Townsend seeks uniform crime reporting

Reports of lapses prompt formation of task force to create `seamless' system

November 03, 1999|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend has directed a task force to give her a plan by the end of the month for a "seamless" statewide criminal justice information system to replace the patchwork system now in place.

Townsend, who oversees anti-crime initiatives for Gov. Parris N. Glendening, said yesterday that if legislation is needed to create a centralized system, it could be introduced in the General Assembly session next year.

The lieutenant governor's edict came in response to a recent report that 30 percent of the protective orders issued by Maryland judges are not entered into a statewide computer database used to prevent handgun sales to people who are accused of domestic abuse.

"There are too many cracks in the system and too much finger-pointing when something falls through," Townsend said.

The cracks were exposed by the case of Richard Wayne Spicknall II, who bought a 9 mm handgun at a College Park pawnshop even though his wife had obtained a restraining order in Howard County in December.

Police have charged the Laurel man in the shooting deaths of his 2-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter. Spicknall had originally reported the case as a carjacking on the Frederick C. Malkus Jr. Bridge over the Choptank River.

The Howard County Sheriff's Department acknowledged in September that it had failed to properly log information about the protective order into a computer system used by state police to screen gun buyers.

If the information had been properly entered, Spicknall presumably would not have been able to acquire a handgun legally in Maryland.

A subsequent study by the U.S. attorney's office in Baltimore found that about 30 percent of such protective orders were not entered into the statewide computer database. A separate state police audit found mistakes in 86 percent of the entries. Most of those,though, were minor.

Townsend said cases such as Spicknall's show that "we need a system and an authority with the appropriate power to get the job done."

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