Morrison County residents can now get information on the custody status of criminal offenders over the telephone.
Sheriff Michel Wetzel announced Tuesday the Victim Information and Notification Everyday hotline is available in Morrison County.
The hotline -- an automated notification system that will offer custody information 24 hours a day through a toll-free telephone number -- was set up in 2002 by the Minnesota Center for Crime Victim Services. It is currently being used in 24 Minnesota counties, and by the end of the year will be available in 69 counties.
The system was designed to benefit crime victims, law enforcement officers and criminal justice professionals, Wetzel said. By entering a personal identification number callers will be able to access statewide information on where a criminal offender is at, if they've been transferred or have escaped.
"It's a very helpful thing for crime victims to have access to that information," said Wetzel. Callers who register for VINE will be notified by the automated system if someone in custody is released, transferred or has escaped, Wetzel said.
Crime victims and their families can register for VINE by calling (877) 664-8463. Callers are asked to enter an offender's name or identification number on a touch-tone phone, followed by a four-digit personal identification number or PIN.
The system is currently available in Aitkin, Cass and Todd counties. Crow Wing County is expected to be online in June, said Maria Alderink, training, communication and research director for the Minnesota Center for Crime Victim Services.
"We anticipate by year end the entire state will have VINE and be operational and accessible statewide," said Alderink.
The Minnesota Office of Justice Programs funds and oversees the project. Kentucky-based Appriss Inc., introduced VINE in 1994. The system currently operates in 1,200 communities in 39 states and Canada.
For more information on the Morrison County VINE system call the Morrison County Sheriff's Department at (320) 632-9233.
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