Fighting Crime and Terrorism through Data Integration
By Neil Kurlander
Crime knows no boundaries. The constellation of clues and evidence related to criminal activity is often spread across disconnected databases and paper files in thousands of local, state and federal agencies across the nation. If this disparate data was fully integrated and subjected to state of the art analysis tools, law enforcement agencies would be much more effective in both preventing crime and solving open cases.
In many cases criminals who have been stopped by the police are freed when local law enforcement data searches miss important information that is stored outside of their own systems. An integrated data system would enhance the ability of law enforcement to identify suspects quickly. Accurate identification is the key to successful investigations. Whether a person is arrested or is released for a crime that occurred in another jurisdiction is frequently based on the ability of the police to confirm the subjects identity. It is the persons identity that links the person to an arrest warrant. Warrants are stored in databases on the local, state and federal level. In addition, terrorist watch lists and investigative alerts are also computerized and stored in different databases. Most of these databases are not integrated and therefore the information contained within them is not shared.
Since the greatest majority of arrests occur during vehicle stops an effective system requires timely information. The wide spread use by police departments of in-car computers connected by wireless networks now make the sharing of information between agencies at all levels possible.
Artificial intelligence programs could be used to search databases, detect patterns and to link suspects and evidence leading to a more sophisticated and efficient criminal information system. Law enforcement agencies could then prioritize their resources to focus on areas identified as high risk. This is especially important in the pursuit of terrorists, so that their preparations for attack can be disrupted before they result in destructive actions.
To proactively address both traditional criminal activity and the more recent threat of terrorism, technology must be put into place that creates a seamless data grid that can be queried in real-time as needed by authorized agencies. In this paper, we will look at a number of current initiatives focusing on the integration of criminal justice data.
Today, law enforcement agencies are generally aware of only the crimes that occur in their jurisdiction or in their domain of authority. Information about crimes that take place in other areas is often gleaned through media coverage or through after-the-fact criminal exchange meetings between different agencies. This occurs even if two agencies have adjoining jurisdictions or associated authority.
The terrorist attacks on September 11th have graphically exposed the risk of our current stove-piped data structure. If we had an integrated data system in place, the isolated data points of suspicious activity at flight schools might have been recorded and analyzed, and reports of the risk of terrorist hijacking might have alerted law enforcement in time to prevent the tragic events.
Since 9/11, the federal government has been aggressively working to link the databases of its many agencies and to improve information sharing between federal, state and local agencies. However, it is quite likely that information exists in far-flung databases that could avert the next terrorist attempt. Given that major existing threat, a system needs to be in place to correlate, connect, and integrate the disconnected pieces of data that currently reside in separate data sources.
NATIONAL CRIMINAL DATABASES
Currently, national databases such as the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) are in place to archive and provide access to data concerning fugitive, missing and wanted persons and vehicles, criminal histories, and stolen property. Criminal information is sometimes shared by entering the data into separate databases as is done in the investigation of violent crimes using the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (VICAP). VICAP is a nationwide data information center designed to collect, collate, and analyze crimes of violence – specifically murder. The F.B.I. provides the VICAP database software to state and local law enforcement agencies, free of charge. The program has been embraced by many large and small agencies nationwide.
Unfortunately, no national database exists for sharing information among criminal justice agencies concerning criminal activity and information contained within law enforcement incident reports. Historically, this has occurred for several reasons.
1. There has been resistance to sharing information between agencies. In many communities the fact that crimes are being committed is concealed from the public as much as possible. No community wants to be perceived as being an unsafe place to live or work. If information about crime is shared between agencies it is feared that the information would become known to the public.
2. Computerized records management software designed for law enforcement is a relatively new phenomenon. This technology has only become widely used in the last 20 years. Most law enforcement agencies have records management software but there are many small agencies that continue to use paper reports.
3. Record management systems are typically developed in-house or purchased from a vendor. Some public safety vendors have written software programs that allow multiple police agencies to link their databases as long as each agency is using the same vendors system. Efforts are now underway to find a uniform way to connect legacy systems that utilize vendors proprietary systems.
Several large scale efforts are developing criminal justice integration standards. The successful integration of data is highly dependent upon the development and adoption of accepted standards. Among these are the following:
The GLOBAL Initiative
The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has recognized that the ever-increasing interstate and transnational nature of crime is a serious issue to the country and has urged the Administration and Congress to support efforts such as the GLOBAL Justice Information Sharing Initiative for improving the integration and compatibility of local, state, federal and international criminal justice information systems.
