Campus: CSU Fullerton -- March 07, 2003

Homeland Security Is Faculty Member's Focus


In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, Rahul Bhaskar envisioned the massive effort ahead for law enforcement officials to not only track down those responsible, but to prevent future acts of terrorism.

The associate professor of information systems and decision sciences, who joined the Cal State Fullerton faculty last fall, is harnessing the power of computer technology to meet this challenge. He is working with law enforcement officials in Wisconsin and the federal government to devise a new information system that will bolster criminal case management nationwide.

Such systems are being used in high-profile cases, such as the Washington-area sniper investigation, in which law enforcement used a system that quickly establishes links among an agency's own files and with those of other departments.

"Information is located in many different places right now," says Bhaskar, who has received grants from the Wisconsin Department of Justice and Division of Narcotics Enforcement to support this effort. "Unfortunately, often one agency doesn't know what another agency is holding."

One part of his undertaking is social network analysis, which finds connections between people through various aspects of their lives, such as friends, co-workers and memberships. This type of information would be of great help when tracking individuals who live in different parts of the country, says Bhaskar, but only if a method is devised to share such information among local, state and federal agencies.

The main goal of his efforts is to develop a system that provides statistical information about individuals or enterprises while preserving their privacy.

"These two requirements conflict - when data security increases, usability decreases. The challenge then becomes to provide as much information as possible while protecting the confidentiality of the individuals or enterprises."

Bhaskar has worked with Wisconsin's Department of Justice since 1992. Initially, he was tasked to set up a computer information system for different law enforcement agencies to share information, including suspect descriptions, common techniques, and types of weapons or times when crimes occurred. In 1994, Bhaskar received additional grants to work with Wisconsin's Division of Narcotics on an early version of intelligence gathering and analysis.

That system, Sherpa, integrates distributed knowledge sources and information to help the narcotics division make decisions about charging crime suspects, Bhaskar notes. By 1999, Sherpa was outperforming the existing system in the identification of criminals.

Bhaskar has been a consultant to the California Bureau of Justice and is developing a prototype of a regional intelligence-sharing network that could link law enforcement agencies in Washington, Oregon, Nevada and California. Currently, he is seeking contacts with local law enforcement agencies to further his research and development of intelligence systems.

"By developing a network of shared knowledge, law enforcement agencies can make connections, links that can bring criminals to justice," says Bhaskar. "With shared knowledge from federal agencies to state and local agencies, it brings homeland security to a local level."

A native of India, Bhaskar holds a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and resides in Irvine.

Media Contacts: Rahul Bhaskar, associate professor of information systems and decision sciences, at (714) 278-3328 or rbhaskar@fullerton.edu

Pamela McLaren of Public Affairs at (714) 278-4852 or pmclaren@fullerton.edu


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