George Mason University
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George Mason University

Police officer aspires to use data to fight crime

March 5, 2019   /   by Nanci Hellmich

“My ultimate goal is to make a robot that can handle investigations. We’d send it to the crime scene where it would collect data and analyze it as a human does.”

— Mochammad Yunnus Saputra, master's student in applied information technology

Police officer from Indonesia studying IT at Mason to learn more about data for solving crimes.

Mochammad Yunnus Saputra, who is getting a master's degree in applied information technology, is sharpening his engineering skills so he can use data to solve crimes in Indonesia where he has been a police officer for 13 years.

Solving a crime isn’t easy under the best of circumstances, but without good data, it can be a real mystery.

Mason Engineering master’s student Mochammad Yunnus Saputra has investigated hundreds of incidents, including high-profile murder cases, robberies, bank fraud, street crimes, financial crimes, and property crimes during his 13-year career as a police officer in Indonesia.

About 10 years ago, he realized that officers’ jobs would be easier if they had access to more data. “We did not have a criminal database at that time. I didn’t think it was the proper way to do investigations,” says Saputra, who is getting a degree in applied information technology.

He worked with a few of his computer-savvy friends to build a web application to manage the criminal investigations for the Surabaya Police Department. The Indonesian National Police modeled their system after his.

In recognition of his efforts, the Indonesian government gave him a scholarship to pursue an advanced degree. He chose Mason because “it has one of the best IT departments on the East Coast.”

The engineering coursework here has been challenging, he says, because English is not his first language, and his undergraduate degree is in police science. “It’s a big jump to applied IT, but the professors here are helping me a lot. They push me to the limit.”

Mihai Boicu, associate professor of information sciences and technology, describes Saptura as "a serious student and a good team player in my active-learning classroom."

Saputra is developing new technical skills that he wants to use to create programs that help officers solve crimes around the world. He'd also like to help create a robo-investigator. “My ultimate goal is to make a robot that can handle investigations. We’d send it to the crime scene where it would collect data and analyze it as a human does.”

But for now, “I need to get educated, go home, and help us move forward,” he says.  “I hope to network with Mason alumni who can help me build a better and safer community in Indonesia.” 

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