It's a cliche that has been around as long as talking pictures: an investigator--whether a police officer, private detective, or company researcher--poring over stacks of manila files, drawing arrows and writing names on a chalkboard in a tenacious attempt to connect the information buried in the mound of files and solve the case.
That was how investigators struggled to make sense of witness testimony and other data when investigating incidents at one large multinational oil company where the investigative unit deals with issues such as internal and external fraud. Then several new investigators joined the unit. They had been using a software program to analyze clues at their former employer, another oil company. They suggested that the department implement the same approach. Management agreed, and the company began using the Analyst's Notebook and iBase, produced by i2 Inc., of Springfield, Virginia.
The Analyst's Notebook has been used by law enforcement and commercial clients in the United States for about six years. It takes complex case information input by investigators and displays it in easily understood charts; iBase is a database program that fully integrates with the Analyst's Notebook. The database is able to store data for multiple cases in one central location. Users can click one button to visualize part of a case, the entire case, or multiple cases.
The notebook software includes two main analysis tools: the Link Notebook and the Case Notebook. The former supports association charts; commodity flow charts, such as those tracing money from drug sales as it flows from street users, through the laundering process, and back to the kingpin; activity charts; and network (or high-volume link) analysis charts, such as those depicting phone records for a given day. The latter allows users to analyze data according to time and/or date fields.
The company now runs every investigation through this electronic Philip Marlowe. According to one of the investigative unit's security advisors, staff input data into iBase, which can "dump" the information directly into the Analyst's Notebook: names, dates, and so on. The software then displays the data in graphic format.
By clicking on the chart icons representing key facts such as employees, financial institutions, and nations involved, the user is taken to the related data records. For instance, by clicking on the icon that represents a suspect, the user would go to a data card that might include the suspect's height, weight, and build. In turn, this data could be linked to his home address.
After the data is analyzed and presented graphically, according to the security advisor, "in a lot of cases we can let the system find the links for us. It's an analysis tool in that respect."
The security advisor says the charts are also helpful in finding information holes, where extra interviews or additional data are needed. The program is also useful as a presentation tool. With the software, "you can summarize everything you have in a case in just one chart," says the security advisor. "The visual effect is much more impressive than hearing someone give a briefing or reading the information in a report."
The company has used the charts generated from an investigation to help apprehend a suspect. "We had an individual suspected of being involved in some financial irregularities who was literally on his way out of the country," says the security advisor. "We were able to take a chart that synopsized the case, rather than the full investigation report, to the police in Houston [where the man lived]. Based on the information we presented, they were able to detain him, to prevent him from leaving."
The security advisor also notes that the software has helped the company's security team more thoroughly investigate cases. "It allows us to more comfortably take on the complex cases and makes us more sure things can get done," he says. In addition, he notes, the system makes it easier for members of the unit to share information. The net effect is not necessarily that cases get solved faster, he observes, but they are handled more effectively. "In the long run, the case may take more time because we are sharing thoughts on cases and because of the brainstorming that happens," he explains.
In terms of monetary savings for the corporation, the security advisor says that the software has been vital to the investigative unit's daily work which is "to help save the company money or get money back that's been taken."
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|Date:||Sep 1, 2000|
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