March 06, 2003::No.166
Homeland Security Is Faculty
In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, Rahul
Bhaskar envisioned the massive effort ahead for law enforcement
officials to not only track down those responsible, but to prevent
future acts of terrorism.
The associate professor of information systems and
decision sciences, who joined the Cal State Fullerton faculty last
fall, is harnessing the power of computer technology to meet this
challenge. He is working with law enforcement officials in Wisconsin
and the federal government to devise a new information system that
will bolster criminal case management nationwide.
Such systems are being used in high-profile cases,
such as the Washington-area sniper investigation, in which law enforcement
used a system that quickly establishes links among an agency’s
own files and with those of other departments.
“Information is located in many different places
right now,” says Bhaskar, who has received grants from the
Wisconsin Department of Justice and Division of Narcotics Enforcement
to support this effort. “Unfortunately, often one agency doesn’t
know what another agency is holding.”
One part of his undertaking is social network analysis,
which finds connections between people through various aspects of
their lives, such as friends, co-workers and memberships. This type
of information would be of great help when tracking individuals
who live in different parts of the country, says Bhaskar, but only
if a method is devised to share such information among local, state
and federal agencies.
The main goal of his efforts is to develop a system
that provides statistical information about individuals or enterprises
while preserving their privacy.
“These two requirements conflict — when
data security increases, usability decreases. The challenge then
becomes to provide as much information as possible while protecting
the confidentiality of the individuals or enterprises.”
Bhaskar has worked with Wisconsin’s Department
of Justice since 1992. Initially, he was tasked to set up a computer
information system for different law enforcement agencies to share
information, including suspect descriptions, common techniques,
and types of weapons or times when crimes occurred. In 1994, Bhaskar
received additional grants to work with Wisconsin’s Division
of Narcotics on an early version of intelligence gathering and analysis.
That system, Sherpa, integrates distributed knowledge
sources and information to help the narcotics division make decisions
about charging crime suspects, Bhaskar notes. By 1999, Sherpa was
outperforming the existing system in the identification of criminals.
Bhaskar has been a consultant to the California Bureau
of Justice and is developing a prototype of a regional intelligence-sharing
network that could link law enforcement agencies in Washington,
Oregon, Nevada and California. Currently, he is seeking contacts
with local law enforcement agencies to further his research and
development of intelligence systems.
“By developing a network of shared knowledge,
law enforcement agencies can make connections, links that can bring
criminals to justice,” says Bhaskar. “With shared knowledge
from federal agencies to state and local agencies, it brings homeland
security to a local level.”
A native of India, Bhaskar holds a doctorate from
the University of Wisconsin-Madison and resides in Irvine.
||Rahul Bhaskar, associate professor of information
systems and decision sciences, at 657-278-3328 or email@example.com
Pamela McLaren of Public Affairs at 657-278-4852 or firstname.lastname@example.org