After initial miscue, the FBI makes a go of new crime net

After initial miscue, the FBI makes a go of new crime net

By Shruti Dat'

GCN Staff

The FBI's National Crime Information Center 2000, a crime-fighting information network, hiccuped a little after its initial implementation on July 11.

Integration with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) caused a few glitches, but the new network recovered after the FBI and prime contractors for the operating systems stepped in, officials said. The FBI's Criminal Justice Information Service Division in Clarksburg, W.Va., brought the full NCIC 2000 online at 2 p.m. that Sunday, but NCIC 2000 knocked NICS offline until July 12 at 6:30 p.m., FBI spokesman Stephen Fischer said.

'There have been some glitches, but when you deploy a new system that replaces a legacy system that has been in operation for over 30 years, you are going to have some problems,' said Roy Yeise, unit chief of the NCIC Programs Development Section. 'There are interfaces that are very tightly coupled over the years for virtually every state.'

NICS contractor Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego and NCIC 2000 contractor Harris Corp. of Melbourne, Fla., worked with the FBI to modify a small part of the integration code written as the interface between NICS and NCIC 2000, Yeise said.

The glitches occurred despite tests conducted by the Criminal Justice and FBI Information Resources divisions in Washington, Yeise said.

Now that the problems have been solved, NCIC 2000 officials are concentrating on executing additional services as the new system replaces the FBI's 32-year-old NCIC legacy system.

The new network provides enhanced suspect identification and search methods, which can be performed in an office or from a vehicle equipped with a computer, officials said.

Next generation

The FBI used the Information Engineering Facility, a set of fourth-generation language computer-aided software engineering tools from Sterling Software Inc. of Dallas, to generate the systems code for NCIC 2000, Yeise said.

The lack of programmers with IEF expertise was partly responsible for pushing the project four years off schedule, he said. The agency first released a request for proposals in 1993 and planned initially to implement NCIC 2000 in 1995, he said.

The system has interfaces with systems run by seven federal agencies as well as with a law enforcement link for each of the 50 states.

The state links are through the FTS 2000 network run by Sprint Corp. Each state's single point of contact can have interfaces with other law information agencies within a state, but those interfaces are handled independent of the FBI, Yeise said.

NCIC 2000 runs a bisynchronous communications topology: TCP/IP and the IBM Systems Network Architecture protocol, Yeise said. The system is connected over a radio frequency network'a typical voice channel'to communicate with remote units, he said.

The new system can process more than 2.4 million transactions a day and stores about 39 million records in its 17 databases, which include facts about people with outstanding warrants, missing people, deported felons, Secret Service files, foreign fugitives, unidentified bodies, stolen property and criminal history.

The bureau rolled over much of this information from the existing NCIC databases'which held information dating to 1967, Fischer said.

The data is stored in IBM DB2 Universal Database Version 5 databases, which support three-way data-sharing capabilities, the FBI officials said.

The DB2 databases reside on an IBM S/390 G3 Parallel Enterprise Server R54 running OS/390. The mainframe has three processor units that can have up to 10 CPUs each.

Currently, each processor unit has five CPUs, capable of processing 45 million instructions per second, said H. Frank Brown, an FBI supervisory computer specialist. Each processor unit has 2G of memory, Yeise said.

Through the NCIC 2000 project, the bureau upgraded its databases to provide information about people on supervised release, probation or parole, sexual offenders, and inmates of federal prisons, Yeise said.

Users can access the database via PC. A law enforcement agency transmits an inquiry to an NCIC 2000 front end. NCIC 2000 forwards the request to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

NICS then checks for outstanding warrants and runs a match against the Interstate Identification Index for possible criminal-history information. NICS then transmits a response to the state, Yeise said.

End users can also conduct enhanced name searches of all derivatives of a name' such as Jeff, Geoff or Jeffrey'against the databases in about two seconds, according to the FBI.

A new application also provides details associated with a case. For example, state law enforcement officials inquiring about a case number receive information about all property taken or individuals associated with the case number, Yeise said.

The FBI provides access to NCIC 2000 at no cost, but to reap the benefits of the new features some law enforcement agencies will need to buy new equipment and commercial software, FBI officials said.

The investment for a state law enforcement agency will likely be at least $2,000, Yeise said.

To the point

State law enforcement agencies will need single-fingerprint scanners for right-index- finger searches, which can also alert law enforcement officials to details about a suspect's criminal history within 25 seconds. Fingerprint searches will be enhanced when the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System comes online this week, Yeise said.

A new mug shot feature will require access to a digital camera.

State and local law enforcement officials can submit a photograph using a TWAIN-compliant scanner; NCIC 2000 will also accept a .jpg image.

The new system will foster officer safety and efficiency, Fischer said. He added, however, that the system is only as good as the information that state and local law enforcement agencies send to the FBI for inclusion in the NCIC databases.

'We encourage states to provide complete information,' he said.

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