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Chicago tweaks public data portal that gave out personal information related to crashes

Chicago adjusts public data portal providing crash related information
Chicago adjusts public data portal providing crash related information 02:42

CHICAGO (CBS) – Private information for sale on a city website – CBS 2 previously told you about the ability to buy random traffic crash reports containing phone numbers, addresses, and names.

The portal with that personal information is more buttoned up now. Morning Insider Lauren Victory took us inside the interestingly-timed tweak.

CBS 2 was back on JoAnne Berens' couch looking at the page to purchase traffic crash reports.

Victory: "So you had three search functions before."

Berens: "Yes."

Victory: "And then now."

Berens: "Just two."

That change matters. To understand why it involves Berens' husband and a T-bone crash with no injuries in February.

"Well about four hours after we filed the police report, my husband's phone just started getting bombarded," Berens told CBS 2 back in February.

The couple was bombarded with calls and texts from people representing personal injury attorneys. It was odd because an Illinois Supreme Court ruling banned the solicitation of clients over the phone.

"The reason we called CBS News was that we wanted to find out how this was happening," Berens said last month.

That's when CBS 2 showed Berens how anyone can search the city's public data for information about random traffic crashes. A stranger could jot down an accident address and crash date, then pay $6 for a wealth of information.

"It's not something that's useful to the general public, so why is it there?" said Berens. "I understand public access to information by city governments is an important thing, but this doesn't seem to be very important."

Chicago police agree and told CBS 2 "to further protect victim information and privacy, the address search function was removed from the traffic crash reports form."

CBS 2 noticed the adjustment just weeks after our story aired.

Victory: "What did you think when you heard about the change?"

Berens: "Oh, I was thrilled, because I felt like that 's exactly how it should be."

To be sure it wasn't just an online tweak, CBS 2 went in person to the Chicago Police Department Records Division.

Inside, clerks allowed us to search for Berens' husband's traffic record using the address and date, but nothing came up. We got a hit, only after providing a case number.

Ideally, only victims would know that information, so only victims could access their reports.

Traffic crash reports are accessible without a case number if the victim's first and last name is known. Berens is hopeful the website change will cut down on solicitation calls and texts. She said the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission is investigating her complaint about lawyer cold calls.

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