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How the State of Georgia is fighting gang violence with the cloud

Focus on: Empower Employees, Optimize Operations

The concept of opening up siloed information and increasing communication between employees is an important one in today’s business world. When employees communicate, they maximize efficiency, leading to optimized business operations, increased revenue, and an overall better business model. When information is siloed, opportunities are missed. Perhaps a report isn’t completed in time, or maybe a customer doesn’t receive timely information. It’s a story many business leaders know all too well.

But what happens when communication between law enforcement agencies becomes siloed? This is a problem the State of Georgia ran into when looking for an effective approach to prosecuting gang-related criminal activity.

How a gap in communication led to a pervasive problem Georgia has over 400 law enforcement agencies, each operating in their own jurisdiction and fighting their own problems in their own communities. However, when Georgia’s gang problem became a state-wide issue, it quickly became apparent that sharing information across jurisdictions was the only answer to effectively ending gang violence throughout the state.

In Georgia’s Atlanta Metro Area, an estimated 40,000 active gang members were operating across jurisdictional boundaries with sophisticated strategies that allowed them to evade law enforcement agencies. The problem extended into other parts of the state, both urban and rural, with as many as 1,500 gang members in Savannah and 700 in La Grange.

Due to the state’s gang statute, which has specific criteria for prosecuting a crime as a gang-related offense, the silos between Georgia’s law enforcement agencies began to inhibit their ability to put together reliable, usable reports on gang activity. Agencies weren’t sharing data across jurisdictions, paper files were getting lost and forgotten in file cabinets, and it was becoming increasingly difficult for prosecutors to present clear evidence that led to successful convictions. This lack of success began to embolden gang members because they knew they could exploit weaknesses in the system.

This led Chuck Spahos, the Executive Director of the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia, to take action and find a better way to share information to confront violent criminal street gangs head on. With the help of Microsoft and Formulytics, a software development company, Spahos brought a cloud solution to Georgia’s statewide law enforcement agencies.

“A typical gang file prior to our partnership with Formulytics was a paper file within a specific agency’s notes. We had no true method of communication between agencies and officers involved in various cases,” said Spahos.

Bridging the communication gap through cloud capabilities Through their partnership with Formulytics, agencies began leveraging Microsoft Azure Government to drive major shifts in the way case files were built. Formulytics and Azure are now providing the state with a cost-effective solution to streamline communications between state and local agencies. This solution gives law enforcement a standard methodology to digitize gang intelligence so employees across the state can work together to create consistent investigations and make winning cases against violent criminal street gangs threatening communities and schools around the state.

“You used to hand the District Attorney a box full of stuff. Now, the Formulytics platform bundles everything in a highly-professional work product that meets all requirements called for by state statute. It has gone from a gritty collection of intelligence in the street over months or years, to a polished legal document that gets in the hands of the DA, goes to a courtroom, and builds a better case for a jury,” says Spahos.

Previously, in Metro Atlanta, gang charges were being plead to lesser sentences or dismissed with pleas to other offenses. Cloud-based capabilities have changed the ways Georgia’s law enforcement collects data to prosecute cases by creating a seamless solution to connect investigators across jurisdictional boundaries and store digital imagery, videos, social media clips, and more. With a cloud-based solution, the state has removed an inefficient and costly digital infrastructure allowing law enforcement agencies to create over 25,000 investigative profiles of gang members and identify tens of thousands of connections across the State. Now, DAs are trying and winning more cases.

Looking to the future, Spahos says he is hoping the program can expand into other states. Sharing data across state lines could lead to a more effective way of addressing issues of gang activity across the entire country.

“I believe this product has the capability to spread outside of Georgia’s borders. We’ve already made presentations with prosecutors and investigators in Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina. They’re interested in how we tie together information from our cases to show how gang violence spreads out across multiple states. I predict that we will push this technology out over the future so that law enforcement doesn’t need to worry about county, city, or even state boundaries to become more effective at prosecuting these cases,” says Spahos.

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