Tool fights crime

Published 1:58 am Thursday, September 15, 2011

North Carolina has a new tool in its fight against crime.
Wednesday, State Controller David McCoy continued the final phase of the statewide rollout of the Criminal Justice Law Enforcement Automated Data Services criminal-tracking database. McCoy and some of his staff explained and demonstrated CJLEADS to area law-enforcement officials, criminal-justice officials and others at Beaufort County Community College.
McCoy, in a brief interview before explaining CJLEADS to law-enforcement and court personnel, talked about what spurred development of CJLEADS.
“The problem was you had a lot of data, but you couldn’t share the data,” McCoy said. “That created certain gaps, if you will, risks for the public. As we know, when Abhijit Mahato and Eve Carson were murdered, that was the catalyst that prompted the General Assembly to say, ‘We want something done. We want the State Controller’s Office to be responsible for seeing that this gets done.’
“What we have done is built a system that brings all that information together and makes it readily available for law enforcement and the courts in a single view, if you will. It pulls all that data together.”
McCoy has a personal interest in CJLEDS proving its worth. He knew Carson.
“She was murdered. She was gunned down — 200 yards from my front door, in my neighbor, in my community,” McCoy said during his briefing. “She was a friend of my daughter’s. She attended the same high school that my wife attended. This was not white noise.”
Earlier, McCoy used the white-noise reference when he talked about learning about Mahato’s murder by watching television and considering it just another murder being reported by the media.
Mahato was a Duke University student and Carson was the president of the student government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill when they were murdered in separate incidents in early 2008.
McCoy said it will cost $27 million to get CJLEADS up and running, with an annual operations/maintenance cost of $8 million.
Sondra Phillips, CJLEADS’ business-operations manager, demonstrated to the media how CJLEADS works. She acknowledged that CJLEADS is a compilation of information from multiple databases and the accuracy of its information is only as good as the accuracy of the information first entered into those databases.
Still, CJLEADS reduces the time it used to take to research those multiple databases, Phillips said.
“To have at their fingertips, and quick response, this data is a great improvement for them, the user, to have something so quickly available,” she said. “It’s not so much that what we are offering to them is new data … what we’re doing is bringing it together for them in one place for them.”
The Office of State Controller deployed the CJLEADS program to Wake County as a pilot program in July 2010, according to an OSC news release. After the Wake County pilot program was completed, OSC began rolling out CJLEADS statewide in three phases.
As of today, more than 10,000 users are established in CJLEADS and training or currently using the application. The program is integrating data found within the state’s various criminal-justice databases (including warrants, jail records, court records, prison records, probation and parole status, the sex-offender registration and DMV information) and providing up-to-date criminal information in a centralized location via a secure connection for use by state and local government criminal-justice professionals.
CJLEADS has two primary objectives: to provide a comprehensive view of an offender through a single application, allowing for positive identification of an offender through a photographic image; and to provide an “offender watch” capability to alert criminal justice professionals when an offender has a change in status, according to the release. CJLEADS replaces the manual process of looking up historical criminal data from multiple systems, reduces the risk of overlooking critical data and improves the information needs of law enforcement agencies.
For example, CJLEADS will help officers on the street know immediately what the offender looks like, if they need to approach the suspect with caution and if there are orders for arrest or warrants out on the suspect. Judges and other court officials will instantly know if the defendant sitting in court already has a lengthy criminal history.
“Instead of shuffling papers, the system shuffles the papers for you. So you can do what the taxpayers really want you to do,” McCoy said.
Translation: More time on the streets, less time doing “paperwork.”

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

email author More by Mike