In the information age, it is more true than ever that knowledge is power. For security professionals, the precise knowledge of what has transpired when a security breach occurs is key to preventing a recurrence and, in the best cases, catching the criminals. Accurate and reliable incident report information is as critical to the security mission as state-of-the-art access control. As the following case study involving West Virginia law enforcement illustrates, training officers to observe and report is only half the battle. Something as simple as a well-designed report form can make the difference between a successfully investigated case and a hopeless one. In March 1993, a technical paper by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), "New and Emerging Technologies for Improved Data Collection," reported that law enforcement was failing to include vehicle identification numbers (VIN) on between 40 and 50 percent of completed motor vehicle accident reports, some involving criminal activity. Why? Were criminals cleverly hiding the numbers? Were police poorly trained? Ironically, the answer was simply that some officers were given forms without enough space for the seventeen digit number. The consequence was not only poor data for insurance companies and other private industry users but also unsolved cases of auto theft and insurance fraud, leaving the criminals free to continue their schemes. The DOT report inspired a highly coordinated partnership between West Virginia officials, law enforcement, and the state university. The group was determined to improve the data collection process for motor vehicle accidents.
West Virginia University, School of Medicine, Institute of Occupational and Environmental Health, Morgantown, West Virginia