Tag Archives: law enforcement software

The Sunny Side of Cloud-Based Solutions

shutterstock-cloud-computingCloud computing for law enforcement, in simple terms, refers to software hosted off-agency and available to the user through their internet connection. This type of software-as-a-service, or “SaaS” offers several advantages over software that is hosted locally on the user’s hardware.

Computer hardware is always being tweaked and improved upon, and state-of-the-art equipment can become obsolete extremely quickly in this environment. Many vital pieces of software that law enforcement rely on can be extremely demanding of hardware resources. With cloud-based software solutions, the software and the hardware required to run it are maintained offsite. The agency users simply access the software through an internet browser on a computer or smart phone, and have access to all the functionality of the software with none of the costs or hassle involved in hosting locally. These costs also include maintenance and security. 

Cloud-based solutions also allow for software to be more portable, as the software can be easily and readily accessed by any user with a smart phone. In addition, compatibility across platforms becomes less of an issue, as the software only needs an internet browser to function. This means law enforcement officials can seamlessly move from using a MacBook at work, to their Windows Phone at lunch, to a Linux based PC at home, without having three separate installs with varying functionality. 

cloud-computing-benefitThere are some things to look out for. While having software and hardware off-site offers great advantages, it’s important to note that data is hosted off-site as well. It’s important to carefully navigate the terms of use and make certain that the agency is not signing away the rights to important, classified, or proprietary data. 

Still, the major advantages of cloud-based software make it a powerful and very accessible tool for law enforcement. The simplicity and ease of access are defining characteristics of the cloud-based revolution.

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.

Hunting for D.B. Cooper – A study in analytics.

The following article originally appeared at In Public Safety, and is a highly recommended read. It was written by Erik Kleinsmith at American Military University.

Crime Tech Weekly is posting the article in its entirety for our readers’ convenience…

By Erik Kleinsmith
Staff, Intelligence Studies, American Military University

On November 24, 1971, a man using the name Dan Cooper purchased a $35 one-way airline ticket from Portland, Oregon, to Seattle, Washington. Not long after takeoff, he hijacked Northwest Orient Flight 305 and demanded $200,000 in cash along with two parachutes, which he received upon landing in Seattle. He then ordered the plane to take off and fly to Mexico City; during that flight, he jumped from the aircraft into the Oregon wilderness, securing his place as the only unsolved case in FAA history.

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In early 2011, following a host of other investigations — both private and government-led — Tom Colbert picked up the trail of the man now known as D.B. Cooper. As an investigative reporter and producer living in Southern California, Colbert was tipped off by a source in the illicit drug trade who had credible — albeit circumstantial — evidence that D.B. Cooper was alive and living in California. Over the next few years, Colbert invested incredible amounts of time and personal resources toward tackling a 45-year-old mystery that so many other investigators before him had failed to solve.

A New Approach to Finding D.B. Cooper

Colbert assembled a large group of leading private investigators, detectives, attorneys, profilers and other subject matter experts into a group he called the “Cold Case Team.” He also knew he needed the expertise of intelligence professionals to help him organize and analyze all the evidence related to this case. While intelligence analysts almost always focus on using their skills for predictive analysis predictive analysis (i.e., what’s going to happen), Colbert knew having people proficient in intelligence collection and analysis would provide unique insight into a case that was decades old.

In December 2011, Colbert elicited my help while I was involved in an Army intelligence training contract. We had been associates and friends for a few years and he knew about my involvement in the Able Danger program. As a student, practitioner, developer and instructor of intelligence methodology, I was interested in his investigation because it was another chance for me to adapt intelligence analytical methods to a cold (very cold) case. I immediately agreed to support his efforts; he sent me a copy of a dossier on the man he suspected was D.B. Cooper.

It contained photos, maps, interview summaries and many other pieces of evidence connecting this man to the D.B. Cooper incident. Much of the initial information was secondhand and circumstantial, so Colbert was using it to provide further investigative leads for the Cold Case Team members.

Here is where I make my quick disclaimer: Collecting information on U.S. persons for intelligence purposes is prohibited by several federal regulations with very few specific exceptions. Even though I would be supporting a private investigation, I was working as a defense contractor at the time and therefore felt it was important to follow the spirit of these restrictions by creating products based only upon what the Cold Case Team provided. Neither myself nor my colleague independently searched for or collected any additional information for any part of this investigation.

