NEW YORK (AP) — A federal law enforcement database meant to help catch criminals sometimes has become a tool for crooked New York City police officers to commit crimes of their own.

The FBI bills the National Crime Information Center database as "the lifeline of law enforcement." But federal cases in recent years have accused New York Police Department officers of abusing the system to cyber snoop on co-workers, tip off drug dealers, stage robberies and even scheme to abduct and eat women.

The FBI and NYPD say officers are under strict orders to only use the database for police work. And the FBI says audits of the system rarely turn up misuse.

But testimony at trials of two accused policemen suggests that officers can easily bypass safeguards by using another officer's login information.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.