Jacksonville, FL — Through ShotSpotter, the Real Time Crime Center, the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, and other tools, there has been an investment in Jacksonville in technology that’s intended to aid the fight against violent crime. Now, the city has launched the Crime Gun Intelligence Center, where all of that information and the human resources that can piece it together will work every day.
“It sounds very simple, but that’s a big step, so we can be efficient in how we do this work,” says Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams.
Housed in the State Attorney’s Office in Downtown and built with one-million dollars from the City, the CGIC serves as the home base for several dozen employees from JSO, the ATF, and the SAO. The space is lined with white boards and filled with cubicles and meeting rooms, including one that prominently displays a “Violent Crime Dashboard”. That dashboard is put together daily by JSO analysts and shows incidents of violent crime, people and addresses connected to that type of activity, and other factors that JSO says they want to have front of mind at all times.
This CGIC concept has already rolled out in other jurisdictions around the country, and includes several full-time assigned ATF agents. ATF Acting Deputy Director Regina Lombardo says their focus is two-fold: NIBIN, which process, tracks, and finds connections among ballistic evidence; and tracing capabilities that allow them to go after the traffickers who put guns on the street, and the people who pull the trigger. She says bringing those capabilities to this CGIC will make a big impact.
“The shared purpose is to reduce violent crime, the shared purpose is to make the country safe from violent crime, violent gun crime,” Lombardo says.
Jacksonville already uses NIBIN, and in fact has two sets of equipment to process that evidence and get timely results. The City has also been increasingly looking at technology to aid in investigations, including ShotSpotter to alert to gunshots, and the new Real Time Crime Center, which brings together different data sources to a uniform system and provides searchable video in conjunction with that information. One of those data feeds- City surveillance- is going through a big revamp in its own right as well.
BEHIND THE SCENES: Inside Jacksonville's Real Time Crime Center
Just a few weeks ago, stakeholders credited this technology in leading to the arrest of Jamin Tolliver for three different shootings, including two that were deadly. That case was again highlighted today, and when WOKV asked the impact the Center specifically had, Williams said having that collaborative environment to look at the cases allowed for them to not only find the links, but bring everything to a relatively quick resolution.
“This is the repository for all of the intelligence,” says State Attorney Melissa Nelson. “The collaborative approach and just the sharing of intelligence will have a successful result.”
From a prosecutor’s standpoint, Nelson says using NIBIN as a lead generator- like in the Tolliver case- means they can not only disrupt violent crime trends, but find links before those trends grow larger. She says having SAO representatives assigned to the CGIC further helps find those links to open and prior cases.
It’s that broad perspective that really speaks to the core of this project, according to Williams.
“A homicide investigator still has to work his homicide case, a robbery still has to work- he’s working for that victim, to solve that case. These guys [in the CGIC] will take a more overarching approach to those issues,” he says.
This ribbon-cutting is something these stakeholders are excited about, but comes at a time that Jacksonville continues to see spikes in violent crime.
“The City remains committed to investing in smart ways and wise ways to do everything that we can to make sure that you all have the resources that you need to make the City safe,” Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said to Williams and Nelson.
Williams says the Tolliver case shows that these strategies can work, but he knows people can get frustrated that there has not been a large scale drop in violent crime as these resources have come online.
“We want it to work on a larger scale and more consistently, so that’s the drive now, is to have more consistent reductions, more consistent impact. We’re always a little bit reactive when it comes to violent crime, so this helps us be a little more proactive, but we still have to continue to monitor that every day. It’s really about having those consistent gains, being consistent not only in the work, but in the progress we’re making,” he says.
While there’s no clear time he thinks that can be achieved, he told WOKV he thinks they can close some two dozen cases like the Tolliver one by the end of this year.
And from the City government side, Curry says they will continue to look at strategies to prevent young people from ever getting in to crime in the first place, including the pending rollout of the Cure Violence program. The City also funded mini-grants for grassroots organizations trying to stop violence in their communities as part of the last budget, and a special Task Force is weighing different options for improving safety and reducing crime in the city.