Term Paper: Communications Dispatch Centers

Pages: 5 (1624 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice  ·  Buy for $19.77

¶ … External Systems Help in the Fight against Crime

Computers and information technology are indispensable elements in the modern fight against crime. In fact, modern police officers are far more likely to use information technology than they are to use their weapons. What has made things more cohesive for police officers is the fact that many of this crime-fighting software is external. For example, the National Crime Information Center, NCIC 2000, National Crime Victimization Survey, National Incident-Based Reporting System, various government databases, and Driver's License and Motor Vehicle Registration databases are all external to individual, local police forces, but can provide invaluable assistance to officers and support staff in their daily crime investigation and crime prevention efforts.

Perhaps the most widely known and used external system is the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). The NCIC is "a computerized index of criminal justice information (i.e.- criminal record history information, fugitives, stolen properties, missing persons). It is available to Federal, state, and local law enforcement and other criminal justice agencies and is operational 24 hours a day, 365 days a year" (Pike, 2008). The whole purpose of the NCIC is so that criminal justice agencies can have continuous access to information about crimes committed in other jurisdictions. It facilitates the information transfer between jurisdictions. Furthermore, the NCIC can help stop ongoing crimes, because it allows nationwide access to information about fugitives and missing persons. The NCIC should not be confused with other databases, like sex offender registries, which can be accessed by the general public. Instead, "all records in NCIC are protected from unauthorized access through appropriate administrative, physical, and technical safeguards. These safeguards include restricting access to those with a need to know to perform their official duties, and using locks, alarm devices, passwords, and/or encrypting data communications" (Pike, 2008). The NCIC is administered by the FBI, which is authorized to collect that information and share it with authorized entities. The NCIC gets its information from the FBI, federal, state, local, and foreign criminal justice agencies and the courts.

The NCIC underwent a major overhaul in the mid-1990s, with the introduction of NCIC 2000. This version of the NCIC, which is currently operational, provided a number of advanced features that the previous NCIC lacked. "NCIC 2000 performs all of the functions of the legacy system augmented with impressive new capabilities. These include the addition of image processing (i.e., mugshots, signatures, and identifying marks); automated single-finger fingerprint matching; and information linking, which provides the ability to associate logically related records across NCIC files for the same criminal or the same crime" (Hitt, 2000). Furthermore, NCIC 2000 enhanced the capabilities of existing NCIC files, allowing for easier searches when looking for original offenses, guns used in offenses, and missing person information.

Like the NCIC, the National Crime Victimization Survey gives greater information to law enforcement personnel. The reality is that only a percentage of crime committed ever get reported to the police, but, to do their jobs effectively, law enforcement personnel need to have an accurate understanding of the true extent and nature of crime. "The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) series, previously called the National Crime Survey (NCS), has been collecting data on personal and household victimization since 1973. An ongoing survey of a nationally representative sample of residential addresses, the NCVS is the primary source of information on the characteristics of criminal victimization and on the number and types of crimes not reported to law enforcement authorities" (National Archive of Criminal Justice Data, 2010). Given that some very serious, very harmful crimes, like rape, incest, child abuse, and domestic violence, frequently go unreported, it is critical that law enforcement personnel have some idea of the true rate of victimization in their communities. What further separates the NCVS from the NCIC is that "it provides the largest national forum for victims to describe the impact of crime and characteristics of violent offenders" (National Archive of Criminal Justice Data, 2010). Victims are frequently the ignored part of the criminal justice system, and the NCVS serves as a good reminder that statistics represent real people.

The National Incident-Based Reporting System is "an incident-based reporting system in which agencies collect data on each single crime occurrence. NIBRS data come from local, state, and federal automated records' systems. An agency can build a system to suit its own needs, including any collection/storage of information required for administration and operations, as well as to report data required by the NIBRS to the UCR Program" (FBI, unk.). Not all jurisdictions participate in the NIBRS, but those that do can reap tremendous benefits. For example, the NIBRS can provide information on almost every major modern criminal justice issue. While this broad information may not help law enforcement personnel in the field, it is critical for legislators and other policy makers when determining laws, budgets, and prevention programs. Furthermore, because the NIBRS looks at individual reports rather than summaries, " the NIBRS produces more detailed, accurate, and meaningful data than the traditional summary reporting. Armed with such information, law enforcement can better make a case to acquire the resources needed to fight crime" (FBI, unk.). Perhaps the biggest difference between the NIBRS and the Uniform Crime Report Summary (UCR) is that the NIBRS is much more detailed. For example, when looking at major offenses, the UCR collects information on eight crimes, while the NIBRS looks at 46 offenses. The UCR does not permit males to be listed as rape victims, though men have a lifetime sexual assault risk of 1 in 7. Under the UCR, multiple offenses are reported as a single crime.

In addition to the above-listed resources, there are a number of other types of government databases focused on crime reporting or crime prevention. For example, the National Insurance Crime Bureau is aimed at reducing insurance fraud. The UCR tracks offenses in certain areas. Other government databases target specific offenses and specific crimes. Many governments require that gun owners be registered and provide information for gun ownership background checks. Generally, these gun ownership registries are useful in helping track down ownership of a weapon after an offense has been committed. However, they can also be useful in preventing crime. One famous example of this involves Charlie Sheen's erratic behavior in March 2011. His ex-wife obtained a restraining order against him, and, because Sheen was a registered gun owner, a search of the house for firearms was a routine part of the restraining order.

Perhaps the most remarkable set of government databases are state sex offender registries. Under a law known informally as Megan's Law, the federal government mandated that states keep registries of sex offenders, specifically sex offenders who have targeted children. Moreover, unlike other criminal databases, this information is available to the general public. A person can sit down, type in a street address or zip code, and receive a list of registered sex offenders in the area, along with a brief description of the underlying offense. While Megan's Law sex offender registries seem like a wonderful idea, their value in crime fighting and investigation is somewhat questionable. Most sex offenses against children are committed by relatives or friends, rather than strangers on a registry. Police officers have to worry about offenses against released offenders based on the registry. Moreover, because the registry only shows the crime for which the defendant was convicted, rather than the underlying allegations, it can be difficult for the layperson to determine whether a labeled sex offender was a teenager having sex with another teenager or a predator with a small child. While the sex offender registry is important for law enforcement personnel, it might be better if the information was not accessible by the general public.

Two other types of databases are helpful to law enforcement personnel. Those databases are… [END OF PREVIEW]

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