By Detective (Ret.) Hunter Padgett
Today, criminals are increasingly adopting new and innovative technologies or inventing new tradecraft to fund and support their nefarious activities. With technology becoming more pervasive and easier to use, criminals are becoming more effective in working around Law Enforcement (LE) to conduct their illegal activities. In parallel, LE agencies must be agile and more adaptive to transform how they investigate/ prosecute criminals and their organizations. LE must adopt new methodology, tradecraft, and technology to combat gangs and their illegal operations. To start the process of combatting crime, LE agencies must modernize their ability to trace criminal activity so that they can keep up with the emerging trends of the criminal element.
The Ineffective Approach
LE agencies are using antiquated methods and techniques to track criminal activity. The current, outdated, method of tracking is through the “org chart” technique. This technique is conducted by identifying people or persons who are located at a particular geographic area. The people are grouped together on an org chart and labeled based on the location they were identified at and the assumption of their involvement in criminal activity/ criminal organization. This process is highly flawed and is very ineffective because of inaccuracies and in-efficiency.
The way the people on the org chart are labeled and what their assumed criminal involvement is based on bias and opinion of the LE agent who puts them in the chart. These opinion-generated assumptions are typically not supported by facts/ measurables and thus, they create inaccuracies. Inaccuracies generate more work for anyone who wants to utilize the org chart to begin an investigation, generate intel, or conduct enforcement.
The org chart is also too slow to keep up with emerging crime trends. It requires human involvement, is often paper based, and has an out of date update model. In the LE world, law enforcement personnel move at a snail’s pace due to issues beyond their control. They only work 8 to 12-hour shifts, and when they are present, it takes too long for them to convert raw data into actionable intelligence. To be efficient, this process would need to be constantly updated/ maintained with near real time information, lessen human involvement in the process, and requires electronic reporting with a digital distribution model.
Police Interaction Tracing
Modern LE organizations are implementing “Police Interaction Tracing” (PIT) capabilities to transform how they conduct crime fighting operations by fusing their data with analytics. To be successful in conducting PIT, agencies on the cutting edge are combining real-time access to all of their criminal data sources with data analytics, data collection automation and visualization to compress the time to make informed policing decisions.
PIT seamlessly integrates a broad set of data sets that contains vital information from across the police force. It enables LE end users (gang unit members, detectives, officers, LE intel officers, etc.) to submit computer investigative queries to the system to understand facts that are “in support of” (ISO) an investigation or case, ingest that data and present it within an analytical environment. For example, anytime a criminal comes in contact with the police, the interaction is documented in electronic format that records vital information (name, DOB, identification number, the location of the interaction, and when the interaction occurred (date/time)). There are four primary interactions or trace data that is required to support PIT. These include:
- Car stops
- Field interviews (citizen contacts)
- Calls for service
The interaction reports are typically captured in Record Management System (RMS), or Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD); which, are already being used by most police departments. The PIT system requires an authorized end user to submit a simple question (i.e., data query) to the PIT. The system generates factual data and information from the trace data derived from the interaction reports, CAD/RMS and other LEA data sources, enabling the LE organization to make more informed decisions ISO the investigation or case. This process requires substantially less human interaction and can be distributed electronically. Over time, the LE Analyst becomes more familiar with their data which enables the process to become more predictive over time as criminal trends and patterns are recognized.
The PIT data is most effective when displayed on a geospatial, digital map in near real-time. When the PIT data displays police interaction points on a map, it provides the end users more accurate situational awareness around locations and criminal trends during a set time range. Because all the data is stored and time stamped in the PIT’s database, end users can go back in time and recreate a more detailed common operations picture (COP) of criminal activity to understand how crime trends have changed for different filtered time periods. There are a multiplicity of geospatial programs that LEAs can use to display that data.
By layering in COMSTAT crime data, and leveraging analytical platforms like i2 Analyst’s Notebook, the user can determine relationships, and non-obvious relationships activities (NORA – Jeff Jonas) that the human LE officers cannot see or understand. This provides accurate/ unique insight as to how criminal activity might be correlated with certain kinds of crime/ violence.
