Law enforcement given a visual notebook

Regional Information Sharing Systems

From identity theft to gang warfare, law enforcement agents and other investigators face the monumental task of collecting and correlating forensic evidence, witness reports and other paper documents to solve their cases.

But i2 Inc. of Springfield, Va., recently released new investigative analysis software called Visual Notebook with the aim of helping law enforcement officials solve

cases by mapping the relevant information in a visual format.

Company officials said investigators can view connections among individuals, places and events using information from disparate databases; spot gaps in the information that require further investigation; diagram a sequence of events; change a case's layout to reflect different perspectives; and depict complex findings with charts. The software can help them identify and focus on key pieces of information without having to deal with files or notebooks.

"What's challenging to them is to keep track of all this information," said Jack Reis, i2's president. "There is a great deal of it."

Typically, investigators draw analysis charts by hand, said Karen Aumond, assistant director of the Western States Information Network. The network is one of six Regional Information Sharing Systems that help more than 6,800 law enforcement agencies share information and coordinate efforts against criminal groups that operate across jurisdictional lines.

"If you had a criminal organization that spanned the United States, you might have a ream of paper," she said. "Who could make sense of that?"

Visual Notebook is a somewhat less sophisticated version of i2's Analyst's Notebook, which has been available to law enforcement and intelligence agencies for 14 years. Aumond, who's one of an estimated 25,000 users of Analyst's Notebook, said i2's new product is something investigators have wanted. It will help them advance their investigations without calling on the expertise of analysts, who will be free to work on more complex cases, she said.

Analyst's Notebook has more powerful analytical tools for complex cases and offers access to multiple data sources. But, for the most part, both products are similar in nature and intuitive to use. Visual Notebook has a large palette of icons depicting individuals, telephones, mobile phones, credit cards, vehicles, meetings, cash, offices and houses, among others. Users drag and drop the icons to create a chart and then draw lines to link them.

For example, in an identity theft case involving stolen credit cards, an investigator can drag icons representing suspected individuals onto the screen. With lines, he or she can show definitive connections and/or relationships between the individuals, their past criminal histories (if applicable), credit card numbers, and dollar amounts, locations and times of authorized and unauthorized transactions.

Witness reports, interviews and other documentation, such as photos or maps, can be added. Investigators can import data from another source related to an individual with the same name and later manually merge the two sets of data if they turn out to represent the same person. Users can also search for specific data.

Emile Karam, i2's product marketing manager, said users can draw tentative links between icons if the information is unverifiable or assign grades based on the reliability of a person or piece of information.

Karam said i2 is partnering with three companies to provide online databases valuable to investigators. They include Amcrin Corp.'s CrimeDex for financial fraud data, LexisNexis' SmartLinx for public records and D&B Corp.'s database on global businesses. But users must have subscriptions to those databases to access them through Visual Notebook.

Reis said businesses and government agencies at all levels should find Visual Notebook useful. The list price is $1,500.

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Organizing data

Using i2 Inc.'s Visual Notebook software, law enforcement investigators can:

Visually organize information from a variety of data sources.

Drag and drop information from various sources.

Assign grades to information that represent the reliability of the data.

Depict tentative links between pieces of information for future confirmation.

Create, save and share charts.

Change layouts to view information from different perspectives.

View sequences of events to compare facts to witness accounts or theories.

Tap into online databases for a variety of criminal and open-source data.

Use briefing charts to depict information on complex cases.

Source: i2 Inc.

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