Jessamine County

Electronic program dramatically cuts Kentucky's backlog for serving arrest warrants

A backlog of warrants for arrests has dropped dramatically during the past three years thanks to an electronic warrant program started in 2009, state officials say.

The service rate for warrants had gone from an estimated low of about 10 percent in areas where they were dependent solely on paper-based warrants to a statewide average service rate of more than 80 percent, according to Attorney General Jack Conway's office.

That's largely because police now can access warrants electronically. The attorney general's office has used more than $3.94 million in federal grant money to implement the electronic warrants program statewide. The bulk of the money has been used to buy mobile data units — similar to laptop computers — that are placed in officers' patrol cars.

The distribution of the units is the final phase of the electronic warrants program roll-out, the attorney general's office said.

Officers can know instantly whether a person has an outstanding warrant during a traffic stop or after responding to a scene by accessing the information from the data units, officials said. Although cities and counties more flush with cash have been able to purchase the mobile data units, smaller jurisdictions have not, which has slowed the serving of warrants.

"Since it's implementation we are seeing a dramatic decrease in the backlog of unserved warrants," Conway said. "It gives officers the tools they need to almost instantly determine whether or not a person has an outstanding warrant."

Seventy-eight rural law enforcement agencies will receive the mobile data units. Law enforcement agencies in Central Kentucky that will receive the units include sheriff departments in Jessamine and Franklin counties and police departments in Bardstown and Frankfort.