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Child Abuse Database


This essay does not describe an existing computer program, just one that should exist. This essay is about a suggested student project in Java programming. This essay gives a rough overview of how it might work. I have no source, object, specifications, file layouts or anything else useful to implementing this project. Everything I have prepared to help you is right here.

This project outline is not like the artificial, tidy little problems you are spoon-fed in school, when all the facts you need are included, nothing extraneous is mentioned, the answer is fully specified, along with hints to nudge you toward a single expected canonical solution. This project is much more like the real world of messy problems where it is up to you to fully the define the end point, or a series of ever more difficult versions of this project and research the information yourself to solve them.

Everything I have to say to help you with this project is written below. I am not prepared to help you implement it; or give you any additional materials. I have too many other projects of my own.

Though I am a programmer by profession, I don’t do people’s homework for them. That just robs them of an education.

You have my full permission to implement this project in any way you please and to keep all the profits from your endeavour.

Please do not email me about this project without reading the disclaimer above.

Tracks suspicious incidents, in themselves not conclusive, but when viewed in totality show a picture of imminent danger. This is the brainchild Alexander Investigations run by Glen Morrison, an ex-cop and private investigator. By tying together reports based on numerous small details which indicate they may refer to the same person, you can build a more complete picture of a suspect.

Imagine computing a correlation matrix of every report against every other report by how many points of similarity they had. You might then be able to group reports into related families. It would greatly help an investigator if he or she had to look only at one family of reports at a time. The computer might then report the largest families as ones most worthy of deeper investigation.

If a very serious incident were reported, such as an attempted abduction, an investigator could ask to see all reports closely related to that crucial one. One of them might contain something very valuable like a license number or very detailed physical description. Perhaps one of the suspect’s frequent haunts would come clear. From those aggregate reports, the investigator might be able to put together a picture of the suspect’s movements over time and use that to help gather more information.

The main intent is to deal with anonymous sexual predators, but the system might also work to report incidents of physically abusive parents. By seeing a large number of reports of a pattern of abuse from many different witnesses, authorities might be more willing to act in a case where the parents are good liars and pass off the results of abuse as accident proneness.

Confidentiality is very important. The whole project smacks of Big Brother is watching you. It treads on moral thin ice. Most of the reports in the database will be completely innocent. A father may be reported as lurking at a playground when he was just waiting for his daughter to finish her swimming lesson. Ideally some group independent of the police would run the database. The database would never be stored on a machine with an Internet connection and it would need to be stored in an encrypted format. Since sexual child abusers may move from city to city, ideally there should be ways of consolidating databases or exchanging information between databases for different cities. You might permit reporting suspicious events via the Internet, but you would not want the main database online.

What sort of data might you potentially record about a suspicious incident? Here is a very rough guide of the sorts of fields that would be needed. To refine the fields and multiple choice value encodings, you need to try encoding a few hundred sample suspicious event reports.

Incident Report

Person Report

Clothing Report

Vehicle Report

Matching logic would be very similar to that used in an Abundance program I wrote for the Humane Society to match lost cats with their owners. For example a match of red hair against blond is considered a partial match — better than red against black, but not as good as red against red. Some sorts of match are more important than others. You can build up a points/weighting scheme. In the Abundance Cats program I did most of the calculations for cascaded weighting, normalizing the weights at compile time and removed as much as possible of the matrix calculation out of the inner loops. This made the matching computation very fast. The databases could potentially get very large. You will need to rely on SQL (Standard Query Language) and various background batch processing. You use SQL for coarse match filtering, then weighted point scoring for fine matching.

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