Fighting Crime with the Click of a Mouse

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A massive computer network to fight crime and terrorism is now being used by more than 1,600 local law enforcement agencies across the country.

The Washington Post reports the new data-mining system, known as Coplink, is a one-stop shop of information. It gives officers instant access to a large number of state and local records.

These records are stored in shared digital warehouses.

Robert Griffin, the chief executive of Knowledge Computing explained to the Post that Coplink yields clues and patterns they otherwise would not see.

"It's de facto intelligence that's actionable," Griffin said.

Law Enforcement Goes CSI

While Americans have become familiar with the razzle-dazzle of computers in television shows like "CSI" and motion pictures like "Minority Report," many local law enforcement agencies still have to search for clues relying mostly on legwork and luck.

But by using Coplink, police investigations that before took months can now be done in a short period of time with a simple click of a mouse.

Later this month, Coplink will expand when it is connected to a Justice Department system called the National Data Exchange. For the first time, the system will give federal authorities access to the large amounts of local and state data collected in the digital warehouses.

But do systems like Coplink give police too much power over information?

Timothy Sample, a former intelligence official who runs the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, told the Post that while he thinks information-sharing among local, state and national law enforcement agencies is critical to America's national security. He said he thinks that it also carries certain risks.

"As a nation, our laws have not kept up," said Sample.

Source: The Washington Post

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