Recent events have law enforcement re-evaluating how they will do their jobs effectively under the shadow of potential budget cuts. One answer may lie in improving open-source and deep/dark web intelligence.
In a quarter-century at the NYPD, former Real-Time Crime Center Commanding Officer Joe Courtesis evaluated and implemented technologies that helped police officers do their jobs better. After retiring earlier this year, Courtesis has been working as a subject matter expert, advising public safety organizations and corporations on investigative technology policies. He recently sat down with Voyager Labs to discuss how advanced data analysis technologies may define the future of law enforcement and help agencies cope with the new «normal».
We are in uncharted territory here. What are investigations going to look like with police stretched so thin?
Investigations are the basics of policing. They’re not going anywhere. But with fewer resources available, police forces are going to rely on technology more than ever. Specifically, the focus on open source investigations will be greater than ever. People are talking online, and that’s even more true these days. So understanding what’s going on online is absolutely necessary. It’s a deep dive on information that’s no different than collecting physical evidence at a crime scene.
If you think about it a bit deeper, looking at open-source intelligence actually works well with some of the new approaches toward policing that we’re starting to see. For instance, you get a report of suspicious behavior. Instead of immediately stopping that person, you can verify the information behind the scenes through open-source or dark web intelligence to see if their online behavior correlates to the suspicious activity. Or let’s say you have hundreds of people participating in a civil protest and a few dozen branch off, and start causing property damage and looting. You can use open-source intelligence to identify who was protesting peacefully and who was committing a crime. Instead of stopping everyone, you can exonerate the vast majority and focus with precision on the few… a surgical strike.
This is exactly the type of policing we should be pursuing, and as added benefit, it requires far fewer resources because the information is all there online. Voyager Labs’ solution is a good example of this: analysis of open-source or dark web intelligence would otherwise be impossibly time-consuming. Especially under current circumstances, no one is going to have the time to perform this massive amount of analysis manually, so a solution that can do this for you is extremely valuable.
It sounds like there may be an opportunity here to do things more efficiently?
Exactly. The trend that we’re seeing nationwide is fewer encounters based on someone “looking suspicious”, we’re making policing less subjective. The commissioner of NYPD just mentioned this. He said that the 21st century policing model is going to be based on data, intelligence, and building prosecutable cases. He also mentioned that he wants to build trust in the community and focus on a smaller number of people who are committing most of the crimes.
What we are doing is enhancing our accuracy, strengthening our cases against the right people, and increasing the scope of those cases. To use a common example: A gang member shoots a rival gang member to take over a drug location or just to further the interests of the gang. If you make just the one arrest, that person will likely be replaced by a different gang member and there will be no real impact on crime levels. If you’re able to dig deeper, and if you’re able to build a strong conspiracy case against the whole gang, society sees a much larger benefit: a reduction in violent crime and dangerous people brought to justice. Here again, an open-source intelligence solution can play a role, helping investigators map out the gang network and figure out how everyone is connected.
Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with us.
My pleasure. Be safe.
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