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Departments : First Look

Inspector Gadget

Merlin Information Services' upgraded Website and multi-database search tool help detectives connect the dots.

October 30, 2009  |  by - Also by this author


Merlin Information Services

If you've ever run an Internet search you know that there's plenty of information out there, but it's difficult to find what you're looking for. For investigators, Merlin Information Services provides access to public record and other targeted databases to locate people, look for assets, and otherwise obtain information needed to solve cases.

Databases available to search via Merlin Information Services include Link to America Pro, which is a proprietary people search database; reverse phone look-up; driver's license information; national and state criminal databases; and a cell phone database.

Merlin provides versions of these databases to law enforcement that are not available to the general public. Whereas a courthouse might make its information available to anyone, it will be the truncated version that withholds the full Social Security numbers and dates of birth of those mentioned in documents. Merlin provides full access to law enforcement clients so they can cross-reference sensitive data that could help them catch criminals.

For example, "It's very common with Link to America for a detective to have a person's Social Security number, run it through the system, get the results, and then find the most current address and phone number for that person," says Todd Twete, Merlin's vice president of sales and marketing. Additionally, searches can uncover a subject's links to other people who might provide key information that's not always immediately evident to investigators working on the case.

"Address info can be helpful with an elusive subject who might be literally on the run," says Twete. "You might want to know the addresses of suspects' relatives because they'll often end up staying with them. Or maybe a detective doesn't find the suspect there, but he's called the relative to let her know where he's at." Or a relative who pops up in a search as living in the next town over might be the suspect's partner in crime.

To further improve investigations, Merlin's new multi-search capability MerLink provides what Twete calls a "one-stop shop" for database searching. It allows the investigator to enter information only once to search several databases.

"If I need to go to Website A, B, and C for different data at each, it's not as efficient. With MerLink, I could run one search and find them all," says Twete. "They can all be linked via investigative report."

MerLink includes searches into national credit headers, national white pages data, national assets, and a variety of current and historical California databases. Like other Merlin databases, customers will still be able to "dig deeper" from the MerLink results by using a secondary menu to search further into individual specialty databases.

Most Merlin customers search databases via Merlin's Website, www.merlindata.com. Some agencies choose to use their own Websites or intranets powered by Merlin's data to make use of an infrastructure already in place. Regardless of the set-up, Merlin Information Systems ensures that all transactions are secure.

"Even when we're powering a Website and transmitting information over the Internet, it's encrypted and some of the latest Internet security technologies are used to keep it safe," Twete explains.

Merlin's services are available in several tiered pricing structures, including access to only certain databases or payment on a search by search basis. But subscriptions, available monthly, quarterly, and yearly, are the most popular with law enforcement agencies.

"One, because it's budget friendly," says Twete. "But those who actually put their fingers on the keyboards doing the searching will readily tell you that they feel like they can do a better job as an investigator if they don't have to worry about 'the meter running.' If I do a subscription and can search to my heart's content because it's a flat fee, I'll just keep digging until I find the information I need and I can feel good about the investigative job I'm doing."

Visit Merlin Information Services Online

Tags: Merlin Information Services, Records Management, Software

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