Friday, 21 March 2008

TRACFED Demo and Trial

I am setting up a demonstration and trial of TRACFED, . It’s a database containing data from many Federal agencies and offices and analytical tools for facilitating empirical research.

What is TRACFED:
TRAC = Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse
Syracuse University – non-profit, non-partisan research center; est. 1989
Co-sponsored by the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications & the Martin J. Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University.
Now has offices at Syracuse University, in Washington, D.C. & California.
TRAC ( is a free public website that contains the data collected from the federal government
TRACFED ( is a subscription “data mining application”. Makes it possible to produce useful reports with minimal effort.

What data is contained in TRACFED:
Federal government data obtained largely through the Freedom of Information Act as well as readily available fed data ( e.g. Census data)
Unique in that they proactively go out and get data using FOIA requests and lawyers to back them up; they have gathered data no other database has.
Partial list of agencies tapped for info:
Department of Homeland Security
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Internal Revenue Service
Drug Enforcement Administration
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
Administrative Offices of the US Court
Environmental Protection Agency
Executive Office for Immigration Review
Office of Personnel Management
Mapping tool easily displays data by state, county and city.
Geographic boundaries
Population trends for calculating rates
Inflation rates for calculating constant / real dollars
Historical information to capture organizational change
Changes in data recording
Examples of how TRACFED has been used for empirical research:
§ Article on how serious crime on Indian reservations goes unpunished: TRACFED provided detailed info about all the matters that the government had investigated but decided not to prosecute.
§ Article about federal enforcement priorities: data from TRACFED showed that under the Bush administration there’s been a dramatic decline in the prosecution of white collar criminals, corrupt government officials and organized crime bosses.
§ Study using TRACFED showed inexplicable disparities in how immigrants seeking asylum are being treated
§ Study of federal prosecution in KY of police officers accused of civil rights abuses showed that only one of 294 cases was prosecuted.
§ Study of trends over time and regional variation of Brady Bill enforcement including declinations, prosecutions, convictions, and sentencing.

More information:
The website has many short (1 minute or less) video tutorials on using TRACFED for topical research. Examples:
Criminal Enforcement: Lead Charge (US Code Title and Section)
Criminal Enforcement: Dept. of Justice Program
Federal Judges: Available Information
Homeland Security Available Information
Civil Enforcement: Detailed Cause of Action
Civil Enforcement: Investigative Agency

There is an article available in HeinOnline about TRACFED and its usefulness for legal scholars: 17 Trends L. Libr. Mgmt. & Tech. 61 (2007) Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse and the TRACFED Data Warehouse by Roberge, Linda ; Long, Susan; Burnham, David; Hassett, Patricia.

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