Law Breakers Beware - InformationWeek

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6/24/2005
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Law Breakers Beware

New Jersey looks to extend the use of its intelligence database to police throughout the state, as well as to federal and international agencies

In a move to use intelligence as the primary weapon in its law-enforcement arsenal, the New Jersey attorney general's office has revealed an initiative worth at least $10 million to make its Statewide Intelligence Management System, or SIMS, available to officers and investigators at all 650 police agencies operating in the Garden State.

To expand the use of SIMS, the state has procured additional licenses for database and search software from Memex Inc. The state also plans to extend its SIMS training program to include prospective officers at the academy level.

Since 2002, the Memex Intelligence Engine database has served as the foundation for a system that lets New Jersey State Police intelligence specialists search databases statewide for information that could help them with criminal investigations. Now the state wants to put that investigative power into the hands of all state and local police officers in New Jersey and offer access to the system to other states, federal law-enforcement agencies, and international crime fighters.

Camden Police

Photo courtesy of Reuters
"No other state has initiated a statewide intelligence-sharing initiative that includes all state police as well as federal agencies," says Capt. Steve Serrao, assistant director for operations at the New Jersey Office of Counterterrorism and counterterrorism bureau chief for the New Jersey State Police. "We're now working to connect with police in the U.K."

State troopers and detectives use the system to look for information that can help in the investigation of crimes under their jurisdiction. For example, if a detective investigating a string of burglaries has a partial license plate number, a suspect's nickname, or the description of a suspect's tattoo, that user can enter the information into the system to see if something similar has been reported in another jurisdiction, Serrao says. The system then checks that query against any intelligence information available. "It helps make connections and helps put the right police personnel in touch with each other," he says.

Law-enforcement entities using Memex's technology first pull data from a variety of sources into the state's Memex Intelligence Engine database, which features a flat-text search capability that reduces the possibility of missing any key words during search and retrieval. "It's intelligence-led policing. We want this to be not only the accepted way to fight crime, but the preferred way," says Lt. John Menafra, SIMS administrator and New Jersey State Police unit leader for intelligence management.

Law-enforcement agencies worldwide, including the London Metropolitan Police at Scotland Yard and the Pennsylvania State Police, use Memex's technology. Scotland Yard has 32,000 registered users and can carry out 1,200 concurrent searches across its systems. The Pennsylvania State Police's Crime Workbench features the Memex Intelligence Engine database as an operational intelligence and case-management system to provide analysts and investigators with search and analysis capabilities.

"We would love to be able to share information with Pennsylvania, but privacy laws there prevent them from sharing information outside the state," Menafra says. "We can share with them, but they can't share with us."

New Jersey also is working with state police in Delaware, New York, and Ohio, as well as police departments in Baltimore and New York. Other city and state police have expressed interest in sharing data, and Menafra says New Jersey plans to train officials from the Homeland Security Department's Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the FBI, and the Office of Naval Intelligence to use SIMS.

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