By Chief Frank Milstead, Mesa Police Department
Combating crime in a city like Mesa, Ariz., is never easy, but my officers here have done an amazing job of reducing crime to historic lows that haven’t been seen in 50 years. We have been able to dramatically reduce crime by 25 percent since 1991.
We’ve had a number of recent successes in reducing crime, but one incident in particular sticks in my head. Mesa PD is host of the East Valley Gang and Criminal Information Fusion Center. The center is a combined effort between seven local law enforcement agencies to share information and we have already seen the value of sharing information. Earlier this year, a detective in the East Valley Gang and Criminal Information Fusion Center was monitoring the patrol radio and heard a partial license plate and a vehicle description referencing a hit and run collision broadcasted over the air. We were able to identify that four possible vehicles fit this description in near real time. This information, along with other identifying characteristics of the owner of the car allowed the detective to identify the suspect, pass the information to officers on the scene. The officers in the field were able to quickly locate the suspect.
While we may not always enjoy such historic low crime numbers, I am proud of the crime fighting efforts our officers have exerted in getting us here. We will continue these efforts with vigor and continue to evaluate our processes so our citizens and visitors may continue to enjoy a safe living and working environment. Part of this evaluation process will include a look towards technology assisted policing. We are now embracing a Smarter Policing approach that allows us to coordinate traditional police work with more strategic use of our resources like analytics technology to gain a more holistic view of our city. Smarter Policing brings together the art and science of law enforcement that augments the experience and knowledge of our officers with the information they need to make appropriate decisions.
Smarter Policing couldn’t come at a more important time for our city. Check that, it couldn’t come at a more important time for our region because crime knows no borders. Criminals don’t care where a city’s borders begin and end. They only care about not getting caught. This has created huge challenges for me and my colleagues in neighboring cities. We were confined to our borders and really didn’t have insight into what happened a couple miles away because it wasn’t in our jurisdiction. But that is changing along with the technology to keep pace with a faster-paced, more complex world.
Using the IBM COPLINK technology we are now able to share information with neighboring cities like Chandler, Gilbert, Tempe and almost 50 other cities throughout the state of Arizona…essentially tearing down those invisible barriers.
Now we have taken it a step farther. Because criminals don’t just operate in one state, we have created similar relationships with police and sheriff’s departments in places like Orange County, Calif., and we are developing relationships with other agencies in Nevada and Colorado.
Sharing information with other states helps fill in the gaps that help our investigators. For example, other states have lacked pictures of subjects and through accessing our systems have found photos to confirm the subjects identification. In addition, we have been able to enhance our investigations by adding relationships to others as well as linking together phone numbers, addresses and vehicle information from other states. In addition, a large benefit has been that our investigators have established strong ties with others in our border states. Working together across state lines definitely supports reducing crime.
In addition, we just launched a very successful proof of concept that links our information with the NCIS Law Enforcement Information Exchange (LInX) initiative. This will allow us to be connected with 39 other agencies in the greater New Mexico area. The project is meant to foster the sharing of information between local, state, and federal law enforcement. It also provides participating law enforcement agencies with secure access to regional crime and incident data that enable investigators to search across jurisdictional boundaries to help solve crimes and resolve suspicious events.
These are just the first of many steps we need to take to really combat crime. We need to truly render geographic borders irrelevant when it comes to fighting crime. We need to be able to share and have access to the right information regardless of where it resides. We need to do all we can to not only protect the safety of the residents of Mesa and our neighboring cities, but also protect those across state borders. Only then will we be truly doing our Smartest Policing.
About Chief Milstead:
Chief Frank Milstead was selected to lead the Mesa Police Department on March 22, 2010 after 25 years of service to the Phoenix Police Department. He leads a department of more than 1200 men and woman, sworn and civilian, dedicated to providing exceptional police service to the third largest city in Arizona. He has pledged to leverage the talents and resources of the Mesa Police Department and its partners to make Mesa a safer city. In December 2011 Forbes Magazine named Mesa, Arizona the 7th safest Major city in the United States.
During his tenure with the Phoenix Police department Chief Milstead demonstrated highly successful leadership and management skill, serving in several high-profile positions that included command positions in the Homeland Defense Bureau, Major Offender Bureau and the Traffic Bureau. Chief Milstead was also involved in several multi-agency high-status cases, served in the Unified Command structure for Super Bowl 42 and the 2009 NBA All Star games, and maintains All Hazard Incident Commander status.