Louisiana looks to law enforcement data sharing system

The Louisiana State Police has awarded a one-year, $735,000 contract to Apogen Services to develop software that would serve as the basis for a statewide information collection and analytical system.

Officials from Apogen Services, which is a New Orleans-based subsidiary of Apogen Technologies, said a pilot project will link databases from five state agencies by year’s end with an eye toward connecting to local and federal databases as well.

“The core part of that is a solution to aggregate data from all these different cooperating agencies that will allow them to do a single search on whatever topic to pull up information from a variety of different data sources throughout the state,” said Scott McCumsey, Apogen program manager for this project.

“Right now, there is no mechanism for them to pull information from say the Department of Transportation or the Department of Natural Resources other than going in and logging into each one of those different systems,” he added.

McCumsey said the new system will enable investigators to find leads in criminal cases or the system could possibly analyze and find patterns in seemingly disparate pieces of data. However, he said the state must develop policies and agreements among agencies on what data can be shared and how they will be shared among other things.

The names of the five agencies haven’t been announced, but they’re likely involved in the transportation, natural resources, health and law enforcement communities, said Mike Goff, president of Apogen Services.

He said the company is developing essentially two components to support what will become the Louisiana Fusion and Analytical Center, a facility state police officials are planning to build for counter-terrorism and anti-criminal purposes, which will be staffed by analysts and other law enforcement officials.

The first component is the fusion center to query databases. The second is a “communities of interest” portal where, for example, the transportation, health, environmental and other sectors will be able to exchange information in their own space, Goff said. The fusion center analyst would also have rights to view the communities of interest portal to look for particular events or patterns, he added.

Agencies will begin sharing text data and images and ultimately include voice and video among other types of data. The software will support any kind of digitized structured and unstructured data whether e-mail, a PDF file, Web-based, mainframe or client-server.

Company officials said data would not be collected, stored and mined, but shared through a federated system that they say will be inexpensive and quicker to implement and without compromising an agency’s security protocols.

“The technical approach that we proposed is somewhat unique in that it’s less intrusive into these other information systems because it will go – for the most part – through the front end of the system with a user name and password,” Goff said.

“We’re not going to go in and ask these people for access to their databases and be able to write code to their databases and XML (Extensible Markup Language) interfaces and things like that. We’re actually just automating what an individual would do if they had access to the system,” he added.

Both Goff and McCumsey said Louisiana has been at the forefront of improving collaboration among state, local and federal agencies through training exercises and other demonstrations and for good reason. Not only is it prone to natural disasters, such as hurricanes, but the state has a high concentration of petrochemical plants. The Mississippi River, which runs through the state, is also an important waterway for U.S. commerce.

Apogen Services won the contract about a month ago and hope to get started this week. Goff said the company would look to replicate the system in other states once it’s established in Louisiana.

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