter only available at station

In today’s technology-based world, public records are becoming more available online. However, viewing crime activity on campus still requires a hike all the way to the Stockdale Building.

The Kent State Police Department is one of many police departments left that keep crime activity records — or their police blotter — on ink and paper exclusively.

“(Establishing an online police blotter) is something we’d like to entertain going into the future,” said Lt. Bill Buckbee of the KSUPD.

With the way Kent State’s Web site works, Buckbee said, such a feature would require a large amount of commitment from staff members.

The work would entail a staff member to type all of the information from the hard copy blotter into a table on the Web site for every update. No estimation could be made of how many items are reported on the blotter per day because the amount greatly fluctuates each day, Buckbee said.

More than 1,400 items have been listed in the blotter since Jan. 1.

“It’s mostly a time-consuming thing, and we don’t have someone on staff to go in every day and put our log in,” Buckbee said.

Although crime reports are saved on the police department’s computer system, uploading the files automatically might jeopardize Web site security, said Roger Miles, senior IT user support analyst at the Kent State Police Department.

He said updating an online police blotter without someone manually typing in the data would place the entire Web site and the sensitive files in it at risk to hackers.

“Even if the Chief (John Peach) wanted to do this, I would argue strongly against it,” Miles wrote in an e-mail.

Miles said his job deals with repairing computers and solving software issues, not keeping Web sites updated with information.

As the Kent State Police Department looks into ways to implement a future online blotter that would demand a reasonable workload, other university police departments have made compromises to establish their own online police blotter.

The University of Akron Police Department established an online blotter on its Web site in August 2007.

Newt Engle, assistant chief at UAPD, said the purpose for the online blotter is to build greater transparency between students and department.

“It’s their public records, not ours,” Engle said.

The department still keeps an ink and paper police blotter that collects reports ranging from felonious to mundane activities. The online blotter on their Web site only posts criminal reports.

Including all types of reports on the online blotter, Engle said, would take a lot of energy and he has not heard any demand from students to include items like vehicle lockouts yet.

Dena Savage, the records manager at UAPD, is the only staff member responsible for updating the online blotter.

Updates occur two to three times a week, she said, adding that the time it takes to finish an update depends on how many criminal reports are filed. Savage said it took her five to 10 minutes to file Friday’s update.

Not all people utilize online police blotters to review crime activity, however.

Kathleen Mitchell, an insurance agent and mother of sophomore photo illustration major Melissa Mitchell, said she has never invested a whole lot of attention into estimating the safety of the campus. Because of the way she raised her daughter, Mitchell said, she is confident her daughter practices good safety habits.

“I tell her, ‘I know you’re going to feel dumb, but if you’re going to be out at night alone, you should call one of those security escorts,’” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said she has never thought of using an online police blotter to check crime activity and knows of no one who’s ever done it before. But she affirms it’s still very much worthwhile to establish such a feature because most people rely heavily on using the Internet for many things.

Mitchell said her job forces her to be savvy on the Internet. As an insurance agent, many of her tasks include pulling up accident reports, looking up for correct addresses and checking housing information on county Web sites

“For the kind of work we do, it’s a real resourceful tool,” Mitchell said.

Engle said he hasn’t yet encountered a striking benefit from having an online blotter, but it has probably made some difference on campus.

“I can’t help but think it’s more convenient for people, at least,” he said.

Contact safety reporter Simon Husted at [email protected].