Keeping Track of Crime
With more than a century’s worth of information, the Mt. Lebanon Police Department’s records managers are an invaluable departmental resource.
One of the unseen tools of a police officer’s trade is information: Incident reports, criminal histories, traffic citations, neighborhood break-ins and thefts, and more.
Yvette Grandillo, Janice Ward and Joanne Sayre, of the Mt. Lebanon Police Records Division, are the custodians of much of the MLPD’s information. Grandillo and Ward are full-time employees who work daylight hours, and Sayre does part-time data entry in the evenings.
The records clerks take the raw information from the reports the officers write and translate it into the language of Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR), the nationwide documenting of criminal incidents maintained by the FBI. The FBI has implemented a new way to catalogue crime, the National Incident Based Reporting System, which means a learning curve for the department.
“We have to make sure what’s in the officers’ reports fits the classifications of the UCR,” said Grandillo. “We read the reports, and break them down, like reading an essay, and fit them into the system.”
With more than a century’s worth of information, the records managers are an invaluable departmental resource, compiling statistics for a wide variety of reports and studies.
“An officer will say ‘hey, can you get me data on whatever,’ could be crashes, speeding tickets, vehicle thefts in a certain area or time frame, we’ll get it for them,” Grandillo said.
The clerks are also tasked with compiling folders that contain relevant documents for officers’ court appearances.
Other tasks include background checks and good conduct letters—letters that show a person’s lack of a criminal record in Mt. Lebanon—records retention and updating records to reflect expungements of criminal histories and updating records to reflect current court dispositions: “Say someone was convicted of something, but then the conviction is overturned,” Grandillo said. “We need to cross-check every record that person is mentioned in, and we need to update any other agencies we sent reports to about that person.”
Although the bulk of their work is done behind the scenes, the records unit is often the first line of communication with residents who need police assistance. The clerks are responsible for connecting members of the public to the proper person they need to speak with. In the pre-COVID days, people would enter the building and speak with the clerks, who work behind bulletproof glass in a secure environment. As the pandemic forced the closure of the building to the public, anyone who wants to enter the building must come to the rear vestibule and call either police or fire from a wall-mounted telephone. Surveillance cameras allow police to view the visitors in the vestibule.
As the first line of communication, the members of the records unit determine what the visitor needs. This sometimes requires a pretty high level of customer service.
“If you need to speak to an officer in person, you should call 911,” said Ward. “We sometimes have trouble convincing people of that. They’ll say ‘oh, but it’s not an emergency,’ but still, the officers are on the road more often that they’re in the station, and we need to bring them in.”
Both Ward and Grandillo emphasize that they are not there to take police reports.
“We have to follow the chain of command,” Grandillo said, “and in order for me to help you, I need an idea of what you need, so I’ll ask you some questions, but that’s not the same as filing a police report.
“We’re the ones calling 911, and we have to be concise, so we’re not wasting the operator’s time. That’s why we ask the questions we ask.”
Deputy Police Chief Jason Haberman values the role the records division plays. “Our records staff is another example of the extra level of service which the Mt. Lebanon Police Department strives to provide,” said Haberman. “They are a significant contributor to our efforts which provides stability and consistency that allows our officers to focus on other tasks and more efficiently handle calls for service. We are so appreciative and grateful for the work they do on a daily basis. They really do a tremendous job to keep the department moving forward.”
Warmer weather, longer days, more time outside. Here are some tips for cycling at night.
You are required to use a front headlight and rear reflector if riding at night.
You should also have a helmet light. The front light illuminates the road in front of you and makes you visible to oncoming traffic. The rear reflector keeps you visible from behind, and the helmet light illuminates your field of vision when you need to turn and look at something.
Clothing should keep you warm and visible. Choose pieces with reflective fabrics and details, especially at spots with a lot of movement like your ankles.
Always ride defensively; drivers aren’t always looking for cyclists at night.