Electronic crime fighting high on Supt. Cline's list

April 5, 2004


'Information technology is changing the way we fight crime," says Chicago Police Department Supt. Philip Cline. Speaking at the City Club of Chicago, Cline described the department's award-winning Citizen Law Enforcement Analysis and Reporting system.

"Information that once took days or hours to retrieve now takes literally seconds," Cline says. "Officers tap into CLEAR on a daily basis to check criminal backgrounds of wanted offenders, map crime in a district or beat, print out mug shots and photos of distinctive scars and tattoos."

Cline is proud that CLEAR recently won a CIO Magazine Enterprise Value Award. "We beat out Fortune 500 companies such as Dell Computer, Procter & Gamble and Pfizer," Cline says. Kudos to Cline and his department's development team for their technology efforts.

Another sign that Cline's committed to safer neighborhoods in Chicago: He stays connected to his department using a state-of-the-art wireless BlackBerry device. "We bought BlackBerrys for the command staff with seizure funds," Cline said. "Now when there's a crime at 2 a.m., the entire command staff gets woken up."

Mossberg: PCs fading?

Wall Street Journal tech columnist Walter Mossberg, whose Tech Tools column appears Saturdays in the Chicago Sun-Times, predicted a declining role for personal computers as he keynoted the IT Resource Center's annual benefit.

Mossberg foresees strong potential for wireless handheld devices, and believes "the Internet is in serious jeopardy due to security and privacy issues."

Mossberg raises concerns over computer operating systems. While praising Microsoft XP, he suggests Microsoft might be too slow delivering its next version, scheduled for late 2006.

Is he bullish or bearish on tech innovation? "I'm optimistic about the digital revolution, and I'm optimistic about the United States," Mossberg says.

Resource Center Executive Director Deborah Strauss says the event raised $60,000 for the 20-year-old center, a central source of technology hardware, software and staff training for Chicago's not-for-profit organizations.

"Through the IT Resource Center's consulting and training, hundreds of organizations learn how to better use technology to realize their potential," says Shelley Stern, Microsoft community affairs manager and a center board member. "In the last few weeks, we've served Easter Seals, the Alliance of Logan Square Organizations, Life Directions, Kartemquin Films. It's civic, arts, health and disability, across the spectrum.

"We help them with the planning for their IT in their offices, train staff, sometimes we install networks."

Offshoring: pros & cons

The promise and the pain of offshoring technology was the focus of last week's forum organized by the Chicago Software Association, the United States Printed Circuit Alliance and the Union League Club's TechForum.

Ellen Barry, CIO, Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, moderated the panel, which featured Mike Blair, founder, Cyborg Systems; Joe Fehsenfeld, president USPCA; John Jasper, CEO, SEI Information Technology, and Terry Howerton, CEO, FastRoot International.

The upshot, according to Barry: "The expectations of 50 percent cost reductions are not being realized in offshoring. Ten percent to 30 percent is far more realistic. There's no question that the preparation and documentation for offshoring deals are critical. The due diligence must be complete."

Barry warns that offshore workers' math and science skills are approaching parity or exceeding U.S. workers' competencies. The panel's prescription: "Emphasize domestic math and science education." Good thought.

Nanotech capital

CNBC's Jim Cramer of Kudlow & Cramer is doing a series on nanotech. I e-mailed Cramer, proposing Chicago as a nanotech hub. Reply from Cramer: "I am certainly willing to entertain the notion of a nanotech capital of the world."

Northwestern University nanotech guru Chad Mirkin shares this prescription, so Chicago takes the nanotech title: "With the efforts at NU, Argonne, UC, and U of I, we are already close. We need more VC dollars, increased state support for the universities as well as business enterprises. We need to retain and grow the talent we have at our first-class universities and government labs."

Michael Krauss is a Chicago-based tech writer and consultant.


 ©2004 Marion Consulting Partners