BC police fight crime with IBM entity analytics

LAS VEGAS—Combating crime in British Columbia relies on a province-wide records-sharing system that, despite being successful for catching crooks, suffers from a duplication of data, said the general manager of Vancouver-based Police Records Information Management Environment (PRIME) Inc.


The problem was such that there are 4.5 million records in the system, yet British Columbia only has four million citizens, explained Russell Sanderson to ComputerWorld Canada at IBM’s Information On Demand conference. “So that means every citizen has had a police contact? I don’t think so,” said Sanderson.

PRIME BC operates as a service provider of sorts for the records management technology for all law enforcement agencies who pay a usage fee. Since its inception in 2003, 9,600 officers use the system to share reports about individuals they’re trying to identify.

PRIME BC is set to start implementing entity analytics from IBM Corp. to identify duplicates in its Master Name Index that resulted from clerical errors and crooks lying about their identity.

In the meantime, a pilot of the entity analytics technology on some 500,000 records has already produced convincing results that revealed a 25 per cent duplication rate.

“This concept of having one record for each individual is great in theory but the problems are people do not end up always being forthcoming with who they really are,” said Doug Plaxton, a business development executive for IBM’s InfoSphere, to ComputerWorld Canada.

Prior to implementing entity analytics from IBM, the PRIME system served very successfully to help law enforcement agencies from small to large share data that was previously siloed across agencies and desktops.

“If you think of stolen property, people break into your house, they’re not going to go in the pawn shop in that city. They’ll go somewhere else … they figure we’ll never know,” said Sanderson. “We used to have the crime analysts with a map on the wall and they stick pins in there and you’re supposed to look at that everyday. Well now you can do so much more with that data.”

Besides entity analytics technology, IBM is working on analytics that preserves the anonymity of records. It’s a technology that, although built in the U.S., has greater implications in Canada given the privacy regulations regarding data sharing, said Plaxton.

Plaxton said there is already a project underway based on IBM’s anonymous analytics technology in Alberta with nine provincial agencies that share data on children and youth. Traditionally, privacy concerns have stopped agencies from merging databases but this technology renders those records unidentifiable, said Plaxton.

There are often pressures to circumvent privacy regulations but this allows for those laws to be respected. “This is the means of taking handcuffs off of a lot of restrictions around sharing information,” said Plaxton. “We’re very excited about it.”

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

ComputerWorld Canada’s coverage of IBM IOD:

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