September | October 2014

 

 

 


North Carolina Officers
Get a Complete Criminal Picture

By Jennifer Ginn, CSG Associate Editor
In 2008, two North Carolina college students from two the state’s flagship universities were murdered. The alleged murderers were no strangers to the criminal justice system.
“The investigation was very much scrutinized,” said Kay Meyer, data integration project manager for the North Carolina Office of the State Controller. “Essentially, what they found ... was the individuals (allegedly) involved in the murders had had encounters in the court system and with law enforcement in the weeks just prior to the murders. In both cases, they were supposed to be under the supervision of probation and parole officers and both had outstanding warrants.”
But because of the fragmentation of information in the state’s criminal justice system, it was hard to connect the dots on the alleged murderers. Department of Correction cases are identified by an identification number, the sex offender registry uses separate identification numbers and court cases have yet another number.
North Carolina made the best of a bad situation. The murders led legislators to order the creation of an integrated data system. The result was the Criminal Justice Law Enforcement Automated Data Services program—CJLEADS—an Innovations award winner for the Southern region.
“What CJLEADS does is a little unique,” said Meyer, who oversees the program. “… Data warehouses usually just compile information in one spot. We did this process called clustering. What clustering allows us to do is find records in each of those data sources that refer to a single person. People are identified differently in every one of those systems.”
Meyer said the system uses Social Security numbers, addresses, birthdates and fingerprints, where possible, but offenders often give the wrong information or, in the case of fingerprints, they aren’t always collected. CJLEADS uses an algorithm that makes a correct match 99 percent of the time, she said.
CJLEADS is a Web-based program that criminal justice officials—from youth services workers and sheriffs to judges and prison intake officials—can access from any computer. The program compiles all the information in one spot, showing outstanding warrants, and flagging suspects who may be dangerous and those who have concealed weapons permits. Real-time division of motor vehicles information and pictures also are available.
In one demonstration, an agent with the North Carolina Department of Insurance asked Meyer to look up a person he had been trying to find for weeks. Insurance investigators were ready to set up surveillance, which would have monopolized the time of four or five officers, to try to find her.
“When we ran a report, we found she had a traffic court date in another county in North Carolina in a week or so,” she said. “They (the Department of Insurance) sent an officer to that county courthouse. When the case was called, she stood up in court and they arrested her. That’s the kind of thing CJLEADS brought to the table.”
Mickey Biggs was the investigator looking for that woman, who was wanted in connection with an insurance fraud case. CJLEADS, he said, is a great tool to have at his disposal.
“I think it is an excellent idea,” Biggs said. “As a program, it is easy to use and consolidates a lot of in-state information in one place. … It literally saved us a lot of man-hours and obviously, officers for the stakeout.
“… Any time I open a case on any potential target, I automatically run a CJLEADS. It gives me a good overview of that individual. It may indicate even other outstanding warrants out there, which gives me the ability to go ahead and pick them up now before my charges are ready.”
Meyer said giving that vital information to law enforcement officers in the state is the primary goal of CJLEADS.
“We see TV shows like CSI and NCIS,” she said. “There’s this idea out there in the public that law enforcement has all this amazing technology at their fingertips. If they need something, they can call back to the office and some lady sitting at a desk can give them information over the phone. … Tools like this really help them at least compile information very quickly and know what they need to act on.”

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