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With LENS, Offender Data Quickly Reaches Officers on Beat

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A police officer on a DUI stop, logs into the online Law Enforcement Notification System (LENS) and finds that not only is the driver under federal supervision for a prior drug offense, but the conditions of release stipulate no alcohol use.

By statute, following release of a prisoner convicted of a drug trafficking crime, crime of violence, or sex offense, the U.S. Probation Office must notify the chief law enforcement officer of the state and of the local jurisdiction when an offender moves into their jurisdiction. All 94 probation offices nationwide are now using LENS to make these notifications easier and more efficiently. And because LENS notifies local law enforcement at the beginning of supervision, it also promotes greater public safety.

For years, notification meant that paper documents with the prisoner’s basic information and criminal history, plus their conditions of supervision, were compiled, and then mailed to law enforcement offices. This process was time consuming and the information varied—some districts included photos, others just basic descriptions with height, weight, and eye color. Once the information reached its destination, there was still the problem of how to get it to the people who really needed it— the detectives and patrol officers on the street.

LENS was developed by the federal Judiciary to change all that. LENS pulls information already in the Probation and Pretrial Services Automated Case Tracking System (PACTS) database, and populates a website where local law enforcement officers can use a secure log-in through their smartphone, tablet or computer to see a photo slideshow of certain offenders or as points on a map, showing where they live. They can see the name of the offender, a description, criminal history, aliases, conditions of supervision, and the contact information for his or her probation officer. In addition, the information for the offenders in the system can be searched across multiple jurisdictions and filtered by offense and demographics.

Following a bank robbery, suppose an eyewitness gives a description of one of the perpetrators. Detectives log into LENS, filter offenders under supervision in the area for the type of offense—in this case, bank robbery—and by the basic physical description provided by the witness. The search produces a list of offenders fitting the description with photos, allowing for a virtual lineup.

LENS also is a time- and cost-saver for probation office staff. LENS can pull the necessary information from PACTS in a fraction of the time it takes staff to compile the documents by hand. And if the local law enforcement agency has signed up for an email account, notification is at the click of a button. It’s immediate and there are no postage costs. Even in those instances where a law enforcement agency is still receiving paper documents, LENS still creates the documents more efficiently for the probation offices.

Recently LENS was expanded to begin automated deployment of FBI Flash Notices, alerting the FBI and other law enforcement agencies running a criminal records check through FBI when a subject is placed on supervised release, pretrial diversion, or probation. Thirty-two districts now are live on Flash.

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