ARRESTING CRIME With Integrated Justice Technology
ARRESTING CRIME With Integrated Justice Technology<@VM>IT on the Beat<@VM>IT After the Crime
By James Schultz
Crime is on the decline in the United States. The Federal Bureau of Investigation's annual "Crime in the United States" reports serious crime in 1999 dropped 7 percent from 1998 and 16 percent from 1995. Compared with totals for 1998, both violent and property crime totals diminished 7 percent, while murder and robbery together decreased 8 percent from 1998 to 1999.
Aggravated assault figures fell by 6 percent, and rape statistics fell by 4 percent. In 1999, the number of violent crimes was 20 percent below the 1995 figure and 21 percent below that recorded in 1990.
The 1999 crime index rate ? 4,267 offenses per 100,000 population ? was 8 percent lower than in 1998. Compared with the 1990 rate, 1999's was more than a quarter lower at 27 percent, and 19 percent lower than the 1995 rate. Overall, the FBI has recorded eight straight years of crime-rate decreases.
Experts point to a variety of factors that likely are driving the decreasing rate, including a strong economy, changing demographics, advanced technology and innovative law enforcement tactics such as community policing. Equally important has been the upgrade and integration of information technology used by law enforcement and criminal justice organizations.
Particularly in the last five years, law enforcement has been applying new IT tools and techniques that automate record keeping and facilitate information sharing on arrests, convictions and criminal profiles with colleagues across time and geography.
"The biggest impact of information technology on law enforcement is putting information in the hands of key decision-makers at critical points," said David Roberts, deputy executive director of SEARCH/The National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics in Sacramento, Calif.
"The more technology we deploy, the more we improve the quality of information that's available," Roberts said. "Because it's breaking down barriers, technology is changing the way we operate. It's cheaper, more powerful, more available, more mobile. The decisions we make are better decisions."
IT improvements may soon drive more of those decisions down to the street level, as patrol officers and investigators work to prevent lawbreaking in the first place and quickly apprehend perpetrators once crimes have occurred.
Increasing prevalence of wireless, Internet-enabled systems and inexpensive mobile computing allows real-time access not just to a central computerized repository of an offender's record of arrest and incarceration, but also to his or her movements across areas. Some of the most advanced systems feature monitoring of parolees or those under house arrest, who can be outfitted with electronic devices that are tracked by the Earth-girding array of global positioning satellites.
Of the 18,769 local law enforcement agencies in the United States, 80 percent are using computers, according to Tommy Sexton, director of the Justice Department-affiliated National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center, Southeast Region, in Charleston, S.C. Ninety-five percent of the nation's police officers work in or around departments where computer use is routine.
"It's uncommon today to find local law enforcement without at least some automation," Sexton said. "The next step will be movement toward regional systems and analytical tools to help improve day-to-day operations. That should mean better and more patrols and more effective criminal investigations."
Just within the last year, integration of criminal justice technologies has played a huge role in solving cases.
The FBI Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), part of which debuted in July 1999, was developed to offer rapid suspect identification to American law enforcement agencies and organizations where criminal background histories are a critical factor in consideration for employment. Compared with longstanding paper-based methods, the system represents a quantum leap in communications, computing and data storage and retrieval technologies.
"Because of the speed with which the computer compares prints, it provides a capability that we didn't have before," said Mark Tanner, the FBI's information resources manager. "Every law enforcement agency can now electronically submit fingerprints. It's not just more timely, it makes possible what otherwise was impossible."
When fully implemented, IAFIS will provide comprehensive fingerprint analysis, subject search and criminal history request services, as well as document submission and image request services.
IAFIS is being developed in three phases: the Automated Fingerprint Identification System segment, the Interstate Identification Index segment, and the Identification, Tasking and Networking segment. To implement all three, the FBI plans to spend $640 million over five years.
The first component was deployed in July 1999 and already has reduced to an average of 17 minutes what used to take 40 days, as prints on paper cards were painstakingly analyzed. Through September, the Automated Fingerprint Identification System enabled the positive identification of 459 fingerprints taken directly from crime scenes.
In its current form, the entire IAFIS system, providing positive identification services based on the FBI's criminal records, processes more than 50,000 queries daily against a database of 40 million persons.
"Information technology [such as] IAFIS really is a capability amplifier in the policing community," said Jim Carlson, business development manager for the Information Solutions and Identification Technologies Group at Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Md. "If you're properly identifying who you're dealing with, you lessen the danger to the community and to officers."
Lockheed Martin has been the systems integration contractor for the IAFIS program. The company has provided technical expertise, advanced algorithms, program management, software design and development, operations and maintenance, and cards-scanning services. Even in its current form, IAFIS allows warrants to be issued within hours, even minutes, of fingerprint submission.
Carlson said there are two kinds of policing activities: preventing crimes from occurring and, when they do, finding out whom committed the crimes. A strong biometrics measure such as fingerprinting helps on both fronts, he said.
"The FBI has the most advance automated fingerprint identifications system in use today in the world," Carlson said. "Size, accuracy, throughput ? the works. It's a very clean system. It answers yes or no; it doesn't come back with maybes."
