Computer change nets arrests Service call addresses matched with warrants

September 24, 1995|By TaNOAH V. STERLING | TaNOAH V. STERLING,SUN STAFF

A $4,700 addition to the county Police Department's computer dispatch system has officers making more arrests on warrants during service calls.

The new feature matches the address of a call with warrant records, then lets the dispatcher know if a wanted suspect lives at that address.

Police say the technology is helping to get criminals off the street and keep officers safe.

"The system is working real good," said Officer Steve Moody, who patrols parts of Pasadena and Severna Park. "We're able to arrest someone on minor calls that we would never check."

While the officer was on his way to check a report of two pit bulls in the street, the dispatcher told him of a warrant for someone at the address where the complaint originated.

As Officer Moody talked to the person who made the complaint, he asked if the person named in the warrant was in the house.

The suspect was there, and was arrested on the warrant charge of violating probation in a drug case, Mr. Moody said.

County officials said the program, which police have been using since July, took about three months to write and install.

It allows quick address searches through warrant files that before would have required a second computer for each police dispatcher and taken several minutes each to complete. The department gets about 1,000 calls a day.

The new feature requires no work on the dispatcher's part and takes 30 seconds for a search, said Peter D. Christensen, police records manager. If a warrant is listed at the address, the computer notifies the dispatcher.

"The dispatcher doesn't have to do anything except recognize that something has come back on the screen," Mr. Christensen said.

Programmers said the feature first was discussed in 1992 when the county bought a system that put warrant, criminal histories and incident files on the same database.

Mr. Christensen said the Police Department wanted something that would automatically check warrant records on each dispatch call. To do that, the department needed programming to make two computers speak the same language.

Three years later, the department called on Jack Frye, a county programmer, to write the program to link the two systems. The $4,795 the county spent on the feature went to programmers from the computer company that provided the county's dispatch system.

Although police don't keep statistics on how many arrests they've made using the new feature, Officer Moody estimated it may have increased warrant arrests by 50 percent on his shift. The program helped police make three arrests in the past two weeks.

"We're getting a lot more people off the street than we would have otherwise," said Officer Randy Bell, a police spokesman.

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