So a state trooper searched the FBI's Law Enforcement National Data Exchange, or N-DEx, which revealed the subject as a person of interest in an out-of-state drug case worked by a federal agency. The trooper contacted that agency and learned that this individual had been named in other drug-related cases in California.
Based on that information, the trooper began reaching out to other federal, state, and local agencies in California and beyond…and soon discovered that his subject was a member of a violent gang headquartered in Los Angeles that, up until then, wasn’t known to be operating in Colorado.
This process of connecting the dots between seemingly unrelated pieces of criminal data housed in different places is the backbone of N-DEx. The system enables its law enforcement users to submit certain data to a central repository—located at the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division in West Virginia—where it’s compared against data already on file from local, state, tribal, and federal agencies to identify links and similarities among persons, places, things, and activities across jurisdictional boundaries.
Until now, N-DEx—accessed through a highly secure Internet site—has only been a viable option for a relatively limited number of agencies.
Now, the FBI's about to take N-DEx to the next level: When its final phase is delivered later this month, N-DEx will truly live up to its name…and over time will be available to thousands more law enforcement and criminal justice agencies around the country.
A quick look at how N-DEx has evolved:
- 2008: The first phase gave participating agencies basic capabilities, including the ability to create link analysis charts and to search several thousand incident/case report records and arrest data to help determine a person’s true identity.
- 2009: The second phase supported 100 million searchable records and added the capability to do full-text and geospatial searches. It also enabled users to exchange information with each other and to subscribe to automatic notifications concerning people/cases of interest to them.
- This month’s third and final phase will add probation and parole information to the database, as well as enhancements to some of its existing capabilities. And best of all, the N-DEx interface has been completely redone, giving it the look and feel of a commercial search engine, complete with filters and more streamlined result sets. Now, N-DEx will now be able to support 200 million searchable records, and with future modification, that number can readily increase to two billion records.
Entering information into N-DEx is easy. Agencies participating in state or regional information-sharing systems that “feed” N-DEx don’t have to do anything. For other agencies, once their data is mapped to N-DEx, contributing data will be as easy as a monthly download and submission. And for smaller agencies without automated record management systems or with fewer records, information can be loaded manually.
Bottom line: N-DEx is a powerful investigative tool that will, according to CJIS Assistant Director Dan Roberts, “help keep our communities safer, not only by linking criminal justice data together as never before, but also by enabling investigative partnerships across jurisdictions.”