As powerful as information technology may be, however, it cannot function in a vacuum. That's why some of the nation's largest police departments are combining state-of-the-art IT with active, hands-on policing in a marriage of aggressive tactics with Information Age know-how.
In New York and Philadelphia, for example, the police are coordinating law enforcement neighborhood by neighborhood with CompStat, which stands for Computerized Statistics, a crime analysis and police management process developed by the New York City Police Department.
In New York, staff from each of 76 precincts, nine service areas and 12 transit districts compile weekly statistical summaries of crime complaints, arrests and summons activity, as well as written recapitulations of significant cases, crime patterns and police actions.
This data, which includes the specific times and locations at which the crimes and enforcement activities took place, is forwarded to the chief of the department's CompStat Unit, where it is collated and loaded into a citywide database. A computer analyzes the data, and a weekly CompStat Report is generated.
The CompStat Report captures crime complaint and arrest activity at the precinct, patrol borough and city levels, and presents a concise summary of these and other important performance indicators. The data is presented on a week-to-date, prior-30-days and year-to-date basis, with comparisons to previous years' activity.
Precinct commanders and members of an agency's top management can then discern emerging and established crime trends, as well as deviations and anomalies, and can easily make comparisons between commands. Each precinct is also ranked in each complaint and arrest category.
Because senior managers regularly collect, analyze and map crime data and other essential police-performance measures, they are better able to hold their subordinates accountable for outcomes. Commanders must develop tactics that are comprehensive and adaptable to changing trends.
Cross-jurisdiction cooperation also is necessary, involving law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, local, state and federal prosecutors, probation services, other city agencies not directly connected to law enforcement, and community groups such as neighborhood watches.
"With information technology, generally departments can operate much more effectively," said SEARCH's David Roberts. "You routinely access query and analyze data. By having the right data, you can solve in a much more proactive way crimes that you never could have solved because of insufficient information."
Integrated law enforcement IT also is being applied in southern California. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's office has deployed a variety of applications developed by Oracle Corp. of Redwood Shores, Calif., including the Personnel Performance Index, a system designed to track officer behavior and examine law enforcement training and monitoring.
The Los Angeles Regional Criminal Information System is a comprehensive program that includes arrest, crime and incident reporting, and is used as an investigative tool for 55 police agencies in Los Angeles County. An Oracle system known as the Event Index Capture Analysis Program shares data with other law enforcement agencies and features ad hoc reporting capability.
Another application is the Regional Allocation of Police Services system. This system serves as a management tool for the deployment of patrol personnel, analysis of individual patrol unit performance and budgetary performance.
"You have many ways to get at information in a database," said Steve Holdridge, Oracle director of business and market development for state and local consulting. "What you try to do in developing these IT systems is capture information as close as you can to when the event occurs. Suddenly all your device needs, handheld or not, is Web access. When events are captured and transmitted real time, it helps not just the investigation at hand, but others that are [related and] ongoing."Enforcement is not limited to crime solving, however. Integrated IT justice systems are being built to handle the post-crime phases of arrest, sentencing, incarceration and parole. For local systems burdened by growing numbers of inmates, information automation has proved a godsend.
In Florida, for instance, the number of inmates in the 60-institution state prison system has nearly doubled in four years, from 40,000 in 1996 to 71,000 today. The Florida Department of Corrections counts itself as among the five largest state prison systems in the country, with annual release rates that approach 24,000.
Corrections Department mainframe computers store some 1 million inmate records, and make available detailed records on sex offenders both to law enforcement and the general public. Some 146,000 offenders must also be supervised, either under house arrest or on parole.
"Automation is how we keep it all together," said Fred Roesell, chief of classification and records for the Florida Department of Corrections. "Automation enables us to do what we need to do. Information systems integration is how we process and standardize our records."
Desktop PCs are in all parole offices, and probation officers using cell phones and laptops can monitor their charges. About 500 offenders have been outfitted with ankle bracelets that are trackable by satellite, with information instantly available on computerized maps. Should convicts pass too close to off limits "hot zones," areas where day-care centers and schools are located, alarms in the bracelets sound. If the behavior persists, officers will apprehend paroled lawbreakers and incarcerate those under house arrest.
For law enforcement, the likely next step in justice technology is accelerated sharing of information. The FBI already makes available via a password-protected intranet a service known as Law Enforcement Online. It has 24,000 users who have access to the latest crime prevention and crime solving techniques and information, from domestic terrorism to preparedness for national emergency, including chemical and biological attack.
The Justice Department, the FBI's parent agency, is also sponsoring an variety of initiatives, including the Regional Information Sharing System, a multijurisdictional criminal intelligence system operated by and for state and local law enforcement agencies.
The program comprises six regional sites that act as hubs for the member agencies that use it. In fiscal year 1999, the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded approximately $20 million to these regional intelligence centers to help federal, state and local law enforcement agencies share information vital to crime fighting across jurisdictional boundaries.
The grants enable participants to purchase equipment and hire personnel to develop and maintain a secure intranet to access and share criminal intelligence and information in real time.
"The goal should be to make data as widely available as possible," said John Agliato, Florida Department of Corrections chief of systems development. "The future involves two things: maintaining your operations at a high level and sharing data electronically, not only with colleagues in law enforcement but with the public. We're on the edge of that future."