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Busting crime by decoding phone bills

Busting crime by decoding phone bills

Gabby criminals beware: There's a new technology out there to help the good guys catch you.

Gabby criminals beware: There's a new technology out there to help the good guys catch you. PatternTracer TCA, telephone call analysis software from Springfield, Va.-based i2 Technologies helps law enforcement agencies decipher complex relationships buried in billing records. The software identifies repetitive groups of calls to help establish patterns linking, for example, Butch the jewel thief, Lefty the safe-cracker and Wanda the getaway driver.

Pattern relationships are presented as a link analysis diagram using icons to connect the different callers and create a time-line chart so law enforcement agents can view patterns over time. The software can run up to 100,000 telephone records at a time.

The system is intended to replace the manual process that law enforcement uses today, which typically involves analysts painstakingly combing through large volumes of printouts or staring at Excel spreadsheets for hours on end. Humans sometimes miss the subtle patterns picked up by the software's proprietary algorithm. Also, patterns can be identified in minutes instead of hours, freeing up valuable investigative time for the gumshoes.

Future iterations of the technology will be applied to other areas, such as financial analysis to detect money laundering activity and Internet traffic analysis, which could help detect hackers or other illegal activity, says Todd Drake, national sales manager at i2. Customers include the FBI, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, though Drake claims ignorance when asked how those organizations use the software. "More often than not we don't know what they're doing with the product," he says.

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