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Homeland Security Goes Digital

February 2011
By George I. Seffers, SIGNAL Magazine
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A mock plane engulfed in flames is part of a simulated homeland defense exercise, which included the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) bomb disposal teams. The simulated scenario included a plane that had been flown into a nuclear, biological and chemical research laboratory.

Intelligence management helps law enforcement connect the dots on crime.

An automated system for managing and retrieving crime-related intelligence is providing several municipal police forces with the capability to share data in a standard format. This system offers the potential for tracking suspicious activities and alerting officials to potential crimes before they occur, and this counterterrorism application has spurred the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to fund its introduction at the state level.

The intelligence management system expands the availability and usability of data through configurable software, flexible workflow management, multilevel security and a platform designed for information sharing. Known as Memex Patriarch, it is an operational intelligence management system that enables the secure input, management, development, analysis and information sharing of critical data across organizations and among their partners. The system allows agencies to manage and retrieve intelligence that helps prevent all types of crimes, and it enables law enforcement to predict, prevent and respond efficiently to threats in real time.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), an independent statewide agency, is expanding access to the automated system. The bureau recently has added the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, Hall County Sheriff’s Office, Henry County Police Department and Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department to the list of Georgia agencies able to use the Patriarch intelligence management software, which automates such functions as records management, computer-aided dispatch and suspicious activity reporting.

The GBI has been tasked with deploying the system to other Georgia law enforcement agencies as part of a Department of Homeland Security grant. The GBI assists the state’s criminal justice system with investigations, forensic laboratory services and computerized criminal justice. The bureau includes about 275 agents and is organized in three divisions: Investigative, Forensic Sciences and the Georgia Crime Information Center.

The bureau is deploying the technology in several phases, according to Don Robertson, a retired GBI agent who now manages the Georgia Terrorism Intelligence Project. This project is an intelligence-sharing effort between state and local law enforcement agencies and the Georgia Information Sharing and Analysis Center, which is one of 72 fusion centers designated nationwide by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The fusion centers are created by state and local agencies to enhance communication and information flow between local, state and federal agencies.

The GBI’s first phase of deployment for the software, which began in 2008, included the largest departments in the Atlanta metro area. Phase 2 added the largest departments outside the Atlanta region, and Phase 3 includes the next six largest departments, whether they are inside or outside the metro area. Now, out of 18 local departments, 11 have access to the system.

Currently, Georgia agencies primarily use the platform for automating processes that normally would be done on paper, such as case management and suspicious activity reporting. “We really want law enforcement officials to get away from using paper cards because the cards are completed by the officers and then [the cards] go into a black hole and are never seen again,” Robertson says.

The system is too new in Georgia for the various agencies to take full advantage of its information-sharing capabilities, which will allow a greater ability to connect the dots on crimes across jurisdictions. Robertson hopes the agencies take advantage of that function over time. “We set the specifications so that if the departments want to share intelligence management or case management, the system is amenable to that. We won’t pressure them to do that, but we’ve made it real easy if they want to,” Robertson says. “The whole project started with the idea of sharing information. There’s a whole movement to share as much information as possible between departments. That makes everyone stronger.”

The system’s searchable database allows for proximity searches, meaning that agents can search for words in close proximity to one another, such as the names of two suspects believed to be connected to a crime. Agents also can speak a name and find all versions of it, even though they may be spelled differently. In addition, they can find names using a partial spelling, if they do not know how the name is spelled. For example, if they know the first two letters of a name, they can find all names that begin with those two letters.

 

A bomb disposal robot is controlled by agents from the GBI Special Operations Unit, which offers specialized support to state, local and federal public safety agencies regarding bomb disposal, technical support and radio communications.

