Collaboration is a critical part of the crime-solving process for any law enforcement agency, including the Chamblee Police Department in Georgia. As a medium-sized agency in the Metro Atlanta area, we collaborate often with neighboring agencies, especially when it comes to things like property crimes and stolen vehicles. It’s hard to put an exact number on it, but it’s safe to say that we work with our surrounding agencies about 90 percent of the time for many of the cases we work and vice versa.

This level of collaboration is necessary for one simple reason. Law enforcement agencies are bound by jurisdictional boundaries, but criminals and suspects are not. The likelihood that a criminal will cross jurisdictional boundaries before, during or after a crime takes place is very high. In those cases, agencies need to have the ability to quickly collaborate and share data with other agencies to mitigate harm and save lives.

Grace under pressure

One recent incident that happened in Chamblee illustrates how quick collaboration can save lives. In this case, it was a kidnapping that occurred outside of an apartment complex. A mother was out walking with her young son when a vehicle pulled up alongside her, and two individuals jumped out. A physical altercation ensued between the mother and one of the suspects, and unfortunately the child was kidnapped.

The first 48 hours are critical in finding a missing child. With the help of surrounding local agencies and the FBI Child Abduction Response Deployment (CARD) team, we were able to quickly share critical information about the suspects’ vehicle, cell phone location and more as the suspects passed through multiple jurisdictions. Thanks to this rapid data sharing, we found and apprehended the suspects within five hours of the initial call. And most importantly, we were able to safely return the child back to his parents.

Data sharing among law enforcement agencies proved extremely valuable in this particular case. A total of seven agencies were involved in helping bring this traumatic event to a positive resolution. These agencies included Chamblee, Brookhaven Police Department, Georgia State Patrol, John’s Creek Police Department, Carroll County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI. It was helpful that several of the local agencies involved were on similar CAD systems where data sharing is made easy.  If every local agency was on disparate systems that didn’t communicate effectively with each other, there’s a good possibility it would have taken us longer to reach the positive outcome that we did.  

Changing misconceptions in data sharing

Popular TV shows and movies have given the public an idea of what data sharing looks like among law enforcement agencies. But clearly, TV shows and movies are not real life. Agencies will rarely get that perfect fingerprint or capture the perfect image of a suspect on camera. A majority of the time, agencies get fragments of information scattered across various sources and jurisdictions. They then have to take those pieces and attempt to put them together in a logical way. However, when agencies share these details with other agencies, it helps to create a more complete picture of what’s going on much more quickly than if they work in their own silos. In the kidnapping incident, for example, we were able to find the suspects’ vehicle in a neighboring jurisdiction, and from there figure out where the suspects were likely heading. We were able to achieve a positive outcome and return the child to his parents safely in under five hours thanks to data sharing and collaboration among participating agencies.

Communities benefit when law enforcement agencies share data. The more agencies that are sharing accurate data with each other, the quicker the information can be passed along through shared CAD systems and the quicker we can act upon that shared information in order to continue reaching positive resolutions within our communities.

Author Bio: Detective Loc D. Tran is with the Chamblee Police Department, Georgia.