NYC DA: Data Sifting Yields “Actionable Intelligence” for Crime-Busting


A four-year-old data analysis unit in the Manhattan District Attorney's office helped orchestrate the largest gang bust in New York City history, District Attorney Cyrus Vance said yesterday.

Elaborating on the announcement last week of “extreme collaboration” in crime-fighting with the New York Police Department (NYPD), Vance said at John Jay College that the Crime Strategies Unit (CSU) helped steer police toward the early- morning June 4 raid at two Manhattan housing projects

The raid resulted in the arrests of dozens associated with a 103-person indictment.

Officers rounded up 40 members of the Make It Happen Boys, Money Avenue and 3 Staccs gangs. About two dozen of the alleged gang members are still being sought and the rest were arrested prior to the raid.

The gangs, whose members ranged from 15 to 30 years old, had engaged in years of tit for tat violence over turf.

In the earlier announcement, NYPD Commissioner William Bratton said senior prosecutors and police commanders would use the same intelligence-gathering techniques Vance has employed to dismantle street gangs in order to devise strategies for targeting the offenders believed to be driving crime in other areas.

In return, the NYPD promised to provide the district attorney's CSU with access to more of the data it collects not only on reported crimes but also on suspects.

Yesterday's remarks by Vance provided more details about the operations of the CSU, created shortly after Vance was elected in 2010, which he said involved analyzing large amounts of information to create “actionable intelligence” from “seemingly unrelated cases.”

The (CSU) uses a computer database developed by the District Attorney’s office to identify crime patterns and connections among the more than 100,000 cases the Manhattan DA processes each year.

Vance, speaking at a breakfast for members of the non-profit Association for a Better New York, said that before the CSU was created, intelligence gathering within the Manhattan DA's office was “scattered.”

“Before CSU, two shootings committed in the same neighborhood might be prosecuted by two different attorneys, in two different bureaus,” Vance said.

“And both very capable ADAs (assistant district attorneys) might try the cases in two adjacent courtrooms and might never know that the defendants were in the same gang.”

But the new data system has allowed police and ADAs to craft intricate cases that draw in information about dozens of alleged offenders.

Vance pointed to the April 2013 round up of 62 alleged gang members, charged in connection with dozens of shootings, three murders and gun trafficking.

Their indictment, “fueled by information gathered by the Crime Strategies Unit,” chronicled a long trail of evidence gathering that linked all the suspects together in a series of back-and-forth violence between three gangs.

It took just over 12 months to secure guilty pleas from all 62 defendants.

As the CSU's database has grown, it's begun sharing data with other city departments and helping district attorneys offices across the nation — including in California and Delaware — build similar programs, Vance said.

In particular, he said the Mayor's office has been receiving information related to at-risk youths and truancy patterns.

“We would all agree that you'd rather engage a 15-year- old so he doesn't commit a robbery,” Vance said.

Graham Kates is Deputy Managing Editor of The Crime Report. He welcomes comments from readers.

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