By David Eck
MASON - The Warren County Sheriff's office and three local police departments are part of a pilot program that will let them electronically share records with police officers around the state - and, they hope, solve crimes more quickly.
The new network, being started with 11 police departments, will let officers access hundreds of police databases from across the state. Mason, Franklin, Middletown police departments join the Warren County Sheriff's office as the local participating agencies.
The new system should be up and running by November, officials said. The program will add about 50 departments a month until all the police agencies in Ohio are included. There are about 1,000 police agencies in the state.
"We're opening up the gateway to our (computer) server," Franklin Police Chief Bob Rockwood said. "In our case all of our information is open to other law enforcement agencies."
The $7.1 million network - paid for with Homeland Security grants - will be integrated into police departments' existing computer systems. It is designed to enhance homeland security by opening up local records to police officers in other parts of Ohio.
"We know as a matter of history, problems don't stay in one location. In the post 9/11 world, people have a need to share a lot of information," said Chief Gary Vest, police chief in the Columbus suburb of Powell.
Information sharing is also hampered because about 40 percent of Ohio's police departments don't have any computers. The program will provide computers for those departments, officials said.
"We can no longer tolerate law enforcement data to be transmitted solely by word of mouth," said Ohio Public Safety Director Ken Morckel.
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