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More Computer Leaks Found by Anaheim Police

April 22, 1993|TERRY SPENCER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

ANAHEIM — Police said Wednesday that they have stepped up their investigation and have contacted the district attorney's office after discovering that the number of abortion rights activists whose addresses were checked with a Police Department computer had risen to four.

Police had previously acknowledged that two abortion rights activists had their home addresses traced in November through Department of Motor Vehicles license plate records using a police computer.

The department is asking the district attorney's opinion about whether a crime may have occurred. It is illegal for police employees to leak confidential DMV information such as addresses to outsiders. After the computer search, abortion opponents protested at two of the activists' homes.

"We still don't know who did it or whether the information was actually released" to the abortion opponents, Lt. Marc Hedgpeth said. "We still have reason to believe they received the addresses from someone other than us. What we do know is that an unidentified civilian employee ran the addresses, but we don't know why."

The employee whose computer was used has repeatedly denied leaking the addresses, Hedgpeth said, so it is possible another person used her computer when she was away from her desk. That employee, whom Hedgpeth said he has no reason to doubt, recently moved out of state.

The department learned of the two additional searches after acquiring the names of abortion rights activists and volunteers at clinics throughout the county and then cross-checking that list with the searches made on department computers.

In the wake of the investigation, the department has issued a new policy requiring employees to turn off their computers even if they are leaving them for only a moment.

The protests occurred in February, and Hedgpeth asked why there would be such a lag time if the protesters had the addresses three months earlier. He said the protesters denied learning of the addresses from an Anaheim police source.

The computer searches came to the department's attention several weeks ago. The home of Chris Criner, a volunteer at an abortion clinic, was picketed by anti-abortion activists in February. He complained to the department last month after officials at the DMV told him that an Anaheim police computer had been used to cull his address from its files. He could not be reached Wednesday.

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