GLOBAL is a consortium of 32 local, state, federal, and international justice organizations that are working on sharing information using a common XML standard. Member organizations participate in GLOBAL out of shared responsibility and a shared belief that, together, they can bring about positive change in inter-organizational communication and data sharing that will span the spectrum of law enforcement, judicial, correctional, and related bodies. GLOBAL released the first operational version of their XML Data Model (GJXDM) in February 2004.
As part of this effort, the GAC (Global Advisory Council) was established to advise the nation’s highest-ranking law enforcement officer, the U.S. Attorney General, on public safety matters. GAC aids its member organizations and the people they serve through a series of important initiatives such as: the facilitation of the GLOBAL working groups; the development of technology standards, such as the GLOBAL Justice XML Data Model; the creation of white papers on data sharing issues, such as the National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan; and the dissemination of information via the GLOBAL Web site.
GLOBAL aims to develop and implement a standards-based electronic information exchange capability, providing the justice community with timely, accurate, complete, and accessible information in a secure and trusted environment. The value of a GLOBAL Justice Information Sharing Initiative capability is that it benefits all operational justice officials.
The efforts of the Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative (Global) Advisory Committee (GAC) have directly impacted the work of more than 1.2 million justice professionals. The organization’s mission positions GLOBAL to impact citizens of the U.S., Canada, and beyond. GLOBALS mission – the efficient sharing of data among justice entities – is at the very heart of modern public safety and law enforcement.
SEARCH, The National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics, is a nonprofit membership organization created by and for the states. SEARCH is dedicated to improving the criminal justice system and the quality of justice through better information management, the effective application of information and identification technology, and responsible law and policy.
Since 1969, SEARCH’s primary objective has been to identify and help solve the information management problems of state and local justice agencies confronted with the need to exchange information with other local agencies, state agencies, agencies in other states, or with the federal government.
SEARCH is governed by a Membership Group comprised of one gubernatorial appointee from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as eight at-large appointees selected by SEARCH’s Chair. Members are primarily state-level justice officials responsible for operational decisions and policymaking concerning the management of criminal justice information, particularly criminal history information.
A staff of professionals works from SEARCH headquarters in Sacramento, California, to implement solutions identified by the Membership Group. Through its staff and with the direction of the Membership, SEARCH provides justice agencies with diverse products, services and resources through three program areas: Systems and Technology, Law and Policy, and Research and Statistics.
Funding for SEARCH activities is provided by annual fees from member states for the operation of the consortium and Board of Directors grants from various U.S. Justice agencies, state grants and federal, state and local contracts.
The Justice Information Exchange Model (JIEM) is a product of SEARCH. Its components include a conceptual framework, research and planning methodology and the JIEM Modeling Tool, a Web-based software application that enables users to document and analyze justice information exchanges. JIEM is the model that is preferred by NASCIO (National Association of States Chief Information Officers) for inter-state integration of justice systems by the States.
JIEM incorporates the use of the Global Justice XML Data Model (GJXDM). GJXDM has been created to facilitate a common set of XML definitions to be used by all levels of justice professionals to share information.
THE LAW ENFORCEMENT INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY STANDARDS COUNCIL (LEITSC)
LEITSC is a joint effort of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Sheriffs Association, The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, and the Police Research Forum to develop information standards specific to the law enforcement community. LEITSC utilizes integration practitioners, industry representatives and justice standards representatives to review and evaluate existing information standards, specifically designed to meet functional and technical XML standards.
Working cooperative with the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), the Corrections Technology Association (CTA) and the American Probation and Parole Associations Standards Committee (APPA) and others, LEITSC is researching and compiling data needed to develop and prepare recommended standards.
There are a number of other national integration efforts.
The Office of Law Enforcement Standards (OLES) Public Safety Communications Standards program is developing standards for voice, data, image and video transfer. OLES works closely with GLOBAL. Project coordination is by the Office of Justice Planning (OJP) and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).
The Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) announced in January 2004 that the Legal XML Lawful Intercept (LI-XML) Committee was formed to help meet agencies information sharing needs.
XML is being used by NLETS (National Law Enforcement Telecommunication System). This initiative is supported by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA). AAMVA is a voluntary body of all state and provincial officials in the U.S. and Canada that administer and enforce motor vehicle law.
The Industry Working Group (IWG) and the Integrated Justice Information Systems (IJIS) Institute represent over 200 private companies that specialized in criminal justice technology. Its members participate in the standards development effort at the national level through its participation on subcommittees of the Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative and by directly assisting jurisdictions in CJIS integration.
INTELLIGENCE DATA SHARING
Sharing of information about individuals or groups that are involved in criminal activities is very limited. In fact, a survey conducted by the Major Cities Chiefs Association revealed these problems:
1. Lack of communication and information sharingspecifically, lack of a centralized analysis and dissemination function, either at the state or federal level, lack of intelligence from federal agencies, and state statutory requirements that present hurdles to sharing information.
