ORGANIZATION: Riverside County Sheriff's Department, Special Investigations Bureau, Crime Analysis Unit, www.riversidesheriff.org
VENDOR OR SOLUTION PROVIDER OF CHOICE: ISYS Search Software, www.isys-search.com
Supporting Law Enforcement
The Riverside County Sheriff's Department covers nearly a 7,500-square-mile area in Southern California. The Crime Analysis Unit of the Special Investigations Bureau consists of 19 analysts who support the information needs of the various units of the department, from patrol officers and investigators to homicide to intelligence operations (such as organized crime, terrorism, and gang activity). "We're kind of a clearing house of information," says Brian Gray, crime analysis unit supervisor. "We monitor and maintain information and databases on individuals that are involved in criminal activity (such as parole and probation).We also use open source information or public source intelligence (including databases like LexisNexis). We basically find people and statistical information by looking at crime patterns, series and trends."
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Among the unit's other capabilities: utilizing mapping software to plot crime locations and using data to determine those crime patterns. It is also relied upon to determine where and when unit troops need to be deployed.
The unit plays a major role in the department's success. "This unit is mission-essential in our fight against crime and criminals," says Sheriff Bob Doyle. "We are fortunate to have a team of this caliber."
Managing Multiple Documents
Because Gray's unit has access to literally tens of thousands of documents, the implementation of an enterprise search solution that would make searching a variety of topics quickly was perhaps inevitable.
The need was enhanced after 9/11, when the unit began receiving documents from a wide collection of sources—and in a variety of formats (from text files to PDFs and HTML documents)—via e-mail. The crime analysis unit had to absorb content that ranged in size from a one-page flyer to a 600-page report. "If it's a single page, you can scan it and [understand] it," says Gray. "If it's a five hundred to six hundred page PDF file or word document, it's difficult to digest it; and maybe it's not something you need today. But it doesn't mean that a week from now or a year from now, you're not going to need that information."
It was imperative that the unit keep all of the information stored in a digital library where it could be easily accessed and searched when needed. "In the business world, time is money. But in law enforcement, time is everything," says Gray. "The faster you can produce information, the quicker response you have, the more likely it's going to lead to an effective response, such as an arrest. Our administration counts on us to produce quality intelligence in the shortest amount of time."
Investigating the Options
Gray says he was initially unaware of other vendors when he determined his unit needed an enterprise search solution. He only knew of a colleague who achieved success with his ISYS Search Software offering."In law enforcement, that works," says Gray. "People trust other agencies [rather] than a salesperson."
Gray says when he first heard of ISYS, he initially thought it could be used for internal documents.Yet, he wasn't sure how it would fit into his unit's processes because a lot of reports were handwritten and couldn't be scanned.When he saw the external documents arrive in technology-friendly formats, he decided to give it a try. Use of the ISYS: desktop product just expanded from there.
"Once we purchased it, we started to branch off," says Gray. "Instead of relying on what was being sent to us (documents from government agencies, for instance), now we could proactively seek articles (from other publications) and save those documents as well. So we have a wellrounded library we can depend on in the future."
Now, those internal documents are also part of the system. For example, analysts are required to complete a weekly log that outlines the duties they performed each day: what they accomplished, the cases they worked on, the investigators they worked with.Those logs are then saved into a folder. "If a month or year from now a detective comes back and [asks about an individual from the past], we don't have to waste the time going back and looking it up again.We can go to ISYS, enter the name, and it locates those logs. It lets us give them the information again or remember what we did."Weekly homicide analyst logs on the system date back to 2000.
Implementing and getting users accustomed to ISYS: desktop was far from time-consuming, recalls Gray. Implementation only involves loading the software onto a computer.Then, within a matter of minutes, the software has read through millions of words and made them available to enter a query.
The system has been used by the intelligence and homicide units for several years. The implementation continues today. Gray recently introduced it on the station level. The Internal Affairs department has also begun using ISYS as well.
Gray notes that using ISYS: desktop is as easy as the integration. "Within seconds, you have an answer to your question," says Gray. Once the system identifies relevant documents, users can click to open them and see their keywords highlighted in yellow.
A query menu begins a typical search. A user is asked to "find all documents that contain" a specific word. The query can be tailored in many ways; for example, it can be adjusted to contain additional words and even two words in the same paragraph.
A Partner in Solving Crimes
While Gray says the ISYS: desktop solution cannot be solely credited for solving crimes, it has certainly contributed to the successful resolution of cases investigated by the department. "You can't directly relate it as the one thing that helped solve a homicide," says Gray. "But it plays an important role in coming up with the pieces of information. It's seldom that one piece of information solves the case. It's a combination of lots of pieces of information together. ISYS allows us to bring several of those pieces of information together along with the evidence in a case.
"Much of what happens in the intelligence world is not something that leads to an arrest," says Gray. "It helps you understand a particular group. It's trying to be proactive; trying to understand the impact this group may have and stop things from occurring."
Gray recalls an instance in which an analyst was asked to locate reports containing references to an indvidual who was identified as a homicide suspect. The analyst conducted a search on the name and found the individual was involved in that crime and was also a suspect in a previous homicide. "This was something that ISYS captured because it was in a report, but it wasn't something that would have been in a record system," says Gray. "It allowed us to link this individual to more than one homicide based on the information that was in the weekly notes." Another analyst was able to check her weekly notes to find eight different cases associated with a crime. "It saved her time because the cases were old and not maintained locally," adds Gray. "She queried ISYS and didn't have to locate the files manually."
According to Gray, the benefits have been even more far-reaching."When the analysts see the benefits of storing this weekly log information, then they do a better job writing their logs," he says, adding that it helps the unit better promote itself and the services it provides. "Those are added benefits that have nothing to do with necessarily the power of the product," says Gray. "But because the product makes us successful, then that allows us to get better. It helps us with our reputation. That makes a big difference when you ask for a bigger group."
While the unit is comprised of 19 analysts today, the group was much smaller just 10 years ago. In 1996, there were only six in the unit. That growth has come from the successes the analysts have had," says Gray. "A part of that success has been the ability to organize and quickly retrieve the information we need."
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About the Author
MARJI MCCLURE (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a freelance writer who covers content, document and knowledge management for KMWorld and its sister publication, EContent.
Query results are listed according to relevance of the search terms entered. Users can preview an article at the bottom of the screen, where search terms are highlighted in yellow within the article.
Analysts with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department Crime Analysis Unit can narrow the results of their search by pinpointing the exact location of search terms within a document.