Police computer checks downed for five hours in Virginia

Hampton Roads. State police reported the problem to the Virginia Information Technologies Agency around 1:30 p.m., spokeswoman Corinne Geller said. The network remained down until around 6:30 p.m., when most features were restored. In the meantime, troopers didn’t know if the person they pulled over was wanted by police, if the car was stolen or if the person was a known criminal. It also meant those who went to purchase firearms were turned away because dealers couldn’t perform the necessary background checks. It’s said to be the latest in series of outages involving the state’s computer system, which is run by VITA through a 10-year, $2.4 billion contract with Northrop Grumman Corp. It is certainly a worrying situation, particularly considering it’s not a one-off situation. It’s vital that police are able to perform checks on any vehicles, specifically due to the fact that traffic stops are often not ‘routine’. According to NBC Washington, a Northrup Grumman spokesman deferred questions to VITA, which said the outage was the result of a network switch failing at State Police headquarters.

“Anytime something in public safety fails, it’s all hands on deck,” state computer chief Samuel A. Nixon Jr. said. While he said he was not making any excuses for the disruption, he said the computer network’s “footprint is enormous. There are literally hundreds of thousands of pieces of equipment from one end of the state to the other that we are responsible for”.

The outage crippled the Virginia Criminal Information Network, which serves nearly 700 agencies in Virginia and outside the state. It stores information relating to wanted and missing persons, sex offenders, stolen vehicles and protective orders, among other information. Last year, the network completed more than 416 million transactions.

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