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Knowledge net helps Scotland Yard nab criminals

Working for a safer London

Try as hard as it could, Scotland Yard was unable to prove the identity of that most nefarious criminal, Jack the Ripper, whose grisly deeds terrorized London from 1888 to 1891.

Perhaps if police officers had been able to use today's technology to search for and handle information and evidence, they might have been more successful in apprehending the infamous murderer.

Just as in the days of Jack the Ripper, the mission of the Metropolitan Police Service (also known as New Scotland Yard) is to help the public feel safe and secure, and to protect Londoners from crime.

The service, which has grown to 25,500 police officers and 11,000 civilian staff, is responsible for policing 788 square miles of Greater London.

Now, in its efforts to keep the city safe, the service is aided by sophisticated search engines and data mining tools, knowledge management systems software and Web-based solutions.

Recently, New Scotland Yard chose a collaborative intranet-based solution to improve access to and management of case files. It will use the Livelink e-business application and the Basis library automation component of Livelink--both from Open Text -- to share case files and other records across the police organization.

Police will gain online access to more than 600,000 case files, which occupy more than nine miles of shelf space at a file repository in West London. By implementing the system, New Scotland Yard will extend its information base into a collaborative knowledge network and expects to save $2.4 million over the next five years.

According to Alison Rix, project manager with the service's Records Management Branch, the first phase of the project will be to develop an in-depth index of all the case papers held on file, currently only referenced and searchable by such basic information as the names of the people involved and the type of crime. The new database will support more detailed search strings, producing more finely tuned results within a matter of seconds, significantly narrowing search results to the relevant files.

"Under the current system," says Rix, "if an officer wishes to locate details relating to any existing case papers, he or she has to contact a central inquiry office, open Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., unless a major incident requires urgent access. Even with a clearly defined search string, the current system doesn't always provide the searching capability to narrow down the files to only those that are relevant. Police, therefore, can waste time trying to review files that do not contain any relevant information."

Systems integrator Linkhand worked with Open Text to customize the software to develop a searchable, highly scalable database that is used to index the headline information from the case files and records. The new database will support more detailed search strings, producing more final tuned results in seconds, significantly narrowing the search results to include only relevant files.

According to Alan Oakley, chief registrar and departmental record officer at Scotland Yard, the new system will "provide officers and support staff with a much faster, more efficient method of tracking down case papers, which can often contain information that will help in new investigations. The system will enable more precise search results, ultimately enabling officers to investigate crimes more effectively.

"It will also contribute toward achieving considerable cost savings and improved accountability through good records management," says Oakley.

Officers will have 24-hour access, regardless of location, to the online database via the Scotland Yard intranet, giving them immediate access to an index of existing case files and other records.

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