In my best Charlie Gibson tone of elitist condescension, and disgust, here is my gotcha' question for the week, for Bev Purdue, the governor-elect of the great state of North Carolina: Please describe in 60 seconds or less the state of the capacity of the players throughout your state's law enforcement system to share information, to be notified quickly and efficiently about important details concerning dangerous criminals, and to use that information to then prevent mayhem in the streets of your otherwise lovely state?
University of North Carolina student body president Eve Carson was murdered on campus in March. One of the co-defendants was a probationer allowed to continually get in trouble with little or no consequences. An email alert system that would have notified authorities of this guy's behavioral pattern long before the murder was shut off with little explanation. The Charlotte Observer is all over it:
Lloyd's program would have twice warned probation officers that Atwater had been arrested: a trespass charge in February 2007, and firearms and drug charges that November. Had probation officers known of these arrests, they could have watched Atwater more closely, tightened his curfew, put him under house arrest, or asked a judge to lock him up for violating the terms of his probation.
But no one received those e-mail alerts. Despite rave reviews from probation officers, the program had been spiked a year earlier – in February 2007 – by Robert Guy, head of the probation system, and Bob Brinson, the top computer official at the Department of Correction ...
North Carolina may boast of Research Triangle Park and state-of-the-art technology companies, but probation officers have spent hours each month looking up their clients on a computer system that predates Windows. It's so old that the computers don't have a mouse.
[Update: Actually, it is the Raleigh News & Observer that REALLY is all over it, with video, multi-part series, etc.] The takeaway from this is that advocates for those in government to immediately dive into use of Web 2.0 applications to engage citizens and constituents and each other toward an efficient and meaningful end should never forget: Government is a vast, arid planet of unaccountability and incompetence. Beyond comprehension.
Except for Wall Street, Detroit, etc.
Those who love to verbally assault Washington need to take a look inside their own state capitols. To what extent will or can use of even very basic social technology change any of this state of affairs, especially when we are talking about people who will never, ever see the value of even trying? Is sitting and waiting for a generational overhaul the only answer?
Then again, maybe we just had one.
Here is the News & Observer on how several other states handle similar challenges. And how a state senator had learned that such crimes that could have been prevented but for outdated technology "had happened many, many times before."
And here is Municipalist's interview from March with Chapel Hill, N.C. town council member Sally Greene speaking about her blog as well as her decision to blog for a local media site about a brief note she received from Eve Carson several months before Eve's murder.