The Case for Investigative Case Management

Lost in the news of the recent demise of New Zealand based crime-fighting software developer Wynyard Group, is an interesting report published just weeks before the company ceased operations.

55According to the study, just 55% of U.S. law enforcement agencies currently utilize investigative case management software (CMS), and the majority of users are unhappy with their current systems.

Thirty-seven percent of the study respondents are not currently using any type of automated system, and rely mainly on paper files and spreadsheets to manage their investigations.

Investigative case management software has long been the domain of larger agencies and departments, and is only now truly affordable for smaller departments. The software allows investigators to manage the investigation process from start to finish. The more robust software allows agencies to assign cases and tasks, manage deadlines, store and maintain physical and multimedia evidence, and to search for relevant information across disparate databases.

According to a press release issued at the time, the survey queried users on how likely they would be to recommend their current system to another agency. While most users were unhappy with their current investigative case management system, there was a clear difference between agencies using commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) software and those using home grown, legacy systems. The latter fared very poorly in the survey results.

mobile_homeThe survey also measured the use of smart devices by front-line officers. Forty three percent indicated that they currently utilize smart phones and tablet computers, and 23% indicated they had neither device.

The most-desired features in investigative management software include:

  • Management Dashboards
  • Reports – Standard and ad hoc
  • Case Assignment and Reminders
  • Actions and Incident Management
  • Mobile and Front-Line Case Access
  • Evidence Management and Chain-of-Custody
  • Multimedia Handling
  • Audit Logs
  • Collaboration
  • Gangs and Organized Crime Management
  • Data Visualization and Link Analysis
  • Case Closure / Evidence Brief

An investigative case management system for law enforcement and commercial investigation agencies is rapidly becoming a ‘must-have’. In an era of shrinking budgets and competing resources, a high value is placed on getting the biggest ‘bang for the buck’. The study indicates that agencies are looking to maximize the value of their investigative case management software by incorporating a robust feature set with an affordable price.

caseclosed_50Case Closed Software, a division of Crime Tech Solutions, is a powerful and affordable investigative case management solution for law enforcement agencies. Created by former law enforcement investigators, the COTS software is designed with ease-of-use in mind. The software is deployed in agencies – large and small – across the country.

The CalGang Audit: Lessons Learned for Law Enforcement.

The following article is a continuation, of sorts, to our article ‘Intelligent Gang Intelligence’ on September 28…

CalGang is a California statewide database that law enforcement agencies use to store and disseminate information about gang activities and suspected gang members. The system has been in place for more than ten years, but has remained largely hidden from public scrutiny.

Shirley Weber, a California Assemblyperson has been working diligently to make CalGang more transparent, and her efforts have recently begun to pay off.

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California Assemblywoman Shirley Weber

Last year, Ms. Weber requested an audit of the CalGang system. The database contains activities, addresses, names, aliases and other information related to people that are either known gang members or affiliates. According to an article by The San Diego Union-Tribune, the database has approximately 150,000 entries.

California law enforcement agencies are not obligated to notify individuals whose names appear in the system, unless that person is a minor. The average length of time that an individual had existed in CalGang was approximately 5.5 years.

CalGang can be accessed only by law enforcement officials for legitimate reasons only, and only on a need-to-know basis.

The CalGang audit requested by Ms.Weber was released in August of this year, and reveals that the database may contain a significant number of errors including the presence of dozens of individuals who were less than one year old when first added to the system. The audit also showed that hundreds of individuals that ought to have been removed from the system were, in fact, not.

The findings led Governor Jerry Brown to sign a bill in September that requires law enforcement to notify individuals whose names are added to CalGang, unless it can be shown that providing that disclosure would impact an ongoing criminal investigation.

The audit has shed some light on how gang databases are operated in general, and offers an opportunity for agencies across the country to improve policies and processes. Specifically, 28 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 23 (28 CFR Part 23) is a U.S. Department of Justice regulation that governs “the operation of criminal intelligence systems that are operated by and principally for the benefit of state, local, tribal, or territorial law enforcement agencies.”

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CFR 28 Part 23

28 CFR Part 23 was designed as a regulation specific to multi-jurisdictional criminal intelligence (gang database) systems that receive federal grant funds. It is an excellent guide for intelligence agencies, as it attempts to fairly balance the intelligence needs of law enforcement with an individual’s rights to privacy.

Followed appropriately, 28 CFR Part 23 guidelines would minimize criticism of CalGang and other intelligence management systems.

“This report concluded that CalGang’s current oversight structure does not ensure that law enforcement agencies collect and maintain criminal intelligence in a manner that preserves individuals’ privacy rights,” wrote state auditor Elaine Howle in a letter to the governor and Legislature.

Of concern, the audit of CalGang also uncovered some instances where the data was used for purposes other than intended. Some agencies used the database for employment background screening, as an example.