2. Technology issues specifically, lack of equipment to facilitate a national intelligence data system, lack of interconnectibility of law enforcement and other databases (e.g. immigration services), limited fiscal resources, lack of technological infrastructure throughout the state, and lack of uniformity between computer systems.
3. Lack of intelligence standards and policies specifically, lack of common standards for collection, retention, and dissemination of intelligence data; a need for increased local training on legal standards for collection, storage, and purging of data; access to classified data; and lack of standards for determining when to disseminate intelligence to federal agencies.
4. Lack of intelligence analysis specifically, lack of compatible analytical software and lack of analytical support, personnel, equipment, and training.
5. Poor working relationships specifically, unwillingness of law enforcement agencies to provide information due to parochial interests and a culture within the federal system that does not foster sharing of information or trust between agencies.
Source: National Criminal Sharing Plan Oct 2003-Office of Justice Programs U.S. Dept. of Justice Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative (page 3). http://it.ojp.gov/documents/National_Criminal_Intelligence_Sharing_Plan.pdf
Federal authorities are also taking steps to address criminal justice integration. Following is a summary of initiatives in progress.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
In February, 2004 the U. S. Attorney General created the Justice Intelligence Coordinating Council to coordinate intelligence sharing among Justice Department components. The federal government designated the six Regional Information Sharing Centers Systems (RISS) to share information with state and local law enforcement. RISS was linked to LEO (Law Enforcement On-Line), the F.B.I.s information sharing system, to form RISS/LEO. The system is being used to provide security information to be distributed quickly to all RISS and LEO users through a new Internet-based Alert System.
A new project called ATIX-RISS Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange recently began testing in several states running across the RISS/LEO system. This plan grew out of the recommendations of the Global Justice Information Sharing Advisory Committee (GAC).
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY (DHS)
Since the Department of Homeland Securitys inception in early 2003 they have been developing and implementing a national security communications net. The DHS communication net is designed to provide threat analysis and intelligence information between the component agencies of the DHS and to state and local agencies.
The net has three components, JRIES (Joint Regional Information Exchange System), HSDN (Homeland Security Data Network), and HSIN (Homeland Security Information Network).
JRIES is a secure network and a suite of applications currently operating at the sensitive but unclassified (SBU) level. Participants currently include approximately 100 organizations, including federal agencies, States, municipalities and other local government entities, with a significant law enforcement user base. All participating entities have a certified counterterrorism mission. Approximately 1,000 users currently have access to the system. JRIESs collaboration tools are used for threat analysis and provide real-time links to the DHS Operation Center.
HSDN is a private secure network for the sharing of information between the twenty two agencies of the Department of Homeland Security.
HSIN is the primary network for sending Alerts and sharing information in emergency situation between DHS and all states, 50 major urban areas and five territories.
The Office of Interoperability and Compatibility (OIC), part of the Science & Technology directorate, will oversee the wide range of public safety interoperability programs and efforts currently spread across Homeland Security. These programs address critical interoperability issues relating to public safety and emergency response, including communications, equipment, training, and other areas as needs are identified.
In 1997 the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania created a secure virtual system on-line environment for the sharing of criminal justice information among participating agencies. As of September 28, 2004 JNET is connecting:
Over 15,000 total users
54 Participating Counties
39 State Agencies
17 Federal Agencies
Over 220 Municipal Police Departments
Over 200 State Police Divisions
Over 500 District Justice Offices
The JNET Office is involved in two national information-sharing efforts with the National Governors Association (NGA). The first effort is being sponsored by Governor Mike Leavitt of Utah and involves developing a national framework for homeland security information sharing. This model is being endorsed and sponsored by the National Office of Homeland Security. The JNET model and governance structure will be used as a framework for this initiative.
The second effort entitled, The Middle Atlantic Justice Information Sharing Initiative was initiated, hosted and sponsored by the JNET Office. Representatives from seven surrounding states, the National Office of Homeland Security, Office of Justice Programs, National Governors Association, SEARCH and the National Criminal Justice Association are collaborating on an effort to share information amongst participating states as a pilot for a national integrated justice system. The JNET model and governance structure will be used as a framework for this initiative.
JNET is considered the most advanced state initiative and a national model for information sharing.
The most successful regional effort for sharing criminal justice information is the San Diego regions Automated Regional Justice System (ARJIS).
