Multistate judicial network attracts federal government users

Multistate judicial network attracts federal government users

By Shruti Dat'

GCN Staff

Six federal agencies over the past decade have joined a state and local alliance to tap information in the Western Identification Network's automated fingerprint identification system.

The WIN AFIS has helped solve more than 5,000 crimes, from white-collar money laundering to narcotics smuggling.

Law enforcement officials in a handful of Western states formed the network in 1988. State legislatures funneled money to the nonprofit organization in June 1989 to purchase the AFIS built by NEC America of Melville, N.Y.

WIN established its main operations in Sacramento, Calif.

The participating federal agencies have access to 17 million records in WIN's Oracle8 database and those housed in the states' individual databases.

The centralized network pulls together data from Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. The seven networked states and two states with interfaces to the system'California and Washington'share 17 million records. The WIN AFIS runs under NEC's advanced operating system on NEC Unix SVR 4 servers in the WIN Sacramento facility, said Tony Doonan, NEC director of AFIS sales and marketing.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Postal Inspection Service and Secret Service joined the network in 1991. The IRS came on board in 1993, followed by the FBI in 1997 and the Drug Enforcement Administration in 1998, WIN officials said.

Fingerprint specialists such as IRS' Patricia Cushing query the system with a customized search engine created by NEC.

The IRS forensics lab in Chicago captures fingerprints of unidentified suspects via a scanner, Cushing said. The system searches the databases and displays digitized images of the five likeliest matches. Cushing then decides which image best fits the latent fingerprint.

Fingerprint identification with states outside WIN takes two to four weeks. The response time depends on the workload of the state's AFIS office and the speediness of the mail.

'The WIN system generally takes two to 24 hours,' Cushing said.

AFIS upgrade

NEC will phase out its current AFIS by April 1 and install AFIS 21, said Gary Goad, WIN's operating and fiscal supervisor. Phase 1, completed last May, let the workstations scan, search and register prints. Phase 2 will let workers edit work and search all databases and provide full latent fingerprint search capabilities.

NEC designed AFIS 21 to meet FBI and National Institute of Standards and Technology compatibility requirements.

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