Welcome to the Future
Scattered across the country are more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies—local, state, tribal, and federal—each going about their business of gathering clues, conducting interviews, solving crimes, and generating reports and information.
So the question is: in an age where many crimes cross one or more jurisdictions, how can agencies share their information with each other…not only to catch criminals and terrorists but also to spot crime trends and patterns and help prevent attacks?
After all, beyond a few national criminal justice systems like the National Crime Information Center and the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, most information-sharing between police agencies today is on a case-by-case basis or through local and regional information systems.
That’s now changing, thanks to the Law Enforcement National Data Exchange, or N-DEx.
N-DEx is what you might expect: a national information-sharing system available through a secure Internet site for law enforcement and criminal justice agencies. N-DEx allows agencies to search and analyze data using some powerful automated capabilities, helping to connect the dots between people, places, and events.
Given its experience with such systems, our Criminal Justice Information Services Division in West Virginia was asked by the Department of Justice to develop and maintain N-DEx in close consultation with our law enforcement partners.
Following a successful prototype, we launched the first phase of N-DEx last month to a controlled number of agencies. Right now, the system includes several basic but vital capabilities, including searching and correlating incident/case report information and arrest data to help resolve entities (determining a person’s true identity despite different aliases, addresses, etc.). N-DEx will also create link analysis charts to assist in criminal investigations and identify potential terrorist activity.
Once fully operational and fully deployed in 2010, N-DEx will include a full range of capabilities, including:
All this includes appropriate safeguards to protect privacy and civil liberties. Access to information in N-DEx will be strictly controlled by the law enforcement agency who “owns” the info—each agency decides what data to share, with whom, and under what circumstances. Each time the system is accessed, a log is generated so administrators can determine who accessed it, for what purpose, and what information was obtained. And note: N-DEx is not a new records system—the only "new" records created will be the links made between information that already exists in law enforcement databases.
“N-DEx is a remarkable tool for investigators to add to their toolbox and represents a real step forward for law enforcement,” says Tom Bush, Assistant Director of our Criminal Justice Information Services Division. “I believe it has unlimited potential for the future and will strengthen the relationships forged between the FBI and state and local law enforcement agencies across the country.”
For more information, including a series of fictitious but realistic scenarios that show the capabilities of this tool, see the N-DEx website.