Can analytics help disrupt vicious cycles of drugs, child abuse and crime?

SAS® Visual Investigator combats opioid problem, child abuse, crime, fraud and insider threats

The tragic patterns of child abuse, opioid addiction and other crimes are also the key to conquering them. Organizations armed with SAS® Visual Investigator can uncover hidden trends and behaviors that flag danger to a child, drug abuse and trafficking, fraud, financial crimes and insider threats and point organizations toward answers.

Part of the SAS® Viya™ family of products, SAS Visual Investigator alerts investigators, case workers or analysts to heightened risks or threats. Combining machine learning with dynamic and interactive visual workspaces, SAS enables analysts to easily grasp causes for events or alerts and act on deep analytical discoveries.

The applications of SAS Visual Investigator are diverse, but government agencies and financial institutions, in particular, are taking notice.

Predicting and protecting kids at risk

New Hanover County, NC, faces a particularly heart-wrenching challenge: rising numbers of abused and neglected children. New Hanover County has enlisted SAS Visual Investigator to identify and track risk factors for children, and help keep them alive.

New Hanover County Department of Social Services (DSS) processes 300 reports of child abuse or neglect every month. By integrating data from criminal justice and public health databases into agency data, the system will alert DSS workers to relevant changes to risks affecting a child in their charge.

It might be 911 calls from the home, arrests of family members, new individuals in the home, or new investigations. SAS’ visual presentation will make it easier for caseworkers to grasp what triggered an alert, drill into the case for details, and determine what interventions may be necessary.

SAS Visual Investigator will not only help New Hanover County reduce child fatalities. DSS also expects to lower paid placements in foster or group homes and residential treatment centers, and increase the rate of “permanency” – a permanent home for the child. As a bonus, providing a better outcome for kids could save DSS hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

Child welfare and the opioid epidemic

In the US, 91 people die from opioid abuse each day. And a baby is born dependent on opioids every 19 minutes.

The epidemic is causing the number of children in social services care to skyrocket.

In New Hanover County, the number of children taken into permanent custody because of opioids has doubled since 2013. Opioids now account for nearly 30 percent of DSS interventions. North Carolina is not alone:

  • In Vermont, the number of children in the custody of the Department of Children and Families grew 40 percent over two years. A state survey found opioid use a factor in 80 percent of cases involving a child under age 3.
  • In Indiana, some 2,600 children were removed from homes due to parental drug abuse over a six-month period ending March 2016; that’s 71 percent more than two years earlier.
  • In Massachusetts, numbers have jumped 28 percent over three years. The Mass. Department of Children and Families received reports of 3,215 infants born exposed to drugs between March 2014 and July 2015.

“The intersection of opioid abuse and child abuse and neglect is threatening to overwhelm the system,” said Wanda Marino, Assistant Director of New Hanover County DSS. “Case workers, investigators and law enforcement need to understand their data to intervene quickly and try and break this tragic cycle.”

Investigators for prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) combat the epidemic by revealing doctor-shopping patients, provider “pill mills” and networks of collaborating offenders. SAS Visual Investigator analyzes data to pinpoint suspicious behaviors among prescribers and patients, and sends detailed alerts to PDMP staff. Investigators can mitigate addiction by intervening where behavior patterns indicate a patient is at high risk to transition to heroin. They can also pass on suspicious activity to law enforcement.

Bolstering law enforcement and banking investigations

Drug trafficking, including prescription painkillers and heroin, is one of many crimes carried out by sophisticated criminal networks. SAS Visual Investigator can break through the complexity of associated public safety and law enforcement operations. The software can alert investigators to potential criminal networks, and reliably detect suspicious anomalies across an integrated view of internal and multi-agency data.

Banks face both external and internal risks associated with fraud, loan and asset management and other areas. SAS Visual Investigator’s surveillance framework and machine learning techniques detect insider threats quickly, assesses employees, and identifies potential internal sabotage, helping financial institutions protect themselves from reputational risk and limit financial losses.

A bank’s Financial Crimes Intelligence Unit can identify unknown compliance risks and exposures throughout the world, in every country where it does business. By providing a framework to consolidate anti-money laundering and fraud information, SAS Visual Investigator pinpoints siloed risks that together signal a threat. Through improved search, entity resolution, and visualization of networks, bank investigators can apply human intelligence to rapidly address risks that may not be captured by traditional transactional monitoring.

To learn more, visit and download the white paper Keeping Fraud Detection Sotware Aligned With the Latest Threats.

Today's announcement was made at SAS Global Forum, the world's largest analytics conference, with more than 30,000 business and IT users of SAS software participating on-site and online.

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Case workers can quickly get a scorecard summary view of an alert, showing factors contributing to a riskscore, as well as a narrative explaining the alert. (click image for full size version)

A “swim lane” visualization of all of the people associated with the possible victim and perpetrator gives case workers insight into report histories involving people in the child’s life.  Integrated historical data allows the case worker to surface information that can be strong indicators of risk, such as illegal drug use or a family history of abuse. (click imge for full size version)