By David Tulis
City government is making a major commitment to surveillance and data mining by quadrupling the size of a crime analysis unit to four staffers.
The concept of intelligence-led policing using surveillance data from a variety of sources that analyzes crime patterns in space and time and creates statistics that will give shift managers a nudge in assigning officers in their daily routines.
The goal is less to solve crimes after they occur, but to predict and anticipate crimes — to guess when and where they might occur, and to impose police power into that prospective crime scene.
“Predictive analytics will allow us to better anticipate where individuals may be most at risk of being victims and to identify patterns,” police chief Fred Fletcher says. “This increased information will allow us to use finite resources to problem solve in the most effective manner possible.”
Neither Mr. Fletcher nor the public information officer returned my calls Friday requesting comment.
Federalization of crime
The city office is part of the continuing centralization of state police power uniting itself with federal law enforcement interests that were built “in response to the intelligence failures of September 11, 2001,” the TBI says. Key among these interests are fusion centers such as that in the TBI headquarters on Gass Street in Nashville.
National political and law enforcement groups in many ways have merged with holders of police power in Tennessee and other states. The surveillance apparatus that originated in the purported war on terror is now being used among the citizenry, enhancing state power in many ways. Not only do fusion centers focus on crime, but inevitably, as resources allow, on public policy and state goals politically and economically.
The 9/11 attacks that one state official says changed “the world as we knew it *** forever” have created a unitary national policing apparatus in which homeland security and the cop on the beat are the same job. The homeland security hub in Chattanooga is near the county courthouse, at 349 Oak St.
“The collaborative effort of the partnered agencies provide resources, expertise and information to the center with the goal of maximizing the ability,” the TBI says, “to detect, prevent, apprehend and respond to criminal and terrorist activity.”
The Tennessee fusion center “uses intelligence information with an ‘all crimes’ approach,” the TBI says, and “produces a continuous flow of that information to the law enforcement community.” The center “forecasts and identifies emerging crime trends and gives assistance to law enforcement in criminal investigations.”
The center could readily have provided intelligence data on robbery on 1 Broad St. on May 30, a burglary on 811 Lupton Drive a few days later and a murder plot for hire arrest charged to Memphis attorney Fred Wortman III. It is able to assist in determining the location of the man who fired a weapon at Hamilton Place mall June 6; Jeremy Winn, 18, was arrested Friday in Knoxville and is charged with auto burglary, unlawful possession of a firearm and two counts of aggravated burglary, according to news reports.
Some routine (non-terror-related) crimes make the cut for federal surveillance and fusion center assistance. Others don’t.
The fusion center is part of the criminal investigation unit of the TBI, the larger entity “combating organized crime (click for a brochure), gang activity, drug trafficking, Medicaid fraud and fugitives.” The CIU also manages programs such as Amber alert, the statewide sex offender registry and TBI’s top-10-most-wanted program. It is also the state’s clearinghouse for missing and exploited children and provides pre-employment background. This group employs six special agents and 19 staffers, the TBI says.
But the sexy work is the use of national surveillance in routine state crime-solving and crime-predicting processes. The agencies involved are Tennessee department of safety and homeland security, Tennessee department of corrections, board of probation and parole, the national guard, the regional organized crime information center in Nashville, the BATF and the FBI.
‘Information sharing’ goes big
Chattanooga police obtain investigative and analytic power through RISS, or regional information sharing systems (click for a brochure). This government consortium of 1,057 federal agencies enjoys a field of play global in scope with such actors as Interpol. Various police bureaucracies take part not so much in the purported war on terror, but supervising cities, counties and public life and assembling data sets on those deemed a threat to public order.
In Chattanooga the homeland security office The biggest threats are organized parties prone to violence, namely nonstate gangs. Federal surveillance is involved in the guarding the tranquility of East Lake and keeping an eye on federal slums downtown and bringing light into white-collar fraud of the U.S. government.
Various networks cover white collar crime, projects for safe neighborhoods, fusion centers, high density drug trafficking areas, the U.S. department of justice, federal prosecutors, a “national virtual pointer system,” and a global justice information sharing initiative.
RISS brags it “is a leader and an innovator in technology and investigative support and has enabled law enforcement to significantly improve information sharing across jurisdictions, resulting in thousands of arrests and prosecutions and millions of dollars in seizures. *** RISS supports efforts against organized and violent crime, gang activity, drug activity, terrorism, human trafficking, identity theft, and other regional priorities.”
A review of this file-crunching system leaves unclear the extent to which its patrons in Tennessee use bulk data collection methods violative of federal fourth amendment rights and rights under the Tennessee constitution, Article 1, section 7, that guarantees that “general warrants *** are dangerous to liberty and ought not be granted.” This week the U.S. fought to keep its authority to unconstitutionally search and seize Americans’ telecom data, pirouetting from the Patriot Act to the Freedom Act.
The data spooks insist they care about constitutional rights. In a FAQ, we read that “RISS firmly recognizes the need to ensure that an individual’s constitutional rights, civil liberties, civil rights, and privacy interests are protected throughout the intelligence process. RISS endorses the National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan recommendation to ensure that ‘the collection, submission, access, storage, and dissemination of criminal intelligence information conforms to the privacy and constitutional rights of individuals, groups, and organizations’ and that ‘law enforcement agencies shall adopt, at a minimum, the standards required by the Criminal Intelligence Systems Operating Policies federal regulation.”
The Chattanooga crime analysis unit is a picture of a larger development that bodes ill for free markets and local economy, which prospers best when people are left alone and privacy rights respected. If data mining creates predictions for future locations of crime, dangers arise for innocents who are “in the wrong place at the wrong time” and given rough treatment at the hands of state actors.
It is part of an electronic police state with data and mapping power at a scale that could only have been dreamed of by Marxist, apartheid and national socialist regimes of the 20th century. “Over the last 10 years, officers leveraging RISS’s services arrested almost 48,000 offenders and seized more than $700 million in narcotics, property, and currency,” a brochure states. “RISS is a cost-effective program and an excellent return on investment for our country.”
Return on investment for the modern warfare and welfare state increases as the system sifts ever more aspects of life, from car rental, hotel stays, corporate databases, phone calls, text messages, search inquiries. If a system of total information awareness is not complete, it’s not because hundreds of people, even thousands, are not trying to bring about a seamless spookery here in Hamilton County and across the U.S., with Mr. Fletcher playing a useful role.
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“CPD expands Crime Analysis Unit, adding 3 staffers,” WRCB.com, June 4, 2015
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, http://www.tbi.state.tn.us/fusion_center/fusion_center.shtml