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A Law Enforcement Website Shut Down by Hackers is Back Online to Catch Criminals and 'Deadbeat Parents'

The Baxter County Sheriff says tips are once again streaming in to the sheriff's office

December 19, 2011|Emily Rittman, Ben Knaup | Reporter, Photographer

Mountain Home, AR — A law enforcement website shut down by hackers is back on-line and catching wanted criminals and "deadbeat parents." Baxter County Sheriff John Montgomery says the site that includes pictures draws thousands of visits each month.

In July when the website shut down for maintenance due to a security breach, tips slowed but the sheriff says they are streaming in again. Montgomery says many people in Baxter County routinely check the website including three elderly men he met at a local McDonald’s. “They all had papers. They called me over and when I looked at them they had printed off the pictures of our most wanted and they were waiting to see if the people came in,” Montgomery said. “On one hand that's humorous but on the other hand it shows how people are partnering with us to try and catch these people."

Montgomery says with a population of about 40,000 the Baxter County website gets 130,000 visits a month. He says the two popular links are the list of warrants and the “deadbeat dad and mom” section for parents not paying child support. "Just in the last week alone we've had more than a dozen turn themselves in," Montgomery said.

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Baxter County Circuit Judge Shawn Womack says the website is also a useful tool for the court system. "There's also a little bit of the old fashioned sense of shame that seems to be kind of lost from our communities," Womack said. "When your face gets put out there as someone who has fallen into deadbeat status, for some people out there that still have a moral core left to them, that has an impact."

When hackers shut down the website, the number of outstanding warrants increased. Since the site started running two years ago, the number of outstanding warrants dropped by 900. “Budgets are tight and man power is limited. This is just a way we've been able to utilize technology,” Montgomery said. “By utilizing that and the public it’s kind of like that 12th man that you hear about on the football field. It's the fans in the stadium. Here we're using the public. We’re partnering with the public to catch the bad guys."

In July the website shutdown until last week after a group of international hackers hacked the Baxter County Sheriff's website and about 70 others in 18 states. Judge Womack says the court system also uses the site to monitor who has been served and who is serving time in the jail.

The sheriff says the website is successful because the system is automated. He says many most wanted lists remain the same. The website is updated every 10 minutes with new warrant, child support and inmate information.

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