by Joyce Tremel
Most organizations rely on statistics to inform them how well they did the previous year. Corporations need to know how much money they made. Hospitals track how many patients were admitted. Stores want to know which customers bought what products. Police departments are no different. Township or city officials want to know how many calls the police responded to and for what.
Every month, approximately 17,000 police agencies in the country collect statistics and compile them into what is called a UCR, or Uniform Crime Report. This data is sent to the FBI, who has been charged with archiving these statistics. The FBI issues a yearly publication, Crime in the United States.
Anyone can view these crime statistics. Writing a book set in Chicago and need to know how many murders they had in 2002? Moving to Shaler and want to know how many burglaries we had in 2005? A couple of clicks of the mouse and you have an answer. Even if you don't need statistics, the FBI website is a wonderful source of information for writers. Check it out.
In case anyone is interested (or even if you're not, I'm going to tell you anyway), Shaler Township Police Department answered 9828 calls in 2006. (Guess who got to type most of those reports?) The highest number of calls were Emergency Medical Assists (1078).
In Shaler, police always respond to EMS calls. Everyone is trained in CPR and the AED, and many times the police arrive before the paramedics. There's also a chance the call could turn out to be something else. For instance, Aunt Mary calls 911 and says Uncle Bob had a cardiac arrest. The police arrive and find out Uncle Bob was really hit over the head with an iron skillet by Aunt Mary.
Not likely, but it could happen. And if not in real life, you can always put it in your book.