The CAL-GANG System - Investigation -

The CAL-GANG System

How investigators in the state share information to prosecute gangsters



Matthew O'Deane, PhD | Tuesday, November 16, 2010

In street gang crime and case investigations, intelligence is needed to help solve the crime and identify the persons involved. For example, suppose two rival street gangs got into an argument that led to a drive-by shooting in which a gang member was murdered. Typically in gang cases, if a witness is located, officers will be lucky to get a partial suspect or vehicle description. To even identify possible suspects, officers need intelligence information from prior law enforcement contacts. Once the suspects are identified and arrested, officers will also need intelligence information to properly prosecute those responsible. 

To prove a crime was a gang-related crime in court officers need to prove the “ongoing association with the group.” To introduce gang-vs.-gang evidence in court, officers and prosecutors need to know the history of the gang members and their gang to provide the relevant historical information needed to prove the case. The problem with gang crimes is officers don’t typically know ahead of time what information they will need to solve a crime that hasn’t occurred yet. As a result, they need to have a database capable of collecting all information that may be relevant or useful at a later date. It must also be stored in such a way that the information is easily accessible to those that need it.

The CAL-GANG system was designed in part because California Penal Code section 186.21 states in part that the legislature finds and declares that it is the right of every person, regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, sex, age, sexual orientation or handicap to be secure and protected from fear, intimidation and physical harm caused by the activities of violent groups and individuals. Section 186.22(f) defines a criminal street gang for the purposes of the law and documentation. CAL-GANG is a cooperative automation project between California Department of Justice (DOJ), Bureau of Investigation, Division of Criminal Justice Information Services, Hawkins Data Center, local law enforcement agencies and ORION Scientific Systems to electronically share information on criminal street gangs and gang members via a statewide automated Intranet.

With increased mobility of gangs throughout the state, enhanced ability of gangs to finance their activities through criminal enterprise, and increased sophistication of gangs in the use of technology has created an environment that requires a more cooperative and consolidated effort by law enforcement agencies to combat gang violence and crime. CAL-GANG is a major part of law enforcement’s strategy in California by reducing gang related crimes and violence by allowing agencies to identify gang members involved in crimes, track the movement of gangs and members throughout the state, coordinate police response to gang violence, enhance officer safety, provide realistic, up to date, figures and statistical data on gang crime and violence, forecast trends and respond accordingly, and more easily solve crimes and prevent violence.

CAL-GANG takes advantage of today's fast changing Internet technology. The system is comprised of a central server at DOJ and seven regional nodes (additional nodes are in the planning stages) deployed strategically throughout the state. The database was built using Microsoft SQL Server and Netscape Enterprise Server as the web server for each location. Each regional node maintains a complete version of the application. The regional node is responsible for maintaining their local agency end user data.

The data is replicated to the DOJ central server, creating a central repository of statewide gang information. End users connect to the system either through a local area network connection to a regional node or via modem dial-up to the node. End users have the ability to query against their own regional node for local information as well as query another node or the central node for a statewide search. In the event of a node failure, the data isn’t lost, nor are the end users prevented from accessing their data. They may log-on to another node or the DOJ central node and access their data there.

Database Laws & Types
Part 23, Section 28 Code of Federal Regulations outlines the requirement that all criminal intelligence systems operating through support under the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. It is recognized that certain criminal activities, such as loan sharking, drug trafficking, gambling, extortion, smuggling, bribery and public corruption all involve a certain degree of regular coordination and organization between a large number of law enforcement agencies. The exposure of such ongoing networks of criminal activity can be aided by the pooling of resources of information and improved communication. However, the collection and exchange of intelligence data needed to investigate such criminal activity may represent potential threats to individual privacy. 

Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI): The California Department of Justice maintains information about the known criminal history of everyone arrested in the state. That information is commonly referred to as a “rap sheet.” Data collected from fingerprint cards and arrest reports must be entered into the system along with the case disposition, such as convicted, charges dropped, etc. Individuals in California have a right to review their rap sheet to confirm that it is accurate. These files are used not only to conduct criminal investigations, they’re also used by prosecutors to determine how many prior offenses the person has; whether they’re able to work a certain job, obtain a certain certification or receive a particular license.

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Matthew O'Deane, PhDMatthew O’Deane has been a police officer in California since 1992. He's currently an investigator for the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office where he has worked since May of 2002. O’Deane is a former police officer, detective and sergeant of the National City (Calif.) Police Department from 1992 to 2002. He holds a PhD in public policy from Walden University and is an adjunct professor for Kaplan and National Universities and the University of Phoenix in their respective criminal justice programs. O’Deane has also written three books on the subject of gangs: the Gang Investigators Handbook (2007) from Paladin Press, Gangs: Theory, Practice and Research (2010) from LawTech Custom publishing, and Gang Injunctions and Abatements (2011) from CRC Press.


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