Photos from the 2015 Winter Membership Meeting

SEARCH wrapped up its 2015 Winter Membership Group Meeting last week in Austin, Texas. The meeting, held January 27–29, featured presentations and discussions on a range of technical, operational and policy issues affecting justice information sharing. Attending were SEARCH Members, Staff and stakeholders from a variety of federal, state and local agencies and national organizations.

SEARCH’s 2015 Winter Meeting kicked off with the presentation of flags by the Region 7 Honor Guard of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

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Law Enforcement Making Strides in Investigating Peer-to-Peer Networks for Child Pornography

By Don Lewis

Peer-to-Peer Overview

P2P software allows computer users, connected to the Internet, to share files with other users. Files can include music, graphics, images, movies, and text.

Music is what most people associate with P2P networks, but it only accounts for about 15% of traffic; video files account for over 50%. P2P file sharing networks are frequently used to trade digital files of child pornography.

A centralized P2P network relies on a central server to process requests from the peers.

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Chats, Posts and Texts: Finding Their Place in a Court of Law

By Justin Fitzsimmons

By now, most of us have heard of cases where law enforcement professionals found incriminating evidence on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and then used that evidence to gain a conviction in court. 

Anyone who watches NCIS would think this is standard operating procedure in police work today. Indeed, the recent Survey of Law Enforcement Personnel and Their Use of Social Media (conducted by LexisNexis® Risk Solutions 2014) supports that. This survey of the law enforcement community shows that eight out of 10 law enforcement professionals actively use social media as a tool in investigations. 

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SEARCH Partners with APPA, ICAOS to Develop and Pilot Adult Offender Information Exchange for Law Enforcement

Thousands of adult probationers and parolees are transferred across state lines every year.  Some of the transferees are potentially dangerous or high-risk—and notifying local law enforcement in the receiving state of these offender transfers can raise officer awareness and safety.

SEARCH partnered with the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) and the Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision (ICAOS) to develop and pilot a new information exchange that uses state fusion centers to provide offender transfer notifications to local law enforcement agencies.

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How do States Handle Bulk Sales of Public Criminal History Data? SEARCH Surveys Membership to Gauge State Practices

View or download the bulk data sale survey results

SEARCH staff recently conducted an informal survey of our Membership Group to gauge how different states handle the bulk sale of public criminal history data. Thirty states responded, with the majority of those reporting that they do not offer bulk sales of these records. 

The survey was conducted by Becki Goggins, SEARCH Director of Law and Policy, who provided the following survey highlights:

  • When asked whether their state provides bulk criminal history sales, respondents reported the following:
    • 8 (or 27.6%) said “yes”
    • 19 (or 65.5%) said “no”
    • 2 (or 6.9%) said “unknown”
    • 1 did not provide an answer
  • When asked which agencies provide bulk sales, respondents reported the following:
    • The same agency that hosts the state’s criminal history records repository – 5 states
    • State Administrative Office of Courts – 3 states
    • Local Law Enforcement Agencies – 2 states
    • Local Courts – 2 states
    • State Corrections Agency – 1 state
    • Local Corrections Agencies – 0 states
    • Other Agencies – 0 states
  • When asked how agencies determine prices for bulk data sales, respondents reported the following:
    • 4 states reported charging a standard fee per request
    • 1 state reported allowing “gateway purchases,” whereby end-users purchase records through a database interface 

Access to criminal history record information maintained by the states is governed by the laws of the individual states, and the level of access and methods of dissemination vary by state. 

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Limits of Warrantless Cell Phone Searches: What Law Enforcement Needs to Know

By Justin Fitzsimmons

Earlier this year, the United States Supreme Court issued clear guidance to law enforcement when it comes to cell phone searches. The Court essentially said that you must get a warrant to search a cell phone, even if you come in contact with that phone during an arrest.

In its decision, the Court helped to bring the Fourth Amendment into the digital age. It’s likely that this is just the beginning for new rules on how law enforcement handles digital evidence in the 21st century.

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Social Media Investigations: Making the Case for Formal Training for Law Enforcement

By Lauren Wagner

In this age of over-booking and budget cuts, many of us find it hard to carve out time for skills enhancement. We convince ourselves that we know what we’re doing and we seem to be getting by, so what’s the problem? 

But delaying or even avoiding critical skills enhancement can be detrimental—especially for law enforcement. 

One thing that teachers love most is seeing that “light bulb moment” in their students. It’s very rewarding to know that you’ve introduced people to a new concept or skill that will help them on a daily basis.

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SEARCH Organizes November 19 Capitol Hill Briefing on Availability of Domestic Violence Protection Orders to the NICS

In response to a bipartisan request from Senate Judiciary Committee staff, SEARCH organized a briefing for congressional staff focusing on domestic violence protective orders (DVPO) and their availability to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), the system used for background checks of firearms purchasers.

The November 19 event featured experts from the FBI, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), a domestic violence organization, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), and SEARCH who briefed invited staff members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.

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Software Developer Haiqi Wei Joins SEARCH Information Sharing Team

Ms. Haiqi Wei joined SEARCH as an Information Sharing Developer effective November 12, 2014. In this position, Ms. Wei will develop, implement, and deploy information sharing systems on behalf of SEARCH clients in local, state, tribal, and federal government settings. She will also provide programming, configuration and testing assistance, and consult on implementation architecture and design.

Ms. Wei has 11 years of experience as a software engineer. She specializes in developing applications using open source technologies and frameworks, including Java, Spring, Apache Camel, and Apache CXF, and has a solid understanding of relational databases, XML databases, Web Services, and X509 Certificate authentication.

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