PROBLEM/SITUATION: The Dallas/Fort Worth area police needed a tool to track gang activities.
SOLUTION: The Keller Police Department developed a gang intelligence system that can be shared by police agencies throughout Texas.
VENDORS: Lotus Development Corp.
USER CONTACT: Keller Police Dept., 817/431-1515.
By Justine Kavanaugh
There aren't many cities across the country unaffected by gangs and their often violent behavior. Open drug dealing and drive-by shootings are daily life on some neighborhood streets, and the public is increasingly outraged by horrors like the killing of a four-year-old girl in Los Angeles whose father turned down an alley and unwittingly drove the family car into a barrage of gang gunfire.
The escalating presence of street gangs and related crime prompted the Keller, Texas, Police Department to search for a tool that could help them deal with the problem. Officers in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex town of 17,500 are now able to piece together information on gangs and gang members using a new computer system. By using this information and sharing it with other jurisdictions, Keller hopes it will eventually make a difference not only in their neighborhoods, but throughout Texas.
Sgt. Cory Lance of the Keller Police Department, who has a background in electronics and computers, began examining database software packages last year that could possibly address his department's needs. "Previously, gang intelligence in Texas was housed in the headquarters of four different cities, with no central information resource," he explained. "In order to find information, officers frequently had to make numerous calls to other cities looking for any current intelligence they may have recently acquired about individuals, vehicles, or gang activities. Officers also had no way to access information in the field if they needed it."
What Lance wanted was a system that could be used to collect information in a database, and then facilitate the exchange of that information between officers, agencies and departments. What he eventually constructed is a system comprised of Lotus SmartSuite and Lotus Notes. According to Lance, the system is helping to solve more crimes and track areas of increased gang activity.
The new system works by allowing officers to enter and access key pieces of data such as gang name, vehicle, an individual's legal name, weapon, suspect associates, or incident date. The system is designed so that even if an officer has a very small piece of information to work with, like the partial license plate number of a car belonging to a person known to associate with a gang member, the systems' cross-referencing function connects that information to more information in the database about the gang or gang member, his activities, addresses, descriptions and photos. Officers can even access the database in their patrol cars utilizing laptops.
In conjunction with this database, Keller implemented a target offender database and a case tracking database. Since implementation, the case closure rate at Keller has increased from 30 percent to nearly 60 percent. Additionally, statistics show a 25 percent to 30 percent drop in more serious offenses.
"This system has benefitted us in multiple cases by helping us apprehend people and by linking people to other offenses," said Sgt. Juren of the Northeast Street Crimes Unit. "It makes the availability of gang information and the sharing of that information much easier."
ON THE LOOKOUT
Keller's gang intelligence system is linked to Freelance Graphics -- Lotus' graphics presentation software -- which allows photos to be stored on the system and linked with other information about a suspect. Keller is using this function to create "Be On the Lookout" (BOLO) bulletins. Officers can use the Notes database to locate information about a suspect and then import both photos and text into