Computers in Law
NCIC The National Crime
Information Center (NCIC) is a computerized index of criminal justice
information that includes criminal records, stolen property lists, and
descriptions of missing persons. NCIC information is available to Federal,
state, and local law enforcement agencies. The official NCIC Web site is www.fbi.gov/hq/cjisd/ncic.htm,
where you can also find links to:
Automated Fingerprint Identification System), a national fingerprint
and criminal history system maintained by the Federal Bureau of
Instant Criminal Background Check System ), a system that provides
background checks on individuals who want to purchase or receive a
UCR (Uniform Crime
Reporting Program), a database of crime statistics from 17,000 local,
state, and federal law enforcement agencies nationwide used for
compiling and studying crime trends.
LEO, a national
interactive computer communications system and information service
exclusively for the law enforcement community.
Although you might associate fingerprint identification with Sherlock
Holmes, the real story dates back to ancient Babylon and China. You can
read a quick sketch of fingerprint history at onin.com/fp/fphistory.html
or in the PDF file at www.fbi.gov/hq/cjisd/ident.pdf.
The systematic use of criminal fingerprint identification began in the
United States in 1903. In 1924, the FBI became responsible for maintaining
a central repository for fingerprint from all over the nation. As of 2005,
the repository contained almost 50 million criminal fingerprint records
and more than 40 million civil fingerprint records (from government
employees). Each day approximately 7, 000 new fingerprint records are
added to the database.
Computers in squad
cars Computers are becoming standard equipment in many police cars.
Companies such as Datalux
and Public Safety
Technologies supply dashboard-mounted computers. As this
technology evolves it is becoming more efficient and safer. Although
dashboard-mounted computers can supply a wealth of data, officer safety is
endangered if they attempt to use the keyboard when driving. In some cars,
the dashboard mount can interfere with airbag deployment during an
accident. Voice recognition, trunk-mounted computers, and heads-up
displays can help solve these problems. Voice recognition systems, such as
54, allow officers to keep their hands on the steering wheel at
all times. When officers decide to pull a motorist over for, say,
speeding, they have to do many different things, such as to turn on the
flashing lights, activate the siren, determine their location, use the
radio to report their activity, and turn on the video camera. With a voice
activated on-board computer, an office can simply say “pursuit” and
everything happens automatically.
Another innovative squad
car technology provides officers with a heads-up
display on the windshield, so that officers don’t have to take
their eyes off the road. Trunk-mounted computers keep equipment out of the
air-bag deployment path.
Investigators are increasingly encountering suspects who own computers
that might contain evidence of criminal activity. The challenge is to
extract incriminating evidence in such as way that it is not destroyed,
modified, or tainted. Computer forensics offers a set of procedures that
help investigators obtain evidence from computers. Short overviews of
computer forensics can be found at www.computerforensics.net
and at TheFreeDictionary.com.
Slightly more detailed overviews are located at www.en.wikipedia.org,
The IACS (International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists)
provides lots of links to information about techniques, training, and
One of the most important
tools of computer forensics is software that allows investigators to clone
and image the data on a computer’s hard disk (www.x-ways.net/winhex/forensics.html).
Cloning (also referred to as “mirroring” or “physical sector
copying”) creates an exact duplicate of a disk to another similar disk.
Imaging copies each physical sector from a disk and compresses this image
in the form of a file. An image file can be stored on CDs or tape backup
media for archiving or later restoration. Investigators work with cloned
and imaged data, leaving the original data intact.
Disk cloning is useful
for non-forensic purposes, too. You can use disk cloning software to make
an exact copy of your current hard disk so that you can easily copy all
your data and programs to a new computer. The Beginners Guide Web site www.pcstats.com/articleview.cfm?articleID=418
tells you how, and includes a brief description of consumer-level disk