Sustainable Strategies: Phase 1 Sites

VRN’s Phase 1 sites formally concluded engagement with the VRN program in September 2016. Throughout their two years in the program, the sites participated in customized training, technical assistance, and peer learning opportunities to complement their local violence reduction efforts. In collaboration with their VRN Strategic Site Liaisons, the sites developed a VRN Sustainability plan to identify enhanced violence reduction strategies and tactics that would endure after the conclusion of the VRN program. Law enforcement executives from each site presented their lessons learned and sustainability plans at the VRN Summit in September 2016. This section provides a summary of Phase 1 sites’ sustainable strategies following the VRN engagement.

Camden, New Jersey

Camden, New Jersey

Throughout VRN engagement, Camden’s local and federal partners were actively engaged in violence reduction efforts. The Camden VRN partners included the Camden County Police Department (CCPD), the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office (CCPO), the ATF, the DEA, the FBI, the USMS, and the USAO, District of New Jersey. Camden’s participation in VRN produced an increased collaboration and coordination of crime-fighting efforts among its local and federal law enforcement and prosecutorial partners.

As a result of VRN engagement, the ATF provided a NIBIN machine to the CCPD. The NIBIN program is an interstate automated ballistics imaging network that processes firearms evidence and can provide actionable investigative leads in a timely manner. Prior to participating in VRN, the CCPD did not have direct access to its own NIBIN machine. The NIBIN program, expedites the processing time of shell casings and gun recoveries from months to hours. This process led to 544 NIBIN entries resulting in 226 leads (as of August 2016). The FBI provided DIVRT training to Camden during VRN engagement, teaching the CCPD the skills needed to extract video evidence and produce crime commercials to be used on traditional and social media. Following DIVRT training, the CCPD used DIVRT technologies in 362 instances during VRN engagement, resulting in 108 arrests and assistance in solving a homicide. Following VRN engagement, the CCPD will continue utilization of federal law enforcement resources, including the ATF’s NIBIN, the FBI DIVRT activities, and the FBI Cellebrite machine cellular forensic analysis.

VRN subject-matter experts conducted an extensive assessment of the CCPD and CCPO homicide investigation and prosecution practices and strategies. This assessment provided numerous recommendations on how Camden County could modify its investigatory practices in an effort to produce successful prosecutions for homicide cases. Camden County implemented a number of these recommendations and revised policies and practices to improve investigations. Camden County police and prosecutors plan to utilize new and improved homicide investigation, case management, and prosecution policies, procedures, and practices, including a new homicide unit, to solely investigate homicides and will promote enhanced information sharing among investigators and prosecutors.

VRN provided training and technical assistance to the CCPD regarding how social network analysis can be used to understand gun violence. As a result, CCPD analysts have fully implemented social network analysis techniques and can now extract, clean, structure, visualize, and produce relational data products that better inform the CCPD’s operational deployments. The CCPD will continue to integrate social network analysis skills to assist with its strategies to reduce violent crime.

Throughout its VRN engagement, the CCPD participated in various officer safety and wellness trainings, including BJA’s VALOR training, Blue Courage training, and fair and impartial policing training. Camden plans to develop sustainable strategies to improve officer safety and wellness through incorporation of fair and impartial policing strategies and ethical protector program strategies into in-service police training.

During VRN participation, Camden partners sought to increase prosecutions of domestic violence offenders. The CCPD will continue to improve domestic violence response and prevention efforts, including implementation of a focused-deterrence model to address domestic violence.

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago, Illinois

The Chicago VRN partners included the Chicago Police Department (CPD), the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, the ATF, the DEA, the FBI, the USMS, and the USAO, Northern District of Illinois. The local and federal partners worked collaboratively throughout the VRN engagement period to address high levels of violence in the city of Chicago.

In February 2016, representatives from the CPD attended the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Crimefighters Conference, where they learned best practices and strategies related to CompStat and performance management, data-driven policing, crime-fighting strategies, community engagement, and homicide investigations and prosecutions. As follow-up, the CPD conducted another peer exchange trip to LAPD to further explore its CompStat practices, building trust, risk management, community satisfaction, and accountability. As a result of this peer exchange, Chicago revised its CompStat processes to be more collaborative and conversational by bringing in teams from each district. The USAO then organized its office to reflect the violent crime sections of the CPD and regularly participates in the CPD’s CompStat meetings.

