A young girl and a man were recently found murdered in a parked car in a Boston suburb

A young girl and a man were recently found murdered in a parked car in a Boston
suburb. The police found no clues in the car, and the case seemed doomed to the
“unsolved” file. Then detectives found a witness who had seen a car pause by the
murdered couple’s vehicle. His description placed the car as a 1950 or 1951 Chevrolet.
Ordinarily, searching through the files for owners of elderly Chevies would have been
an impossibly difficult task because there were two and a half million registered cars. In
this case, the police had a powerful ally: the computer.
The Boston Registry of Motor Vehicles programmed its computer to screen all 1950
and 1951 Chevrolets within a fifteen-mile radius of the suburb – the area in which the
police believed the murderer was most likely to be found. Within minutes, the computer
uncovered one thousand of the wanted cars. A few hours of careful hand screening
turned up a 1950 Chevrolet owner who lived close to the scene of the crime and who
had received many traffic tickets. He was among the first suspects to be investigated,
and evidence linking him to the murdered couple was found. He was taken into custody,
and is now awaiting trial.
This culprit is just one of a steadily growing number of lawbreakers captured by
computers, which many police consider the most important crime-busting device
inaugurated since the patrol car and police radio. Police department computers are doing
everything from identifying crooks by analyzing their working habits and fingerprints to
forecasting crime hot spots. Take fingerprints, for example.
Not long ago, a burglar looted a New York store. As part of his nightly cleanup
procedure, the manager had wiped off the glass counter top. Detectives dispatched to
the scene, found it smudged with fresh prints, only one of which was sharp. After the
fingerprint was analysed with a computer, the criminal was found and arrested within a
few hours. It was the kind of case which once would have gone unsolved because it
would have taken a small army of clerks years to thumb through the files looking for a
print that matched up.

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