4. Tracking


Tracking by Computer

Since 1996, when the first edition of this manual was written, there has been an enormous increase in the use of the Internet. We strongly advise anyone doing follow-up on treatment participants to take full advantage of computer resources. They are described throughout this manual, but all primary methods are discussed here. Those of you who are using the online version of this manual will be able to click on the embedded links ( in blue and underlined ) and your Web browser will automatically take you to that site.

Search Engines

A search engine helps you sort through the millions of sites on the Web and find the ones relevant to your needs. You put in your search terms, such as "social death index" for the Social Security Death Index, and click "search." We have found Google to be much better than most search engines. It seems that the site you need is always at or near the top of its listings. Google is highly rated among evaluators and has the highest rating from SearchEngineWatch.com. For each entry, Google has the useful option of searching for similar pages. Another excellent search engine is AllTheWeb.com.

Although not actually a search engine, PeopleSearch.net links to and launches searches simultaneously in 15 different Web-based directories (both white pages and e-mail). This can save much time, but can also crash some older computers and is best done with a high-speed Internet connection. It also loads you up with Web advertising. You can find it at:

Web-based White Pages

Web-based white page services have a number of advantages. They are inexpensive, fast, and have information options that might take many calls to Directory Assistance to obtain. These options include look-ups within an entire state (or even the entire country), reverse look-up by phone number or address, and e-mail look-up. Some even provide hints to improve your search results. They also have some disadvantages, the main ones being (1) listings that are not up to date (they can be six months to a year old) with no information about how old current listings are, (2) poor quality reverse look-up compared to cross-reference directory services such as Haines, (3) no information about unlisted numbers (Directory Assistance will, at least, tell you that someone's number is unlisted), and (4) incorrect zip codes (double check all zip codes). Despite these disadvantages, Web-based white pages are a very useful and inexpensive source of information. Below are the ones that we have found most useful:

The Ultimate White Pages 1, 2

Bigfoot 1, 2
http://www.bigfo o t.com/


InfoUSA.com 1
http:// w ww.infousa.com/fs/consumer.htm

SuperPages.com 1
http://directory.superpages. c om/people.jsp?SRC=&rtd=wp1.superpages.com-154110

1 Reverse look-up available
2 E-mail look-up available

The Ultimate White Pages is unique in that it allows you to enter information only once and then search multiple white page directories. The directories included are Whitepages.com, Infospace, Yahoo, WhoWhere, Switchboard, and AnyWho. Try them out and you will see that the information provided by these directories varies. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and you will find both reverse look-up and map searches. Bigfoot uses Whitepages.com for its phone number search, but has more extensive e-mail listings than many others. EscapeArtist connects you to white pages in countries throughout the world (not all countries have directories online) and provides the dialing codes. InfoUSA.com appears to have fairly up-to-date information on phone numbers, but the neighborhood data they include with the listing is not to be relied on. SuperPages is a Verizon service and appears to have very extensive listings. Additional white page services are available on the Web, but keep in mind that one service may go by multiple names. For example, Four11.com is the same as Yahoo, and 411locate.com and Dogpile People Search both use Infospace for their white pages.

NOTICE: The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Health and Human Services, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Zip Code Look-Up

This is a helpful service provided by the U.S. Post Office and is useful when a client has provided a street address, but no zip. It is also useful in identifying bogus addresses. If a street address you enter does not exist, the service will return an error message with an explanation.

Public Records Web sites

States and counties often have at least some of their public records online. One Web site we have come across, Fosson.com, has links to many of them throughout the country.

Criminal Justice Web sites

Many drug abusers in publicly funded programs have come into contact with the criminal justice system (CJS) and may be located using CJS information. The recent proliferation of CJS Web sites has made this process much easier. For example, just a few years ago, if we wanted to find out if any of our evaluation clients were in Los Angeles County Jail, we had to drive to the downtown jail, pick up a 3-inch high printout of inmates, bring it back to the office, and painstakingly look up every one. We did this every week and a lot of staff time was spent just in obtaining the list. Now, all we have to do is search on the Sheriff's Department Web site, and, the information is updated daily. Today, many inmates in county jails, state prisons, and federal prison can be located via the Internet. Not every county and state has its inmate list on the Web, but many do and every month it seems that more are available. If your county or state doesn't list inmates now, just wait a month or two and check back. That's how we found the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department inmate locator site. See Section 5.2, Criminal Justice System Information Sources, for federal, state, and county information and Web sites on locating prisoners.

Web-based Search Services

We have never used private Web-based search services that charge a fee, such as USSearch. Therefore, we cannot advise you about their usefulness. You can directly access the same databases they do, so why pay them to do it?

Other Web Resources

There are many other useful links that we have used for tracking and locating during the revision of this manual. Note, however, that the links the sites provide may be broken (i.e., referring to a Web page that has been moved or taken down). Below, are the ones we have found most useful.