The CPD also visited LAPD in May 2016 to explore LAPD’s problem-based learning systems—designed to improve problem-solving skills, reinforce teamwork, and enhance job-specific knowledge—and participated in training on developing and writing law enforcement training programs. As a result of the relationships established through these peer learning opportunities, LAPD offered mutual aid to the CPD to share best practices and policing strategies targeting the 7th and 11th policing districts.

In 2016, the USAO, Northern District of Illinois, led a reinvigorated coordinated approach to address Chicago’s dramatic increase in gun violence. The USAO increased its intake of gun cases and worked collaboratively with state prosecutors, the CPD, and federal law enforcement agencies on criminal enforcement, prosecution, and prevention of violent crimes. The USAO and the CPD routinely met in 2016 with community members to hold youth outreach forums, community trust roundtables, reentry forums, and gang reduction meetings to build relationships with the community, understand their perspectives, and work together to reduce violence.

VRN conducted an assessment in late 2016 to review the CPD’s gun crime intelligence and ballistics evidence processing practices. Throughout VRN engagement, Chicago implemented several strategies and initiatives with the support of VRN, including the establishment of a Violent Crime Task Force to focus federal law enforcement agencies’ resources on Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods, the assignment of 18 CPD officers to work with the ATF on processing gun cases, and routine utilization of the ATF’s NIBIN to produce investigative leads in gun crimes. Chicago will continue to improve gun crime intelligence practices and procedures through continued relationships with federal partners and gun crime intelligence subject-matter experts.

Detroit, Michigan

Detroit, Michigan

Throughout the VRN engagement period and beyond, the Detroit Police Department (DPD) and Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office (WCPO) collaborated with DOJ partners, including the ATF, the DEA, the FBI, the USMS, and the USAO, Eastern District of Michigan. For example, the ATF provided ballistic processing support through NIBIN and focused on gun arrests and recoveries. The DEA conducted search warrants, drug seizures, and arrests. The FBI provided intelligence and analytical support, a digital billboards program, search warrants, and gang/gun arrests. The USMS focused on fugitive/high-value target arrests and gun recoveries. The USAO tracked case outcomes for federal charges. The partnerships in existence prior to VRN and enhanced through the program will continue to grow among local, state, and federal agencies through continued participation in VRN calls and collaboration on violence reduction efforts.

To build analytical capacity within the Detroit VRN partner agencies, in 2015, BJA and Michigan State University (MSU) established an embedded crime analyst placement program through which graduate students are placed as analysts in the DPD, the Detroit Public Schools, the WCPO, and the Michigan Department of Corrections. The VRN analysts bring cutting-edge analytic techniques, such as social network analysis and risk terrain modeling (a method that uses crime mapping techniques to explore the relationship between crime and the spatial features that influence it), to complement local crime-fighting efforts. In 2016, seven VRN analysts were deployed in the partner agencies. The VRN analysts develop intelligence briefings typically focused on defendants or suspects (and their associates) that are believed to be involved in violent crime. The analysts develop products and conduct various analyses on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to support the agencies’ violence reduction efforts. The intelligence briefings and analyses developed by the VRN analysts are routinely used to drive focused enforcement efforts and have resulted in arrests, parole/probation compliance checks, and increased community-based outreach. In 2016, the DPD partnered with local gas stations to install real-time cameras, connecting these local businesses directly with the police and city in an initiative called “Project Green Light Detroit.” As part of VRN support through the MSU analyst program, risk terrain modeling is now being utilized to support Project Green Light. Following VRN engagement, Detroit partners agreed to continue to enhance crime analysis capacity through the continuation of the program. One VRN analyst was hired by the DPD as a crime analyst. In late 2016, the local partners participated in a crime analysis summit, resulting in further integration of crime analysis strategies across violence reduction initiatives (such as Ceasefire and Project Safe Neighborhoods).

