SHREVEPORT - Computer Woes Cut Court Revenue; Warrant Snafu : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

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Computer woes cut court revenue 05/22/00 By Don Walker The Times

Warrant snafu nicks citys coffers.

Kinks in new computer software installed in Shreveports City Courts building are allowing some area lawbreakers to stay on the streets, even when theyve been stopped by police for outstanding warrants.

Shreveport police have been told not to arrest anyone on city warrants dated from mid-November to April until further notice, said City Marshal Jimmy Dove. Thats due to the questionable integrity of warrants posted in the city courts computer system. Court officials are concerned that data transferred from the citys mainframe computer may contain inaccuracies.

"Until we get all the bumps ironed out, were just not arresting those people," Dove said.

The warrants that cant be served are for misdemeanors, mostly people who failed to pay court fines and others who failed to attend court.

The bumps are costing the city money. The inability to collect from some of the citys 17,000 outstanding warrants and a steep decline in traffic citations being issued by police has cost the city nearly $800,000, Dove said.

Revenues collected through the city marshals office dropped from $5.9 million in 1998 to $5.1 million in 1999. That money feeds into 16 other funds throughout the city and parish, including the general fund, Crime Stoppers, the city prosecutors office, the Caddo Indigent Defender Board, the Caddo district attorneys office and North Louisiana Crime Lab.

"Everyones cut of the pie is smaller. Everyone is affected," Dove said.

Dove also blames the revenue loss on a drastic decrease in the number of traffic tickets being issued by Shreveport police this year as compared to years past. Still, he says his office also accepts responsibility for some of the decline. Computer software problems have halted arrests of some lawbreakers with outstanding bench warrants, and thats kept the city from collecting some fines, he said.

The city marshals office has chiseled away at the money owed to the city by reducing the number of outstanding warrants from 30,000 to about 17,000 since 1997.

"This is something thats strictly our fault," he said. "But weve got a space of time were concerned about. I couldnt swear theyre all good, valid warrants. So, when in doubt, dont do it."

City Court Judge Lee Irvin, who put the moratorium on warrants arrests, said the computer glitches are "close to being corrected." In the next few weeks, he hopes, "we can act on these warrants."

Until then, the city wants to avoid possible lawsuits that could result from arresting someone on an old warrant. Thats where legal fees could hit the citys pocketbook.

"If we made four or five bad arrests, it could cost us dearly," Dove said.


-- (, May 22, 2000


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