A new website launched Tuesday by the Merced County Sheriff’s Department aims to increase public access to law enforcement information and improve communications between deputies and residents.
“It’s about sharing information with the public and making ourselves available for the public to share information with us,” Sheriff Tom Cavallero said Tuesday. “It’s a work in progress we plan to continue developing going forward.”
The revamped website includes information on inmates in custody, applications for concealed weapons permits, missing persons cases, links to provide anonymous tips to investigators, Megan’s Law information, emergency notifications, and histories of the department and its divisions and organizational structure.
“It literally cost the public nothing. All the labor was done at no cost,” said spokesman Deputy Delray Shelton, who helped oversee the project.
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Adrian Abarca, a department intern who developed the website, began working on the project last November. “It’s modern and user-friendly and will have a social media focus,” Abarca said Tuesday. “We’ll have a Facebook page and Twitter account with links to the site.”
Shelton said deputies plan to have the social media site up by the end of the year.
Public access to jail and inmate information is one of the more dramatic changes made to the department’s website. The jail access links include a database of inmate mugshots, charges, bail amounts and names the facility in which they are housed, Abarca said.
The site also includes links to reports on several unsolved cases dating to the mid-1980s.
“It’s important for the department to continue embracing technology and social media,” Shelton said. “More and more that’s how the public gets information and it’s also what people are starting to expect.”
Cavallero said he was particularly happy with the links allowing people to sign up for emergency notifications, which have been up for some time on the Merced County website but are easier to access through the Sheriff’s Department’s site.
“We use that in many different situations, including this last weekend when we had the (prison) inmate escape in the county,” Cavallero said.
Jeffrey Scott Landers, 34, escaped Saturday while being transported by state prison authorities from Wasco State Prison to Stockton. He was captured the following day.
“We used the system to alert the public about the escape, advised them to stay inside and be on the lookout,” Cavallero said. “Those types of tools and services are invaluable.”