That being said, it was an exceptional opportunity to use analytical intelligence techniques to assist in this investigation.

Using Link Analysis Techniques in the Investigation

In his meetings with various law enforcement officials, Colbert had grown frustrated that no one was taking the time to look through the dossier and consider the evidence. I gave it to one of my senior instructors, David D’Alessio, and asked him to make a link chart of associations using one of the best link analysis software programs available to us. A link chart is a graphic representation of the people, events, and significant items of interest (such as a bank account or address) associated with a particular subject.  The key to these charts are the associations or “links” between each of the people, events and items in it.

 

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Link Analysis software helps investigators and analysts visualize non-obvious relationships between entities

 

Creating this chart was a painstaking process because D’Alessio had to go through each paragraph line by line, identify the relative linkages between entities and enter them into the software program. The initial link chart started with the main suspect and then drew graphic linkages to all his known associates their connections to third parties, and a host of other associations to events, locations, aliases and specific pieces of physical evidence. Working with D’Alessio and Colbert over several iterations of this chart, we ended up with a 3×2 foot poster that, to the untrained eye, looked a lot like charts shown in court or on television shows like Law and Order. There were hundreds of links to the main suspect, the many aliases he used over the years to include military records and associations that placed him in the vicinity of the Portland, Oregon area during the time of the hijacking.

The benefit of link analysis charts is that they do more than just show connections between entities. A link chart tells a comprehensive visual story and conveys a dynamic and detailed summary of information from the document supporting it. This technique proved immensely successful, as the visual representation helped capture attention and interest from outside parties.

How Intelligence Analysis Aided in the Investigation

Besides taking text-based information and turning it into a graphic visualization for presentation purposes, a link chart also helped the investigation in other ways. First, Colbert and his team were able to see gaps in the information where investigators needed to dig deeper. He could also see which links were strong and which were weak or tenuous. The team could then plan their investigations more effectively by identifying which gaps needed to be filled and prioritize how to best use their limited resources.

This chart also had a psychological value to the Cold Case Team. In 2013, one of the team’s private investigators presented it directly to the suspect and asked him to come forward. The hope was that once the suspect knew there was a vast amount of information on the identity of D.B. Cooper (not to mention it featured his picture right at the center). Revealing this chart helped Colbert enter into negotiations with the suspect’s lawyer and he came very close to a deal that would potentially involve an admission. Unfortunately, Colbert and the Cold Case Team were turned down at the last minute due to what we believe was his fear of being connected to other illicit activities.

Why Law Enforcement Must Partner More Often with Intelligence Agencies

_KOK1002_RTCC+(3)Ultimately, this case demonstrates that intelligence analysis can play a crucial part in law enforcement investigations, both as a predictive asset as well as an investigative one. The D.B. Cooper investigation is decades old, but there are many other cases that are not. Other law enforcement agencies can use the techniques tested in this case to assist with other unsolved crimes, missing persons and patterns of criminal activity. It’s important for law enforcement authorities to remember that analysts in the intelligence field bring with them a toolkit that provides both unique and specialized analytical methods that can offer new perspectives. Bringing intelligence analysts into the fold of law enforcement can enhance a crime-solving team.

The federal government has awesome capabilities in intelligence collection and investigation but they are not alone. There is an equally awesome, yet untapped capability, in the commercial sector and among academia to support investigations like this and other more current cases. There are uncounted numbers of undergraduate and graduate students in criminal justice, data analysis and intelligence studies courses who would be eager to support a future case. In addition, there are also many retired law enforcement and intelligence professionals who would be eager to lend their experience and subject matter expertise to similar cases and problem sets, if only to satisfy the investigative bug still within them.

While the FBI officially closed its investigation in the D.B. Cooper case earlier this year, it has not been closed in the eyes of the Cold Case Team. This team continues to move forward with its own investigation, relying on intelligence analysis methods to support them and continue to evaluate every bit of evidence in new ways.

 

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Crime Tech Solutions provides affordable, high performance software for crime analysts and investigation units.

 

 

Wynyard Group’s slow, painful death arrives. Now, what about the customers?

