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Wednesday, 15 June 2011 20:19

New database puts criminal files at law enforcement fingertips

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Law enforcement officers and court officials are being trained on how to use a new $17 million state database that pulls together everything known about a criminal to the screen of a laptop.

Officers using the system will know who and what they are dealing with upon arrival at a traffic stop or crime scene. State Controller David McCoy said during a training session in Franklin last week that he is certain the Criminal Justice Law Enforcement Automated Data Services (CJLEADS, for short), will save lives.

Officers and court officials from Jackson, Macon and Swain were at the Franklin training. Similar teaching efforts are under way across the state.

In addition to integrating data, the new system provides an “offender watch” to alert officers and others who might need to know when there is a change in status. For instance, when a warrant is issued on an offender, or if a particular suspect is due in court, officers can receive email alerts.

The database is massive: 41 million files on 13.8 million offenders in North Carolina.

Previously, officers and court officials were forced to search up to seven different systems for the same information, McCoy said. Now, files including the state’s Administrative Office of Courts, the Department of Corrections and sex-offender registry have been merged.

Privacy issues have been considered, and were at the forefront of the database design, the state controller said. Public records on regular Joes and Janes in North Carolina have not been co-mingled with that of criminal offenders.

“And even for bad actors we don’t want to violate anyone’s rights,” McCoy said.

Sondra Phillips, who works in the data integration section of the state controller office, emphasized the system was built using on-the-job suggestions by officers and court personnel. Warnings on an offender come up immediately to help protect those working in the state’s law enforcement field, she said.

Federal agencies also are gaining access, she said, including the FBI, immigration officers and the U.S. Marshals Service. For its part, by June of next year, Phillips said North Carolina hopes to jump through the necessary security hoops to bring national alerts into the state system — such as missing people and wanted suspects.

The Office of the State Controller was selected to rollout the project after building and launching a $100 million payroll system for North Carolina.

The new criminal database will cost taxpayers $8 million a year to maintain.

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