Harford police officers will have more time for patrolling when the county opens a processing center in the fall to book, fingerprint andphotograph criminals.

The $80,000 booking center, to be built at the Harford Sheriff's Department at 45 S. Main St., Bel Air, will be the first of its kind in Maryland, county officials said last week.

"This idea is not new or unique, but nobody has implemented it yet in Maryland," said John S. Landbeck, administrative judge of the Harford District Court.

"It's a marvelous concept," Landbeck said. "I see nothing but benefits."

The center, to be operated by an 11-member staff, will be used by the Sheriff's Department, the state police and the municipal police departments in Aberdeen, Bel Air and Havre de Grace.

County Sheriff Robert E. Comes said it now takes as long as four hours for police officers to book, fingerprint, photographand take criminals before a District Court commissioner for setting bail.

Officers also have to transport criminals between police departments, the district courthouse and the county Detention Center during the booking process, Comes said.

With the center, the booking process will be reduced to no more than two hours, Comes said. The center is expected to start operations by Nov. 1.

When it opens, arresting officers will be able to take prisoners to the center, file the initial forms for the arrest and then go back on patrol, Comes said.

The center's staff will photograph and fingerprint the defendantand take the prisoner before a court commissioner, who will have offices at the facility, Comes said.

Depending on the commissioner's bail ruling, the staff will either

release the defendant or take the person to the Detention Center until bail is posted, Comes said.

Landbeck added that a prosecutor from the county State's Attorney'sOffice will eventually be assigned to the processing center to review the basis for each arrest before the case enters the court system.

The center also will be used by citizens who have to be fingerprinted as a part of background checks for their jobs. As many as a dozencitizens a day are fingerprinted by the Sheriff's Department, and they often must wait for more than an hour until a deputy arrives to dothe work, Comes said.

The Sheriff's Department plans to relocate deputies who issue court arrest orders and warrants to the center, Comes said.

In addition, the center will house the department's Court Services Division, which handles security at the courthouses and delivers civil writs and summonses, Comes said.

To make room for the2,000-square-foot center, the county plans to move its Revenue Collections Division of the Treasury Department to offices at 220 S. Main St., said Larry Klimovitz, the county's director of administration.

The collections division will take over space that had been occupied by Maryland National Bank, Klimovitz said. Most of the county's operations are already at that location.

Money to develop the center will come from a transfer of appropriations that must be approved by the County Council. The council has scheduled a public hearing on thetransfer for July 9.

The money was originally set aside to pay for a garage at the Sheriff's Department.

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