Part Two: Major Investigation Analytics – Big Data and Smart Data

Posted by Douglas Wood, Editor.

As regular readers of this blog know, I spend a great deal of time writing about the use of technology in the fight against crime – financial and otherwise. In Part One of this series, I overviewed the concept of Major Investigation Analytics and Investigative Case Management.

I also overviewed the major providers of this software technology – Palantir Technologies, Case Closed Software, and Visallo. The latter two recently became strategic partners, in fact.

The major case for major case management (pun intended) was driven home at a recent crime and investigation conference in New York. Full Disclosure: I attended the conference for educational purposes as part of my role at Crime Tech Weekly. Throughout the three day conference, speaker after speaker talked about making sense of data. I think if I’d have heard the term ‘big data’ one more time I’d have gone insane.  Nevertheless, that was the topic du jour as you can imagine, and the 3 V’s of big data – volume, variety, and velocity – remain a front and center topic for the vendor community serving the investigation market.

According to one report, 96% of everything we do in life – personal or at work – generates data. That statement probably best sums up how big ‘big data’ is.  Unfortunately,  there was very little discussion about how big data can help investigate major crimes. There was a lot of talk about analytics, for sure, but there was a noticeable lack of ‘meat on the bone’ when it came to major investigation analytics.

Nobody has ever yelled out “Help, I’ve been attacked. Someone call the big data!”. That’s because big data doesn’t, in and by itself, do anything.  Once you can move ‘big data’ into ‘smart data’, however, you have an opportunity to investigate and adjudicate crime. To me, smart data (in the context of investigations) is a subset of an investigator’s ability to:

  1. Quickly triage a threat (or case) using only those bits of data that are most immediately relevant
  2. Understand the larger scope of the crime through experience and crime analytics, and
  3. Manage that case through intelligence-led analytics and investigative case management, data sharing, link exploration, text analytics, and so on.

Connecting the dots, as they say. From an investigation perspective, however, connecting dots can be daunting. In the children’s game, there is a defined starting point and a set of rules.  We simply need to follow the instructions and the puzzle is solved. Not so in the world of the investigator. The ‘dots’ are not as easy to find. It can be like looking for a needle in a haystack, but the needle is actually broken into pieces and spread across ten haystacks.

Big data brings those haystacks together, but only smart data finds the needles… and therein lies the true value of major investigation analytics.

Major Investigation Analytics – No longer M.I.A. (Part One)

Posted by Douglas Wood, Editor.  http://www.linkedin.com/in/dougwood

Long before the terrorist strikes of 9/11 created a massive demand for risk and investigation technologies, there was the case of Paul Bernardo.

Paul Kenneth Bernardo was suspected of more than a dozen brutal sexual assaults in Scarborough, Canada, within the jurisdiction of the Ontario Provincial Police. As his attacks grew in frequency they also grew in brutality, to the point of several murders. Then just as police were closing in the attacks suddenly stopped. That is when the Ontario police knew they had a problem. Because their suspect was not in jail, they knew he had either died or fled to a location outside their jurisdiction to commit his crimes.

The events following Bernardo’s disappearance in Toronto and his eventual capture in St. Catharines, would ultimately lead to an intense 1995 investigation into police practices throughout the Province of Ontario, Canada. The investigation, headed by the late Justice Archie Campbell, showed glaring weaknesses in investigation management and information sharing between police districts.

Campbell studied the court and police documents for four months and then produced a scathing report that documented systemic jurisdictional turf wars among the police forces in Toronto and the surrounding regions investigating a string of nearly 20 brutal rapes in the Scarborough area of Toronto and the murders of two teenaged girls in the St. Catharines area. He concluded that the investigation “was a mess from beginning to end.”

Campbell went on to conclude that there was an “astounding and dangerous lack of co-operation between police forces” and a litany of errors, miscalculations and disputes. Among the Justice’s findings was a key recommendation that an investigative case management system was needed to:

  1. Record, organize, manage, analyze and follow up all investigative data
  2. Ensure all relevant information sources are applied to the investigation
  3. Recognize at an early stage any linked or associated incidents
  4. “Trigger” alerts to users of commonalities between incidents
  5. Embody an investigative methodology incorporating standardized procedures

Hundreds of vendors aligned to provide this newly mandated technology, and eventually a vendor was tasked with making it real with the Ontario Major Case Management (MCM) program. With that, a major leap in the evolution of investigation analytics had begun. Today, the market leaders include IBM i2, Case Closed Software, Palantir Technologies, and Visallo.

Recently, the Ottawa Citizen newspaper published an indepth article on the Ontario MCM system. I recommend reading it.

Investigation analytics and major case management

The components of major investigation analytics include: Threat Triage, Crime & Fraud Analytics, and Intelligence-Lead Investigative Case Management. Ontario’s MCM is an innovative approach to solving crimes and dealing with complex incidents using these components. All of Ontario’s police services use this major investigation analytics tool to investigate serious crimes – homicides, sexual assaults and abductions. It combines specialized police training and investigation techniques with specialized software systems. The software manages the vast amounts of information involved in investigations of serious crimes.

Major investigation analytics helps solve major cases by:

  1. Providing an efficient way to keep track of, sort and analyze huge amounts of information about a crime:  notes, witness statements, door-to-door leads, names, locations, vehicles and phone numbers are examples of the types of information police collect
  2. Streamlining investigations
  3. Making it possible for police to see connections between cases so they can reduce the risk that serial offenders will avoid being caught
  4. Preventing crime and reducing the number of potential victims by catching offenders sooner.

See Part Two of this series here.