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C.R.I.M.E Fights Crime with Intelligence-led Policing

Written by Brad Brewer

The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) in Vancouver, British Columbia has always been a leader in the field of law enforcement technology. As far back as 1979 when the VPD was the first in the world to put a computer (Motorola 9031) in a police vehicle. It was a project sponsored by Canada’s National Research Council (NRC). McDonald-Detwiler was the contractor. The back-end computer system was a PDP-11 minicomputer, quite popular at the time and built by Digital Equipment Corp. out of Maynard, MA. The data channel was in the 2 meter band, just below the ham band in the 143 MHz range on the department’s own private radio data network. It used FM for modulation, with FSK (frequency shift keying). The data rate was 9,600 bps. The encoding scheme purported to be “encrypted,” but it was really just a rudimentary “security through obscurity” approach. This allowed a connection to the Canadian Police Information Center (CPIC), Motor Vehicle Branch database, and limited access to the departments in-house records management system (RMS).

In 2001, the VPD, along with Port Moody Police Service and Richmond RCMP, rolled out the first phase of the Police Records Information Management Environment of British Columbia (PRIME BC). PRIME BC uses the Versaterm Versadex Records Management System (RMS), Versadex Mobile Data Terminal (MDT), and Versadex Mobile Report Entry (MRE) to connect all the police in the province of BC through in-vehicle and desktop computers. The officers in the field complete their report and submit it wirelessly through cell-carrier data networks, and in less than 15 minutes, any police officer in the province of BC can read that report from inside their police vehicle. The system has truly revolutionized the way police officer’s in British Columbia use technology to share critical information in real time from their police vehicles.

Since the deployment of PRIME BC, crime analysts and follow-up investigators have always desired a system to take this critical RMS data and mine it for crime trends and intelligence. PRIME BC rules and governance forbid the mining of data direct from the main RMS server. There is a need to interpret past and current events and forecast future actions using an analytical process conducted in a methodical approach to prevent, detect, and disrupt crime. Why would we want to analyze this data? Simply to use the intelligence for informed decision making in guiding operational deployments. The early detection of crime trends leads to preventing crime from continuing as opposed to simply reacting to crime trends after they have occurred.

Special Constable Ryan Prox of the VPD’s Criminal Intelligence Section set out to do just that. In partnership with the analytical software vendor i2, he and VPD Database Administrator Jason Cheung and Systems Analyst Agata Lesicka came up with a solution now called Consolidated Records Intelligence Mining Environment (C.R.I.M.E.) , which has caught the eye of many in the law enforcement community. Prox, Cheung, and Lesicka decided that they needed a way to use technology to simplify the analytical process and eliminate manual tabulation or “binder analysis.” There were too many silos of information with Excel spreadsheets and access databases, none of which integrated with the Provinces PRIME (Versadex) database. There was a clear need to collect, collate, evaluate and analyze information in a timely manner with the greatest impetus being the overwhelming volumes of evidence and information.

They decided to implement a process that uses consistent methodology. They established an infrastructure that supports data collection from PRIME BC to the fullest extent that allows both tactical and strategic analysis. The three-year project’s goal was to streamline its intelligence and crime-analysis capability to best practices standards.

The first phase of the project saw the transfer of all criminal intelligence files from its obsolete SIUSS database to PRIME BC. To address security requirements for highly sensitive organized crime investigations, these files were both privatized and made invisible. They were viewable by only those with a need to know.

On completion of the records transfer to PRIME BC, the VPD worked in partnership with a quasi-government agency, Emergency Communications for Southwest British Columbia (E-Comm). In this partnership, Cheung developed a Data-Mart extract process that captured both police investigation details and dispatch data in an internal SQL database. The building of the data extract and transfer process was the product of extensive consultation with diverse sections throughout the police department to ensure a variety of research, analysis and investigative needs were met. The final extract contained a wide range of fields necessary for each area of the department to function in a more integrated and efficient manner.

The final phase of the project saw the rollout of an analysis product that integrated with the existing organizational infrastructure while enhancing its operational, tactical and strategic analysis capability. After considerable consultation and research of domestic and international police agencies, those regarded as following best practices in the field of analysis, the software suite i2 Analyst Workstation was selected.

i2 is the industry leader in visual investigative analysis software for law enforcement, intelligence services, military and insurance companies. The integrated software suite provides a means to query data from disparate sources and perform sophisticated analysis to identify relationships and associations between suspects, witness, vehicles and events.