A primary focus of the Detroit VRN engagement was to implement strategies to decrease domestic violence homicides. BJA and the Office on Violence Against Women provided technical assistance to Detroit to fully implement a Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board—which includes the DPD, the WCPO, the USAO—Eastern District of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Corrections, community groups, and Wayne State University—to collaboratively review domestic violence-related deaths. The Review Board’s central focus is preventing domestic violence, preserving the safety of battered women, and holding accountable both the perpetrators of domestic violence and the multiple agencies and organizations that come into contact with the parties. The partner organizations plan to implement new strategies related to understanding domestic violence and domestic violence fatalities through the continuation of the Wayne County Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team.

VRN provided Blue Courage training to the DPD in July 2016. As part of the effort to improve and sustain officer safety and wellness, the DPD plans to expand Blue Courage training delivery by offering the training to recruit officers during the training academy and incorporating the lessons into officer in-service training.

Oakland/Richmond, California

Oakland/Richmond, California

The unique Oakland/Richmond VRN site promoted increased cross-jurisdictional collaboration and communication among local and federal law enforcement and prosecutors representing Oakland and Richmond. The local partners in the Oakland/Richmond VRN site included the Oakland Police Department (OPD), the Richmond Police Department (RPD), the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO), the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO), the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, the ATF, the DEA, the FBI, the USMS, and the USAO, Northern District of California. During VRN engagement, the ATF embedded three full-time special agents in the RPD to assist with commercial armed robberies, shootings, and homicides. The DEA supports both jurisdictions in drug crime investigations and, during VRN engagement, hosted representatives at the El Paso Intelligence Center to share crime and intelligence analysis capabilities. The FBI embedded agents within the OPD to assist with homicide investigations. The USMS increased involvement in Richmond’s Ceasefire efforts, focusing on police response, gangs, and community engagement.

Following formal engagement in VRN, the partner agencies will continue these collaborative efforts through continued interagency communication and coordination among the local, regional, and federal partners and through continuation of the Regional Case Review process. The USAO will take lead on coordinating the Regional Case Review meetings following VRN engagement.

Oakland/Richmond VRN partners established a VRN Technology Working Group following a technology assessment and other resources to allow for multijurisdictional information sharing among law enforcement agencies. Led by the ACSO, the local partners plan to improve technology functions post-VRN engagement, including establishing dual sharing capabilities between records information and regional information exchange systems, improve electronic booking technology, and improve additional information systems in the partner agencies based on needs and resources.

In 2016, the OPD, the RPD, and the ACSO participated in VRN peer exchanges to explore CompStat at the Boston, Massachusetts, Police Department and Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department. These peer exchanges provided an opportunity for the departments to learn about CompStat and information sharing and analysis strategies from other departments, for potential adoption into their local police accountability strategies. As follow-up to the visit, the OPD plans to adopt practices from Boston related to using crime analysis to inform future deployments and sharing daily brief reports to officers. The RPD modified its CompStat process to include changing the title of the meeting to “Crime Accountability Meeting,” revising the agenda and format of the meeting, and expanding participation to additional police units, such as the youth services, property crime, traffic, and gang units. These modifications more closely align with the purpose of these meetings—to reduce crime—as accountability is crucial in law enforcement’s role in reducing violent crime.

Prior to VRN, both the OPD and the RPD struggled with clearing (solving) homicides. However, in 2016, both police departments experienced double-digit increases in homicide clearance rates. Richmond’s clearance rate increased from 38 percent to 66 percent from January to August 2015 to 2016. Oakland’s clearance rate increased from 57 percent to 74 percent, from January to July 2015, as compared to the same period in 2016. Both agencies attribute this success to VRN’s emphasis on enhanced collaboration among local and federal law enforcement agencies (including the embedding of an FBI homicide unit at the OPD), along with increased community collaboration and the use of cameras.

Another area of focus for sustainability, specifically for the Richmond area, is to improve information sharing capabilities among partner agencies, with the goal of improving arrest processing times in Contra Costa County. To do so, Contra Costa County (covering RPD) will enhance its county-wide electronic booking processes, which will allow the RPD to employ a quicker process for arrests and booking.