October 28, 2016 – Crime Tech Solutions, a fast-growing and vibrant investigation software company based in Austin, TX, today announced a migration path for software users affected by the recent failure of New Zealand based Wynyard Group. Wynyard had positioned itself as a ‘leader in crime fighting software’, but never did find traction in the markets they coveted.

wynyardfailPer Wynyard Group officials, the company has placed itself in voluntary administration as it battles crippling losses and missed revenue forecasts, leaving customers in the dark as to the future of their investment in the crime fighting technology.

For users of the Wynyard Group case management software, Crime Tech Solutions has introduced a comprehensive ‘path forward’ that includes, in some cases, a license-cost-free replacement of the Wynyard Group system with the popular and robust Case Closed™ investigative case management solution for law enforcement and commercial investigation agencies.

Case Closed Software was developed by investigation professionals and for investigation professionals, and is widely used by investigative agencies across North America.

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“The objective”, said Crime Tech Solutions’ CTO Keith Weigand, “is to provide Case Closed software licenses to interested customers in exchange for the monies they already pay in annual maintenance and support.”

Tyler Wood, Operations Manager at Crime Tech Solutions, added “In essence, it’s a way to put what we think is better case management software into customers’ hands without the need to pay for expensive new software licenses.” While Wood acknowledges that there are internal costs associated with converting to any new solution, he feels that the intuitive and flexible nature of Case Closed is designed to mitigate those costs as much as possible.

About Crime Tech Solutions

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Case Closed Software is developed and supported by fast-growing Crime Tech Solutions

 

Crime Tech Solutions  is a low price / high performance innovator in crime analytics and law enforcement crime-fighting software. The clear price/performance leader for crime fighting software, the company’s offerings include Case Closed™ investigative case management and major case management, GangBuster™ gang intelligence software, powerful Sentinel Visualizer link analysis software, evidence managementmobile applications for law enforcement, comprehensive crime analytics with mapping and predictive policing, and 28 CFR Part 23 compliant criminal intelligence database management systems.

Intelligent Gang Intelligence

The backbone of any functioning criminal intelligence unit is the strength of its intel files and/or gang records. Best practices for gang intelligence suggests that agencies should regularly update and contribute gang intelligence to a specialized gang intelligence system (aka gang database). These intelligence systems can manage and store thousands or millions of records of gangs, their activities, and their members.

With gang intelligence software, authorized users may read and update specific files, search and retrieve photos/videos/audio, and generally utilize the solution to assist investigation efforts. An example of some attributes stored within a gang intelligence system are:

  • Activitiesgang
  • Locations
  • Names
  • Vehicles
  • Addresses
  • Tattoos
  • Marks and Scars
  • Incidents
  • Reports
  • Tips
  • Aliases

Properly utilized, the gang intelligence system should allow the collection, analysis, storage and retrieval of data that qualifies as criminal intelligence. The data should only be disseminated to agency members with a specific need, and that need should be logged as part of the dissemination.

Gang Intelligence Integrity

With a gang intelligence database, agencies must preserve the integrity of the system through security and access restriction from unauthorized users – internal and external – because of constitutional protection for individuals whose personal information is contained within the system.

Importantly, for gang intelligence, a rigid purging process must be adhered to as this ensures the integrity and credibility of the data. If, for example, a record has not been reviewed or appended for a period of five years, best practices suggest that the record be purged.

Access governance is also critical to gang intelligence systems to ensure integrity of the data entered and maintained and, importantly, to comply with applicable regional, state, and federal laws.

Gang / Criminal Intelligence and U.S. Law

us-constitutionThe United States Constitution prohibits the criminalization of mere membership in a gang (or other similar organization). There is nothing illegal about being a gang member, according to our country’s laws. However, it is perfectly legal for agencies to add gang members to the database even if no crime has been committed by that member.

The tracking and storage of this data is widely criticized, however. Opponents suggest that agencies are profiling or targeting groups that are not engaged in criminal activities, and/or installing a ‘guilt by association’ mentality by tracking those members.

Conversely, advocates of gang intelligence database systems know that law enforcement has a legitimate interest in monitoring the individuals and groups engaged in ‘group criminal behavior’.

The back-and-forth between sides creates tension between the rights of society to be protected by law enforcement, and the individual privacy expectations of gang members.

