Using Technology to Fight Crime

By Jim McDonnell

On Nov. 8, 2010, the Long Beach (Calif.) Police Department, along with Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster and City Prosecutor Doug Haubert, announced a massive gang injunction against more than 100 known gang members with ties to the Mexican Mafia —both local street gangs and their umbrella organization. Today, the LBPD has five gang injunctions that name more than 600 gang members.

Gang injunctions are civil lawsuits that seek a court order declaring the gang’s public behavior a nuisance and asking for special rules directed toward gang members’ activity within a specific area known as a “safety zone.” Gang injunctions allow officers to arrest named gang members for injunction violations rather than waiting for a more serious crime to occur.

To make an arrest based on a gang injunction, LBPD officers must first confirm that the gang member had previously been served a copy of all court documents related to the injunction. In the past, officers were forced to make numerous phone calls to confirm proof of service. Tracking down the paperwork was a time-consuming task that involved at least four people—the officer, a radio dispatcher, the pickup operator and a records clerk—all of whom had to pass the information back and forth. This drawn-out process resulted in missed opportunities to make arrests.

LBPD’s Gang Enforcement Section worked diligently to ensure that confirming proof of service would no longer hinder the ability of the LBPD’s patrol officers to intervene before gang members have had a chance to commit violent crimes. In particular, Detective Chris Zamora worked with the LBPD’s IT Unit  to create a “gang injunction” link that is readily accessible to officers via computers that are in the station, as well as the mobile data terminals in patrol vehicles. That technology makes it quick and easy to determine whether a particular gang member has been served as part of an injunction.

As a result, gang injunction arrests increased from 25 in 2009 to 212 through September, 2012.

Integrating Three Systems

To deliver mobile access to the information that officers need to make gang injunction arrests, our IT unit integrated three systems that were already in use by the LBPD: Laserfiche Rio Enterprise Content Management (ECM), Tiburon 7.5 Records Management System (RMS) and SAP’s Business Objects Enterprise Professional.

The BI system automatically looks into the RMS to check for gang members who have been served their proof of service under one of the city’s gang injunctions and pulls that information—along with links to the scanned proof-of-service documents contained in the ECM system—into a summary report.

The summary report is a searchable PDF with profiles of all the members of a particular gang listed in alphabetical order by last name. There is a photo, name, date of birth and, if the gang member has already been served, a link to the proof-of-service document, along with the date the gang member had been served and the name of the officer who served him or her.

Summary reports are uploaded to the Laserfiche server, which makes them viewable when officers log into LBPD’s Intranet and click on the gang injunction link. Summary reports are generated and updated every hour and are continuously available to officers in the field. Maps of the city’s various gang injunction safety zones are also available through the gang injunction link, so officers can confirm whether injunction violations had occurred within the geographical area specified by the injunction.

The gang injunction link allows us to be more proactive in our policing by decreasing the amount of time officers spend on administrative tasks and giving them fast access to the information they need to make decisions in the field. We’re proud to report that, by pairing technology with recently implemented gang injunction policies, we’ve been able to reduce violent crime, despite severe budget constraints.

In fact, armed with the intelligence accessible through the gang injunction link and the sweeping arrest powers provided by the injunction, the LBPD has had a significant impact on the ability of the Mexican Mafia to sell drugs, expand into new territories and recruit new members. With the help of three great technology systems and many talented individuals, we are making the streets of our community safer, and that is our ultimate objective.

Jim McDonnell is chief of the Long Beach, Calif., Police Department.