Using Data to Find Hidden Crime: Intelligence-Driven Investigations
A law enforcement investigator’s success depends on their ability to acquire, analyze, and act on intelligence. Investigators need to continuously evaluate and modify this ability to stay a step ahead of those who are under investigation and their evolving tactics to avoid law enforcement.
The heightened focus on information technology over the past several decades has brought a greater push by homeland security, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies to use such technology to enhance their ability to conduct investigations.
All of the technology in the world is not helpful without high quality data to power it.
This is where data management comes into play – both within an agency and across agencies. Data management is a key responsibility of a Government agency. This is especially true in law enforcement agencies, where field agents are oftentimes the ones immersed in the mission environment and therefore responsible for collecting source data.
There are five key areas of data management that Federal, state, and local agencies need to continue to mature to use existing and future technology most effectively:
1. Define use cases of how collected data informs investigations (involve users from Day One)
2. Periodically assess and modify data collection requirements
3. Clearly define roles and condense the timeframe between collecting data and producing analysis
4. Establish and adopt mission-centric data standards
5. Make information sharing agreements more efficient, while maintaining privacy and sensitivity features
Combatting human trafficking within the United States is an ideal example of a mission that depends on forward-looking data management. Nearly 20 Federal agencies and programs, including the Department of Homeland Security, collect trafficking data, with many state, local, international, and non-government organizations also collecting similar information. However, there is currently no way to integrate these data sets and achieve a comprehensive, analytic view of human trafficking incidents. The data remains in silos and the totality of the crime remains largely “hidden.”
Focused and coordinated data management, beginning with standardized data collection in the field by victim service providers and law enforcement agents, would help enhance the Federal government’s ability to identify and care for confirmed victims and pursue their traffickers, while also protecting victim information and law enforcement operations.
Data management is not the sole responsibility of intelligence analysts working with IT databases and tools. For agencies to truly enhance their mission operations, Senior leaders must sponsor and promote sound, standard, and continuously evolving data management practices throughout their organizations or the crimes will remain hidden.