New Mohawk Valley Crime Analysis Center (New York State)

New York spreads crime analysis tech across the state

Leading-edge crime analysis technologies often are available only to big-city police forces, which have the scale and the budget to deploy them.  The state of New York, however, is opening up crime analysis centers across the state for local police. The recently opened Mohawk Valley Crime Analysis Center allows law enforcement agencies in 16 counties to leverage the work done by crime analysts, field intelligence officers and other professionals who staff centers across the state.

In addition to being connected to each other, centers in the state-supported network have access to information from the State Police, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, the Department of Motor Vehicles and the federal probation system.

The centers provide local law enforcement with increased data sharing capabilities along with access to social media mining software and geospatial data systems to help map crime "hot spots."

A New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services spokesman was unable to share details on the exact software used for mapping or social media mining because it is “used exclusively for law enforcement investigative purposes.” The DCJS wants “to ensure the integrity of the data and systems that the centers access and don't want to provide any information that could jeopardize the safety and security of that information.”

DCJS Executive Deputy Commissioner Michael Green said the centers have proved effective on many occasions, including solving a 2015 kidnapping of two students from the University of Rochester who were invited to a party that ended up being a ruse for their abduction and torture.

When investigators were conducting interview to get information on the student’s whereabouts, an analyst watching the interviews via a video stream searched databases for details mentioned by the interviewees. A name or partial name was mentioned that didn’t immediately mean anything to the police, Green said. “But the analyst was able to go into databases they had ... and ultimately printed out a picture” of the individual whose name was mentioned. The analyst “pulled the investigators out of the room, showed them the picture, told them who it was, gave them an address.”

The Oneida County crime analysis center is the eighth opened in the state. The ultimate goal is to have capabilities like this across New York, Green said.

Inside these centers, analysts listening to real-time police dispatches while facing a wall of monitors showing case work, computer-aided dispatch feeds, social media streams or maps.

Analysts can search in the local, state and federal databases for addresses or other relevant information reported by dispatchers. Relevant information can then be shared with officers responding to the call. If a city has surveillance cameras in the area, the analyst can pull up live video footage, as well.

The centers also use social media mining to uncover pertinent information, Green said.  In one case, this capability came in handy as police were looking for a homicide suspect without success. The suspect had taken down his social media profiles, but analysts continued to regularly check, according to Green. One day, they found a picture of the suspect standing in front of a house. Using databases to find the address of the suspect’s family and  Google Earth to find the house in the picture, analysts identified the house – in another state -- where police found the suspect, Green said.

The DCJS spokesman said the crime analysis centers are examples of the state leveraging its buying power to help localities invest in technology they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo shared this sentiment in a statement earlier this year.

“New York will continue to invest in protecting communities across the state by supporting law enforcement agencies with advanced technology to help solve crimes, protect victims and bring offenders to justice,” Cuomo said. “The new Mohawk Valley Center will strengthen the state’s crime analysis network even further by connecting more agencies and providing the resources needed to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers.”

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a former reporter for GCN.

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