CFR 28 Part 23

The result of these competing interests is something called Code of Federal Regulations, Title 28, Part 23 (CFR 28 Part 23) which details the requirements for gathering, entering, storing, and disseminating information about individuals and organizations (gangs) into an intelligence system.

28-cfr-part-2328 CFR Part 23 was designed as a regulation specific to multi-jurisdictional intelligence systems that have received federal grant funds for the development or purchase of the gang database. It is, however, an excellent guide for individual agencies, as the regulation attempts to fairly balance the intelligence needs of law enforcement against individual privacy requirements. In other words, it helps agencies get their jobs done without violating individual rights.

Compliance with 28 CFR Part 23 in Gang Intelligence

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
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28 CFR Part 23 compliant software

As referenced above, 28 CFR Part 23 also indicates that information contained within a compliant database or criminal intelligence system must be reviewed and evaluated for relevance and importance every five years. 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.

Conclusion

If managing a gang intelligence system seems intimidating, it ought not be. If an agency desires to comply with 28 CFR Part 23, the rules for managing such as system are clearly spelled out. If an agency simply wants to collect and manage data outside of the federal guidelines – and has not accepted federal grant monies for such a program – they are free to do so as long as the system meets the security and ‘common sense’ guidelines that protect an individual’s right to privacy.

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.

Law Enforcement: Got Big Data… Now What?

Great article from PoliceMag.com, originally posted HERE.

gotbigdataSince its introduction nearly a decade ago, big data in the form of analytics has helped police agencies all over the world enhance decision making, improve strategies to combat crime, and ultimately solve—and prevent—more crimes. But while the benefits of mining and critically analyzing huge amounts of data are being realized in other developed countries from the United Kingdom to Canada to New Zealand, U.S. law enforcement agencies have generally been slower to jump on the bandwagon.

The reasons for slower adoption of big data tools in the United States are as varied as the nearly 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies around the country. For many, the decision to buy or not to buy advanced crime analytics software often comes down to the usual culprit: lack of money. With few exceptions, police agencies across the country are faced with the prospect of doing more with less. And with increased pressure on local departments to put more feet on the street, do more in terms of community policing, and divert funding to equip all officers with body cams, it’s often hard for departments to make big data solutions a top priority.

Money, however, is not the only issue slowing analytics adoption in the U.S. Unlike countries such as the U.K., the American law enforcement community is decentralized. It does not have a single system of data, standards, and operations. Rather, police departments here pride themselves on their individuality and independence. Walk into a meeting where 10 different departments are represented and you will likely see 10 different colors of uniforms.

The same holds true when it comes to information sharing. While it is often assumed that police departments all work in close cooperation with each other, the reality may be quite different.

ciaNone of this is news, nor is it a criticism of U.S. police departments. It simply reflects Americans’ independent nature and the way in which law enforcement in this country is structured. It’s the thing that makes us great but, in the case of analytics, it’s also a major factor slowing analytics adoption.

Big data adoption is also hampered by the sheer size of the U.S. Sure, from a pure geographic standpoint, the U.S. and Canada are similar in size. But most of Canada’s people live in Ontario or on the West Coast, near Vancouver. There are just over 200 police departments in all of Canada. Compare that to the U.S., where there are huge differences in the make-up of the population, not to mention lifestyle, attitudes, and so much more between, say, the Southwest and the Northeast.

Law enforcement policy-makers on the East Coast don’t know what to make of their counterparts on the West Coast and vice versa. Similarly, the day-to-day needs and demands placed on a police chief in Kansas City can’t help but be very different from those of his or her peers in Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, or Philadelphia.

Crime analytics Mapping Predicitive PolicingAll of these factors have contributed to slowing the adoption of analytics by U.S. police agencies. They are also complicated by perhaps the most intangible impediment: fear of technology. Whether they like to admit it or not, some law enforcement leaders are more comfortable taking an “old school” approach to police work. They prefer business as usual, which means feet on the street and files stacked on their detectives’ desks, not sleek, state-of-the-art technology.

Change is never easy, especially when tried-and-true policing methods have proven to be effective. Decentralization also plays a part here – it’s easier to take technology risks when it’s mandated from above and much harder for the nearly 18,000 law enforcement chiefs in the U.S. to each take a step into the unknown. Nevertheless, change is coming, spurred in large part by the fact that the cost of advanced crime analytics is coming down.

