Florida site tracks world criminals

A Web site developed for the Seminole County, Fla., sheriff's department has attracted the attention of law enforcement around the world as a way of tracking criminals who cross state and international borders in search of loot.

Groups of "traveling criminals" from places such as Eastern Europe and South America come to Florida during the winter because of the warm weather, explained Pete Robinson, Webmaster and special projects coordinator for Seminole County. When caught and convicted, they have to register with the local police wherever they are in the state, just as do all other felons, and that information is posted on the Web site (www.seminolesheriff.org).

"The Web site was originally intended for local people, so they could track felons as they moved around the county," Robinson said. "The national and international fallout came later."

It's believed to be the only database of such criminals in the world, Robinson said, which is why it's become such a resource for law enforcement both inside and outside the United States. Equally important for the county, it has also done its job as a repository for civilian initiatives such as safety code enforcement and neighborhood crime watches. Combined with the felon tracking, the Web site has helped to cut the crime rate in Seminole County to just half that in the rest of Florida, he said.

The Web site was developed and is hosted for free by ICGate Inc., a Seminole County software development consultancy.

The current fourth version of the Web site uses InterSystems Corp.'s Cache post-relational database, which allows for easy, fast database searches.

It's also scalable, something that should help with the growth of the Web site. The number of tracked felons is growing by 125 to 150 a month, Robinson said, and none of them are removed, even after they die.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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