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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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