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Johnson County joining police's expanded e-dragnet

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Local police will have access to information from similar cases across central Indiana when investigating crimes after the county joins a sharing program with other police departments.

The program, IMB i2 COPLINK, is in use in Indianapolis and Hendricks counties and is planned to be expanded to include Johnson and Hamilton counties by the end of the year, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Glen Ruegsegger said.

The system allows an officer to share and search information gathered from every agency on the system and provides investigators tools that help find and sort pieces of information that may be relevant to their case. For example, searching for the name of a suspect in a case would pull up any information on file about that person, including mugshots or mentions in reports from other police departments in central Indiana.

The initial setup cost, which will be about $25,000, is being covered by a federal grant received by Indianapolis. After Johnson County is set up, police

departments likely will split the $3,000 annual maintenance cost, officials said.

Indianapolis is working out contracts with Johnson and Hamilton counties to bring them onto the system, and both may be connected by the end of the year, Ruegsegger said. The eventual goal would be to have Indianapolis and all of the surrounding counties connected on the system.

He said Indianapolis has been using COPLINK for about two years, and the software has helped investigators solve cases and make more arrests.

For example, an Indianapolis officer was able to start a search based on a burglary and description of a suspect. The system was able to sort information based on similar incidents, descriptions and mugshots and eventually helped the officer track down the right person, Ruegsegger said.

“We’ve had quite a few success stories where we’ve had a very limited amount of information,” he said. “It’s a leads generation tool, and that’s where that link analysis comes in handy. It puts a lot more information in our officers hands in their cars.”

Criminals are mobile and often will commit similar offenses, like burglary, in several different areas, Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox said.

“What we found over the years is when a burglar is breaking into homes in Johnson County, he’s usually gotten away with it in other counties, too,” Cox said.

After seeing a demonstration of how the program works and how it can help organize pieces of information, Greenwood Police Department Assistant Chief Matt Fillenwarth liked how the system sorted, connected and displayed information resulting from a search.

“I thought, ‘I just want to go investigate another case because that is incredible,’” he said.

All Johnson County departments currently share information through a system called Spillman, which allows officers to view reports made by other local departments. COPLINK would pull all of the county’s

information from Spillman into the regional database along with other central Indiana counties, Fillenwarth said.

The new system could save investigators time when working on cases, he said.

Local officers already frequently contact Indianapolis police during investigations to ask questions about certain suspects or incidents, and the new system should make that communication even easier, Cox said.

“We are each putting out a little money to make this system happen in Johnson County. There’s not a week that goes by that my investigators aren’t up in Marion County,” he said.

Indianapolis will also serve as a regional hub for COPLINK, meaning that other cities can search the Indianapolis database and get information from the connected suburbs as well. Local police could search data from Chicago or Los Angeles, for example, and get information from other police departments, Ruegsegger said.

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