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Harnessing Information in a Prosecutor's Office

NCJ Number
National Institute of Justice Journal Issue: 245 Dated: October 2000 Pages: 2-7
Date Published
October 2000
6 pages
Publication Series
This article describes a solution one U.S. Attorney's Office found to integrate seemingly disparate pieces of information and solve problems more effectively.
Using computers, maps, and a relational database, a team of prosecutors, computer programmers, and clerical staff in the office of Mary Jo White of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York created a system that, at the press of a button, shows that agencies are working in a particular geographic area. The system takes advantage of two common facts of life in all large, urban prosecutors' offices, i.e., criminal communities are usually organized by geography, and the agencies investigating them usually are not; and most of the information gathered by the multitude of Federal agencies investigating cases eventually makes its way to the U.S. Attorney's Office. The strategy is to collect key information about cases in a single place so that interconnections can be easily identified. At a minimum, key information includes addresses for arrests and residences of defendants and victims, crime locations, and areas and topics of cooperation of Federal witnesses. The system was dubbed "Rackets," because the impetus for collecting and tracking the information came from the Office's extensive work in racketeering cases brought against gangs. During the first 6 months of the project, a graduate student developed a working model of a database and corresponding geocoding system. Geocoding is the process by which addresses in a data file are assigned coordinates that describe their location on the earth's surface, enabling them to be mapped. The goal was to turn data from the U.S. Marshals Service and the U.S. Attorney's Office into a system that staff with limited computer knowledge can use to produce maps that show all Federal law enforcement activity in the jurisdiction. The system saves time, answers questions about cases and caseloads, provides background information, and analyzes special problems. The article concludes with a discussion of the future of mapping analysis and the replication of the system. 1 note

Date Published: October 1, 2000