Law enforcement agencies in the Roanoke, Virginia, area recently implemented the Patriarch platform for the Roanoke Area Criminal Justice Information Network. This multi-jurisdictional network links the region’s law enforcement agencies, including the cities of Roanoke and Salem, the town of Vinton, Roanoke County and the Western Virginia Regional Jail. The system provides cross-jurisdictional analysis, warrant tracking, the creation of photo lineups and visualization. It also offers the capability to track inmates and their actions, their contacts and visitors, jail time, crimes, incidents while in jail and other prison data. Some agencies access information through the Internet, while others use a full-client setup. Nearly 500 sworn officers can access approximately 8 million records in the Roanoke area system.

The various Virginia departments do use the information-sharing capability, which provides them with the enhanced ability to track and capture criminals who operate across jurisdictional boundaries. Previously, agents used multiple systems to access the same information they now receive through just one system. The data-sharing platform provides a single-source portal for analyzing report management, computer-aided dispatch, intelligence and suspicious activity reports, open-source data and other data sources. Investigators, analysts and officers also can use the system to search free-text narratives that might appear in notes taken from a traffic stop and can better visualize search results with link charts to connect clues, vehicles, residences, associates and modus operandi. Agents also can study crime zones more effectively with a geographic information system mapping capability. Roanoke added custom data fields to create specific enforcement zones, patrol zones, crime zones and districts for more efficient and effective analysis.

“Because criminals operate across municipal boundaries, records from Vinton might be helpful to a Roanoke County officer, for example. Previously, agents had to use multiple systems to access the same information they now get through Memex,” says David Carrick, chief executive officer of Memex Incorporated, the company that provides the Patriarch platform.

Memex officials credit the system with helping to fight a full array of crimes, including illegal gang activity, drug distribution and burglaries. The system also enables better decision-making for allocating resources in remote areas because it aggregates reporting on suspicious activities, which reduces costs, improves safety and helps solve crimes more quickly.

Roanoke paid for the system through federal grants, including the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program, which is designed to provide law enforcement communities with enhanced capabilities for detecting, deterring, disrupting and preventing acts of terrorism. The program focuses on providing resources to law enforcement and public safety communities to support critical terrorism prevention activities, such as establishing or enhancing fusion centers and collaborating with non-law-enforcement partners, other government agencies and the private sector. Plans call for the system to participate in a fusion-center-type environment with other agencies across the Commonwealth of Virginia, according to Capt. Greg Staples of the Roanoke police department.

In addition, the Nebraska Information Analysis Center, a data fusion center, announced in October the selection of the Patriarch platform to connect 17 different law enforcement data sources. The system is accessible by about 200 law enforcement officials. The fusion center includes data on record system management, computer-aided dispatch reports, sex-offender registry, mug shot integration and the Automated Fingerprint Identification System.

The system also can be expanded to include reports from individual citizens or businesses, so that they can more effectively and efficiently report suspicious activity to local, state or federal law enforcement officials under the Department of Homeland Security’s “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign. If, for example, a hotel employee sees something suspicious, he or she could go to the appropriate law enforcement agency website and fill out a short form reporting what that individual saw. That report would be filed automatically for action. The Kansas City Terrorism Early Warning Group has a public portal that allows citizens to report suspicious activity directly to the website, which is then analyzed as a suspicious activity report.

Memex Incorporated is based in Glasgow, Scotland, with an office in Sterling, Virginia. Memex customers include the Bedfordshire, Surrey and British Transport police departments; the Delaware, Michigan, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania state police; Kansas City Terrorism Early Warning Group; Northeast Ohio Regional Fusion Center; Los Angeles and Philadelphia police departments; Central California Intelligence Center; Belize Police Department; Albania State Police; and the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. SAS Institute Incorporated announced earlier this year that it also had acquired Memex.

WEB RESOURCES
Georgia Bureau of Investigation: http://gbi.georgia.gov/02/gbi/home/0,2615,67862954,00.html
Georgia Information Sharing and Analysis Center: http://bit.ly/gNtnZd
Georgia Terrorism Intelligence Project: http://bit.ly/eNkxQw
DHS “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign: www.dhs.gov/ynews/releases/pr_1289842248570.shtm