Also easing the impact of costs to local agencies will be the dollars for big data solutions coming from the federal government. Those funds come with a catch, however, that gets at another obstacle. A significant portion of federal funds in the future will be earmarked for supporting regional initiatives. That means to be eligible for federal funds, many departments will have no choice but to work with their colleagues across jurisdictional boundaries. And while that may bring some initial resistance, regional cooperation will inevitably help to promote not just data sharing, but overall effectiveness.

criminalThe public is also demanding increased police effectiveness and efficiency. Responding to that pressure, police chiefs are recognizing that big data solutions can have a huge impact on reducing the number of man-hours it takes to sift through mountains of data in order to solve crimes. This is particularly important as law enforcement finds itself confronting not only the standard array of home break-ins, car thefts, and the like, but also the threat of “lone wolf” terrorist attacks, cybercrime, and highly sophisticated international trafficking rings.

Fortunately, as analytics software has become more affordable, it has also become easier to use. No longer the exclusive domain of the IT department, newer big data solutions are now designed to be used by front line analysts and investigators, with just one or two days of training and without the need for sophisticated oversight.

This has dramatically changed the role of law enforcement analysts. Formerly the department statistician, today’s analyst has become a critically important member of the crime fighting team, capable of rapidly moving from tactical analysis to the focal point of providing intelligence on high-profile crimes and strategic crime-fighting initiatives.

Ease of use also comes into play as a new generation of officers, many of whom were raised on Google and Xbox, begin to take on leadership roles in their departments. These individuals are used to having the latest technology at their immediate disposal. They will readily see that a big data solution can not only play a critical role in more effective policing, but also pay for itself in savings of both time and money.

cloud-dataThe growing use of cloud computing plays a role in this equation. Storing data in the cloud is becoming accepted as safe and secure, bringing with it economic advantages and removing the need for departments to provide highly specialized IT staff and infrastructure previously required to support analytical solutions.

All of these factors are combining to change the face of effective policing in the U.S. That will mean significantly greater acceptance of analytics to mine everything from social media files, emails, text messages, and the content of police RMS systems to phone records, license plate reader data, and ballistics data. Efficiencies of scale will dictate greater cooperation among departments, resulting in increased efficiency and more effective policing. Being able to quickly search and find critical information in data that police agencies already have in hand will undoubtedly improve decision making and officer safety, while helping to solve cases more quickly.

black versionCrime Tech Solutions, who earlier this year acquired TN based Case Closed Software, delivers unique value to customers with comprehensive investigative case management software, sophisticated link analysis tools, criminal intelligence management software, and crime mapping technology that includes some of the industry’s best analytics and reporting capabilities.

 

Overland Park senior crime analyst Jamie May joins Crime Tech Solutions

September 16, 2016 – (Leander, TX)  Crime Tech Solutions, a fast-growing provider of low cost / high performance crime fighting software and analytics is delighted to announce the addition of Jamie May as senior analyst and strategic advisor to the company.

jamiemayMs. May has spent over 17 years as a crime and intelligence analyst for Overland Park Police Department in Kansas, and is a recognized expert in crime analysis, mapping, and criminal intelligence. She has sat on critical crime analysis committees including the International Association of Crime Analysts’ Ethics Committee (IACA) and is a past Vice President / Secretary at Mid American Regional Crime Analyst Network (MARCAN).

“Jamie brings an incredible amount of user experience and innovation to the company”, said Kevin Konczal, Crime Tech Solutions’ VP of Sales. “She’s been active in this community for years, and co-authored the ground-breaking guide, GIS in Law Enforcement: Implementation Issues and Case Studies.”

“To me, Crime Tech Solutions represents a truly innovative company that understands how to develop and market very good technology at prices that most agencies can actually afford”, said Ms. May. “I’m looking forward to being part of the continued growth here.”

In her role with the company, Ms. May will interact with customers and prospects to help align the company’s solution strategy with market and user requirements.

black versionCrime Tech Solutions, who earlier this year acquired TN based Case Closed Software, delivers unique value to customers with comprehensive investigative case management software, sophisticated link analysis tools, criminal intelligence management software, and crime mapping technology that includes some of the industry’s best analytics and reporting capabilities.