08/02/09 — Officers say N.C. computer changes will catch crooks

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Officers say N.C. computer changes will catch crooks

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on August 2, 2009 2:00 AM

New connections between parole and probation records and police officers' computers are good for local law enforcement, Goldsboro police officials say.

Changes to the computer system behind the Division of Criminal Information, known to police as "DCI," also will make driver's license photos instantly visible to police, state officials said.

After high-profile lapses in the monitoring of people on probation -- perhaps the most notable of which being the 2008 slaying of University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill student Eve Carson -- Attorney General Roy Cooper made inquiries about connecting existing police computers with probation records.

Noelle Talley, a spokeswoman for Cooper, said police officers need information about current parole and probation information.

Only the most current parole and probation information will be shown, not information about past paroles or probation periods, the spokeswoman said.

"The attorney general wants to make sure that law enforcement officers have all the information they need to do their job and keep the public safe," Ms. Talley said.

Having access to driver's license photos will also prevent more suspects from using another person's identity upon arrest, the spokeswoman said.

"To be able to tell that the person they're dealing with is who they say they are," Ms. Talley said. "And having their driver's license photo will make them able to do that."

Linking the information, which includes the photos from the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles and parole and probation information from the Department of Correction, was not an easy job, Ms. Talley said.

It involved partnering with Nlets, "an organization linking state, local and federal law enforcement agencies for information exchange," Ms. Talley said in a news release.

For the Goldsboro police, more information will be valuable to police officers in the field said Maj. Mike Hopper, who noted the new system was already available to city police.

"Being able to bring the pictures up in the car, you're going to be able to catch a lot of people" who otherwise would not be identified, Hopper said.

Hopper also said the new tools would prove vital in preventing false names given at the time of arrest.

He also said that conditions of parole, which had not been available to officers in the field, would lead to better handling of such cases.

"A lot of people, as a condition of probation or parole, they have to be in by a certain time of night," Hopper said. "We can find out the conditions of the parole, or so-and-so that they're not supposed to be associating with."

Enforcing those provisions of parole was much more difficult without the new information, Hopper said.

Police Chief Tim Bell also lauded the move.

"Any (additional) information that you can get, that officers can get on their computers in the field is good information," Bell said.

Wayne County Sheriff's Office deputies and others who will have access to the new information may not yet be affected by the changes, Ms. Talley said.

The deployment of the system is being done alphabetically in tiers, the spokeswoman said, and "law enforcement in Wayne County as a whole will have access to probation info and driver's license photos by mid- to late-August."