published Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Chattanooga Police Department revamps info sharing methods

Sgt. Todd Royval of the Chattanooga Police Department's Crime Suppression Unit speaks in this file photo.
Sgt. Todd Royval of the Chattanooga Police Department's Crime Suppression Unit speaks in this file photo.
Staff Photo by Allison Carter/Chattanooga Times Free Press

To generate more leads on suspects involved in shootings, the Chattanooga Police Department will revamp the way investigators collect and share information in the department.

The goal is to quickly gather and organize as much data as possible on witnesses and victims, information that Chattanooga police Lt. Todd Royval said is critical to solving violent crimes.

“What we lack is linking intelligence to other people within their gang. Being able to almost have a crystal ball of what’s coming next,” he said in an interview last week.

Police would be able to evaluate patterns of violence as well as the criminal histories and associates of victims and witnesses to tell if more violence is coming and when.

“We’re doing it, but we’re doing it pretty much on paper or by word of mouth,” Royval said.

The department will create information reports that will list phone numbers, addresses, previous incidents and connections with other known criminals, gang members, etc.

This detailed information about shooting incidents will be shared with department members.

“Within one to two hours, I want basic information — who, what, when, where and why,” Royval said. “Instead of 16 people [detectives] looking for somebody, I’ve got 280 patrol officers doing the same thing. They are just as involved in trying to find the bad guy as anybody else.”

The result will be officers on the street bringing back information to investigators in real time, he said.

The idea to change the department’s approach to shootings came after Royval and Paul Smith, the city’s public safety coordinator, attended a crime conference last month in New Orleans hosted by John Jay School of Criminal Justice.

Royval was able to compare notes with larger departments. For example, the Baltimore Police Department sends information about shooting throughout the entire department.

“Are we where we should be? Are we doing the things we should be doing? A lot of answers were yes. We’re right where we should be. And then other answers were I probably need to change how we’re doing that because that makes more sense,” Royval said.

Investigators have to ask themselves: Who else could be involved in this? Who else could victims and suspects be linked to? Will there be retaliation? If so, who will be the target?

Some departments have crime analysts who work around the clock and have current software to combine field interview data, incident reports and other data with information from the latest shootings.

“Technology wise, we’re behind. The problem with that is that costs money,” said Royval, who has submitted a funding request to hire a crime analyst for the department who would be able to generate intelligence reports.

The National Network for Safe Communities, directed by David Kennedy whose anti-crime programs are expected to launch next month in Chattanooga through Mayor Andy Berke’s Violence Reduction Initiative, has been charged with developing software using part of a Department of Justice grant.

It’s unclear when the software might be ready, Kennedy said in a phone interview Wednesday.

“Our expectation is the justice department will make it available to cities,” he said.

Smith said he has toured office of the police department’s specialized units.

“They’re doing it. It just takes them a little longer. I would like to see the timeline shortened,” he said.

On Wednesday, the city marked 15 shootings to date with 16 victims. Of those, four were homicides and two were accidental.

John Michael Moore, 27, was shot in the torso in the 1500 block of Holtzclaw Avenue just after 6 a.m. Wednesday. He chose not to cooperate with police.

In his case, investigators would not have used the information reports because his shooting does not appear to be gang related and other witneseses were not involved, Royval said.

“It’s going to be a case-by-case basis,” he said.

Anyone with information about Moore’s shooting is asked to call police at 423-698-2525 or Crime Stoppers at 423-698-3333.

Contact staff writer Beth Burger at bburger@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6406. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/abburger.

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