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Paul W. Gillespie / Capital Gazette

Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Wes Adams said Strategic Targeted Investigation on Narcotics and Gangs, or STING, sets the stage for four prosecutors and a data analyst to use new technology to track violent crimes across the county.

Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Wes Adams said Strategic Targeted Investigation on Narcotics and Gangs, or STING, sets the stage for four prosecutors and a data analyst to use new technology to track violent crimes across the county. (Paul W. Gillespie / Capital Gazette)

Amid growing concerns about gang violence in Anne Arundel County, law enforcement officials are looking to data analysis as a key to solving the problem.

Announced in September with few details, the Strategic Targeted Investigation on Narcotics and Gangs, or STING, sets the stage for four prosecutors and a data analyst to make use of new technology in tracking violent crimes across the county.

“We’re really involved now in proactively looking for information,” county State’s Attorney Wes Adams said Monday.

Gov. Larry Hogan awarded the county about $250,000 in grant funding for the new unit.

The new tool is becoming available as police are still investigating two homicides they believe to be gang related, and the arrest of at least 13 county residents in connection to violent crimes linked to MS 13, a transnational gang based in El Salvador.

At the core of STING is a piece of software Adams said will better integrate crime reporting data from various levels of law enforcement.

Calling it “middleware,” software provides a framework for digital communication, Adams said the tool will help police and prosecutors track suspected repeat violent offenders as well as crimes by geographic region.

“It’s a way to integrate the intelligence that we have at our federal, state and local level,” Adams said. “It aggregates information and allows us to then mine that information for the data points that will help.”

“Actionable intelligence,” Anne Arundel County Police Chief Timothy Altomare added.

It’s part of millions in funding touted by Hogan earlier this month. The governor said the money would go toward “a new, collaborative data sharing network to help prosecutors and law enforcement bring down criminal networks across the state.”

For police, who are already coordinate with prosecutors from bail review to trial as part of the Safe Streets initiative, it will provide data for use on patrol.

“We’re tracking crime trends where (violent repeat offenders) may live because if we have a string of burglaries or a string of (aggravated) assaults, we can look at who lives in that area,” Annapolis Police Chief Scott Baker said.

Altomare said overlaying the two sets of data on a map produces patterns that police can use on the streets.

“You start to do your comparative analysis and stuff jumps out at you,” he said.

The data will not lead to an emphasis on targeted patrols over relations with members of the community, Altomare said. That was a flaw over the last 10 years of policing, when the department used the software CompStat was to track crime spikes and respond, he said.

The judge set to rule on whether a Pasadena man committed a hate crime when he placed a noose outside a school window in Crofton said Tuesday it “should be a crime” but warned that his ruling could have far reaching consequences.

Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Paul F. Harris Jr. lamented.

(Phil Davis)

“I think a lot of the conversations we’re seeing nationally the last three, four years about a lack of connection between the police and the community are because we were using those heat maps as our prime directive,” he added. “And it’s got to be a combination of things.”

Adams declined to identify the software or the prosecutors assigned to STING, citing safety concerns for their safety.

The formation of the unit has drawn criticism, coming just a few years after Adams disbanded a unit that focused on gangs.

From 2006 to 2015, county prosecutors ran the Gang Related Investigations and Prosecutions, or GRIP.

Under State’s Attorney Frank Weathersbee and Anne Colt Leitess, who was appointed to succeed him after his retirement, the program enlisted a number of different community partners to share information between municipal, county and state departments. Adams beat Colt Leitess in the 2014 general election.

A spokeswoman for Adams said the group was never officially dissolved, but admitted it effectively ended after Adams took office in 2015 with members no longer going to meetings.

Rogers criticized the dissolution of GRIP, saying the integration of schools into the discussion helped cut down on certain crimes. She pointed to the beating of an Annapolis High School student for not joining MS 13 as an example of the need to incorporate schools.

Colt Leitess, now a prosecutor in Baltimore City, said GRIP shared also data between a wider array of departments ranging from Parks and Recreation to the FBI.
ugg boots short classic Anne Arundel gang task force will mine data for intelligence