Court expedites warrant alerts

Lee County, Fla., saves time—and lives—with background-check system for defendants

Background checks for defendants in Lee County, Fla., now take 10 minutes or less, thanks to a new warrant alert system.

Lee County has implemented the Active Warrant Alert System from Metatomix to identify defendants appearing before the court who have open local, Florida, out-of-state or federal warrants.

In the first week that the Metatomix system was running, court officials processed warrant checks on 3,000 individuals, discovering 141 warrants that led to 16 arrests, said Sheila Mann, court operations manager for the 20th Judicial Circuit of Florida.

Before adopting the Active Warrant Alert System, court officials manually searched through 15 different databases to check for outstanding warrants, Mann said. The new system automatically searches these same databases and, in 10 minutes or less, can determine a defendant’s status regarding outstanding warrants, probation or custody, she said.

Part of the impetus for developing the warrant system was triggered by a shooting that happened a few years ago in Fort Myers, Fla. Abel Arango, who had been arrested on drug charges, was released on bond. A few weeks later, Arango killed a policeman.

The data that indicated “this guy is a bad dude, don’t let him go,” was there, but it was stored in 15 different databases, and court officials had difficulty accessing it, said Tom Hall, vice president of Metatomix.

With the new system, a judge can click on a defendant’s name and the software will call up all of the individual’s active warrants, according to Hall. Now the sheriff’s office does background checks every morning to review the backgrounds for that day’s session.

“It used to take two sheriff’s deputies all day to do all the background checks,” Hall said, a far cry from the 10 minutes it now takes.

Metatomix uses semantic technology, which pulls together data from disparate systems. “It identifies not only what the data is but how it’s related,” Hall said.

The new warrant system is an extension of the Metatomix technology that also powers Florida’s Judicial Inquiry System and First Appearance Calendar, statewide systems that query and produce correlated results from 13 state and national data sources.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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