Getting a copy of an accident report from the Charleston Police Department used to require a trip to police headquarters.
The department on Wednesday unveiled its new Internet portal, where you can download an accident report after supplying a name and driver's license number.
"It's going to give everyone easier access to certain information," said Charles Francis, the department's public information officer who also will serve as the system administrator of the web portal.
P2C stands for police-to-citizen, Francis said. Work on setting up the portal began in July and it includes records from Sept. 1 onward.
In addition to crash reports, the system provides searchable access to arrests and incidents. You can search by street, by subdivision, by date range or by case number. You also can make a Google map of the incidents found in your search.
Other features include a community calendar, a contact form for providing tips and a form for commending officers for good service. There also are slide shows of the department's Most Wanted and Missing Persons.
"The detectives will update the Most Wanted and Missing Persons every day," Francis said. "We don't want to have someone online who is no longer wanted."
Because of privacy and investigative concerns, incident reports will not be available, Francis said. "There is a lot of sensitive information in them and we would need to find a way to redact that information."
Crash reports will be available only to those who have the required information, the driver's name and driver's license number, Francis said.
"Insurance companies will be able to get the reports online because they'll have that information," he said.
By far, the biggest advantage to the new portal will be the convenience of not having to go to the police station to get copies. It will also cut down on labor costs. Over the past four months, an average of 158 collision reports have been issued each month, Francis said.
Presently, a copy costs $5 when ordered through the records department. For the immediate future, there will be no charge for collision reports obtained online, Francis said.
The Goose Creek Police Department began offering online access to collision reports more than a year ago. "The savings in staff time has been very beneficial to us," Capt. John Grainger said.
Grainger doesn't know how the department's customers feel about it, but he said he has not had any complaints.