VPD’s launch of i2 Analyst Workstation provides a unique capability previously unavailable to the organization through the use of an integrated suite of analytical tools. These tools support a wide range of analytical activities at strategic and tactical levels, while utilizing VPD’s own data from PRIME, Versadex Computer Aided Dispatch (PoliceCAD) and the VPD’s Computerized Arrest and Booking System (CABS). For the first time, the VPD is now able to integrate information from a multitude of data repositories, which in turn can be used to develop intelligence-led policing initiatives.

A multi-level query was simply not possible with the existing RMS query functionality. To set up a query, the analyst uses a simple query manager with pull-down menus. Then by picking things like MO, UCR code, start time, end time, atom, district, zone, etc., the analyst can drill down to very specific information in a matter of seconds. If the VPD’s sergeant in charge of the Stolen Auto Squad says, “Give me all the stolen autos in this geographical area taken between 0200 and 0700 hours by suspects described as caucasian with black hair,” the system could then produce that information in seconds and map it over to the ArcMap 9.1 mapping application.

It soon became abundantly clear that system integrity hinges on quality information submitted by front-line officers and investigators. The old adage “garbage in, garbage out” has never been so true. Front-line officers who are tied to a radio and typically run off their feet need to understand the necessity of complete and accurate information for initial reporting.

What would normally take weeks to review now takes a matter of seconds, and Vancouver Police managers now have the ability to deploy resources in the most efficient and effective manner possible based on sound analysis of the problem. By enhancing their ability to provide direction and guidance in the utilization of resources, the department can realize cost savings from efficiency gains and improve its ability to respond to crime control issues in a timely manner.

In another example, C.R.I.M.E. was recently used by the Gang Violence Task Force (GVTF) for analyzing data in PRIME BC concerning firearms incidents in Vancouver’s downtown core. Links were identified between people known to police who have a propensity for violent altercations in the entertainment district and their ties to the illicit drug trade. Interestingly, direct associations were identified between these violent criminals and gang members who live near the entertainment district. This information was developed into a targeting plan with a narrow focus on key high-profile and active criminals responsible for the majority of events requiring police response.

Then using the power of the “iBase” Geographic Information Systems (GIS) interface with ArcMap 9.1, an industry standard GIS mapping platform, there is now a means to integrate geographical data with offender data and details contained in occurrences and investigations. This capability is extremely useful for a wide range of complex investigations and trend analysis. In particular, when investigating sequential offences such as an ongoing purse-snatching problem, it provides a means to identify possible crime patterns, suspects and predatory behavior patterns.

Prox has developed his own in-house training package, and user acceptance is high, especially when investigators can dial in through a secure VPN and connect to C.R.I.M.E. from satellite locations.

“Data Miner,” another i2 suite of products, provides CompStat-like strategic analysis capabilities using multi-dimensional “Data Cubes.” Data Cubes provide an extremely powerful means to identify patrol resource inefficiencies, call-load characteristics, changes to 9-1-1 response times and identify issues contributing to a high demand for police resources in a particular area. These issues can then be geographically and temporally analyzed, resulting in innovative solutions to the problem.

The VPD’s C.R.I.M.E. tool provides a single integrated analytical environment to identify trends and patterns using the VPD’s own data from PRIME BC and PoliceCAD that is updated on a daily basis. This is a far cry from the legacy of analytical systems that required tedious data entry by a substantial number of support clerks. The i2 Analyst Workstation is automatically updated with the latest information available in PRIME BC and PoliceCAD. This means little to no time is wasted on mundane data cleaning and consolidation, resulting in more time available for actual analysis and developing proactive solutions.

Planning and research sections simply have to ask the systems analyst for a specific extract or analytical report. The requested tables in the RMS database are identified, and the extract report is written to produce the specific report. In the past, this would have been so labor intensive that it was almost impossible to produce, and if it could be done, it would take countless man hours to complete.

The C.R.I.M.E. program has been so successful that the Province of British Columbia PRIME Corp. wants to duplicate the system on a much larger scale for the entire province. This will mean a huge data warehouse that each jurisdiction can dial into and extract the data for its own analytical use.

The implementation of the VPD’s newest integrated intelligence process places it as a leader in intelligence-led policing and analysis. This outstanding accomplishment by the VPD’s own Prox, Cheung, Lesicka and the vendor i2 has attracted a lot of attention across North America. They are now getting weekly requests to present their project to other agencies. In August 2008 at the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police Conference in Montreal, the 2008 Microsoft Technology Innovation Awards committee gave the Vancouver Police Department C.R.I.M.E. project an honorable mention along with five other organizations across Canada for outstanding technical achievements.

C.R.I.M.E. Special Constable Ryan Prox can be reached at ryan.prox@vpd.ca.

Brad Brewer is a sergeant with the Vancouver Police Department. He can be reached at brad.brewer@vpd.ca.

Published in Law and Order, May 2009

Rating : 7.0


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