Database tool helps track criminals

Criminals and law-breakers of New Zealand watch out--Watson may be on your trail.

Criminals and law-breakers of New Zealand watch out--Watson may be on your trail.

Local law enforcement agencies will next year get a chance to view sophisticated crime data analysis software from United Kingdom-based software developer Harlequin. Watson is an application that can expose hidden relationships in unstructured data to provide leads that may not be readily apparent to investigators.

Worldwide marketing manager Jo Moon has been in Sydney this week bringing the product to the Australian market and says New Zealand will be targetted next year.

Watson 3.0, the latest iteration, allows interrogation of crime data and includes ODBC support, data mining and database independence to allow access to multiple data source and formats.

Apart from its wide database access capabilities Watson also offers investigators display of data through links and charts and prompts users to look at the data in different ways.

Harlequin is already claiming some coups with the software, including the tracking of international credit-card forging operations.

Detective chief inspector John Newton, of New Scotland Yard, who handled the credit card investigation, says time pressure and the volume of data to be analysed in the case made Watson a valuable aid.

"In effect," he says, "Watson gave us visual evidence in the form of detailed link charts to support our theory that plastic counterfeiting is highly organised, crosses national boundaries and is controlled by one particular criminal group who are involved in card production, distribution and use. To have arrived at this point using manual methods would have taken many months--time we simply did not have."

Harlequin's home page is at http://www.harlequin.com.

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