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Utah preparing to roll out new statewide warrant system

Published October 31, 2012 1:01 am

Technology • More, better details will aid in serving warrants.
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The Department of Public Safety is preparing to roll out a new statewide system designed to improve Utah's warrant process and help nab thousands of people who owe millions of dollars to the state.

While many of Utah's largest police forces say they haven't had a chance to test or view the state's new warrant system, which becomes operational on Monday, they are optimistic that it will enhance their crime-fighting efforts. Officials said the upgrade has been needed for awhile.

The current system, which was developed in the 90s, doesn't function in real time or provide particularly detailed information that would be helpful to authorities attempting to serving warrants, said Mike Sadler, DPS applications manager, who spent the past 1 ½ years designing the new program.

"[The current system] is not doing the job or it's severely limited," Sadler said.

Salt Lake City Police Detective Mike Hamideh said information on the current system is typically limited to the type of offense, some descriptors, the type of warrant, the bail amount and where the warrant originated.

The new system will include details of all of suspect's aliases, known addresses, photos and mug shots, descriptions of tattoos and scars, a comment field where additional information could be inputted about a suspect's habits — like if they're known to be armed — a caution status and a field that details the status of warrant.

Another issue is that the existing system only upgrades once a day, meaning that new warrants potentially don't appear for hours or the system doesn't immediately reflect that a resident has taken care of a warrant, leaving them at risk for being rearrested in such cases. Come Monday, it will update every 20 seconds, Sadler said.

The system will include details of a suspect's aliases, known addresses, photos and mug shots, descriptions of tattoos and scars, and a comment field where additional information can be added about a suspect's habits — if they're known to be armed, for example — among other things.

It also provides mapping capabilities so police officers can determine everyone with a warrant in certain neighborhoods, which would be useful during warrant sweeps.

"For the front line person, that type of data is phenomenal," Hamideh said, noting that he hadn't yet viewed the new program.

Dave Edmunds, Summit County sheriff and president of the Utah Sheriffs' Association, said the new program was discussed extensively at the group's last meeting and that agencies have been pushing for the upgrades for a while.

"I think it's going to be an exceptional tool for us," he said. "Conceptually, I think it's exactly what they need. I haven't seen it yet, but from what I hear the theory behind it is sound. We're hoping the system in practice is going to be very helpful."

He said at last check, there were about $300 million worth of outstanding warrants in Utah.

Edmunds said most individual warrants aren't worth a lot of money, but they add up, particularly when some suspects could have a dozen.

"The reality is criminals commit crime and we need to hold them accountable," Edmunds said. "These people who don't take care of their business in court, [they're] thumbing their nose at the system."

Chelsey Burns, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation supervisor in charge of training departments, said the new system is very intuitive and some parts still resemble what officers have been using for years. She said the DPS has been working with every department's assigned terminal agency coordinator (TAC) to make sure everyone is prepared for the launch. Each department's TAC is then responsible for providing the basic training and giving their respective departments an opportunity to preview it, Burns said.

The upgrade was paid for a by $30,000 federal grant allocated to the Department of Public Safety by the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ).

"We're excited," said CCJJ Executive Director Ron Gordon. "We think it's a good product and we're looking forward to it."


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