Connecting Resources to Solve Crimes

Successfully linking law enforcement data between multiple agencies has become a reality.

Results like that contributed to its acceptance. "It caught on like wildfire once they saw benefits to its use," Cordray adds. Those hesitant about inputting nicknames and tattoos realized the more they put in, the more they'll get out, she adds. In daily use, they also discovered they could run a name and get a full picture of the suspect's movement pattern — phone numbers, previous addresses, stops by police, all the people they associated with. And adding information is not really any additional work (beyond inputting for their own RMS). The SCIEx database is automatically populated or replicated, that is all data in a standard incident report is replicated and sent as an exact copy from the department's RMS to the main data warehouse.

Lessons learned

Though the project moved smoothly from the start, those involved do recall some lessons learned throughout development.

"The biggest thing is to get the governance structure in place," notes Olsen. "The most important piece of this turned out to be politics, not the technology. If a group of agencies interested in developing a project like this gets together and sets up the governance structure and working groups to make decisions, then they'll be successful."

Sewell adds, "You need to find someone with technical skills and the ability to pull all agencies together to get them to buy in to the system. NLECTC did it for us."

In the planning stages, some believed street officers wouldn't have the time or inclination to use the database and wanted to keep access at the investigator level. It turned out those officers use it to a great extent, running queries at night when no one is there. Cordray does not regret including officers: "We got a lot of cooperation from them."

"All law enforcement should be sharing info," she stresses. "[After all,] we're all doing the same job."

Many involved in this project recognize NLECTC's guidance throughout the process, providing the technical expertise and funding. In some cases, having the heads of various agencies coming together on a project could be difficult, with sensitive information at hand, personal egos and too many people trying to call the shots. Hare gives credit to NLECTC for serving as the liaison and providing an even standing to those involved. "It took territorial issues and egos completely out of the picture," she says. "I think this was one of the things that made this project much more manageable than it [might] have been."

SCIEx's future

"I think the next step will be to go mobile with it," adds Sewell. "Officers on the street, without having to come to the station for a computer terminal, will be able to obtain the same information."

Smith points out that with SCIEx, they are clearing 300 warrants each month, which is probably at least four or five times as many as before, and helping with a huge backlog of work. He notes most of these warrants aren't the ones where you're knocking on someone's door telling them there's a warrant out for them — it's mainly from traffic stops. Smith credits police dispatchers with running the information through the data system and coming up with these hits. "Our dispatch center, which is the key to all communications, also has been the key to this communications endeavor," he boasts.

Because the software is not vendor-dependent, NIJ can provide others with a baseline system, explains Knight. As a result, the State of South Carolina was able to acquire the ITIP system in its original form and adapt it for SCIEx, using fiscal year (FY) 2005 and 2006 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grant funding for information sharing at the state level.

Last year the vendor community was invited to participate by creating the interfaces for the proprietary systems, which dramatically reduces the cost for something like this. So far, six or seven vendors have created interfaces, and as Phase I nears its conclusion, there are approximately 130 agencies automatically sharing all information contained in the standard SCIEx incident report. When two more vendors come online in the next few months, 60 more agencies will be added. Knight anticipates all remaining vendors will be approached this year to provide compatibility to the LEADR model, and virtually all agencies in South Carolina will be connected in time.

NIJ's Office of Science and Technology (OS&T) adopted SCIEx implementation as a center project at NLECTC-SE to serve as a model for others to emulate. NIJ also has provided funding for management of the project in the NLECTC-SE budget and in two additional small supplemental appropriations for technology and system enhancement in the program year 2006 budget.

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