Taking A Byte Out Of Crime

CREATING COMPOSITE sketches of crime suspects has always been a painfully slow and error-prone assignment. Now, police officers can draw, print, and fax them in color on Windows-based PCs with a program called C.R.I.M.E.S. (for Crime Reduction, Image Management, and Enhancement System) from San Diego-based ImageWare Software Inc. Part of the program, called Suspect ID, allows police to build faces in color on-screen. Another module, called C.R.I.M.E.S. Lab, shows how a criminal suspect might look after aging or trying to disguise his or her appearance.

The company sells separate modules to enhance videotape images and analyze crime records for patterns that could betray suspects. It also plans modules for analyzing signatures and comparing composite images with photo databases. C.R.I.M.E.S. is already being used by 147 police departments, the company says.

That's only a small dent in the market, however: Some 3,000 police departments around the world rely on Smith & Wesson Corp.'s Identi-Kit sets, which have long been used to create sketches by manually overlaying plates imprinted with facial parts. Roughly 500 of those customers use Smith & Wesson's two-year-old Identi-Kit software, which creates black-and-white sketches.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.