After witnesses reported seeing “Sugar” tattooed on the back of a New York City robber’s neck, detectives manning banks of computers checked the New York Police Department’s tattoo database and made a quick identification of a suspect, which led to an arrest, reports the Associated Press. It was another triumph for the city’s Real Time Crime Center. Mayor Michael Bloomberg hailed the $11 million center as the first of its kind and predicted it “will transform the way we solve crime.”
The 37,000-officer NYPD, the nation’s largest, has increasingly turned to technology in the hope of preserving steep declines in reports of serious crime since the early 1990s. This month, it installed the first of hundreds of surveillance cameras expected to keep an eye on high-crime neighborhoods. The crime center was launched last year based on the theory that real-time tips would “increase the likelihood that we can catch criminals before they strike again,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. The database describing tattoos of convicted criminals is the “tip of the high-tech iceberg,” says AP. It contains 120 million city records of criminal complaints, warrants and 911 calls dating back 10 years. It also has 5 million state criminal and parole records and 35 billion property and other public records.