Deciding Who Has Access to Arrest Alert Notifications and How to Deal with Sensitive Information

Although arrest data is public information, care should be taken to ensure that an arrest alert system is only used for its intended purpose within prosecutors’ offices. A prosecutor’s office should establish an access policy, outlining clearly who will have access to what information on the database, as well as who will receive notifications and sensitive information. Within that framework, the user who creates an initial arrest alert should have the ability to set individual permissions, including who can receive the alert, what information is included in the alert, and who can edit the alert. However, the system should have a safety mechanism that prevents users from authorizing notifications to persons outside of the network without permission.

In addition to overall permissions, the system should have the capacity to restrict sharing sensitive information to all recipients of an arrest alert. Users should be permitted to add notes to alerts when they are created and amend notes as needed. Creating two categories—public and private notes— will enable the owners of the alerts either to share important information with everyone who receives the alerts or to restrict the sending of a note to the arrest alert owner(s).

In Manhattan, only prosecutors, crime analysts, and paralegals working at the D.A.’s Office can create arrest alerts. The user who creates the initial alert can set permissions for the alert, within the established system parameters. When creating a new arrest alert in the system, there are checkboxes that set the level of permissions for other users.

The Manhattan D.A.’s Office’s Arrest Alert system has a range of permission levels including:
  • Individuals who can create alerts for groups of priority arrests and subscribers;
  • Individuals who can only create arrest alerts for themselves for particular priority arrests; and
  • Individuals with “read only” permission
Depending on the circumstances, prosecutors may share arrest alerts with other approved individuals in law enforcement, such as police, parole, and corrections officers. To request an alert be automatically sent to someone outside of the D.A.’s Office, there is a specific checkbox and blank space to enter the email address as well as a reason why that person should receive the alert. The Crime Strategies Unit must first approve law enforcement partners who will be registered to receive alerts. The Manhattan D.A.’s Office routinely audits groups in the Arrest Alert system and determines whether individuals are no longer crime drivers and should be removed from these groups. If an individual is removed from a group, and there are no other arrest alerts on this individual (i.e., defendant with an open case, defendant with a curfew in place), then that individual is entirely removed from the Arrest Alert system.

The Arrest Alert system in Manhattan allows the user who creates an alert to include relevant notes and classify these as either public or private. Creating two categories of notes allows the owners of the alerts either to share important information with everyone who receives the alerts or to restrict the sending of a note to only the owner(s). For example, if a prosecutor creates an alert pertaining to a certain individual who is part of an important ongoing investigation, it may be in the interest of the investigation to only ask recipients to call the creator of the alert if the priority individual is arrested, without divulging sensitive information about the investigation to everyone who receives the alert or has access to it.