By Astghik Bedevian
The U.S. government pledged on Tuesday to equip the Armenian police with a computerized information database which it hopes will facilitate their law-enforcement activities and simplify their notoriously long bureaucratic procedures.
An agreement on the release of $700,000 in financing for the project was signed by U.S. and Armenian officials in Yerevan. The bulk of the money will go to pay for the purchase of 120 computers that will connect 64 police stations in Yerevan and other parts of Armenia. The country’s six border checkpoints will also be connected to the police computer network that will contain, among other things, detailed crime-related information.
Major General Ararat Mahtesian, deputy chief of the Armenian Police Service, welcomed the U.S. assistance, saying that it will “substantially” facilitate the work of the law-enforcement agency. “For example, if a person is taken to a police station and there is no data on their [crime] record at hand, police officers will be able to quickly access, through the computer network, the central database and get that data,” he explained. “I am one of those who have long dreamed about having such a system.”
The police general could not say how many of his employees can use computers at present. “Introduction of this system also involves the training of those individuals who will be given access to the network,” he said.
Washington will provide the technical assistance as part of the U.S.-Armenian Agreement on Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement. The agreement envisages similar aid to Armenia’s customs service, border guards and the Prosecutor-General’s Office.
A written statement by the U.S. embassy said the computer network will also “improve Armenia's ability to access international criminal databases and shorten the time it takes U.S. and Armenian law enforcement to ascertain the whereabouts of suspected international criminals.”
“We were also assured that this computer network will speed the services that the police provide to their customers,” said the deputy chief of the U.S. mission in Yerevan, Anthony Godfrey.
Those services include provision of passports and driving licenses. Armenians currently need to wait for weeks in order to obtain such documents.