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Software Sleuthing: Juniata IT and Criminal Justice Students Learn New Program

(Posted April 5, 2004)

Liz Wiinamaki, associate professor of criminal justice and social work, explains the intricacies of the computer program Analyst\'s Notebook.

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Sitting at a computer screen, located perhaps in a detective squadroom, a tent in Iraq, or even in a college classroom, investigators using a single software product can track a suspect by analyzing links between individuals and locations obtained from financial data, phone logs, airline ticketing information, or family genealogies -- all with just a couple of keystrokes.

Criminal justice and information technology students at Juniata College receive similar training on this cutting-edge security software, called Analyst's Notebook, as part of a new course developed by Liz Wiinamaki, associate professor of criminal justice and social work, and Bill Thomas, assistant professor of information technology. The course, called simply enough, Analyst's Notebook, is recommended for information technology and criminal justice students and is suggested as a complementary course to Juniata's Issues in Law Enforcement course.

"Tech tools increase the competency and marketability of our graduates," says Wiinamaki. "Many colleges and universities offer criminal justice programs, but our graduates have an edge for employment due to Analyst's Notebook."

"Analyst's Notebook is very widely used by federal agencies, and learning it would give me an amazing jump up on graduates who aren't familiar with the program," says Jared Russell, a senior from Altoona, Pa. interested in pursuing a federal law enforcement career. "This is an opportunity that not many students have, and it would be foolish to pass it up."

Analyst's Notebook is a product of i2 Inc., a British company (its first customer was Scotland Yard) that now has 2,000 customers in more than 160 countries. A short list of its clients include the FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Customs Service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Central Intelligence Agency. According to Newsweek and the Washington Post, Analyst's Notebook was used to pinpoint Saddam Hussein and is also a major aid in the search for Osama bin Laden.

This month, i2 publicized their innovative Collegiate Partner Program, designed to help train more technology-savvy analysts and investigators. Juniata was one of the first six members of what is now an 11-member consortium of institutions that includes Auburn University, Central Michigan University, Mercyhurst College, St. Joseph's University and Utica College. Juniata received $92,000 in free software and licenses for 20 students, as well as free training for professors Wiinamaki and Thomas.

Described as data visualization and investigative analysis software, Analyst's Notebook is able to collate and analyze huge amounts of raw information in a variety of formats and allow its users to create easily understood charts that can reveal links between individual relationships, chronological relationships and a variety of other data values.

"In technical terms, it's a really cool front end to a huge back end data store that is user-friendly to navigate," says Thomas, with a smile. "A simple example is that this software will reveal patterns in an individual's phone records almost immediately, while without the software an investigator would have to spend hours and hours looking at phone records."

The interdisciplinary one-credit course will be offered every year at Juniata as a one-credit co-requisite.

Wiinamaki says Juniata encourages criminal justice students to deeply incorporate information technology into their course selections as a double major or a minor. "This year I will be one of the few students in the country who will graduate with extensive training on Analyst's Notebook," Russell says. "That is a huge advantage in a world where the job market is so competitive."

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.