Ohio's Criminal Intelligence Center Uses Data to Fight Crime

The center, approaching it's first anniversary, arms deputies with quick, accurate analyses.

by Thomas Gnau, Dayton Daily News, Ohio / January 31, 2017
Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock

(TNS) -- A former Teradata Corp. executive can tell Montgomery County Sheriff’s deputies which neighborhoods have been plagued by robberies — and with software, even what addresses are mostly likely to be hit next.

That former executive, Bruce Langos, can warn deputies about the domestic violence history at certain addresses. He can warn the chiefs of 29 county law enforcement agencies about the number of overdose calls — as of Jan. 15 there were 148 — area departments have received.

The Criminal Intelligence Center started by Langos can, when armed with search warrants, pinpoint a cell phone’s location based on mapping data from cell towers, often leading to a suspect’s location. It finds criminal histories to give deputies a better picture of situations as they respond to calls.

The center can even tell deputies who has bragged on Facebook or Twitter about having committed recent crimes — or even planning them.

Langos and Criminal Analyst Megan Wulber have harnessed and shared information like this from their Infirmary Road office for close to a year.

Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer calls the center a “force multiplier.”

“He isn’t getting paid half of what he’s worth,” Plummer said of Langos, who was hired last year at a salary of $55,000, about a mid-level deputy’s salary.

The analysis happens very quickly, aiming to equip deputies as they move with the information they need, Langos said.

“It’s almost real time,” he said. “If there’s a priority call or a part 1 crime that takes place, then we jump on that pretty quick.”

‘Invaluable’

The center is approaching its first anniversary in early February. Plummer last year said he cut a deputy’s position to help invest $300,000 into the center and its work. This year, that investment will get closer to $500,000, which Langos hopes to buttress with grants, he said.

Miami Twp. Police Chief Ron Hess said the center has been “invaluable” to local departments like his. Miami Twp. relies on the center particularly on lengthy investigations that require detectives to put “all the players together” in complicated cases.

“When we have a crime with very little information, we can turn to them … for clues to go on, suspects to go on,” Hess said.

The center saves investigators time, the chief said.

“I send something to Bruce,” Hess said. “Here’s the crime I’m working on. Here are the players I have. Here are the street names I have. Here are some phone numbers I have. Here are the Facebook accounts I have.”

The Criminal Intelligence Center “then puts the pieces of the puzzles together,” Hess said.

Tom Thompson — city of Miamisburg assistant city manager and former assistant police chief for that city — said the center has helped with “intelligence gathering that affects the entire region.”

Drug trafficking, burglaries and other crimes don’t respect municipal boundaries, he said. A central intelligence-gathering effort is helpful, he said.

“I would definitely say that the center has been very beneficial to local jurisdictions, and I can say with certainty for Miamisburg,” Thompson said.

Hess said he hopes the center continues to operate. “It’s a sharing of information that has to happen.”

‘That’s what we’ve chosen to focus on’

Plummer said he has approached the county commission twice for help in funding the center. He was rebuffed twice, he said.

“We have a heroin epidemic upon us,” the sheriff said. “We’ve been given zero additional resources to combat that. It has been very frustrating.”

Commissioner Dan Foley said the sheriff has a $52 million annual budget, about a third of the size of the county’s overall general fund, about $150 million.

What county leaders have decided to do is fund improvements for several “core responsibilities” that the sheriff’s department has, including the jail and the regional dispatch center, among other areas, Foley said. The county also helped fund five new positions in the jail to help deal with mental health and addiction issues there, he said.

“That’s what we’ve chosen to focus on,” Foley said. “And by the way, we did that in collaboration with the sheriff and the staff.”

Foley agrees that the Criminal Intelligence Center has value. But the county is facing a potential reduction of about $8.7 million a year in sales tax collections on services from Medicaid managed-care health organizations.

“We’re not in a position to fund non-mandated items for any office because of concerns that that may happen,” Foley said, adding later, “Our radar is up. We’re very concerned about the potential (sales tax reduction).”

Concerns

David Rich, former city manager of Plymouth, Mich. and a professor of public administration and political science for Cedarville University, said that with this approach, however, some questions could be raised about, for example, the harming of Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

Said Rich, “I’m actually torn in terms the right to privacy and protection, putting protections in place.”

At the same time, he said, law enforcement agencies and others have collected online data for two decades or more. “The CIA and the FBI all collect meta-data. We know that.”

And no one who talks of planning a crime or having committed a crime on Facebook or Twitter should have any expectation of “privacy,” he added.

“It’s just as if yor’re going to a public bulletin board or billboard …. It’s a public space out there, Rich said.

Likewise, deputies should be able to get information about a history of abuse or threats at an address as they respond to a call, he said.

“When law enforcement rolls out to a call, they ought to have a heads-up, that this is an individual who has used a gun before,” Rich said.

The city of Toledo has an intelligence center, Plummer said. And major cities work with states at fusion centers that assist in homeland security work. Ohio has three of those.

But to Plummer’s knowledge, the Montgomery County center is the only such county center in Ohio.

And it’s focused on local crime, noted Rob Streck, the sheriff department’s chief deputy.

“Because we’re lucky enough to be associated with the regional dispatch center, Bruce and his people listen to the radio,” Streck said. “They know when there was a felonious assault in Trotwood. They know if there’s a robbery in Dayton. They’re able to help as events are unfolding.”

©2017 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.