Daphne's big glitch (AL - total computer crash)

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January 28, 2000

Daphne's big glitch

By JANE NICHOLES Register Staff Reporter 01/28/2000

DAPHNE - Between 15,000 and 20,000 Daphne police and court records dating back to 1992 are inaccessible by computer because of a total system crash, forcing city workers to dig through the original paper files if they need information.

"They're not gone forever," said Capt. Charlie McNichol, spokesman for the Daphne Police Department. "We're having some difficulty looking them up."

McNichol emphasizes that the computer problem does not affect any tickets or other citations issued since March of last year, when the Police Department and Municipal Court converted to a new system.

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"If you got a ticket last week or last month or six months ago, that's not going to be affected," McNichol said this week. "If a person got one two weeks ago and they say, 'Well, Daphne is having computer problems, I don't have to pay it,' they're wrong."

However, in some cases the city has been unable to find older records, McNichol said. He didn't know how often that had happened. "Apparently, that's happened a few times," he said.

Until the problem is fixed, people requesting records are being asked to provide a case number, citation number, the time period when an incident or case took place or any other details they have. Workers need that type of identifying information to look through the original hard-copy files for the record, McNichol said.

An example of a request that sets off a file search is verification of a previous driving-under-the-influence conviction that might be needed by another jurisdiction to prosecute someone for a second- or third-offense DUI, McNichol said.

"If all you have is a name and a charge, I probably couldn't find it right now," said Daphne Magistrate Marion Bolar. Locating the case file could take more than a week, she said.

A couple of weeks ago, Mrs. Bolar asked her staff to start entering records by hand into the new computer system from the original files. The provider of the new computer system has contracted to transfer the data but has encountered difficulties, and Mrs. Bolar said she didn't want to wait any longer.

Police, court and computer officials knew the old system could hold no more information and was on its last legs, but were hoping to convert the old re cords to the new system before the old one collapsed. The new company, JCB-3 Computer Associates of Auburn, has a $44,000 contract with Daphne to supply the new system.

"We were anticipating the possibility of a crash," said Jim Buston, owner of JCB-3 and an employee of the city of Auburn's information systems department. The old system was not Y2K compliant and his company had rolled its dates back six months to avoid Y2K problems. But the system didn't last long enough to encounter Y2K; the problem was that it was too full and too old.

Daphne Municipal Court workers had been unable to get into the old system since March or April, and had been coming to the Police Department to retrieve records from its computers, McNichol said. Then the system crashed for good at the Police Department soon after Thanksgiving.

JCB-3 had made several backup CDs from the old system before the crash, so the records are not lost, said Buston. But unless his company can find a way to transfer the records, totaling between 15,000 and 20,000, he may have to hire people to manually enter them into the new system from the hard-copy files.

JCB-3 has been working for a year to try to transfer the records, but the process has proved more difficult than expected because the old system was antiquated and the old vendor was not available to help out, Buston said. In an attempt to avoid typing in the records, JCB-3 may bring in a new component of the old system to hold the backup records until they can be transferred to the new system.

Even if he finds a way to transfer them, Buston expects to have to verify thousands of individual records against the hard copies, to ensure that such cru cial data as criminal charges and convictions have been transferred accurately.

"By the end of February something will be there," Buston said.

JCB-3 has supplied similar computer systems to between 30 and 35 cities and towns in Alabama, including Foley and Gulf Shores. Once or twice the company had to enter court records by hand into the new system, but it had never dealt with a total crash like the one in Daphne, Buston said.

Daphne also suffered another computer problem recently, though it was blamed on human error. In December, some 3,000 water, sewer and natural gas bills were mailed to customers showing the late-payment due date as Jan. 7, 1999.

Initially, the problem was thought to be related to the Y2K bug, but was later determined to have been caused by a clerk who didn't enter the year 2000 when entering the late-payment due date.

-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), January 28, 2000


Homer I sure appreciate your efforts............

-- kevin (innxxs@yahoo.com), January 28, 2000.

"The old system was not Y2K compliant and his company had rolled its dates back six months to avoid Y2K problems"

Wonder how much of that has been going on to postpone the problem?

-- Carl (clilly@goentre.com), January 28, 2000.

We have a case of local clinic who used proprietary hardware/software system that was known not to work post rollover so they set the date to 1972. Now, that allows them to still work, but they are instantly having data collisions with patient records already dated 1972.

They are going to get a new system in place and we are going to do the integration of the software and install the network and such. No big deal as they are a small operation.

We have been warning this client all last year to just do it, but 'noooooo' they had to wait until chaos arrives before acting. Ain't that just as human as is gets?

-- pliney the younger (pliney@puget.sound), January 28, 2000.

If your having to replace hardware, hope you had a few processors and motherboards stashed in your wallet :)

-- Carl (clilly@goentre.com), January 28, 2000.

Thanks Homer for contributing to this forum and keeping it y2K related.

-- Okie Dan (brendan@theshop.net), January 28, 2000.

Why do people keep putting names of towns but not the state they are located in. How are we suppose to know where this is located?

-- Richard Markland (newsman@bright.net), January 29, 2000.

OhMiGosh! 20,000 court records in Daphne Iowa are unaccessible!

Very scary. Can the collapse of the Power Grid be far behind?

-- ejh (gf@gdh.v), January 29, 2000.

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