2013 Excellence in Criminal Investigation Award Winners

2013 Winners of the IACP/Thomson Reuters Award for Excellence in Criminal Investigation

Sponsored by Thomson Reuters, the award for Excellence in Criminal Investigations recognizes quality achievement and innovation in managing and conducting criminal investigations with the goal of sharing information to advance the art and science of criminal investigations. Evaluation criteria are based on (1) innovation in the development or enhancement of investigative techniques, (2) the significance of the contribution to the advancement of the art or science of criminal investigation, and (3) exceptional achievement in managing or conducting a criminal investigation.

Winner: Juvenile Justice Division, Community Affairs Bureau, New York City Police Department (NYPD)

Left to Right - Assistant Commissioner Kevin O'Connor, Juvenile Justice Division, NYPD; Deputy Inspector Michael Nemoyten, Commanding Officer, Juvenile Justice Division, NYPD;
Andy Russell, Vice President Fraud Prevention and Investigations, Thomson Reuters; IACP President Craig Steckler

On January 9, 2012, the NYPD, Community Affairs Bureau, officially launched the Juvenile Justice Division to assist the department in combating the rising amounts of gun violence that was being experienced in NYC, primarily as a result of rival youth gangs/crews. The previous year had witnessed a rise in shootings in New York City, with data indicating that 30% of those incidents involved youth crews. Specifically, the Juvenile Justice Division was formed to improve communication, coordinate and catalog data, improve outreach capabilities, and concentrate the deployment of resources to minimize youth crime and victimization.

Only two months after its inception, the Juvenile Justice Division was instrumental in solving the shooting of an 8 year old boy through its adept use of social media analysis.  Utilizing a nickname of the alleged shooter, the Juvenile Justice Division did a social media search and was able to identify the perpetrator via his Facebook posting. The photos from Facebook were captured and given to the case detective for identification purposes. This resulted in the arrest of a juvenile gang member.  The value of social media analysis by the Juvenile Justice Division as a resource for other NYPD units was quickly realized.

Recognizing the key role social media review played in solving the shooting, the Juvenile Justice Division set out to proactively investigate other New York City gangs. By utilizing high tech software for case management, the Juvenile Justice Division worked to geographically identify neighborhood youth gangs and their associates.
Through a two-pronged investigation, the Juvenile Justice Division was able to identify and map out locations for 315 gangs with over 6,200 members throughout New York City.  Often times, graffiti in the form of 3 letters was found in an area in which a specific crew operated. This information was then utilized in the second part of the investigation in which the letters in the graffiti were searched for on social media. Individual's pages were then analyzed, which showed their association to the crew that was observed in postings and photos.  Through the photos, postings, and conferrals with local precinct Field Intelligence Officers, the Juvenile Justice Division was able to pinpoint the territory or turf on which a local gang crew operated. 

In the period since the formation of the Juvenile Justice Division, 315 neighborhood youth crews operating throughout New York City's five boroughs have been identified through innovative investigative techniques utilizing social media. The unrelenting work of the investigators assigned to the Juvenile Justice Division has led to a new approach to combating juvenile crime and has successfully led to criminal enterprises being disrupted and/or dismantled.

By early 2013, after the first year of operations that were implemented by the newly created Juvenile Justice Division, the number of shooting victims in NYC was down 10.8% and shooting incidents were down 9% from the previous year. The past two year comparison also realized a reduction in shooting victims and incidents. The rising trend of shootings that existed prior to the introduction of social media utilization to combat crime, reversed after one year of publicized takedowns, including proactive youth summits in all five boroughs.

1st Runner Up: Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) Multi-Agency Public Integrity Task Force

Left to Right – Special Agent Michael Elliott, Federal Bureau of Investigation; Analyst Nancy Sampson, LVMPD; Detective Robert Whiteley, LVMPD;
Andy Russell, Vice President, Fraud Prevention and Investigations, Thomson Reuters; IACP President Craig Steckler

From 2000 to 2008, Las Vegas, Nevada was one of the fastest growing cities in the United States, adding approximately 40% of its population during that time.  As a result, housing development continued to increase and homeowners associations (HOAs) became the norm for new developments.  

