Counties plan tech cures for crime

A New York county and two Montana counties are planning to use technology

to enhance their criminal justice systems thanks to grants awarded last

week by the Justice Department.

Justice awarded 22 local jurisdictions with grants aimed at reducing

crime. The department received more than 1,300 applications from state,

local, and tribal government and justice agencies.

Dutchess County, about 70 miles north of New York City and with a population

of about 265,000, received $134,000 — "seed money" that will be used to

hire a researcher and data designer to enhance the county's information

system, according to Patricia Resch, director of the county's probation

and community correction office. Records in the county's computer systems

are based on case management, and Resch said it's difficult to spot trends,

such as who's getting arrested, how the criminal justice system responds

to offenders, and how long it takes to prosecute felony and misdemeanor

cases. Resch said it will take up to three years to transform the system

into one based on conducting research.

"What [we're] looking for is a way to enhance justice being administered

fairly and rapidly and that outcomes are positive for the victim as well

as for the perpetrator," Resch explained. "We can't make good policy decisions

unless we have good information, and you can't have good information unless

you have good technology."

With their $60,000 grant, the central Montana counties of Mussellshell

and Golden Valley plan to outfit patrol cars with video recording systems

that will be logged in to a computer database.

Mussellshell spokesman Shawn Todd said the counties hope the proposed

technology will reduce the case workload and the amount of time the counties'

attorney's office spends on cases. The counties share a county attorney,

who is "swamped" adjudicating cases, Todd said.

The counties' grant application indicates that the attorney handles

about 180 combined cases based on traffic stops. Todd said the video technology

would help strengthen some prosecutions and enable some cases to be thrown

out.

The Mussellshell County Sheriff's Department has six patrol cars, and

Golden Valley has two.

The counties, located north of Billings, have a combined population

of about 5,600 and encompass nearly 3,000 square miles.

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