A powerful tool called Field Search enables law enforcement and community corrections officers to monitor sex offenders’ ready access to the Internet and manage their computer use.
Field Search is software designed to help law enforcement and corrections personnel (probation and parole officers) who are not trained in computer forensics to quickly and efficiently search a computer and create detailed reports of their findings. Although it has not been scientifically validated, reports from probation officers indicate it may be useful in monitoring sex offenders in the community. In addition, law enforcement agencies and correctional facilities can use it to scan agency computers for evidence of abuse and to monitor computers that inmates can access. The first version of the software was released in 2005. Since them, the National Institute of Justice’s Corrections Technology Center of Excellence has released three improved versions. The software is free and available only to public-sector criminal justice agencies. An estimated 12,000 copies are now in the field through software sharing. Both the Windows and the Mac versions enable users to search a computer’s Internet browsing history and cookies, as well as image, media, and text files. Collected data are exported to standard Microsoft Excel spreadsheets for further analysis. In addition, items can be downloaded to removable media to be seized as evidence. The latest version allows users to view only the most recently used files, which enable probation and parole officers to quickly monitor a sex offender’s computer use since the last visit. They can also scan specific folders instead of the hard drive for quicker, targeted results. A full Windows search takes 25 to 30 minutes; a Mac search can be done in a little more than 1 minute.
Date Published: April 1, 2010