By Ed Runyan
Top Trumbull County law- enforcement administrators say the opportunity to quickly access information from other police departments over a digital network has great crime-solving potential.
The Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office has been working since about 2008 to implement the Tri-County Regional Information Sharing System, made possible by a $173,760 federal grant.
The network already allows dozens of law-enforcement agencies in Trumbull County to easily access police reports from other agencies, even in the cruisers at some departments.
Discussions are ongoing to bring the Niles Police Department into the network, and Ernie Cook, director of the Trumbull County 911 Center and chief deputy of the sheriff’s office, said another goal will be to bring departments into the system from Mahoning and Ashtabula counties.
“This is the fun stuff,” Cook said of pulling together information from various places to solve crimes.
He said having access to such information helps officers search by a person’s name or key words such as “white van” to find out whether the person or phrase pops up in another jurisdiction.
Chrissy Rossi, the county crime analyst, uses the system to “connect the dots” and discover patterns that have helped departments solve crimes, Cook said.
Tracking the locations of copper thieves or burglars, for example, has helped agencies take a predictive approach to such crimes rather than a reactive one, Cook said.
One obstacle for Niles’ getting on the system is that it is the only Trumbull County department not using I.D. Networks software, said Niles Police Chief Robert Hinton. It would be helpful for Niles to be part of the county network, especially the opportunity to email or “chat” within the system with officers from other departments.
The Warren Police Department has been putting new reports into the system since late last year, when it got its new computer system, though it is still working out the details on getting roughly 2 million reports into the system dating back about 20 years, when it had its old system.
Though the Warren department is still “working out the bugs” to enable its officers to access such information in the cruisers, Lt. Robert Massucci said the network will be “worth its weight in gold,” adding, “That’s a tremendous help to the officers on the road.”
Massucci said one aspect of the system he especially likes is that it will allow officers to see what officers are on duty in other departments, allowing for direct phone contact or the sending of a message or email to the other officer.
Under the current arrangement, Warren officers have to call the county 911 system and find out who is working in another department, then ask for someone to call back.
Even more difficult is getting a police report from another department. That usually involves driving to the other department and possibly having to wait, Massucci said.
Cook said he’s an advocate of greater information sharing among police departments in general, but he thinks there are big gains to be made when departments in Trumbull County can share reports with Mahoning County and Youngstown, especially communities along the border.
“Imagine what those records would do for Liberty and Girard?” Cook said.
Liberty Police Chief Rich Tisone said one aspect of the system he likes is it allows his department to take a suspect directly from an arrest to the Trumbull County jail, where all of the booking procedures are handled.
By the time officers return to Liberty, they can access jail booking information over the system for their reports. Under the previous system, each suspect had to be booked at the Liberty Police Department before being taken to the jail.
“I like technology. I think it’s pretty cool,” Tisone said.