Goodbye, Microfilm — Scottsdale Police Digitizing Oldest Records

By Mariana Dale
Published: Tuesday, November 14, 2017 - 3:36pm
(Photo by Charlene N. Simmons - CC BY 2.0)
An example of stored microfilm at at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

A grant will help the Scottsdale Police Department convert more than 50-year-old documents from cumbersome film to computer files

“We had millions and millions of microfiche and microfilm just sitting there and very hard to access,” said Whitney Pitt, police records manager.

The oldest records in the department are stored on plastic film that needs a special machine to read. Pitt described microfiche as the transition state between print and digital, like an 8-track tape. In 2006, there were more than 3 million files that needed digital conversion.

The $113,000 grant is the second of two from the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission. The department received about $234,000 in 2016 to convert documents created after 1980. This grant will address the oldest records in the department has.

Right now, if the department receives a request for a file from the early days staff must check multiple databases, find the file by hand, read it with a machine and convert it to a PDF file before it can be transmitted.

Pitt estimated digitizing the files could save up to an hour every time a report needs to be pulled.

The department wrote in a memo to Scottsdale City Council it receives thousands of data requests each year, including those related to the National Instant Criminal Search.

That’s the background check that helps determine who can purchase a gun. Pitt said digitizing the records will make that process more accurate

“We can turn that information around to them much quicker so they can decide who should have a gun,” Pitt said.  

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