Thursday, December 18, 2008

Crime Reporting in Woodstock

Efforts continue to obtain crime reports in order to report currently what is going on in Woodstock related to crime and arrests, but, man, is it ever hard to pry information out of the Woodstock Police Department!

Back on September 22 I emailed the P.D. and asked how to be placed on the distribution list for press releases and crime reports. I prefer email, but by fax is OK; or I'll even pick them up.

When I didn't receive a reply, I emailed Chief Lowen on October 3 and requested access to these for

Chief Lowen replied on October 9 that he would continue to "supply arrest reports to the news media". When I did not begin receiving them, I re-read his email, including the message that was between the lines.

I wrote to him on November 5 and have not yet received a reply.

I wrote to him again on December 14 and have not received a reply.

Sometime back (2-3 years?) City Manager Tim Clifton told me that City employees would not reply to my repeated requests for information or action; they would acknowledge my initial request and wouldn't response further. At the time I was following up on code enforcement requests, after allowing about 30 days for action. When no apparent action had been taken on visible violations (the pick-up truck with the snowblade backed into the driveway at 721 N. Seminary is a good example; it has been there about three years), I would send in a follow-up request.

Has Chief Lowen been instructed to follow that procedure and to just ignore my follow-up requests? He has never said he would not provide these reports, only that he would continue to provide them to the media.

If that's the case, there is another way to skin the cat. The Illinois Freedom of Information Act is a powerful tool and is often used to obtain information that government entities either don't wish to divulge information or are slow to do so.

If it is necessary to file FOIA requests every week with the police department, I can do that. No problem. I can just fax the request every week, just like clockwork. Then they have the statutory period within which to respond. How much easier it would be just to provide the information.

How was this problem handled in San Diego last year?

In a message today from a San Diego resident who had found my websites, he wrote: "Our (police) department took a beating about 1 year ago in the San Diego Tribune regarding the same issue. Now we issue press releases for everything it seems like! We have a book at the front counter that people can look at that is our CAD printout for the last 30 days. I'm pretty sure it is all public records so they have to release it!"

The people of Woodstock are entitled to know of crime activity. I'll publish it quickly.

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