In November 2007, Detective Bob Whiteley of the LVMPD and FBI Special Agent Michael Elliott became aware of a criminal conspiracy involving a HOA board of directors, a property management company and a Las Vegas businessman. Specifically, it was alleged the property management company was secretly funded and controlled.

The investigation began with a nine-month-long undercover operation involving confidential witnesses who worked their way into the inner circle of the primary conspirators.  Evidence of bribery, mail fraud, wire fraud, and ballot rigging, as well as incriminating statements about the complex criminal scheme, identification of co-conspirators and victim properties were uncovered.
At the conclusion of the undercover operation, nine federal search warrants were served simultaneously, requiring the coordination of mass resources from a variety of agencies. The search warrants resulted in an enormous amount of evidence including documents, electronics, and financial records.
From 2008 to 2012, Detective Whiteley, Special Agent Elliott and LVMPD Financial Analyst Nancy Sampson reviewed, organized, documented and recorded the evidence.
This criminal scheme resulted in more than $75 million in actual and potential fraud loss to the Las Vegas community.  Eleven HOAs were victimized and approximately four property management companies were involved in the conspiracy.  The defendants included four former local police officers, six local attorneys and one local politician.   All totaled, more than 70 people were targeted and 40 have been charged.  Twenty-nine defendants pled guilty to a felony count of mail or wire fraud, four additional subjects are in the process of negotiating plea agreements and eleven defendants, who were indicted in January 2013, are set to go to trial in March 2014.  To date, $28 million in restitution has been agreed to be paid to the victims and this number will undoubtedly grow with the impending trial.

2nd Runner Up: Criminal Investigations Bureau, Kansas City, Kansas Police Department (KCPD)

Left to Right – Chief Rick Armstrong, KCPD; Lieutenant Colonel Terence Hall, KCPD; Andy Russell, VP Fraud Prevention and Investigations, Thomson Reuters;
IACP President Craig Steckler; Major Vince Davenport, KCPD; Detective Mark Bundy, KCPD

On January 15 2013 Kansas City’s Criminal Investigations Bureau (CIB) launched Frontline Intelligence, an innovative program designed to identify and disrupt prolific offenders who are 'trending' using special data collection methods and social media style analytics.  The program incorporates unique protocols and modern technology, to convert routine patrol-level knowledge and observations into actionable intelligence.  The information collected allows the CIB to deploy its scarce investigative resources to target the most active, prolific offenders.  This is especially important since these offenders account for approximately 10% of all criminals, yet are responsible for roughly 50% of all crime.
The CIB developed an encrypted intelligence portal that allows officers to 'nominate' (identify) one or two offenders each month that they believe pose the most current and significant risk to their community.  The portal is optimized for mobile devices. The end result is a valuable list of active offenders, as seen through the eyes of those who are in the best position to know - front line patrol officers.  A typical submission takes less than five minutes and interest among officers is high.

All intelligence submissions are screened and vetted by a criminal investigator analyst.  The analyst performs a preliminary criminal history workup on all named offenders.  The workup serves as a starting point for further review and targeted investigation.  Investigators and analysts meet weekly to review officer submissions and to determine investigative priorities. 
The Frontline Intelligence program has resulted in the identification of dozens of active offenders who were investigated and arrested.  Year-to-date serious crime in Kansas City is at a 20-year historic low; homicides are at a 40-year low.  The program has allowed the CIB to reorient its overall approach to criminal investigations from reactionary to proactive so that criminal offenders can be identified and disrupted as early as possible.  Frontline is an innovative program that has the potential to benefit most law enforcement agencies throughout the nation.

The Finalists are (alphabetically):
Atlanta Police Department
California DOJ Division of Law Enforcement – Familial Search Committee
Kansas City (KS) Police Department – Investigations Bureau
Kentucky State Police – Vehicle Investigations Branch
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department
Mesa Police Department
Native Mob Task Force, Minneapolis
New York Police Department – Community Affairs Bureau/Juvenile Justice Division
New York State Police
Niagara Regional Police Services – Project Arrowhead Investigative Team
Washington State Patrol – Miss & Exploited Children Task Force