Ever wondered about what crimes are being committed near where you live? Even if your crime rate is low, ignorance is not bliss, and it pays to be aware of what's going on. But how can you find this information?
This is the age of of instant communication, and Utah has an open records policy for government information. Yet, the situation is murky when applied to police records.
Your best source of current information is the website Crime Reports. Just enter your city, state and zip code, and you'll see a map of your city with indicators for the locations of incidents. Click on an incident flag and a brief description of the activity will appear on the righthand side of your computer screen.
For example, here's the report for Salem. Take particular note of the number associated with each incident. That's the case number, and if you want more information, you'll need to know that number.
I spoke to Diane Orcutt, assistant district attorney for Utah County about the Crime Reports site once. She told me that she thought it was a "spectacularly bad idea."
Nonetheless, the state code obligates law enforcement agencies to provide more information on request. That information is referred to as the "Initial Contact Report", and the minimum information required is specified in by state law. So, you can ask your local police department or the Utah County Sheriff's office for the report for any case number.
My own experience with this process takes several cues from Franz Kafka. Each Wednesday I get a report from the Utah County Sheriff's office (UCSO) with a list of all incidents in Woodland Hills for the preceding week. The information is very similar to the Crime Reports summaries, but differs in two important aspects: the address is less specific (Woodland Hills is arbitrarily divided into 4 zones, and I only learn the zone number), and the description is slightly more detailed.
If an incident seems worthy of investigation, I send email to the UCSO giving the case number and requesting the Initial Contact Report. The UCSO emails my request to the County Attorney's office, where Cort Griffith reviews the information and prepares a document that has the information required by law, including the exact address of the incident. He mails that paper document to the UCSO, the UCSO scans it, and finally, they email the scanned document to me. It takes about two weeks for this process to complete.
Another source for information is the list of people booked into the Utah County jail each day. If you know the date and time of an incident, you can check the arrest records for an hour or two after that time to see if there was an arrest. Start your search from here.