New system solves record number of criminal cases

(China) Guangdong police have captured 5,000 suspects during a seven-month crackdown and solved all its reported criminal cases last year - thanks to a computer system developed by Xu Fei.

Xu, a policeman with the Public Security Bureau of Zhuhai in Guangdong province, developed the Super Information System (SIS), dubbed the Police Baidu (a Chinese search engine). Launched in early 2008, the system allows police in 138 cities in the country to share such information on suspects as their demographics, vehicle registrations, social security, and even water and electricity bills.

Reminiscing, Xu remembers the midnight oil he burned to get to where it is today.

"In 2007, when my superior gave me the assignment to develop a system to enhance the sharing of information among police bureaus, I thought of it as mission impossible," Xu says.

The chemistry graduate, who possesses a master's degree in criminal technology, was clueless about where to start. Xu read related books, and consulted experts and computer companies.

One of the most challenging tasks for Xu was learning how to code the various data from different sources and input them into the system.

He contemplated engaging an external company to do the job, but the consultant wanted to charge more than 1 million yuan ($157,000), which was way too expensive for Xu, who didn't receive special funding.

"But the most difficult part of the process was not technological know-how. It was in persuading the policemen to use the system," says Xu, who became discouraged at one point.

The situation took a turn for the better when an anti-narcotics officers in Zhuhai managed to capture a suspect based on a record available in the SIS. The policeman was so grateful that he even treated Xu to lunch.

The advantages of the system became even more evident during an international air show in Zhuhai in 2010.

On the morning of the first day of the show, many people lost their belongings. By afternoon, police caught two suspects using data from the SIS. The system also revealed the information of 200 other suspects, who were connected to the duo.

It triggered a more stringent check of the air show vicinity and police caught 20 other suspects. On the second day of the show, there were zero theft reports.

"I used to work at a sub station of the public security bureau in Zhuhai. I know the difficulties faced by the policemen at the grassroots level in investigating cases," Xu says. "They deal with a lot of cases but their resources are limited. They have to travel from their office to the central bureaus to obtain information. But with SIS, everything is online, and it's faster and more efficient that way," he continues.

Jian Yinghong, who works on inter-regional cases at the intelligence section of the Public Security Bureau of Zhuhai, says: "Now, the system is the first resource we turn to in our investigation process. It has the largest database and is widely shared." Jian says the SIS not only increases efficiency but also is cost-saving.

Xu says SIS is more than a search engine. He sees it as an analytical tool, with great potential.

"Its function now is just the tip of the iceberg in being a database to help police get their job done. It has great potential, and I can't even imagine what it will evolve into eventually," says Xu, who is currently working on upgrading the system.



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