Information relevant to the investigation of crimes is often fragmented, stored in aged software and incomplete databases that can’t communicate with each other. Oakland, Ca., police Capt. Tevelyon Jones found that his department collected troves of data on gun crimes but rarely connected the dots. Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and former law enforcement officials developed a digital portal to streamline the collection and analysis of police data. Released in 2012, the “Law Enforcement Analysis Portal” (LEAP) scoops up unfiltered law enforcement data — from arrest notes, to gun trace reports, to license plate scans, collates and analyzes it, The Trace reports. Forensic Logic, the company behind LEAP, calls it the “Google for crime.” “There are 18,000 different law enforcement agencies in America, and a lot of them do a poor job of communicating with each other,” said Brad Davis, Forensic Logic’s CEO.
As LEAP’s first major customer, Oakland worked with Forensic Logic to fine-tune the software. LEAP pulled data from a variety of sources, including ShotSpotter and NIBIN, the federal system for linking spent shell casings to crime scenes. By 2017, Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick said her officers were querying the portal 70,000 times a month. When police started using the software in 2012, shootings numbered 553. Six years later, that number was 277. While Oakland’s reduction in gun violence is attributed to several complex factors, officers believe Forensic Logic was a key player. “It’s undoubtedly saved lives,” said Capt. Jones. “[Other agencies] got more cops than we do, more money than we do, and they are coming to us to try and figure out how we did it.” The use of big data by police is not a new concept. Other cities — including New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago — have turned to private technology companies to collect and analyze data.