Serving warrants has long been an iffy proposition, given the propensity of people to move frequently to stay ahead of the paperwork.
As counties across Kentucky have switched to a new eWarrants system, more and more warrants have been served. The program went live in Clark and Madison counties Nov. 30, and local officials are still learning its ins and outs.
Basically, the eWarrants program functions as a statewide database for all warrants that police officers, state troopers and sheriff’s deputies can access from computers in their vehicles.
“All the warrants on file are entered or have been entered across the state,” Clark County Sheriff Berl Perdue Jr. said. “It’s at your fingertips. Now you know pretty much instantly if there’s a warrant on someone.”
Before, local agencies would have their own lists of active warrants within the county or city but wouldn’t know about warrants from other counties, he said. Calling other counties to check for warrants takes time, which is not always available during a traffic stop, Winchester Police Capt. Harvey Craycraft said.
“It looks like a really nice tool, especially for officers in the field,” he said. “It’s a good tool. It’s immediate. It’s so easy.”
The new system also ties warrants to driver’s license information, which makes it easier to locate people once they move, Craycraft said. It also gives officers access to photographs to help identify possible suspects.
It is also connected to the Law Enforcement Information Network of Kentucky (LINK), which is administered by the Kentucky State Police and used statewide.
“If you’re wanted, we’ll find you,” Craycraft said.
“Under the old system, the city had their list and we had our list,” Perdue said. “Now we all know what everyone has.”
The program should increase the service rate of warrants significantly. According to Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s office, service rates varies from 10 to 50 percent in counties using the manual system. With eWarrants, some counties’ service rates have increased to 80 percent. Only seven counties are not using eWarrants.
The system began as a pilot program in 2005 to address a statewide backlog of nearly 300,000 warrants, Conway said.
When Clark and Madison counties officially went online Nov. 30, there were already nearly 500 bench warrants in the system for Clark County, Perdue said.
For Perdue and his deputies, more warrants being served means there will be more transfers of prisoners from other counties to Winchester and between other jails.
“In my opinion, you’re going to see more warrants served becurse it’s so much easier,” Perdue said. “It’s a double-edged sword as sheriff, because while we serve more warrants, so will our transports to other counties (increase).”
Presently, the new program has added a few steps to the process of obtaining a warrant, whether from officers or private citizens, Clark County Attorney Brian Thomas said. State statutes do not allow for electronic signatures on warrants, so the officer or complainant must physically sign the document before it gets scanned into the system and sent to the judge, who in turn prints it out, signs it and scans it back into the system, he said.
Even so, one warrant was issued and in the system 15 minutes after the officer signed the documents, Thomas said. Some of those issues should be resolved in the future, he said.
“There’s little steps we have to do that create extra work,” Thomas said. “It will ultimately be better for us because the percentage of service will increase exponentially. Ultimately, it will be the way to go.”
Contact Fred Petke at firstname.lastname@example.org.