Cracking cases quickly
Delaware State Police use the SAS® Memex Platform to identify suspects and solve crimes
It sounds like the opening minutes of a television police drama. Someone is preying on senior citizens, robbing them on the street and assaulting them. With no more to go on than a description of a suspect and a suspect vehicle, police are challenged with solving this violent crime with limited information.
Except in Delaware, police weren’t discouraged. When this incident happened recently, the vehicle description was fed into the state police SAS Memex Platform and a possible link surfaced: A previously issued traffic ticket given to a person in the area of the assaults, driving a car with that same description. One click later, police knew the ticketed individual was on parole for street robberies. A picture of the parolee was matched to neighborhood surveillance video, and the case was solved.
It allows the rookie cop to have the same type of institutional knowledge as a 30-year detective.
Lt. William Crotty
Delaware State Police
“That never would have been possible years ago,” says Lieutenant William Crotty of the Delaware State Police. “And with a criminal targeting older men, someone could have ended up dying.”
The Delaware State Police department uses the SAS Memex Platform to pull in organizational records, collision investigation data, traffic citations, criminal incident documentation and calls for service from every law enforcement agency in the state. It makes these records searchable and indexable – even allowing visual display to search for patterns and proximity. Lt. Crotty calls it “Google for cops.” It layers in additional information from the firearm forensic database, Department of Corrections information, statewide criminal intelligence records and carefully secured information from police informants. Structured and unstructured data can be searched using as little as the nickname of a possible criminal.
“Whether it is a structured data search or an unstructured text search, it gives a comprehensive view of what’s going to identify persons, places and things pertaining to a crime,” Lt. Crotty says.
Augmenting hunches and institutional knowledge
While police agencies have always depended on records to break open cases, often it was the institutional knowledge of seasoned officers that solved crimes. They know the beat, the people and the neighborhood. The system catalyzes information sharing, so departments are less dependent on what officers know. “It allows the rookie cop to have the same type of institutional knowledge as a 30-year detective,” Lt. Crotty says. And that has helped law enforcement throughout the state quickly investigate cases and arrest perpetrators. A sample of some of the successes:
Busting a burglary ring. Over a three-week period, there were multiple burglaries reported in an area. Surveillance footage turned up a partial vehicle description. The database showed the vehicle belonged to an elderly man – not a likely robber. Police ran a query in the SAS Memex Platform on the address where the vehicle was registered, and discovered a domestic violence report, which occurred at the same address. The narrative of this report noted that a grandson lived at the address. The grandson’s DMV photo was ultimately matched to the surveillance video. The case was solved 10 minutes after the car’s owner was identified. In the past, the only option would have been a manual search of records for complaints from that address or a time-intensive stakeout to see if anyone else was driving the car.
Helping the federal government crack a case. The US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had been trying to locate a suspect for five months with just a nickname. When the agency asked the Delaware State Police for help, the suspect was identified in less than a minute. The ability to search on nicknames is one aspect of the system that has been a huge help for law enforcement. “Cops are highly cynical people,” Lt. Crotty says. “So when they search a database, they want to see things that they know exist. If they search on a prevailing nickname and can find something, it validates the system.”
Gaining acceptance and growing usage
While every law enforcement agency in Delaware received training within a year of the system going online, acceptance grew gradually. Sometimes it came when traditional means led to a dead end. “We had a guy who ran a criminal investigative bureau. He was investigating a case where a burglary suspect injured a trooper while fleeing. All he had to go on was a partial tag and a partial vehicle description,” Lt. Crotty says. “The investigator had 32 years of experience and brought in three of his best detectives. For four hours, they did everything they could to find the culprit. And then a guy with less than six months on the job identified the person in 15 minutes using SAS. That was a big win for us.”
Solve crimes quickly by being able to access information faster.
- Suspects are found in much less time.
- Human resources are maximized.
- Public safety is improved.