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Analytics help city police connect the dots across databases

In law enforcement investigations, detectives and crime analysts must be able to synthesize information from a variety of databases. Investigators painstakingly compare data in various databases to find the thread that that can unravel a criminal enterprise, but as unprecedented amounts of relevant information come online, law enforcement officials need a better way to get insights from the data available to them. 

In Cary, N.C., officials are in the early stages of testing how to connect disparate systems of record into a single database that can spot discrepancies and help law enforcement use its resources more efficiently.

The Cary Police Department's call center, records management and GPS tracking platforms use the same on-premises data warehouse, but detectives must access multiple databases to draw connections.  Through the use of the SAS Intelligence and Investigation Management System, town law enforcement officials will have access to all of the systems of record through a single interface.

“We are working to identify which modules we could eliminate with the advanced features of the SAS system,” Kyle Kratzer, intelligence investigator for Cary PD, told GCN. “We are figuring out the systems that would work with SAS and finding ways to overcome our pain points.”

One of the biggest priorities for Cary PD is entity resolution, where names, phone numbers and addresses in a merged database can be matched based on what they have in common – such as people with similar name (John Adams and John Q. Adams) living at the same address who may or not be the same person.  The SAS system will flag possible connections that might have been missed by investigators.

The system will also help police officers get a better handle on time and location data so they can see where crimes are more likely to occur.  While some features will be available only to law enforcement for ongoing investigations, there are opportunities to work with other town departments on important issues such as property crime.

Cary will be able to "push beyond basic crime analysis" with the additional intelligence tools, Kratzer said.  By adding geospatial and temporal data to a basic suspect profile, investigators can move from "broad strokes [to] putting more meat on the skeleton,” he said.

The data intelligence system will also allow Cary police officers to create visualizations with  network representations, timelines and maps based on evidence to help them tell a story to their supervisors or in the court room.

The SAS Intelligence and Investigation Management System was unveiled on April 9 at the SAS Global Forum in Denver, Colo.  While the system is also currently being tested in Asia, the company also decided to explore the needs of law enforcement officials for this type of advanced analytical tool in its hometown of Cary, N.C.

Steve Bennett, director of the global government practice for SAS, told GCN the system is designed to capture information on people, objects, locations and events. It uses text analytics to digest free-form blocks of text from data reports into law enforcement systems of record using the SAS Visual Investigator System.

“Right now, detectives are limited to what they can do on within their own minds …  to make connections between bank records, people, vehicles and locations,” Bennett said.  “Like the old-fashioned incident wall, this creates a digital incident wall … to find connections between the things that we care about in our communities.”

The system also has role-based security to ensure that individuals have the appropriate level of access to data and to prevent unauthorized use.  The integrated enterprise approach will help law enforcement agencies efficiently organize, store and cleanse data and flag anomalies. 

Cary PD expects the system to be fully functional by the end of this year, but additional capabilities could be added over time to integrate data from body-worn or vehicle-mounted cameras. 

“We could get the ability down the line to be able to time stamp information or add GPS information as well as image resolution into the system as well to help draw more connections,” Kratzer said.

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for GCN, covering cloud, cybersecurity and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Before joining GCN, Friedman was a reporter for Gambling Compliance, where she covered state issues related to casinos, lotteries and fantasy sports. She has also written for Communications Daily and Washington Internet Daily on state telecom and cloud computing. Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at sfriedman@gcn.com or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

Click here for previous articles by Friedman.


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