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Case Study - CrimeSuspect.Net
How does one build a website for crowd-sourcing citizens and law enforcement agencies to better fight crime? With Joomla! of course! “You can’t outrun the click of a mouse…”
Mike Schmidt, entrepreneur, tech developer and Joomla enthusiast from Colorado Springs, answered my questions about the launch of a unique crime fighting resource powered by Joomla.
How did this idea get started?
My business partner, Adam Leonard, is a former police officer and county sheriff, who tragically lost four fellow officers in a coffee shop shooting in 2009. In memory of his friends, Adam vowed to find a way to help improve crime solving and prevention. We have met regularly over the past months, in a coffee shop, to plan and build a crime prevention portal.
What is the purpose of a website like CrimeSuspect?
CrimeSuspect.net was created to address several “pain points” in the law enforcement profession, as well as in communities everywhere:
- Police agencies across the globe lack integrated databases.
- For a police officer or detective to effectively investigate a crime, they are often required to access upwards of four to ten databases to obtain the necessary investigative information.
- Furthermore, citizens are not given enough information to allow them to assist the police, as well as each other.
CSN focuses on crowdsourced crime fighting combined with true community policing strategies. Community policing is a philosophy of forming partnerships with citizens and key community leaders, and respecting their concerns, educating them on crime awareness/prevention, and more importantly, giving them ownership of their communities. There are unnecessary victims of crime everyday in every community because of lack of information sharing (including real-time information sharing). The goal of CSN is to address these challenges faced by law enforcement agencies and their citizens.
Most mapping systems available have delayed, outdated, or containg irrelevant data that does the public no good.
Community Policing Tools:
CSN also recognizes the absolute need for engaging Block Watch groups, businesses, schools etc. and providing them with tools to effectively communicate with their police department in a real-time manner. We accomplish this by providing each group or entity their own custom Community Policing Portal, complete with a Calendar, Blog, Forum, Crime Feeds, and a customized "local version" of our city-wide CrimeConsole where they can map new CrimeCards in a one mile radius around their property, as well as an advanced video education and testing library. In addition, the police have the ability to stream any information they want twenty four hours a day to any portals, calendar, blog, forum, and edu-video library. They can quickly inform an individual neighborhood or entire city of a crime problem, or they can quickly deliver a training video, PSA announcement etc. and make it available to a portal instantly.
CSN includes a Wishing Well that allows officers and certified Block Watch captains the ability to submit a "Wish" when they see a child in one of their communities who is in need of things like a car seat or backpack, or if a small thing like a toy, bicycle, etc., could bring a smile to their face. Also included in the Wishing Well is the ability to submit wishes for elderly or disabled citizens that could benefit from neighbors helping them clean up their yard or put a fresh coat of paint on their house. The public can search for wishes by using an advanced search tool based on what items they have or what services they may want to donate. It is CSN's way of "Paying it Forward" and allowing individual communities to meet and take care of each other.
Personal Asset Protection Services:
Finally, we are developing a parallel service for addressing personal asset protection solutions. Our PropertyVault allows citizens and businesses to record all of their asset information complete with photos, receipts and warranty information, in a secure online vault that only they have access to. When a citizen's property is stolen, they can select if from their secure PropertyValut and tag it for insertion into a new stolen property TipSubmission which automatically places the complete data into a CSN RIPSheet which will appear on a CrimeCards. This is paired with our TagNTrace Asset Marking solution that uses "MicroDots" that allows citizens to attach them to their assets, and record that unique number in their PropertyVault fir specific assets. In the event of a theft, they can build a CrimeCard and the police can approve and publish it within minutes. In the near future, if their property lands in a pawn shop, that shop can view the Microdots on the asset and immediately discover if it is connected to a card. If it is, the police get an instant alert that a pawn shop has received a hit on a CrimeCard. CSN strives to be the leader in improving three areas, pre-arrest investigations, offender accountability and alerting/notifications internally and externally.
