The Abbotsford Police Department (APD) is heralding a new initiative that will enable police agencies across the province to better share information and speed up investigations.
The Real Time Intelligence Centre (RTIC) BC is being developed through the Justice Ministry and is slated to begin operation in the Lower Mainland in April, with the final phase completed in 2016.
It is expected to be located at the new $1 billion RCMP E division regional headquarters in Surrey.
The project came out of recommendations in the Missing Women’s Inquiry, which found that the lack of information-sharing among Lower Mainland police agencies led to delays in Robert Pickton being identified as the main suspect in the case.
One of the key people involved in the RTIC, Staff Sgt. Earl Andersen of the Vancouver Police Department (VPD), presented the plan at a recent meeting of the Abbotsford Police Board.
He said the centre will staff 43 people, with more than half being analysts and researchers. It will operate 24/7, providing “real time” information to front-line officers throughout B.C. as they are on the scene of a crime or investigation.
Staff will search internal databases and Internet sources to provide pertinent details to officers that could, for example, help identify a suspect in a crime.
Andersen said this information is particularly useful in offences such as armed robberies, predatory sexual assaults, home invasions, murders, gang-related incidents, and those involving violent emotionally disturbed people.
Many of these people move across jurisdictions, committing crimes in one or more cities while residing in another.
Andersen gave an example that occurred at the Real Time Crime Center in New York City. A man who had robbed a pizza restaurant and then ran off was observed by the owner to have a tattoo that said “Sugar” on his neck.
Staff at the crime centre were able to enter that information into their various databases. Through one for the correctional system, a former inmate was identified, as well as his current address.
Police were then able to proceed to that residence, where they found the tattooed suspect with a load of cash and a gun.
Andersen said, although many police agencies currently have their own analysts, they tend to work a Monday-to-Friday day shift. If a crime occurs on a Friday night, valuable information might not be available during the time it is most crucial – within the first 48 hours of a crime.
The centre’s annual operating budget is estimated to be $5.8 million, with costs shared by the three levels of government. Abbotsford’s share would be about $144,000 annually.
Const. Ian MacDonald said the funding would be covered by moving one of its current officers to the site.
He said Lower Mainland police agencies beefed up their information-sharing in about 2005, with the advent of the Police Records Information Management Environment (PRIME).
“What the Real Time Intelligence Centre is offering is something way beyond that … I think that it certainly will create efficiencies in terms of the more serious incidents. We’ll be given an investigative head start. I would certainly look at it as an enhancement for community safety,” he said.