ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It could be a cutting-edge way to target criminals in Albuquerque.
The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office is trying to start a “crime strategies unit” (CSU) that would use data and computer algorithms to research, connect and help prosecutors make decisions about criminal cases.
Inspired by a similar program in San Francisco, District Attorney Raul Torrez believes a crime strategies unit could have a powerful effect in reducing Albuquerque’s crime.
“The real-time use and application of data cannot just make the justice system more effective, but a whole lot smarter and a whole lot more efficient,” said Torrez, speaking of the data used by crime strategies units.
Monday, Torrez says there is plenty of data available amongst law enforcement agencies in New Mexico.
“The police department has information, there’s information in court records, probation and parole, the Department of Corrections, lots of different institutions have different pieces of information often about the same individual,” said Torrez.
However, Torrez says no one in New Mexico has managed to create a way to communicate or compile the information, outside of each agency’s individual databases.
“We have a lot of tools and a lot of information at our disposal, but we’re not taking full advantage of it,” said Torrez.
While many in the community have become familiar with the “ALeRT” program targeting repeat offenders, Torrez says a crime strategies unit would go deeper by using crime analysts to compile law enforcement data on suspects and draw connections to other cases.
Ultimately, Torrez says the more information prosecutors have, the better they can adjudicate the estimated 25,000 criminal cases the office deals with each year with fewer than 100 prosecutors.
With a CSU, Torrez’s office would effectively be hiring its first team of dedicated crime analysts. Those analysts would work entirely on researching criminal backgrounds and linking criminal cases together.
“Analysts who can look at data, who identify patterns, who can identify criminal networks and then come up with a targeted approach to dealing with those people,” said Torrez.
He hopes to hire four or five analysts as soon as possible. Another component of the program would put prosecutors in area-commands throughout Albuquerque and Bernalillo County to give them a better understanding of how to address crime in a neighborhood-area command specific way.
“You take prosecutors from this office, senior level prosecutors, and you put them out into the community, out into substations and direct contact with front-line law enforcement,” said Torrez.
Meanwhile, Torrez says the office is still in the process of establishing the foundation of a CSU and hasn’t hired any new employees to run it. They also need the funding in order to start it up.
However, the first component of the CSU is already under development. Torrez says his office is making a computer program that will automatically compile local and national crime databases in seconds instead of the current manual process that takes hours each day.
“Instantaneous background checks that not only links together national crime information databases, but also local court record,” said Torrez.
Compiled by an analyst, Torrez says records detailing a suspects’ backgrounds and their connections means better information for prosecutors, who in turn are able to beef up their cases against criminals causing the most harm.
“To take targeted measures to make sure that both police and prosecutors are working and focusing our limited resources on those individuals, because if you can do that, you can really drive down crime overall,” said Torrez.
Torrez says the program will still take several million dollars to fully flesh out. He’s asked the legislature for money to run a pilot crime strategies unit for a year. Lawmakers could decide on the funding for that during the January 2018 legislative session.
In the meantime, San Francisco’s District Attorney George Gascón is expected to speak about San Francisco’s CSU to the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017.
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