Police officers will have an easier time accessing certain information thanks to a new statewide data-sharing initiative.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced the initiative, which will give law enforcement agencies greater access to information from the DMV through a secure Internet portal. The information that will be available includes photos of all New York state drivers and non-drivers, vehicle registrations, lifetime driving histories and real-time notifications of traffic violations and other charges.
One of the most prominent new features of the initiative will be access to the LAWMAN database. The database includes more than 15 million registration files, which can be critical in helping to identify and arrest suspects. Previously, the New York State Police were needed to perform a search using the LAWMAN database. Cuomo's initiative will direct access to the data in any patrol car with Internet access, as well as at all law enforcement headquarters. The Division of Criminal Justice Services will audit the system to make sure it is used properly.
The new system will also provide prosecutors with access to the complete driving histories of any driver. New York state limits prosecutors to the last four years or a person's driving record, unless the case involves a DWI conviction, which extends the limit to 10 years. The ability to use a full driving history will help prosecutors be able to better decide on appropriate charges and sentencing recommendations.
The third and final system the initiative will give agencies access to is the LENS system. In New York state, there are more than 30,000 individuals who have either suspended or restricted driving privileges. The LENS system will allow officers to receive real-time notifications of tickets issued to drivers with suspended or restricted licenses. Parole and probation officers can also enroll in the service, allowing them to be notified when an individual under their supervision receives a ticket that violates the terms of their parole or probation.
According to Joseph Gerace, Chautauqua County Sheriff, the initiative could be very helpful in certain situations and investigations.
"Getting information was very cumbersome and it could be difficult to come by," Gerace said. "Sometimes you don't have time to wait. This will make it simpler. I'm sensitive to the fact that people are worried about information being public. People get nervous about government intrusion."
Gerace said the new system would be restrictive, meaning it can't just be searched randomly. Law enforcement agencies will have very specific standards that they will have to meet regarding the new system.
"This isn't something that we want to have misused," said Gerace. "They will be doing audit checks regularly and if it's anything like the criminal history system that we have in place already, it will be very tightly controlled. In certain cases though, it could be extremely beneficial, like when other photographs aren't available in cases of missing persons or if we are trying to identify a deceased person. We could have other cases where a suspects name comes to us, but we don't have a photo available. With this, we could use a driver's license or identification photo to help a victim identify them."
Elizabeth Glazer, state deputy secretary for public safety, said the data the DMV can provide is a powerful resource for law enforcement agencies.
"This data sharing initiative is another example in the Governor's work to pursue beneficial government collaboration and reform in order to serve and protect New Yorkers," said Glazer.
For more information on the governor's office, including news, legislation and initiatives, visit www.governor.ny.gov.