Joe Friday Meets Joe Purchaser

Wherein law enforcement and purchasing fight a common enemy: confusion

Eau Claire, WI and Keene, NH  August 6, 2001  Police work is a traumatic yet moving business carried out by sexy and caring men and women who are able to solve the most complex cases in either one hour on television or about an hour and a half in the movies. (The extra time allows for more product placement.) At some point, every case has to involve a loose-cannon type who refuses to play by the rules or someone who is retiring in a week and really doesn't need this hassle. At least that's the image you'd get if you based your perceptions on popular culture. (Not a good idea, by the way.)

In reality, police work is a largely thankless job with hours of bureaucratic drudgery and mind-numbing paperwork. In addition, all that evidence that's outlined with chalk and then raked into plastic bags has to be accounted for. (This is no mean feat when you consider that the FBI recently admitted it had lost more than 400 guns and 175 computers.) While the average corporate buyer rarely, if ever, has to deal with evidence, he does have to deal with tracking of parts and shipments. And that's where the world of purchasing and crimefighting intertwine.

The BackTrack Group, a division of StrandWare, is offering a specialized module, developed by specialty label manufacturer Electronic Imaging Materials (EIM) that enables law enforcement personnel to label, track and control evidence. Offered as a free add-on to StrandWare's BackTrack tracking software, it provides an inexpensive way for large and small law enforcement agencies to ensure that evidence is properly controlled from the time it is collected until the case is closed.

The BackTrack Evidence Tracking system presents customizable tracking fields that enable law enforcement personnel, using handheld bar code scanners, to control the storage and movement of evidence. Users can record chain of custody through user check in/check out. The system allows users to add physical descriptions, case information, officer identification, and subject information right in the record. Additionally, evidence can be cross-referenced to other evidence items or files.

Each time the evidence is moved or checked out, the item is scanned to record the time, location, responsible person and other pertinent information. Using the inventory number, or any other field, the system provides reports on the chain of custody of the item. The system also provides reports on the cases, including evidence, officers, subject, and, for specific cases, reports on all information about a case. Reports are customizable to suit specific needs. All information that is needed for reporting can be set up to be tracked in user-defined fields in the BackTrack databases.

Alex Henkel, executive vice president at Electronic Imaging Materials, said, "Each industry has its particular requirements for tracking. Law enforcement is extremely demanding since the proper control of evidence is critical. Cases have been lost due to the improper handling of evidence. This system uses BackTrack's core capabilities to deliver an easy-to-use, inexpensive system that is ideal for both small and large departments."

BackTrack is a comprehensive tracking system that includes a label designer, report designer and a series of databases, including those for user, location and transaction history. BackTrack applications also have security settings to allow some users access to only certain data, such as officer identification, or only to reports that include restricted information. This helps ensure that administrators can appropriately control information.

The application announced today is part of the BackTrack Applications Library, which is a series of applications for business, government and other organizations. The applications, developed by systems integrators and end users, are prepackaged templates that allow users to implement fully developed solutions or use them as starting points for their own special tracking needs. In addition to the evidence tracking application, the library includes applications for clinical labs, the law profession, manufacturing equipment tracking and maintenance, food handling, child protection and government agencies.