The guidelines and regulations contained within 28 CFR Part 23 work to prevent these embarrassing and potentially unlawful scenarios by enforcing strict policies related to the input, storage, and dissemination of data.

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28 CFR Part 23 regulations enforce how gang and criminal intelligence data is gathered, stored, and disseminated.

Gang and criminal intelligence data is defined within 28 CFR Part 23 as “data which has been evaluated to determine that:

A) it is relevant to the identification of, and the criminal activity engaged in by, an individual who – or an organization which – is reasonably suspected of involvement in criminal activity, and

B) meets criminal intelligence system submission criteria

The ‘submission criteria’ is essentially the basis for something to be entered into the gang intelligence system. The criteria include the following:

  • A reasonable suspicion that an individual is relevant to the criminal activity
  • Prospective information to be entered is relevant to the criminal activity
  • Information does not include data related to political, religious, or social views unless that information related directly to the criminal activity that formed the basis for focus on the gang or group
  • Information was not obtained in violation of any federal, state, or local law or ordinance
  • Information establishes sufficient facts to give trained law enforcement officials a basis to believe that an individual or gang/organization is involved in a definable criminal activity

Data that is deemed to be irrelevant and unimportant should be purged from the system. This is true even if the data is discovered to be noncompliant before five years.

Perhaps the most important element of a gang database system complying with 28 CFR Part 23 is that no information whatsoever from the database should be disseminated without a legitimate law enforcement reason, such as criminal investigation cases and charges being filed against a suspect.

CalGang is an important and vital part of California law enforcement’s ability to deter and investigate gang related activities. A system this large is bound to contain some errors – both in data and judgement. That said, following and adhering to the guidelines of 28 CFR Part 23 may just prevent other agencies from undergoing such a painful public flogging.

About the Author

Tyler Wood is Operations Director of Austin, TX based Crime Tech Solutions (www.crimetechsolutions.com). The company develops and deploys low price / high performance software for law enforcement including Case Closed investigative case management software, sophisticated Sentinel Visualizer link analysis and data visualization software, and CrimeMap Pro advanced crime analytics. The company also develops the popular GangBuster gang database, and IntelNexus criminal intelligence software for 28 CFR Part 23 compliance.

Social Media leads to Hate crimes

The following article appears in California State University’s Coyote Chronicle, written by Geraldine Carrillo. Crime Tech Weekly has reposted the article in full for our readers’ convenience…

“There is going to be a fight today after school on Walnut St.,” was a post on Facebook from one of my friends during my sophomore year of high school.

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Soon after this post, other students then replied with the location and time of the fight on social media to create an audience for that fight as an amusement to go watch.

This made safety patrols aware, which led to a raid by police.

Keeping an eye on social media has been a good way to prevent hate crimes throughout the new digital era.

But the extent to which it has been utilized is ridiculous compared to the hike in the number of committed crimes.

Hate crime is a crime motivated by racial, religious, gender, sexual orientation or other prejudice, according to legaldictionary.com.

“More than 250,000 Americans over the age of 12 are victimized every year by hate criminals, according to a new government study that puts the number some 50,000 higher than the best earlier analyses,” stated Senior Fellow, Southern Poverty Law Center, Mark Potok.

I believe that social media has been used as a tool not only for our daily lives, but also to stop the bad and the unjust that is presented by reckless people.

“I think social media is a good way to prevent hate crimes tsocial-networking_110003815-012814-inthat sometimes aren’t reported, because people are scared or just don’t want to get involved,” said student Brian Romero.

In fact, according to the Justice Department, “Approximately 293,800 nonfatal violent and property hate crimes occurred in 2012, but about 60 percent of those crimes went unreported. One theory suggests victims who are non-citizens remain silent out of fear of deportation.”

We often see negativity on social media that can easily escalate to an actual offense against the law, using predictive policing can help prevent these wrongdoings from happening.

“In recent years, predictive policing has become increasingly important, utilizing the advancements of analytics like data mining and machine-learning methods,” stated Pete Burnap of Cardiff University’s School of Computer Science and Informatics.

I believe tracking hate crime is important because we underestimate how frequent these offenses occur and are reported.

Most crimes go unreported which makes social media a platform to engage people in sharing and spreading the events of situations to justice.

“At the same time, the study found that in recent years only about one in three hate crimes are ever reported to law enforcement officials,” continued Potok.

This should be a huge eye opener to people who don’t think hate crimes are occurring let alone existing.

us-constitutionSome people may not agree because it abides by the First Amendment, and not all hate crimes show their intention online, although it is a step in the right direction to monitor those that are.

Discrimination or any act of offense towards others should not be permitted and stopped while it escalates out into society.

We have to keep in mind that not only adults monitor social media, but also young children and teenagers are monitoring these acts and are being affected.

End of article.

Crime Tech Solutions (www.crimetechsolutions.com) is a fast growing software company based in Austin, TX. The company focuses on crime analytics, criminal intelligence, link analysis, and investigative case management solutions.