Cape Breton Police prepare searchable crime archive

The Cape Breton Regional Police are preparing to use an open source database tool to analyze information about their investigations – starting with a murder case that’s already been solved.

Officials from the police force, as well as a local high-tech firm and IBM, were on hand at a chief of police conference taking place in St. John’s, Nfld., Monday to showcase the system, which has not yet been given an official name. IBM has been working on the system in partnership with Cape Breton University, which also has an ongoing relationship with the regional police service.

Chief Edgar MacLeod said the system will use voice recognition software to digitize transcripts of police interviews, which become searchable in conjunction with other cases that are put in the system. The pilot will use an old murder case to demonstrate how the process would work, he said.

IBM said wiretaps and surveillance tapes could be also be entered into the system, which would then mine the data for links or patterns such as vehicles or faces related to an investigation. IBM is basing the system on its Unstructured Information Management Architecture (UIMA), an open source database for developing analysis and search components. Big Blue makes UIMA available as a software developer’s kit along with the core Java framework for industry and academia.

ADM Solutions, a local IBM partner, is assisting with the speech recognition component of the system and will, if necessary, use its staff to help fix up digitized transcripts that don’t come through clearly. The voice recognition application includes IBM technology as well as ViaScribe, a U.S. project that the University of Cape Breton integrated into the local Alexander Graham Bell Museum and further developed.

ADM Solutions president Allen McCormack said the tool would mean a major transformation from the kinds of case management systems in place at many other Canadian police organizations.

“The feedback that we’re getting is a lot of systems are manual,” he said. “Cape Breton has no unsolved murders, but the process is very labour-intensive.”

Although some industry observers have questioned the readiness of Canadian police to work with IT systems on cases, MacLeod said the Cape Breton team would not oppose the kind of digitization the IBM tool offers.

“This is so front end-loaded it doesn’t put any additional work on the officers,” he said. “This wasn’t a bunch of researchers who pretended they knew what went into an investigation. This is about reducing the amount of work.

“Transcribing interviews and going through notes — that’s not the stuff that excites them,” he added. “What excites them is the ability to get their investigation focused.”

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