As a supervisor, understanding how all of this data and information is synchronized, processed and related allows decision makers to invent new LE strategies that is quick to detect how and where crime trends are changing to thwart LE operations. Fact based crime strategies can be an effective way to manage limited resources to do more with less. Leveraging human intelligence data and application of technologies as part of “Police Interaction Tracing” is a game changer for LE agencies that must do more, with less.
Gang Use Case
LE Agencies can effectively trace and get ahead of crime trends influenced by gang activity. This process is completed by filtering their PIT data by a list of their validated gang members (i.e., identifying every location a validated gang member has interacted with a LE agent). Next, the filtered PIT data was color coded based on gang set membership and plotted on a geospatial map with layered COMSTAT crime data. From this process, they were able to detect where gang activity was taking place and where certain gang sets were operating. They were also able to determine how rival gangs interacting in proximity were related to current crime trends. The results allowed a supervisor to prepare effective crime fighting strategies to disrupt, disperse, and dismantle the ongoing activity; thus, breaking the ongoing crime trends.
Implementing PIT / Blue Fusion
To properly trace gang activity in near real time, LE agencies require a next generation solution that brings new innovative tradecraft and techniques, coupled with automated and modernized technologies together. Here are some considerations:
1) Agencies need a manner to document all police interactions electronically. Electronic reporting allows the end user to query near real time information from the data stores. Paper based reporting can take upwards of 2 weeks to get to the data store.
2) LE agencies need technology to connect disparate data sources, such as RMS, CAD, and other internal potentially external databases.
3) This disparate data needs to be formatted in a consistent manner so that it can be ingested by an intelligent, automated analytical platform and presented in a “single pane of glass” like i2 Analyst’s Notebook to decrease the time necessary to make informed police decisions.
4) They need an analytical platform that acts as a common operating picture that fuses data from a myriad of LE intelligence spectrums. For our use case, we will be drawing data from both Human Intelligence (HUMINT) (police interactions) and Geo Spatial Intelligence (GEOINT) (points on a map).
- LE Leadership will be able to use the PIT approach to make informed decisions based on factual near real time information.
- Saves 60% of an analyst’s time providing significant costs savings. Allowing an analyst to more than double their effectiveness. Calculated per https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/lpd13ppp.pdf
- Provides invaluable ability to thwart criminal activity through disruption, dispersion, and dismantling crime trends.
- The PIT system becomes more predictive over time, enabling LEAs to become more effective in identifying new criminal trends and conducting more effective policing operations.
The technical solution to enable PIT operations already exists in today’s market. Blue Light LLC has been effectively distributing this solution to LE agencies across the nation with its Blue Fusion™ platform. With its patented ability to connect and search disparate LE data sources with one click, embedded i2 Analysts Notebook and ability to interface with geospatial platforms like ESRI, Google, Live Earth and more, Blue Fusion provides LE organizations an affordable way for LE agencies to fulfill the technical requirements for Police Interaction Tracing (PIT) in near real time.
Additionally, they have experienced LE professionals who are working side by side with LE agencies throughout the world to invent, perfect and train officers in using these capabilities to modernize their force and combat the criminal element.
For more information on Blue Fusion, its capabilities and special LE pricing, please visit www.bluefusion.com.
For more information on Blue Fusion and these capabilities, please contact Detective (Ret.) Hunter Padgett, firstname.lastname@example.org, 919-436-4170, https://www.linkedin.com/in/hunter-padgett-08726923/.
About the Author: Detective (Ret.) Hunter Padgett medically retired from the Baltimore Police Department in 2018 from injuries sustained during a police-involved shooting. During his time at the Baltimore Police Department, he worked with counter-controlled dangerous substance (CDS) enforcement units, gang intelligence unit, HIDTA, and as an analyst. He has over 8 years of experience in the LE industry and is motivated to continue the mission in supporting his brothers/ sisters in blue. He has leveraged his direct industry knowledge to help combat the criminal element and raise the bar for LE agencies across the nation. He currently supports local, state, and federal governments, in the mission to uphold the thin blue line.