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Fighting crime with modern tools amid budget cuts

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

What do you get when you put New Jersey’s top law enforcement leaders and national intelligence experts in the Northeast’s premier fusion center to talk about priorities?  Essentially, you get the roadmap to fighting crime more effectively in tough economic times.


Attorney General Paula Dow presided over this important meeting Monday at the New Jersey Regional Operations Intelligence Center (“The Rock”) in West Trenton, where more than 100 law enforcement executives from all around the state came to look for answers to today’s problems.

At the top of the list was how to effectively protect the citizenry with shrinking local budgets. The Attorney General touted an expanded law enforcement toolbox of intelligence products that help burdened police departments deploy resources more efficiently.

“Gathering and sharing intelligence on crimes is not a luxury.  It’s a necessity,” Attorney General Dow said. “We have to be firmly interconnected like never before. In this tight economic climate, we have to rise above the jurisdictional boundaries in ways that only intelligence sharing can facilitate,” Dow added.

Mark Marshall, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, also addressed the law enforcement community to promote the advantages of agency interconnection. The IACP has an international membership of approximately 22,000 police departments across the country and the world.

“Our ability to share information is mission-critical. We are required to do it smarter and faster with fewer resources,” Marshall said. “Fusion centers modeled after the ROIC offer that one-stop-shop that will reduce crime in our local communities, and at the same time, push information forward to help thwart the next terrorist plot.”

“The intelligence products coming out of the ROIC are offered at no cost to our law enforcement partners, but they have proven their value by making possible the arrests of violent criminals, gun traffickers, and drug dealers.  More importantly, they have increased officer safety and prevented crimes,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “Intelligence sharing is a proven way to overcome jurisdictional barriers.  It helps us to move as a united front against every threat on public safety.”

Professional analysts and law enforcement officers from more than 15 different agencies including the FBI, ATF, DEA, US Marshall’s, Homeland Security, and state and county partners work from one large room to put out intelligence products in a truly collaborative environment that defines New Jersey’s fusion center. Products include crime mapping with predictive analysis to help local departments know when and where crimes are likely to occur in the future.

Some fusion center products are generated for a specific problem in one city or area. There are reports identifying recidivist gun possessors who are at large in cities including Camden and Newark. Other regular reports track and analyze pedestrian fatal crashes, outline daily threats to public safety for the state, and assess the spread of crime from major cities to surrounding towns.

The Watch Operations room at the ROIC is always staffed by troopers and professionals from other agencies who provide ready access to intelligence information, and myriad forms of assistance to any law enforcement group. This instantly translates to better decisions by commanders for resource deployment, and even by officers on road stops who may be dealing with dangerous subjects.

ROIC analysis products also assist existing partnerships such as the DEA’s Violent Enterprise Source Targeting, or VEST program. VEST meetings pull together law enforcement agencies working in and around particular cities to plan coordinated crime fighting operations. Through these relationships, partner agencies share intelligence and maximize their efforts without wasting resources.

“The goal of today’s meeting is to lay out the strategy to move law enforcement forward, even though many police budgets are moving in reverse,” said Attorney General Dow. “As more New Jersey agencies take advantage of our existing intelligence tools, and then add their own information, those systems become our common strength.  This unity is the only way to prosecute the battle against crime in 2011.”

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