ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A new technology for metro area law enforcement may help Albuquerque police and prosecutors build better criminal cases. Called “Case Catcher,” the New Mexico Tech created software is expected to serve as a new data repository to help officers and prosecutors identify what evidence they have and what evidence they need to collect after a person is charged with a crime.

The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce unveiled the finished project at a news conference Friday alongside leaders from the Albuquerque Police Department, the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, Bernalillo County District Attorney Sam Bregman and Attorney General Raúl Torrez. The chamber has been working on the project for the last three years through a $1.2-million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Breaking down the new criminal case referral system Friday, the Chamber’s Senior Policy, Planning, and Operations Advisor Scott Darnell said the system should improve how cases are built, how evidence is shared and how cases are launched for criminal prosecution. The system, which lives inside the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office, has been used in a pilot phase for the last four months.

APD is expected to begin full use of the system over the next few weeks, while other metro-area law enforcement agencies are expected to be brought into the system over the next few months. Darnell says that includes BCSO, UNM Police, State Police in the Albuquerque-area, and tribal agencies.

The grant-funded initiative to buildout a digital case building repository began in early 2020 in collaboration with then 2nd Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez, who’s since been elected to the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office. Torrez described the finished product as putting an “end to the paper chase” that he says has defined dysfunction inside the criminal justice system.

“This solution should lead to stronger cases, a higher rate of conviction and better outcomes and ultimately justice for victims,” Torrez said. “When I took over [the Bernalillo County DA’s Office] I think most people remember there were just stacks and stacks of boxes and this should put a stake in the heart of the idea that we will ever go back to a time where some missing report, or missing video will mean the difference between getting justice and something that happens that isn’t justice.”

Prior to Case Catcher, Darnell described the old system used by police to refer cases for prosecution as printing documents, burning CDs and delivering it by hand to the DA’s Office. Any new piece of evidence collected would undergo the same time consuming process.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Sam Bregman, who was appointed to the position after Torrez departed to the AG’s Office, said Friday he intends to continue supporting the system. Bregman emphasized a years long problem of cases being dismissed because of issues between law enforcement and the DA’s Office with evidence, or “discovery.”

“Hopefully, I really believe this, we are going to see many more cases not being dismissed because of discovery issues,” Bregman said. “This is an example … of what can happen when the community comes together and collaborates on really important things.”

How it works

New Mexico Tech helped create the Case Catcher among several other criminal justice-related projects they’ve worked on over the years. An Associate Vice President of Research, Carlos Romero emphasized the project as one of the ways prosecutors can better utilize the data they already collect.

The web-based system works by the District Attorney’s Office creating a new case in the private system, which is designed exclusively for evidence or discovery collection. After a prosecutor enters an agency and case type, the program will ask for the basic details of the case. Prosecutors will centralize data about the suspect, the charge, case numbers, the names of officers involved and more.

“The secret sauce, so to speak, of the Case Catcher tool is the tool looks at the charges that are present and identifies for law enforcement agencies the types of evidence that are most likely to be associated with that particular case,” Darnell said. “The types of evidence that are going to be needed to secure a conviction.”

Darnell says the tool then guides law enforcement into providing information related to the evidentiary items in the case. Evidence can be marked as available, not available or still to come, allowing prosecutors to get a better idea, holistically, of what discovery will be available in the case.