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Carroll sheriff seeks federal grant to fund computers; He wants automated central booking unit


Carroll County Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning will seek a federal grant to buy computers to fully automate Carroll County's central booking unit, a move that could save countless hours in patrol officers' time while allowing for rapid identification and background checks on arrested suspects.

Central booking, located at the county detention center in Westminster, is a one-stop process where arrested suspects are identified, charged and, if needed, incarcerated.

Since Jan. 3, when Tregoning opened the central booking unit on a limited basis, more than 520 suspects have been booked. He had hoped the effort would help the county win a state grant of $100,000 to buy equipment. But the state rejected Carroll's request.

The county commissioners had agreed to contribute $40,000 for central booking, and that coupled with a federal grant would provide the estimated $140,000 start-up costs for the computers and an electronic fingerprinting system, says Col. Robert Keefer, the sheriff's top deputy.

"The beauty of full automation," he said, "is that our computers would be linked to five databases in the state system, giving us practically instant response on wanted persons."

A partial fingerprint recovered from a crime scene in the state could be instantly matched with a suspect in Carroll County when the live-scan fingerprinting device is used, Keefer said.

"We might have a suspect arrested on a minor charge here and find out within seconds that police in Charles County, for example, want that person for questioning in a murder down there," Keefer said. "They may have recovered fingerprints at the scene, but could never come up with a name until we run the guy's prints and get a positive hit."

The process now for each arrest without central booking -- fingerprinting, completing a statement of charges, transporting the suspect to a District Court commissioner to determine bail and, if merited, back to the jail for incarceration -- can tie up an arresting officer for two or more hours.

With central booking operating manually, the suspect is brought in and the arresting officer is back on patrol in 30 minutes or less.

Deputies have been accepting a daily average of four to five suspects arrested by state police, five municipal agencies, state fire marshals and officers from the Department of Natural Resources, Springfield Hospital Center, and sheriff's deputies.

Without automation -- about 10 computers linked to statewide databases and the $60,000 "live-scan" electronic fingerprinting system -- deputies have not attempted booking suspects arrested by city officers in Westminster.

Bringing that agency's suspects into the central booking unit would more than double the daily average and could bring as many as 20 suspects in a single day, said Keefer. That's too many to do by hand, he said.

The entire manual booking process, including the arresting officer's time plus fingerprinting and other work done by deputies, can take two hours.

When the new equipment is in place, arresting officers should be able to bring in a suspect and be back on the street in as little as 10 minutes, Keefer said.

"That's our goal, and we believe we can cut the processing time from two hours to 30 minutes," Keefer said.

Steve Reynolds, civilian director of sheriff's services, said notification on the federal grant should come this month, allowing time to purchase the equipment and have it running in July.

Until the computers are in place, Westminster officers are processing suspects at the city's police headquarters.

Pub Date: 5/07/00

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