What was once a “WANTED” poster nailed to a pole in the Wild West is now a hightech online database.
Maricopa County residents can now check up on a neighbor, investigate an employee or look up a babysitter.
It’s all possible with a new sheriff’s office Web site that displays the names and information of people with outstanding arrest warrants.
Officials hope the public will use the tool to help authorities locate people who have fled from the law.
“Across the nation, we’re always frustrated about all the fugitives out there,” Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said.
“We’re going to do something about it, so why not use high-tech equipment?”
The database includes nearly 30,000 names and will be expanded over the next six weeks to include all 70,000 wanted people in Maricopa County. Users can search the Web site using anything from name to birth date or ZIP code and can get information on people wanted for any number of crimes.
Officials said the majority of the warrants cover people failing to show up in court, many for probation violations, 190 for suspected sex crimes and 24 for suspected homicide.
“We hope that people will surrender, but they’re still going to jail,” Arpaio said. “This is not an amnesty program.”
The program is new for Maricopa County, but other agencies across the country have used it for years. The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department has operated a similar database for three years.
“It’s extremely beneficial, but it depends on the level of information a person is willing to share with us,” said fugitive task force Sgt. Pete Callewaert, of the San Diego department.
Callewaert said it is possible that a savvy criminal could use the tool to mislead authorities, but his agency has had many success stories.
“With anonymous leads and vague information, I don’t have the manpower to follow up on those,” Callewaert said.
“And I think your sheriff’s office will run into the same problem.”
Arpaio said he is not concerned about a lack of manpower and that he will work with local authorities to track down fugitives.