Tell us about the relationship between CrimeSustpect.net and the police department - how has it been received, and how did you get them excited about it?
We approached their Community Policing officers first, as they are on the front line of community policing and in touch with the public on a day-to-day basis. We demonstrated our vision to them and then started meeting with patrol officers, sergeants, and captains when available, and then set up a "cafe-style" demo day where we took over a meeting room at the Police Operations Center (with the help of the city's IT department) and did demonstrations for command staff personnel, (commanders, captains, etc, the Chief of Police and various staff from dispatch and operations).
We have received the most excitement by speaking with the community policing teams or Crime Prevention Officers in every department. After our initial discussions with them and some follow up demonstrations with command staff, patrol officers, IT employees and dispatchers, they have all seen the value in what we are providing. Whenever you combine the ability to harness and quickly disseminate information in real-time between the public and the police, with community policing strategies to create solid partnerships, you will be effective in developing and maintaining trust and confidence in your police department, and will receive more information in return. On the flip side, the officers will be able to more effectively police their districts and solve crimes.
When and where did it launch?
We launched the company back in December of 2013, and then spent over a year in business and technology development to get the national site launched on March 24th, as well as the Pueblo 45-Day Test Pilot. Discussions are underway to launch in other communities in the greater Denver area.
What Joomla extensions did you use to build the site?
We are using a wide variety of Joomla! components, modules, and plugins on the site:
- Akeeba Backup
- Asikart QuickIcons
- ARI Quiz Lite
- Community Builder
- Kunena Forum
- PixSearch backend
- NoNumber ReReplacer
- uddeIM PMS
- JCE Editor
- and an advanced DB component
How long did it take you to build the site?
The initial "mock-up" MVP was about two months, with all the proven features for the CrimeCenter, (RIPSheets, CrimeCards, CrimeConsole). Then another month for evolving the portals and developing the block watch portals and CrimeFree Communities sections. Another month for creating various graphical interfaces, help files, video tutorials, user interfaces for the PIO MasterPost dashboard, etc. Another month for testing, and user interfacing, and tip messaging, etc. My son Lucas, who is a programming expert, did all of the admin and backend work.
There are mug shots of actual people displaying or scrolling across the website on different pages. How do those mug shots get posted?
We utilize Joomla access levels, not only for element management (field level ACL’s), but also for login groups. We have carefully tuned a three-tiered structure in our advanced DB component: one tier for public data, one for private (the law enforcement agencies), and a third one for what we call "deep data" for FBI info, etc. We have developed a sophisticated process whereby database data is rendered in a graphical format, allowing the info submitted into a RIP sheet to be turned into a Crime Card.
When a tip is submitted from the public, it does not publish until it's been screened, vetted and validated by a law enforcement official.
What do you hope for the future of crimesuspect.net?
Our goal is to roll out the CSN platform to as many Local Law Enforcement Agencies accross the Unitied States in a SaaS/Subscription business model where we will install our Red and Blue Badger Servers in local police departments and sheriff departments so that we can create a "CrimeDataGrid" of servers that can be dynamically searched accross all platforms. We will integrate numerous databases so that any investigative data, or community block watch data is all in one place. Furthermore, CSN will connect every subscribing law enforcement agency together with our edge of the cloud servers in every police department so the information is highly secure, can be streamed instantly, and can be accessed by any agency or citizen from one platform by using ACL's.
If a detective in Denver, CO needs information on a suspect residing in Phoenix, AZ they will access the server and will no longer be required to make a phone call, send an email, or fax a letterhead requesting the information. Any time a citizen needs to know more about a suspect, stolen property item, or missing person, or wants to provide information, start a Block Watch, or educate themselves about crime, they will come to our site.
Will you come back in a few months once you have some data to tell us how crimesuspect.net is helping to fight crime?
Mike Schmidt lives in Colorado Springs, where he runs Ensemble Ventures, LLC.