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IDACS safety benefit for police, public

May 07, 2008
Beginning in July, Crawford County law enforcement officers will be safer when on the road, and a few more criminals likely will end up off the road.

Crawford County Central Dispatch will be online with the Indiana Data and Communication System, enabling police officers, from sheriff's deputies to town marshals, to access information, including active warrants and the status of driver's licenses, during traffic stops.

"That sort of information can go directly to the officer," said Crawford County Prosecutor Cheryl Hillenburg, whose office applied for the grant that will initially pay for the system.

Officers currently must radio a license plate or driver's license number to Dispatch, which then must call the Indiana State Police Jasper Post, to access the same information they'll be able to receive through IDACS. This process sometimes can take a long time, depending on how busy the Jasper Post is at the time. In some cases, officers are hesitant to request an IDACS check because of the added time to a traffic stop.

However, once IDACS is online in the county, dispatchers will be able to relay that information directly to officers during a traffic stop, saving time and providing them information that may keep the officers safe.

By the county being connected to IDACS, police will also have access to the National Crime Information Center. While IDACS will provide information from Indiana, such as active warrants within the state, NCIC will provide information from across the country, as well as extensive criminal background history.

Crawford County's dispatchers will need to be trained on IDACS before the system can go online. While the state supervises IDACS, the FBI oversees NCIC and has extremely stringent guidelines on its usage.

Milltown Chief Marshal Ray Saylor, since the town is located in Crawford and Harrison counties, with the latter having had IDACS for more than a decade, sees firsthand the advantages and disadvantages of having and not having the system, depending on which side of the town he makes a traffic stop.

Getting IDACS will mean a "big change to Crawford County," Saylor said. It will increase the workload of dispatchers, and the number of traffic stops ran through the data base will increase, as officers won't be hesitant to request a check because of the current delay from Dispatch having to contact the ISP, he said.

"I think you'll see our arrests go up," Saylor said, pointing to the ability to attain active warrant information.

Depending on how close he is to Harrison County during a Crawford County traffic stop, Saylor sometimes seeks an IDACS check through Harrison County. It proved helpful one time, he said, as the check indicated a felony charge of resisting law enforcement, enabling him to avoid a potentially dangerous situation by calling for backup.

Harrison County dispatchers Beth Scott and Rhonda McCrary said the system, which sounds an alarm to notify dispatchers of someone flagged by the system, has been successful in that county. It's not only made the jobs of police safer, it's provided them with information they otherwise wouldn't have had that has helped the community.

They noted the database provided officers information on sex offenders, meaning if one is stopped for a busted headlight in a school zone or with a juvenile in the car, instead of the officer just telling the person to get the headlight fixed, the person will be arrested.

In addition, they said, the system can be used to notify authorities in other jurisdictions about missing children, runaways and other missing persons.

Hillenburg said the IDACS system will be funded through a JAG 10K and Under Byrne Grant her office received that also is providing officers portable breath testers and digital cameras. The $10,000 grant required a $1,112 match, which she provided with discretionary deferred infraction funds through tickets.

The program has a $1,500 installation fee, but that may be waived, Hillenburg said. The grant will initially pay the $338 monthly subscription fee, but she and Sheriff Tim Wilkerson have agreed to provide the funding after the grant funds are exhausted, she said.

The ISP's Kelly Hammond, Hillenburg, "is the one that wanted IDACS the most." She also credited Sheriff's Deputy Shawn Scott for getting information about the program.

Hillenburg said the program, which will be under the supervision of the sheriff's department, will bring Crawford County in line with the state's counties, as she believes Crawford is the only one currently without IDACS.

"I'm excited about it," she said.

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