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Sheriffs Use Internet for Clues, Leads

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The day after the Buena Vista County sheriff's department found a newborn boy at a county recycling center more than a week ago, its Web site got about 1,000 hits.

Although the leads in that case have been few, Sheriff Chuck Eddy said the Web site serves a purpose.

"It's important to keep the public informed and give them as much information as we can to help maybe spur something in someone's memory," Eddy said.

Web sites aren't a new concept for sheriffs, but its mission has changed in some counties.

Some department sites include photographs and descriptions of sexual predators and wanted people, missing-person lists and investigation updates.

The state sheriff's association doesn't track how many departments have adapted their Web sites to be like the one in Buena Vista County, but similar ones have been created in Cass and Story counties. Marshall County officials want to update their four-year-old sheriff Web site by July.

"It's something that's taken off in the last year or so," said Ted Kamatchus, the Marshall County sheriff and past president of the Iowa Sheriffs and Deputies Association.

"Not everybody gets The Des Moines Register or the Marshalltown Times-Republican. This allows us to bridge that gap and get in touch directly with them."

Kamatchus said authorities got the idea from departments in other states. In Maricopa County, Ariz., authorities post live video of inmates being booked in the jail.

The cost of adding software and programs is low, authorities said.

Cass County authorities paid a high school student about $300 to write programs. Buena Vista County's sheriff department spent up to two years and $1,500 to update the Web site, Eddy said.

Roger Muri, Atlantic's police chief and a member of the Iowa Association of Chiefs of Police and Peace Officers, said county sheriff departments keep more arrest warrant information than city police departments.

"The downside of it is that it's fairly labor-intensive to keep updated all the time," Muri said.

For now, it's too early to tell how effective the sites will be, authorities said.

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