Desk of the DA: Westchester Intelligence Center

Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore talks about the three-year anniversary of the Westchester Intelligence Center, a cooperative program betwen the DA’s office and local police departments:

Westchester County is home to 42 independent local police departments. As District Attorney and Westchester County’s chief law enforcement officer, I have made the sharing of crime-related information among these departments a top priority. In 2006, in order to realize this goal, I began the process of building the Westchester Intelligence Center, working in consultation with police chiefs and commissioners throughout the county. The WIC officially opened in May of 2008 as a vital and cost-effective partnership among our 42 local police departments in Westchester as well as our county, federal, and state law enforcement partners. Three years into its operation, the WIC has become an essential part of our public safety efforts here Westchester County.

The WIC employs innovative and creative approaches to support the investigative work of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies: crime analysts are assisting detectives in identifying murder suspects by enabling the collection of identifying data from multiple sources; police are sharing crime reports and receiving information on geographic patterns such as burglary rings; and analysts are using multi-jurisdictional data to identify emerging crime trends. These types of critical information allow law enforcement to create pro-active and predictive public safety strategies.

Analysts at the WIC assist our local police departments with time-consuming analysis of crime data and information that would tax an individual department’s limited resources. Data from numerous criminal justice agencies and online sources enhance these functions. The WIC collaborates on a regular basis with state and federal partners, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Joint Terrorism Task Force and statewide agencies using the national High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) data network along with other resources. Weekly meetings of field intelligence officers are conducted at the WIC which bring together local police departments, County Police, FBI, NYPD, and representatives from New York State Parole and Probation and Corrections Departments. Once a month, as District Attorney, I meet with police commissioners and chiefs from various departments in order to review countywide crime trends, share information and discuss the strategies necessary to keep Westchester a safe place for all of us.

The work done by the crime analysts at the WIC is assisting in a wide range of investigations. WIC analysts, particularly in their analysis of the voluminous records of the telephones used in connection with the crimes, contributed to arrests in more than a dozen murders, many of which were linked to gangs and narcotics activity. In the last three years, information on more than 700 guns seized by police was cross-checked with a nationwide ballistics database; matches can determine if the same weapon was used in another crime. In conjunction with long term narcotics wiretap investigations, WIC  helped to identify and locate suspects who were being sought by police. Building upon the NY/NJ HIDTA license plate reader project, the Westchester Security Initiative has begun deployment of permanently fixed license plate readers to capture data and track movements.

An important aspect of the work of the WIC’s analysts is identification of crime patterns and trends. One commercial burglary pattern expanded to include more than 30 incidents across multiple state lines. In 2009, a WIC analyst received national recognition for her analytical work on this case. One emerging trend is the increased use of the illegal drug heroin. In March, four people between the ages of 21 and 23 overdosed on heroin in the northern part of the county. Utilizing an approach that represents a departure from traditional law enforcement, the WIC’s analysts are also consulting with clinics that provide assistance for addicts to learn about current patterns of illegal drug use that might also involve illegal drug use including heroin, prescription drug abuse or illicit methadone use.

The Westchester Intelligence Center continues to provide critical and highly cost-effective resources to gather, analyze and share information. The result is intelligence-driven policing and informed strategic planning, allowing law enforcement to be even more efficient and effective in the fight to keep Westchester communities safe and secure.

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