Social Network Investigation: West’s CLEAR software
Application’s comprehensive search includes the internet social scene
By Scott M. Bruner
The internet offers a wealth of information on nearly any topic, and for law enforcement, it’s an essential resource. One piece of software that can significantly aid investigations is CLEAR, offered by West, a Thomson Reuter’s business.
A powerful, internet-based, search tool, CLEAR allows investigators to easily access comprehensive, current information including cell phone and utility data. It is the first product to incorporate public record content with open web content such as social networking sites. CLEAR allows investigators to collect, analyze, visualize and disseminate information using its proprietary charting and mapping features.
"CLEAR is a one-stop shop," Andy Russell, senior director at West, said. "It can search through all of the available public records information, but can also at the same time search publicly available social networking web sites. It can help the investigator find where a suspect spends his Saturday nights through websites like Facebook, and can even find unique information such as what bowling league a suspect might belong to."
CLEAR is able to access over one trillion web pages, including most major social networks and chat rooms, business information sites, official sex offender and terrorist watch lists, as well as hundreds of national and international newspapers, magazines, and newswires.
CLEAR was released in May 2008, as the spiritual successor to AutoTrackXP. While AutoTrackXP was designed for a number of applications, including insurance investigations, CLEAR was designed specifically for the law enforcement community.
"CLEAR was instrumental in solving a murder case from about a year and a half ago. Agents needed to contact a witness for a follow-up interview. We were unable to locate a current address for the witness. I had just received training on the new CLEAR platform and utilized the search function to obtain a valid address. Contact was made which led to an arrest in the case. Trial is pending early 2010," a federal intelligence analyst said.
One of the things that sets CLEAR apart from other investigative search engines are the unique data sets it has access to, as well as live gateways to data providers. Its interface is straightforward offering users a number of easy-to-use menus for searching databases for suspect information.
CLEAR is accessed through an online interface on West's home page and can be used by any computer with Internet access. It is sold on a fixed flat rate that is flexible based on the agency size.
West is a leading provider of public and proprietary records to law enforcement and other investigative agencies. More than 3,000 federal, state and local government agencies and police departments rely on West to get information. You can visit them at http://west.thomson.com/.
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