Wayne County's Digital Deputies

 

By JESSICA PIERCE               from Daily Messenger    March 2, 2005

Old-school fingerprinting and tickets have been phased out at the Wayne County Sheriff's Department.of the past in Wayne County.

Chief Deputy Rick House of the Wayne County Sheriff's Department watches his fingerprints come up on a scanner that feeds prints to a data-sharing bank accessible by other police agencies and federal authorities. Looking on is Sheriff Richard Pisciotti, who says the new system helps his officers obtain information in about 20 minutes that used take about a month.

 

 

LYONS - Ink and paper fingerprinting and the lengthy paper trail of traffic tickets and accident reports are becoming a thing of the past in Wayne County.

The Sheriff's Department on Tuesday replaced its standard, old-fashioned method of gathering fingerprints and mug shots with a high-tech system that's the first of its kind in the Finger Lakes region.

Using a machine called a livescan, corrections officers are now collecting fingerprints on an electronic scanner and sending them electronically, along with digital photographs, to the Onondaga County Sheriff's Office in Syracuse, where they are stored on a computer network shared by multiple agencies.

The prints and photographs are then sent to the Division of Criminal Justice Services and Federal Bureau of Investigation to be identified and linked to criminal records that are listed on a secure police site known as "e-Justice."

After the prints are sent from the Wayne County Sheriff's Department, it takes only about 20 minutes for officers to obtain identification information and rap sheets. With the old system, fingerprint cards were mailed and responses returned in about a month, said Wayne County Sheriff Richard Pisciotti.

Pisciotti said the new technology frees up his officers' time and immediately establishes a person's true identity, preventing anyone from being booked into the jail under a fake name. It also alerts officers when a person is wanted by another police agency.

the sheriff said. "Now we can do it in minutes."

The livescan technology is also being used by the sheriff's records department to take fingerprints for pistol-permit applications. Pisciotti said under the old system, the application process took up to six months, mainly because of the amount of time it took the Division of Criminal Justice Services to process the ink and paper fingerprint cards. Under the new system, the sheriff is expecting a return in about 24 hours.time-consuming method of writing out tickets and accident reports is gradually being replaced by a few entries into new portable computers and a couple swipes of a hand-held scanner.

Using new software, called TraCS - for Traffic and Criminal Software, deputies can issue tickets and write reports by scanning bar codes on drivers' licenses and registrations. The data is downloaded into the deputies' portable computers along with charge and court information. Drivers get a copy of the ticket that is created on a thermal printer mounted in the deputies' patrol cars.Chief Deputy Rick House of the Wayne County Sheriff's Department said his agency is one of only 44 police departments in the state to utilize TraCS. The Rochester Police Department and the New York State Police in Monroe County have also started implementing the technology, he said.

House said the electronic ticketing, also used for accident reports, takes about five minutes while the former method often took twice as long.

"One of the major benefits is the time factor," he said. "We're cutting down on the time officers are spending with a violator, so there's a safety benefit, too. It's not only for the safety reason and to free up officers quicker, but it also is a way for us to be able to track our data easier."

When deputies finish their shifts at the sheriff's department in Lyons, they electronically transfer all their ticket and accident data into a main computer through a wireless network. The information is then forwarded to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and to the Office of Court Administration.

House said three justice courts in Wayne County - Walworth, Arcadia and Savannah - are testing the new system by electronically retrieving ticket information from the Office of Court Administration. All other Wayne County justice courts will be sent paper copies of the computer-generated tickets until the testing is completed.

House is hoping that all the courts will be able to get their ticket information electronically in the next six months.

The new livescan and TraCS systems have been funded by some $300,000 in federal grant money garnered with the help of the Wayne County Department of Emergency Management, Pisciotti said.

The funding was sought by House after he was approached five years ago by the sheriff to research the possibility of bringing new digital technology to the department to mainstream records and better utilize officers' time.

Pisciotti said his ultimate goal is to see patrol cars become "substations on wheels."

"Wayne County has always been on the cutting edge," he said. "Law enforcement is a constantly challenging service to the public and you have to constantly be up on the most advanced technology."

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