Officials tout info sharing

SEARCH Symposium highlights renewed focus on information exchange among government agencies

Although sharing information among the courts, the police and other justice

agencies in every level of government has been a goal of dedicated individuals

and organizations during the last several years, the Sept. 11 terrorist

attacks has given the issue a renewed national scope.

Critics say that Sept. 11 highlighted the lack of information exchange

and underscored the importance of improved coordination to prevent future

terrorist attacks.

So, it comes as no surprise that attendance to the 2002 SEARCH Integrated

Justice Information Systems Symposium this year has increased significantly

— to just under a thousand registered participants from 50 states, Puerto

Rico, Canada, the Netherlands and the Republic of South Africa. The number

of vendors exhibiting technology solutions has also increased — from six

in 1996 to about 40 this year.

"It simply underscores how current the topic is," said David Roberts,

the deputy executive director of SEARCH, the National Consortium for Justice

Information and Statistics, of the terrorist attacks.

SEARCH, which was formed in 1969 and is a nonprofit group based in Sacramento,

Calif., provides technical and policy assistance, training, research and

development, and resources to state and local governments as they try to

integrate justice information systems. It is sponsoring the three-day symposium,

which will run through March 27, in Washington, D.C. along with the Bureau

of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the Justice Department.

The symposium's goal is to provide state and local jurisdictions information

on information sharing through better governance, planning, standards and

technology

Regardless of the jurisdiction, the issues surrounding information exchange

are universal, Roberts said. While policy and governance play a large role

in the lack of information exchange, he said people shouldn't dismiss technology

either. "Technology is an issue," said Roberts, referring to old legacy

systems. "It's not the sole issue and it's not the solution."

BJA Director Richard Nedelkoff, who has worked for various city, county

and state governments developing criminal justice programs, said the federal

government was showing its support by providing $750 million to state and

local governments on justice information systems. "Just seven years ago,

we spent approximately $50 million in a $1 billion budget," he said.

Nedelkoff, along with Aldona Valicenti, Kentucky's chief information

officer who was the symposium's keynote speaker, highlighted numerous national

and state projects under way to promote information sharing.

"It has grown because the interest is there," Valicenti said of information

sharing. "It has grown because the situation is probably more critical now

than ever before."

She showed the audience a box of candy's nutritional information and

bar code that can track it from the factory to the purchase.

"Astounding," she said, adding it truly shows integrated information.

"What do we know about a criminal? Do we know as much? Do we know less?"

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