Crime-Data Software for Police May Benefit Employers

As software and online techniques for mining data continue to improve, their pluses in recruiting and marketing become increasingly clear. Now, however, there's another area in which high-speed data searches across the Internet could have a major positive impact: prevention of workplace violence.

Coplink, a software product launched last year by Knowledge Computing in Tucson, Ariz.., can be used for checking criminal records throughout the country. The product is designed to help law enforcement agencies mine various database such as arrest records, traffic violations and restraining orders, and it enables agencies that are signed on with the system to communicate with one another.

Although Coplink is available only to law enforcement agencies, it will play an important role in making workplaces safer, says Tom Hunt, business manager for Knowledge Computing. If a company informs local police about an employee's suspicious activities and the police are signed on with Coplink, the employer could get a response almost immediately. "The software can determine quickly if the person involved with the suspicious activity has any prior record or penchant for violent or criminal behavior," Hunt says.

The software and its capabilities will not be available for use by employers because of the potential for abuse, Hunt says. According to the law, employers can inquire only about convictions, not arrest records. He adds, though, that his company is exploring possibilities of partnering with businesses that conduct background checks for employers.

The Tucson police department began using Coplink early last year, and a department spokesperson says the software has been helpful in identifying suspects and solving several cases. Nationwide marketing of Coplink began last summer, and Knowledge Computing provided a free copy of the software to the police task force working on the sniper murders in the Washington, D.C., area in October.

The system was installed in Maryland just one day before arrests were made in the case. So although Coplink didn't help in the capture of the accused snipers, it could aid prosecutors in determining what the suspects were doing before and during the shooting spree.