Article Sept. 2009
National Information Sharing System
“Distills Weeks of Investigative Legwork into a Few Database Searches”
By David L. Erickson, Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems, N-DEx Program Chief Architect
Law enforcement can now share incident reports, correlate crime data, and collaborate on criminal justice investigations like never before using the first phase of the National Data Exchange (N-DEx) law enforcement information system being deployed by the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division. If a subject commits a crime in Texas under an alias known only to police officials in Los Angeles, received phone calls from a federal inmate in Colorado, and was driving a car stolen in Delaware, investigators using this system can connect the dots instantaneously.
“We’ve been using the first phase of this system for more than a year now, and it distills weeks of investigative legwork into a few database searches,” said Lieutenant Pete Fagan, Virginia State Police, Richmond, Virginia. “Even better, it lets our detectives and officers see connections between far-flung pieces of information with their own eyes.”
In one recent example of the power of N-DEx, the tool successfully enabled law enforcement officers in North Las Vegas to connect the dots between their own investigation and a seemingly unrelated Los Angeles Police Department incident report. This gave them the information they needed to identify and apprehend a suspect on drug trafficking and firearms charges who otherwise may have evaded capture by using different names in different states.
The North Las Vegas Police Department was investigating a man whom they suspected was selling illegal drugs. They knew he was living in North Las Vegas with a female and another male and that he used the alias “Peanut.” Unfortunately, the standard information systems were little help by themselves. Subpoenaed utility company records showed Patty F. and husband Chris M. at the North Las Vegas address, but there were no local records on Chris M., and without a date of birth or other identifiers, there was no way to crosscheck that identity with data from other jurisdictions.
However, when investigators turned to N-DEx, they found a an incident report from Los Angeles naming Ed V. as an associate of Patty F., and they connected that to NCIC data listing both Chris M. and “Peanut” as aliases used by Ed V. They also discovered Ed V.’s extensive criminal history and a felony warrant for stolen vehicle possession. When North Las Vegas law enforcement officers served the warrant on Ed V.—who identified himself to them as Chris M.—they found large quantity of narcotics and two handguns. Thanks to the ability of N-DEx to connect the dots, this criminal suspect was no longer able to evade capture by using different identities in different jurisdictions.
N-DEx not only allows law enforcement users to uncover relationships between incident information and evidence like never before, but it actually lets them see those relationships through an interface that presents line drawings visually connecting pieces of data.
Raytheon Company is building the system with detailed input and guidance from the law enforcement community, enabling N-DEx to overcome some of the information sharing challenges that have stalled similar efforts.
“Raytheon and the N-DEx team are absolutely committed to protecting the security and privacy of what can be very sensitive data. So far, agencies have been enthusiastic about signing on and sharing their data because we do the work to integrate the data, we protect security and privacy, and we let them control exactly who can see what information,” said David Erickson, Raytheon’s N-DEx Technical Director. “That’s important because different jurisdictions have different laws and policies about sharing information. For example, there are different laws and rules about who is considered a juvenile, whether the names of certain victims can be shared, or which agencies in other states may access information.”
“N-DEx highlights the ability of the FBI, Raytheon and the law enforcement community to work together to improve criminal investigations nationwide,” said Jerome M. Pender, Acting Assistant Director, Criminal Justice Information Services Division at the FBI.
With a little over 15 months of ingesting data, the N-DEx System now contains over 60 million incident/case/arrest reports contributed from local, state, regional, tribal, and federal agencies. The federal data is being contributed by the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, ATF, and the Bureau of Prisons. In October 2008, the N-DEx Program Office began receiving confirmation from users that the N-DEx System is supporting investigations that have eventually led to arrests. Sharing data and breaking down the traditional jurisdictional boundaries is the key to the early success of the N-DEx program.
The first phase of the system can support up to 50,000 individual users. Once fully implemented in 2010, the system will enable 200,000 investigators from the 18,000 plus local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies to collect and share incident and investigative information across disparate systems and jurisdiction boundaries.