George Mason Students Help D.C. Police Use IT to Prevent Crime

Posted: March 9, 2000 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Emily Yaghmour

Public policy doctoral student Sam McQuade is working with the Metropolitan Police of the District of Columbia (MPDC) to use link analysis software to help law enforcement officials prevent crime by identifying patterns associated with crime-related problems. Typically, this technology has been used to help solve complex crimes, like money laundering. Using it to help prevent crime represents a brand new way of applying this technology.

With part of a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, MPDC has purchased the software and established a center called COPSAC, the Community Oriented Problem Solving Analysis Center, which specializes in the application of link analysis software to crime prevention. In addition, the software will be used by police officers to help with criminal investigations. Last week, McQuade, who had been serving as a consultant to MPDC, was appointed director of COPSAC and the Tactical Crime Analysis Unit at MPDC.

Under the direction of Edgar Sibley, a professor in the Department of Information and Software Engineering, two doctoral students, Arman Ali Anwar and Mohamed K. Almubarak, have completed construction of the superdatabase required for the link analysis software to function. They are now working to integrate data from multiple databases into the COPSAC database. McQuade hopes that the database eventually will include data not only from the police department but also from other city agencies. This effort is more than an experiment in using a computer application in a new way, he says. “It’s also an experiment in intergovernment cooperation.”

Besides the link analysis software, the other crucial component of COPSAC is the citizen’s advisory board, which will have the responsibility to develop community wellness and risk indicators. These indicators will help COPSAC identify the kinds of information that should be included in the database to support problem solving and coordinated service delivery in neighborhoods.

If the center proves successful, McQuade hopes it can become a national demonstration project for law enforcement and other officials across the country to visit and learn about.

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