By Mike Reade
(This post originally appeared in Homeland Security Today.)
Police chiefs and police officers from all over the world recently descended on San Diego for the annual International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) conference. During the meeting, in displays reminiscent of the character “Q” from all the wonderful James Bond movies, considerable attention was focused on the whiz bang gadgetry and equipment. But hidden among all the gadgets were realistic discussions about how police continue to grapple with the ongoing demand to do more with existing resources to keep our cities and towns safe.
The hidden gem in this discussion: Big Data.
In recent years, data has become a natural resource for businesses in various industries on a global scale. Data can also be used for public safety – from solving a petit larceny to protecting people at large events such as the Super Bowl or Olympics.
Data has proven to be pivotal in stopping criminals who know no borders in the San Diego area, where neighboring cities participate in regional information sharing initiatives. Just north, in Lancaster, Calif., it has helped the city integrate data from the Sheriff’s Department and 911 emergency response systems and to map it geographically and forecast which areas of the city that require the most resources.
Research indicates 90 percent of all data in the world was created in the last two years. Think about how that impacts police departments. They have older information systems and they are being inundated with new information every single day — some from existing siloed systems, but much of it from online and mobile sources.
The proverbial needle in a haystack gets smaller and smaller every day. And it’s not just about the enormity of the volume of data. It’s also about the variety of data sources and the ability to respond to real time information … or velocity of the data. Lastly, there is the veracity of the data. In other words, can it be trusted?
So what can police agencies do to tackle this challenge? Well, it begins with secure information sharing across jurisdictions. ARJIS — the Automated Regional Justice Information System — is doing just that. It’s a sharing arrangement across more than 70 agencies, including those in San Diego and Imperial Counties. These departments tap into a virtual network of tips, case files and other data that is transforming police work and leading to smarter ways of combining technology with the gut instincts of experienced law enforcement officers.
ARJIS integrates more than 6,000 workstations throughout San Diego County and has more than 11,000 authorized users generating more than 35,000 transactions daily. Officers who were once restricted by physical geography are now able to tap into neighboring departments and agencies for information on suspects, ongoing investigations and crime hotspots. Borders on a map are meaningless to criminals. Agencies realize that information sharing is now a requirement in order to succeed.
Similar to ARJIS, Orange County, Calif. leads what is likely the largest information sharing agreement of its kind. The Integrated Law & Justice Agency of Orange County (ILJAOC) spearheads an initiative that connects Orange County, San Diego; Tucson, Ariz.; Las Vegas; Spokane, Wash. and other Western cities. Indeed, ILJAOC extends 3,000 miles to Boston.
Agencies participating in this network securely share about a quarter billion documents that contain billions of data elements – arrest records, mug shots, incident reports, etc.
Sure, it’s a larger haystack, but using analytics capabilities helps make all the right connections, so that when a criminal leaves one jurisdiction and enters another, it’s that much easier for an officer to make an arrest.
Smart local sharing initiatives that span multiple jurisdictions simplify collaboration between departments, eliminate borders, protect police officers and, most importantly, keep the public safe.
IACP’s commitment to its membership is all about ensuring the safety and security of all police officers and the communities they serve. In my mind, the greatest whiz bang innovation is our ability to capture, analyze and act upon the data.