In the first few months of engagement, VRN sponsored a Police Legitimacy and Procedural Justice summit for law enforcement executives across the Bay Area, including Oakland and Richmond VRN partner agencies. This event prompted the creation of the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office’s (ACDA) Fair and Equitable Policing and Prosecution (FEEP) working group. The ACDA has committed to continue the FEEP working group to improve procedural justice internally within the county and in prosecution strategies.

Wilmington, Delaware

Wilmington, Delaware

Participation in the VRN program increased collaboration and coordination among the local and federal partners in Wilmington, including the Wilmington Police Department (WPD), the Delaware Prosecutor’s Office, the Wilmington Mayor’s Office, the ATF, the DEA, the FBI, the USMS, and the USAO, District of Delaware. A primary focus for Wilmington stakeholders during the VRN engagement was reducing gun violence. At the beginning of VRN engagement, subject-matter experts provided technical assistance on GunStat to the WPD. GunStat is an effort to track gun cases as they process through the criminal justice system, while identifying trends, strengths, and weaknesses of the process. As a result, Wilmington adopted a modified GunStat process, in which all gun offenders are prioritized for prosecution and tracked through the criminal justice system. In the first eight months of 2016, GunStat led to the arrest of 146 gun offenders, resulting in a 23 percent increase in the number of felony arrests involving a firearm by the WPD (for the period of January 1 to August 15, 2016, as compared to the same period in 2015). Wilmington experienced an 11 percent reduction in gun-related homicides in 2016 compared to 2015. To sustain the VRN efforts, the USAO developed a GunStat prosecution team to target gun offenders for strategic prosecution. The WPD’s ballistics officer now attends weekly intelligence sharing meetings. Local and federal partners will continue collaboration in the prosecution and investigation of gun crimes through the GunStat program and continuation of monthly GunStat meetings.

At the launch of VRN engagement in 2014, WPD’s homicide clearance rate was approximately 10 percent. VRN provided a coordinated series of training and technical assistance to improve this clearance rate. This assistance included a Homicide Investigations Operational Performance Assessment conducted by the Institute for Intergovernmental Research (IIR), with recommendations to improve investigative capacity. The WPD also attended a peer exchange to the Richmond, Virginia, Police Department to learn best practices and shadow detectives for a week and participated in IIR’s Homicide Management training. Through the combination of the training and technical assistance provided, the homicide clearance rate in Wilmington has steadily risen and was approximately 65 percent in December 2016. Following formal engagement with the VRN program, Wilmington partners will continue to improve homicide investigation practices and procedures through their newly established processes, such as utilizing MatchPoint to process ballistics evidence in a timely manner to generate leads, utilizing gunshot residue kits, and instituting monthly training sessions and quarterly meetings for forensic officers.v

Local partners sought to enhance their crime and intelligence analysis capabilities and better leverage data to address violent crime. As a result of intensive VRN technical assistance (e.g., crime analysis training, five-year analysis of violent crime, social network analysis training, intelligence assistance from the DEA’s El Paso Intelligence Center, FBI expertise to identify crime trends and gaps in intelligence sharing, the development of effective crime-reduction strategies, and the creation of geospatial mapping), the Wilmington Police Department stood up its own Real Time Crime Center (RTCC) in May 2016. Through the RTCC, the WPD maps calls for service and crime in real time and overlapped its patrol vehicle location system to track operational deployments. Following VRN engagement, the WPD will enhance and continue building analytic capacity via its RTCC to drive operational deployments, identify high-violence areas, and fight crime using strategic data analysis.

The WPD will develop strategies to improve officer safety and wellness through various training sessions. In 2015 and 2016, BJA provided Blue Courage training to the WPD, and the WPD incorporated elements of the training into regular roll call briefings. In May 2016, WPD patrol sergeants and training staff participated in Characteristics of Armed Gunmen training. WPD staff are in the process of developing short roll call training sessions to be shared with all of patrol modeled on lessons learned from this training. WPD training staff are also creating an in-depth session on this topic for in-service training throughout the year.