Successful information sharing in law enforcement depends on information availability. Street officers want real-time information on who they are contacting or about to contact; crime analysts want to find crime trends and connect associates to supply leads to investigators; detectives want to find stolen property and ID suspects; and command staff want to see the bigger picture of what is happening within their city.
Many police departments are changing the way they manage and share data outside their agency. The “it’s mine, not yours” approach to data control does not work in the 21st century, nor does the practice of physically moving career criminals to neighboring cities to reduce your own city's crime rates. To fight crime, especially multi-jurisdictional crime, agencies must share data.
Law enforcement information sharing has improved significantly across all levels of government, improving crime prevention, response times to serial-type crimes and number of cases solved. Data sharing is not only an important aspect of solving multi-jurisdictional crimes, it is a requirement. Why? Because criminals do not care about geographical boundaries.
THE GOLDILOCKS APPROACH TO DATA SHARING
The problem of multi-jurisdictional information sharing is not the volume of information collected – officers complete citations use e-citation machines, upload data from body-worn cameras, write police reports in software-based report management systems (RMS) and complete online booking entries – the problem is finding the right information, and finding it quickly.
Agencies should use what I call the Goldilocks standard of data analytics. Too much information can lead to confusion, too little information can lead to jumping to conclusions, but finding just the right amount of information will lead to clarity.
Follow this simple three-step approach before sharing data:
1. Collect accurate information
The first step toward sharing data is collecting accurate information. Remember, it is not the volume of data you collect that counts, it is the accuracy of that data. When numbers are accidentally transposed, colors are missing, or personal identifying information is not recorded correctly, data analysis can snowball out of control. Before sharing information, make sure it is correct.
2. Pick the correct software
Picking the correct software for your agency is as important as collecting the right information. Your data is only as good as those systems (people or software) used to interpret them. Find software that:
- Is approved by your state’s criminal justice commission as you will be transmitting sensitive data;
- Is secured from unauthorized users;
- Is connected as a node – a central or connecting point of information for several agencies;
- Is capable of being cloud- or remote-based.
Software should also be able to:
- Perform partial searches on people, places and numbers;
- Capture relevant data and make it available in a timely manner;
- Identify crime trends and associations between possible suspects;
- Capable of collecting data from difference sources.
Data-sharing software should allow each agency to keep and control its own information and, at the same time, make it available for other agencies to search and retrieve. Agencies should be able to decide what information is shared, what is restricted and what is redacted.
3. Collaborate with other agencies
Police agencies must work together to solve crimes, so start the conversation now! Many municipalities share boarders or overlap with three or more agencies often only separated by a residential street or highway.
Make sure your agencies agree with what can and cannot be shared via data-sharing software and make sure data is collected accurately.
Being able to easily and quickly access crime data from neighboring agencies can help locate multi-jurisdictional criminals and identify regional crime trends. Work with each other to solve these crimes instead of independently trying to build your own case.
Opening the doors to agency data sharing will automatically lead to interagency collaboration. Data sharing accelerates law enforcement investigations by allowing agencies to reliably search information from outside their agency, helping catch criminals and reduce crime.
DATA SHARING IN ACTION
In 2018, I investigated a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme. My agency did not have any information I needed outside of the victim information.
I knew the main suspect lived in Scottsdale, Arizona, but worked in Tempe and Phoenix. He committed felony crimes in Arizona in Mesa, Chandler and Scottsdale, as well as Las Vegas, Nevada, Colorado Springs, Colorado, and a handful in California and Hawaii. I needed to find information about two suspects and three victims from 12 different jurisdictions.
My agency participates in data sharing with other agencies, which made solving this case significantly easier and a lot faster.
During my interagency search, I discovered Chandler and Scottsdale PDs had open investigations on my suspect. Using data-sharing software, I was able to tie both suspects with all three victims within minutes. This was the key needed to solve this case.
Without data-sharing software, it would have taken months of subpoenaing banks and businesses, and weeks of waiting for interagency responses just to make this link.
About the author
Detective Joshua Lee works in the Organized Crime Section for the Mesa (Arizona) Police Department. Joshua specializes in asset forfeiture and white-collar crimes including crypto-crimes.
Joshua earned a B.A. in Justice Studies, a M.S. in Legal Studies and is a Certified Fraud Examiner. He is an adjunct law and criminal justice professor at a large national university and smaller regional college. He also instructs police in-service training, teaches at the regional police academy and is a financial crimes consultant for banks and financial institutions throughout the State of Arizona.This article originally appeared on PoliceOne.com. Read it here.
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