“That’s insane.” These were the words a Supreme Court Judge uttered again and again, when the NYPD admitted it had no backups in place for its Property and Evidence Tracking System (PETS).
And it’s hard to disagree. If the database was to go down, all the NYPD’s data on stored evidence would simply cease to exist. Millions of dollars’ worth of property seized each year through arrests and civil asset forfeiture would simply be… gone.
If you’re a baffled IT expert, there’s more. The NYPD also claimed they couldn’t provide the Manhattan judge – or anyone – with data on what they had seized because queries would “lead to system crashes and significant delays during the intake and release process.”
That’s right. A audit query would allegedly cause the system to fail. The City Attorney then stated the police department’s IT department did not keep backups, and only knew the database “was in IBM.”
The judge’s response was immediate. “Do you want the Daily News to be reporting that you have no copy of the data?… That deserves an exposé in the New York Times.”
Why are the NYPD being asked for data?
The New York City Police Department takes millions of dollars in cash each year as evidence. This procedure is often kept through a procedure called civil forfeiture. But NYC lawmakers are pressing for greater transparency about how much is being seized and by whom.
It is in the midst of this clash that the NYPD have claimed querying the 4-year old computer system that tracks evidence and property would lead to system crashes. They also claimed the department had no idea how much money it took in for evidence, and it had no way of reporting on it.
Because individuals must prove the property seized was not involved in the crime of which they were accused, lower-income individuals who have cash and property taken can’t get it back because of legal costs.
Claims that data cannot be retrieved from PETS has been refuted by some, however. Robert Pesner, former chief enterprise architect for New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, told the court that“Based on the information I have reviewed about the technical specifications of PETS’s hardware and software, it is my opinion that it is technologically feasible to retrieve much of the data sought from PETS by running queries directly on the underlying [IBM] DB2 database.”
Either Way, Backups are Important
If you’re an IT pro, you know exactly why the Manhattan judge was flabbergasted. It’s crazy for any business or organization to not have backups, let alone the evidence database of the NYPD!