City Set To Upgrade Police Records System
WILKES-BARRE — City police soon will be able to almost instantly share data on suspects and criminal investigations with dozens of other police departments in Luzerne County.
The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency earlier this month awarded a grant in the amount of $149,734 to the Wilkes-Barre Police Department to cover the costs of a new records management system used by 46 other law enforcement agencies in the county, according to Kirsten Kenyon, director of the commission’s Office of Research and Child Advocacy.
“I think it’s great,” Mayor Tony George said. “We were having some problems with the current system. Now, we can be connected with other departments in the area that we wouldn’t have access to before. We’ll be tied in through the county.”
District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis also is pleased that the largest police agency in the county is becoming part of the county-wide system.
“I think it’s wonderful they are able to get an upgrade,” Salavantis said.
According to the commission, connecting nearly all law enforcement agencies in the county to the same records system will improve officer safety by providing near real-time incident data to police in the field.
“Additionally, the goal is to improve criminal investigations by allowing command and investigative staff the ability to quickly identify law enforcement agencies that have had prior contact with an individual, a piece of property or a vehicle, as well as provide follow-up contact information,” according to grant information.
For example, Salavantis said, if there had been robberies in Ashley, Plains and Wilkes-Barre Twp. by a suspect who had a scar and wore a bandana, Wilkes-Barre city officers investigating a robbery
with a similar suspect could enter search terms into the system and learn details that could assist them in near real time, she said.
Coming into the fold
In 2014, Salavantis applied for a grant for a records management system that would allow every police department in the county to be on the same system and have access to an investigative database to use on the streets.
The application was successful, and nearly every police department in the county — including county detectives and the sheriff’s office — was umbrellaed under the grant and obtained software to connect to a central server in the DA’s office.
“Wilkes-Barre at that time wasn’t ready to switch over. When they were, I assisted them with the grant application,” Salavantis said.
The grant includes funding for supplies, operating expenses and training in addition to the new software.
Wilkes-Barre police Commander Joe Coffay did not return messages seeking comment and additional information.
George said he didn’t know how soon the system might be up and operational. He said former police chief Marcella Lendacky had applied for the grant.
Lendacky said the current records system, called Total Enforcement, “was an issue from prior to the time I was appointed chief. There were many deficiencies that affected crime reports and caused delays.”
Lendacky said the current system did not operate as promised.
“The deficiencies were monumental,” she said.
System has a history
The city police department’s current records system was acquired in 2011 under former mayor Tom Leighton. It was developed by the same company from which Luzerne County officials considered buying a law enforcement records system years earlier.
Back in 2007, then county commissioner Greg Skrepenak wanted the county to buy a computerized records management system that would allow law enforcement agencies in the county to share information on crimes, incidents and warrants.
William Maguire — a retired Wilkes-Barre police captain who was working as a law-enforcement consultant to the county — organized trips to New York for Skrepenak and several county officials so they could meet with friends of his — former New York City police officers William Grub and John Luongo.
Grub and Luongo were consultants for Total Computer Group, the developer of Total Enforcement.
Maguire later cooperated with federal investigators in a county-wide corruption probe and pleaded guilty in 2009 to taking a bribe.
Maguire told the FBI about his dealings with several county officials prosecuted in the probe, including Douglas Richards, who was prosecuted for his role in a dummy corporation that obtained a county payroll-preparation contract. Richards had formed the corporation with the two former New York City cops. The corporation paid Maguire and Richards, who actually performed the payroll work, thousands of dollars, according to court documents.
Maguire had told the FBI that one of the former New York officers paid county officials thousands of dollars during a trip to New York to discuss an initiative to develop a county-wide records system for law enforcement.
Grub wined and dined county officials on trips to Manhattan and gave each of them New York City Police Department key chains attached to small boxes stuffed with up to $4,000, according to court records.
The first of 10 county-funded trips to New York City came in March 2006; the last trip occurred in October 2007. At least eight county officials went on the various trips, which cost more than $8,700 and were never authorized in public votes by county commissioners.
Local police never could agree on a records management system in 2007, and after Maryanne Petrilla became chairwoman of the board of commissioners in 2008, county officials lost interest in the records proposal, which could have cost more than $2 million.
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