06/21/2006

Verizon vendor accidentally deletes Mass. 911 recordings

By KEN MAGUIRE
Associated Press Writer

BOSTON- A Verizon subcontractor deleted nearly a year's worth of recordings of 911 calls to the Massachusetts State Police, a mistake which could weaken criminal cases if the data cannot be retrieved, authorities said Tuesday.

The lost data includes 1 million emergency calls from cellular phones, and a half-million radio communications between troopers and headquarters. All 911 calls from cell phones in Massachusetts go to State Police.

A technician hired by a Verizon Communications Inc. contractor caused the problem last Tuesday while upgrading equipment at the Framingham police headquarters, according to preliminary investigations by state officials and Verizon.

District attorneys and police departments around the state have been notified that 11 months of recordings were deleted, said Kelly Nantel, a spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Public Safety.

"Rarely are 911 tapes crucial in an investigation, but they certainly can be part of an investigation," she said.

Nantel said no affected cases had come to their attention yet, however, "it's certainly possible, and we won't know that until we move forward."

Verizon has assigned in-house experts and may hire outside specialists to try to recover the files. If necessary, the equipment will be sent to the manufacturer for forensic analysis, a Verizon spokesman said.

"We're going to lead the charge to see what can be done to retrieve the data," Verizon spokesman John Bonomo said.

Verizon has an $80 million annual contract to provide service to State Police, Nantel said. The company holds similar contracts with other states, including New York.

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