Long Beach, Calif. faced a serious gang problem…and a technology problem. The fifth-largest city in California is also one of the most ethnically diverse large cities in the country. Its police department was workingto reduce gang violence by targeting gang members for additional attention — before they committed serious crimes.

Officers had a special legal tool at their disposal. Once gang members had been served with a court order called a “gang injunction,” they were not allowed to loiter together, carry spray paint or commit other infractions in certain areas of the city.

But the system didn’t always work smoothly. When officers stopped a suspected gang member, they had to call the records department or a gang specialist to confirm that a particular person was affected by the injunction. By the time the information came back, the suspect had often left the scene.

Ed Ivora, the department’s head of technology, got the idea for an improved system after one officer suggested it would be helpful to get remote access to gang records. Ivora and his staff linked the department’s Laserfiche document management system with other systems to allow officers to get the information they needed to identify and arrest gang members more efficiently.

As new gang injunctions are scanned into the Laserfiche document management system, other software creates an hourly report that lists which gang members have been served with injunctions. Police can now view that report as well as arrest records from laptops in their squad cars. The system also alerts them to gang members who need to be served court papers.

The system has helped the department boost arrests dramatically. In 2009, before the system was installed, officers made 25 gang-related arrests. In 2011, they made 181 and the 2012 number is expected to be well over 200.

Ivora is considering adding photos of tattoos and other distinguishing marks to the gang member database in the future.

Want more information? Here’s CIO’s recent article on the Long Beach Police Department, as well as one from Law and Order written by the police chief.

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