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FBI Throws Data-Sharing Tech at Serial Killings

The FBI is taking a page from industry in looking to tech to improve collaboration and how it collects and shares mission-critical information. But while enterprises aim to cut costs and beef up productivity, the feds have quite another goal in mind: putting an end to decades of serial murder cases across the country.

The FBI this week launched its Highway Serial Killings initiative, a program that uses databases to track killers who pass through many jurisdictions as they commit their crimes -- creating an obstacle in coordinating data and efforts among a number of disparate law enforcement groups, officials said.

"It just creates a unique challenge for law enforcement whenever there's cross-jurisdictional crime," Supervisory Special Agent Mike Harrigan said during an interview published by the FBI.

The government decided to act when members of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and police from Grapevine, Texas, began tracking a pattern of serial killings along Interstate 40, which crosses the entire continental United States and passes through both states.

They contacted the FBI, who used a database of crimes to track the serial killers. "We took a look across the country in our database and we found there was a pattern across the country of a large number of homicides, sexual assaults, and unidentified dead bodies found on or along the highway," Harrigan said.

Collaboration tech meets law enforcement

Businesses have long been interested in tapping collaboration and enterprise search tools to save money. Just last month, CTO Padmasree Warrior told VoiceCon that collaboration saves the company millions of dollars per year.

The FBI has another metric by which it judges the success of collaboration tools and search databases, however: the number of criminals caught.

The solution to the problems of collaboration and data collection in the highway killings cases proved to be a national crime database, the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP). Although the database was established in 1985 by the Department of Justice, only in 2008 were police departments granted access to it.

"We have a secure link over the Internet … Previously only the Bureau could see those cases, but in July of 2008 we rolled out this Web access which now allows all agencies in the country to access all the information going back since the program started in 1985," Harrigan said.

The results of this cooperation between the FBI and local law enforcement are now becoming visible. The FBI has built a