One Way Ticket

One group that is
benefiting from IT and translating that benefit into higher service for its constituents
is that of the state and federal organizations throughout the world that ensure law
enforcement. These groups are using information technology to track trends in various
crimes and to help identify and locate the perpetrators. Like many organizations, the
Metropolitan Police (Met), in London, have used database technology, specifically
CA’s Ingres, to store the names of criminals and the circumstances surrounding their
offences and share this information among its branches in order to prevent and solve
future crimes.

One of the most fundamental
aspects of the Met’s duties is to arrest and detain suspects until they can be proven
innocent or guilty. Upon being charged of a recordable offence, all suspects are
photographed and fingerprinted within the custody suite. Traditionally, this process has
involved ‘wet camera’ (film-based) technology. Traditional film-based cameras,
however, do not allow police photographers to preview pictures as they are taken. The 35
mm color film must be sent to a lab where it takes up to seven days to process. If the
pictures returned are unusable, the Met will have no current picture for the suspect,
which could result in damage to the investigation.

Even if usable pictures are
returned, the Met faces the problem of duplication as the colour images lose detail, as
they are photocopies. To further this problem, the Met has no efficient way of
transferring these photographs between Units, because of the inefficiency in handling
photographs that is inherent to relational and hybrid-relational databases. The difficulty
of providing access to these photographs from a traditional database also makes it very
difficult to know who has requested suspect photographs, resulting in some cases of
unauthorized usage and further damage to the investigation.

"Digital cameras were
definitely needed as they provide instant previews and the images can be loaded directly
onto a PC," says Inspector Bagshaw of the Metropolitan Police.

Jasmine cracks the case

The Met realized that these
problems would only get worse. They began to search for a solution that would provide a
fast and deficient way to capture suspect photographs and make them available to all units
instantaneously. The first part of the solution was to provide instant photographs
previews, but what image standard should be chosen? A number of digital cameras were
tested along with digital capture of live video. The prototype system stored the images in
a simple flat field database that the Met knew would not be suitable for roll out
throughout the service.

Following an intranet proof of concept
exercise that demonstrated Jasmine, the Met’s Department of Technology realized that
it would meet their needs. As a result, traditional database solutions were not even
considered. The Met decided

cided that Jasmine was a
solution because of its pure object storage, its ability to analyze multimedia data and
the fact that its pure object architecture enables developers to closely model real-world
conditions. The product’s ability to integrate digital camera equipment and its
ability to support dynamic Internet applications were also factors in the decision.

"The lengthy and
error-prone system which was used to record suspect images and information was a continual
headache for
the Met," says Inspector Martin Bagshaw of the Metropolitan Police. "Sometimes
we were unable to use any of the photos because of camera error, which resulted in gaps in
our suspect history files, and storing all of our suspect information in paper files was
logistical nightmare. Law enforcement moves too fast to have to deal with traditional film
development times and paper filing methods."

Jasmine’s integrated
development environment was used to create a web-based digital image capture system for
use in the Met’s Custody Suites. Jasmine Studio is a graphical development
environment providing simple and powerful drag-and-drop facilities that enable the
creation of client/server or internet applications.

With the new system
officers working in the Custody Suite take a series of up to nine photographs of each
suspect using a Polaroid PDC2000 camera connected to a PC. The suspect is also
fingerprinted at this time. Instead of having to compile a board with the suspects name on
it, as with the previous system, operational officers are able to simply key the
suspect’s information into the Jasmine Studio application via PC, greatly benefiting
the officer as suspects are often restless when in the Custody Suite. Once photographs are
selected, the images and the accompanying text are replicated to a Jasmine database on the
Central Image Server across the network. Within seconds the suspect data is live and can
be viewed by Met officers via the web throughout London.

Jasmine enables the Met to
classify users into groups, each with varying degrees of access to the Central Image
Server. Using a web-based application developed with HTML, and supported by Jasmine,
operational officers can perform searches and view, but not print, photographs. Divisional
Intelligence users, using the HTML interface, are able to perform the same functions as
the operational officers, but in addition, are authorized to update the database. Database
access is controlled with user names and passwords. In addition, the system tracks which
officers have accessed the system, which images they viewed, and any updates that were
made.

"The new system has
greatly improved the quality of our data and the resources that are available to our
officers," says Inspector Bagshaw. "We can move suspects through the Custody
Suite much faster, and have their information available to all officers in minutes where
it used to take days. As a result we have had greater success in tracking trends across
districts."

Evidence of future plans

The Met is continuing its
Jasmine development with plans for an intranet-enabled solution that will enable the
organization to populate its Witness Album Display System (WADS). WADS is used to show
witnesses, through laptop computers, images of selected convicted persons. In the future
these images will be directly downloaded to the laptop from the central image server
rather than by scanning them in by hand. The Met plans to use Jasmine Studio to develop
this application. In a short time, the Met has been able to take the management of suspect
images from an antiquated paper-based format into the next century. Jasmine provides a
pure object solution that is necessary to successfully create a solution of this kind.

 

Courtesy:
Computer Associates

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