Warrant info draws traffic to police Web site

June 20, 2004|TODD KLEFFMAN

Nosy neighbors. Jilted lovers. Concerned citizens. Folks with guilty consciences.

Danville police aren't sure who is driving up interest in the department's Web site, they just know the number of visitors to the site has jumped dramatically since a feature listing active arrest warrants was added and that new interest is helping officers do their jobs.

"We don't know the thought process involved, but regardless of the motivation it's still helping clear more warrants," said James Turner, director of the Danville-Boyle County 911 Center. "Nosy neighbors don't generate the warrant to begin with. It's there and it needs to be taken care of. That's the bottom line."

The department added the warrant database to its Web site,, in April. Since then, traffic at the site has jumped from about 750 hits a month to 1,250 hits, said assistant chief Jay Newell. The department usually has about 800 active warrants and they can be searched by name, race or sex, Newell said.


"People are going in to check on people they know or checking themselves out," he said.

Public interest in the warrants helps police serve them, Newell said, because tipsters can anonymously provide leads on the whereabouts of people officers haven't been able to locate. While officers attempt to serve all warrants, those involving lesser charges such as contempt of court are not a high priority.

"We're not going to detail detectives to go out looking for someone who hasn't paid a fine or missed a mandated counseling session," Newell said.

If, however, someone who has perused the warrant database calls with current information on a person police are looking for, officers will make a renewed effort to track that person down, Newell said. The department hasn't tracked how warrants have been served with help from the Web site, but Newell said there have been several. "This gives us more eyes out there in the community, a new way to share information, and information is one of the most important parts of our jobs."

"We've got 31 officers who stay pretty busy," the assistant chief said. "This gives us leads. I've often thought police departments fall behind technology because we're more concerned with what's going on in the streets."

Sometimes, people who know they have run afoul of the law by missing a court date or failing to pay a fine will search the database, find their name listed and call to see how they can clear up the matter.

"I know we've had a couple of people from out of state who saw their name on the list and called us and we tell them how to take care of it," Newell said.

Another benefit of posting the warrants online is that eventually people will get used to going to the Web site for that information instead of calling dispatchers. The dispatchers don't give out information about warrants over the phone, Turner said, but they often get tied up taking calls related to warrants and telling people how they can find out about them.

"Over a period of time of teaching, it will lessen the burden on dispatchers a lot," Turner said.

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