The Bernalillo County District Attorney is a step closer toward building out a cutting-edge computer database aimed at helping prosecutors target the metro’s most prolific criminals.
The U.S. Department of Justice’s “Bureau of Justice” recently awarded DA Raul Torrez’s office a $500,000 grant that will go toward building a so-called “criminal data hub.”
The project is expected to consolidate and aggregate homicide, robbery and auto theft data in a single database that can be used by the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office as a way to track and potentially expose suspects’ criminal networks.
“Getting that complete picture helps us understand who we’re dealing with,” said Aldolfo Mendez, the Chief of Policy and Planning for the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
Over the last few years, DA Torrez’s office has made a vocal push for “data lead prosecution,” or using aggregate data from various criminal justice databases to track and prosecute the most significant suspects in the Metro area.
The push led Torrez to create the office’s first “Crime Strategies Unit” with crime analysts that are tasked with finding connections between various suspects and outstanding criminal cases.
Mendez says the planned data hub should help analysts research and track criminal cases more effectively.
“Right now, the process is manual, we access each of these databases manually, going from one to the next in order to try to get a complete picture,” said Mendez.
With a database, the DA’s office should be able to download and compile millions of criminal records of suspects across dozens of different local, state and federal databases into one place.
The database will be created in partnership with New Mexico Tech. That university has created algorithms to organize large amounts of data. Recently, NM Tech tested its technology on a series of 10,000 car VIN numbers involved in various criminal cases in Bernalillo County.
NM Tech’s algorithm was able to organize the data set into various groups and draw connections between cases.
“The very interesting parts are where there are connections across types,” said Mendez of the technology. “Perhaps that vehicle was used in multiple crimes, or defendants, seeing the connections between defendants (across multiple cases.)”
“When it’s done, you get a picture of the structure of the data and you see the connections of the data,” said Mendez.
That cutting-edge data-crunching technology is what the DA’s office is now aiming to use to in its database project, to organize homicide, robbery and auto theft cases.
“So instead of combing through hundreds of thousands of records over months and years, they can comb through hundreds of thousands of records in seconds,” said Carlos Romero, associate vice president of research at New Mexico Tech.
Those types of quick, comprehensive records searches should essentially make it a lot easier for prosecutors to identify who’s causing the most crime and make prosecuting those cases a priority.
The DA’s office is hoping to get a version of the database up by the end of the year. Eventually, the DA’s office says the goal is to build out the database so that other New Mexico district attorneys can use the same tools.