ARJIS is a complex criminal justice enterprise network utilized by 50 local, state and federal agencies in the San Diego region. ARJIS is chartered with supporting a regional web based enterprise network that utilizes technical and operational standards to build interfaces to all criminal justice systems in the region. The ARJISNet secure intranet contains data on the regions crime cases, arrests, citations, field interviews, traffic accidents, fraudulent documents, photographs, gang information and stolen property.
ARJISNet integrates over 2,500 workstations and printers throughout the 4,265 square miles of San Diego County. There are over 10,000 registered and authorized users generating over 35,000 transactions daily.
ARJIS is also utilized for tactical analysis, investigations, statistical information and crime analysis. Officers and investigators can additionally request electronic notification when information is obtained by another agency or officer concerning an individual, location or vehicle. The critical success factor for ARJIS is the “single point of entry” to query all regional justice data.
ARJIS is currently collaborating with the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) to build new web based technologies to continue the support of the criminal justice community.
BARRIERS TO SUCCESSFUL INTEGRATION OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE DATA
Not all initiatives for information sharing have proven to be successful due to legal and political concerns over privacy rights. One example is the Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange System (MATRIX),
Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) decided to improve the way they shared information. Working with an industry vendor they developed the Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange (Matrix) system.
Matrix started as a way for law enforcement officials in Florida, Georgia, New York, Oregon and Pennsylvania to share data, but a handful of other states also were attracted to the project. By mid-2003 it had grown to encompass 13 states, accounting for about 50 percent of the U.S. population.
Using the Factual Analysis Criminal Threat Solution, the Web-based technology core of Matrix, users can submit a query on anything relating to a possible suspect or a criminal situation and get back a slew of related information within seconds. From a technological point of view, Matrix was a success.
However, in late 2003, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) started campaigning against Matrix, claiming that law enforcement agencies could mine an array of personal information contained in the databases.
Stories began appearing in newspapers nationwide comparing Matrix to the Total Information Awareness program, which was conceived by officials at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency as a way of tracking potential terrorists in the general population. Officials had to shelve TIA after a public outcry over privacy implications.
Several participants dropped out after the ACLU’s campaign gathered momentum. Utah officials backed out because of privacy concerns after the governor and other state political leaders complained that they learned of the state’s involvement only through the media. Other state opted out of the program due to cost and other considerations such as control over their data.
Involvement in Matrix is now down to five states: Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Law enforcement officials who use Matrix are making adjustments. For example, they recently decided to move to a distributed database so that states would be able to control their own data, alleviating concerns about the security of data that is moved to a central database.
Legal restrictions on the sharing of intelligence data have slowed the progress of several initiatives. The Criminal Intelligence Systems Operating Policies of 28 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR Part 23) and state laws in some cases prohibit agencies from participating in a data warehouse that commingles criminal and intelligence data or sharing local records with the federal government.
In todays interconnected world, public safety officials at all levels of government are attempting to establish standards and protocols for sharing information about criminal activity. The importance of the ability of government to collect information, analyze that information accurately and share it appropriately has been brought to the forefront by recent terrorist activities.
The failure of emergency responders to be able to communicate with each other during incidents has been identified and attempts to improve the communications systems are being pursued. The establishment of systems for sharing accurate and timely information is being put into place so that effective responses can be activated and resources deployed effectively.
Millions of dollars are being spent to enhance intelligence sharing and communications between our governments homeland security and public safety agencies. The use of Extensible Markup Language (XML) has been determined to be the technology of choice for many of the on-going CJIS initiatives
Neil Kurlanders dual careers in public safety and technology spans four decades. In 1965 he joined the St .Louis Metropolitan Police Department and served in a variety of positions from officer to commander. In 1985 he was selected as the first chief of police of the Maryland Heights, Missouri Police Department, a position he held for 15 years. Under his leadership the department became one of the first in the nation to deploy in-car computers using wireless technology for dispatching and report writing, The department also was one of the first to deploy AVL technology to track the location of the patrol fleet and GIS mapping for crime analysis and operational planning.
Neil is a life member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and currently serves on the associations Communication and Technology Committee. He has held a variety of leadership positions at the national and state level including Vice Chair of the State Association of Chiefs of Police.
He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and earned a Masters of Arts degree in Criminology from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Urban Affairs from St. Louis University.
His advocacy for the use of technology by law enforcement resulted in his appointment as chair of technology committees on both the local and state level. Mr. Kurlander is the Vice President of Public Sector Solutions for Asynchrony Solutions.
About Asynchrony Solutions: Asynchrony Solutions is an information technology consulting firm specializing in middleware architecture, system integration and custom application development, including wireless and web applications. Asynchrony Solutions extensive experience in the application of XML makes it an excellent choice for providing cost effective solutions to state and local government. For more information, visit: