FBI turns on national crime information sharing system

The FBI this month activated the first part of and an all-encompassing national information-sharing system that will let law enforcement gather, share and correlate criminal investigation clues, interview information and a host of other data designed to more quickly solve crimes and spot nefarious trends.

The agency’s Law Enforcement National Data Exchange, or N-DEx system has the lofty goal of tying together more than 200,00- investigators who work in 18,000 local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies across disparate systems and jurisdiction boundaries.

The first increment, turned up this month gives 50,000 users the ability to capture case data and conduct what the agency calls “entity resolution" which identifies possible candidates for known aliases, based on information (name, address, phone number, etc.) in multiple records. The system then correlates the data, resulting in the identification of candidates for consideration. The information is then presented to the user for further analysis. 

Once fully operational and fully deployed in 2010, N-DEx will include a range of capabilities, including: 

·          Nationwide searches from a single access point;

·          Searches by “modus operandi” and for clothing, tattoos, associates, cars, etc.—linking individuals, places, and things;

 ·          Notifications of similar investigations and suspects;

·          Identification of criminal activity hotspots and crime trends;

·          Threat level assessments of individuals and addresses; and

·          Visualization and mapping features. 

Privacy groups have expressed concerns about systems such as N-DEx in the past and the FBI says this system includes appropriate safeguards to protect privacy and civil liberties. Access to information in N-DEx will be strictly controlled by the law enforcement agency who “owns” the info—each agency decides what data to share, with whom, and under what circumstances. Only a small number of users in each participating agency will be able to access the system. Each time the system is accessed, a log is generated so administrators can determine who accessed it, for what purpose, and what information was obtained.

The FBI also notes that N-DEx is not a new records system—the only "new" records created will be the links made between information that already exists in law enforcement databases.N-DEx will use the existing data contained in the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division systems, as well as law enforcement information maintained by local, state, tribal, and federal agencies.

At a minimum, federal information in N-DEx will be contributed by ATF, DEA, Bureau of Prisons, FBI and US Marshals, the FBI said.

Raytheon provides the design, development, engineering and implementation of the N-DEx system, as well as user support, operations and maintenance following implementation. 

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