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The second-day story, with your help. Call Gazette reporter Adam Belz at (319) 398-8273 or e-mail him: adam.belz@gazcomm.com

Why do C.R. police write so few crash reports?

Thousands of traffic accidents happen in Cedar Rapids each year without the police writing a report, leaving insurance companies to duke it out while their clients wish the police would weigh in.

Using state and local crash statistics, I found that Cedar Rapids police are half as likely to file a report on a traffic crash as police in some other major Iowa cities.

For instance, from 2004 to 2008, police responded to an almost equal number of accidents in Davenport and Cedar Rapids — a little over 25,000 in each city.

But over that same period Davenport police wrote twice as many crash reports as Cedar Rapids police — 14,690 in Davenport compared to 7,108 in Cedar Rapids.

By law, police are required to investigate and write reports on fatal or personal injury accidents. But when no one is hurt, the law is less clear.

The code requires that when an accident causes more than $1,000 damage, a written report should be forwarded to local law enforcement.

The code isn’t explicit about who needs to write the report. From a strict, literal reading, it could be either a police officer or one of the driver.

The interpretation at the Cedar Rapids Police Department is that police must pass along a driver’s report to the state, but generally don’t write a report unless the accident causes injury, or involves a moving violation or serious crime like drunk driving.

“A thousand dollars, as you know, is pretty low these days,” said Capt. Bernie Walther, who took over the Cedar Rapids Police Department’s Traffic Bureau in November.

Police Chief Greg Graham, Walther, and other higher-ups in the Cedar Rapids Police Department met in April to talk about the Traffic Bureau.

One key thing Walther pointed out to me is that Cedar Rapids officers can’t file accident reports from the computers in their squad cars. They don’t have the technology for it, and as a result, filing a report on an accident takes officers about two hours.

Even in Davenport, where officers file on average twice as many reports per year than Cedar Rapids, police aren’t always happy about it.

“It’s a pain in the butt,” said Sgt. Ron Waline, head of Davenport’s crash investigation unit.

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Filed under: Public Safety, , , , , , , , ,

5 Responses

  1. I can verify the issue that Adam’s raising here. I was in a parking lot fender-bender about three weeks ago, and when I called police to ask whether a report was needed, the dispatcher told me Cedar Rapids officers don’t typically respond to accident scenes unless someone is injured.

    Thus, indeed, the insurance companies are left to sort out responsibility. And it becomes a matter of the drivers’ recollections of the accident and its causes.

    I’m not sure how it was resolved in my case. I know my car’s repaired, but not sure how the accident will impact my rates, if at all.

  2. homeytheclown says:

    Accidents on private property are only investigated if they are a hit and run, involve OWI, or Reckless Driving. Those are the only three scenarios that an officer can write a citation. You don’t even need to have a license to drive on private property.

  3. Kathy says:

    Two hours to file a report? What are they doing? Carving it out in stone? Even so, isn’t this part of what we have the police for? It seems more and more the CRPD is complaining about how much time everything takes. They spend too much time at some of the bars. It’s too much trouble to write reports at wrecks. Exactly what is it they want to do all day? I don’t recall hearing any of them talking about how much time they spend trying to catch speeders.

  4. Jim Cannon says:

    Adam seems to try to bring up alot of negative things about
    the Police Department,such as his ticket for jaywalking.
    Maybe he should do a little more investigative reporting
    instead of just writing the article.

  5. Kathy says:

    Keep up the good work Adam. I know you have investigated the problem.

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