Unique Tool Helps Law Enforcement Solve Cases And Combat Crime

December 18, 2017

Written by Jim Martin, Lehigh County District Attorney and Julia Kocis, Director of the Lehigh County Regional Intelligence and Investigation Center (RIIC)

The difficult and overwhelming realities of the opioid/heroin crisis are the subject of intense focus and concern for citizens and law enforcement. Unfortunately, it is not the first crisis situation to impact the safety and security of our communities in need of a response. In our experience in law enforcement, public safety and as active members of our community; no matter the issue, the best solutions start with effective information sharing and collaboration.

With information sharing in mind, the Lehigh County District Attorney partnered with a local company, Computer Aid, Inc., and with the support of the county to create the Regional Intelligence and Investigation Center (RIIC) in Allentown, Pennsylvania. We established a broad-based tool that allows local law enforcement agencies to work in conjunction with other local agencies to solve cases and combat crime.

At its essence, the RIIC allows authorized users to share information from multiple law enforcement agencies and other sources. It brings together dozens of local, state and federal databases in one electronic crime-fighting resource. With it, authorized law enforcement users can search millions of police and prison records, map crime trends, synthesize cell phone records and create timelines that in the end lead to arrests and convictions.

In the case of a January 2013 homicide that occurred outside of a strip club, the shooter and the getaway vehicle were minimally described. A list of potentially matching vehicles was compiled by the investigators. Information regarding registered owners of those type vehicles in the Lehigh Valley was acquired from PennDOT. Those names were then cross-referenced with data in the RIIC system. A match was found of one registered owner who had visited a Lehigh County Jail inmate. That proved to be a very valuable lead. The shooter was identified, and he was tried and convicted.

In March 2015, a 14-year-old female and her 21-year-old boyfriend were charged with the homicide of the girl’s mother. The RIIC assisted both the investigators and the prosecutors of the case by analyzing cell phone text messages, provider records from all parties involved, mapping the cell phone location information, editing surveillance footage, and creating a chronological timeline of communication between the involved parties from when they met until the incident date.

Since its inception, the RIIC has provided critical information that has led to multiple arrests and convictions. The RIIC has provided background histories of individuals later convicted in human trafficking cases. And, the center has also mapped cell phone records, performed jail phone call analysis, and created timelines of events in order to aid in the conviction of felons.

By encouraging collaborative investigative efforts between local, state and federal law enforcement agencies operating within our region we have revolutionized information sharing between police departments and the District Attorney’s office and connected that information in a way that best serves the Lehigh County community.

Today, the opioid crisis is one of the most challenging issues faced by law enforcement in the state and Lehigh County. The RIIC recently received funding through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) to develop an Illicit Drug Identification and Tracking System. This funding will aid multiple law enforcement organizations in Lehigh County in operations to track and target drug supply. Also, the formulation of a list of drug-related death information will help identify particular trouble spots and a list of Naloxone usage will permit targeting those in need of treatment after they have been administered naloxone by law enforcement.

By including multiple sectors in this project, the RIIC hopes to build a greater understanding of how and where an addicted person is entering or coming into contact with a human service or public safety institution. By understanding these intercept points, appropriate interventions can be considered which will support the individual in accessing treatment.

For more information about the RIIC, please contact Julia Kocis, Director of the RIIC, at mailto:juliakocis@lehighcounty.org