VRN Site Success Stories

In September 2014, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the first five VRN sites at the inaugural VRN Summit: Camden, New Jersey; Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; Oakland/Richmond, California; and Wilmington, Delaware. In September 2015, Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates announced the expansion of VRN to five new cities: Compton, California; Flint, Michigan; Little Rock, Arkansas; Newark, New Jersey; and West Memphis, Arkansas. Each site has identified critical needs and focus areas for VRN assistance to enhance and complement its current violence reduction strategies. In the past year, the VRN sites have received an abundance of trainings, federal law enforcement support, and technical assistance from subject-matter experts and have participated in peer exchanges—leading to implementation of new strategies, policy enhancements, improved technology, increased analytic capacity, and overall successful outcomes in the communities. The information included in this section provides success stories that resulted from VRN resource delivery and describes how the successful strategies are implemented across the Network.

VRN Site Map of all Phase 1 and Phase 2

Phase 1 VRN Sites

Camden, New Jersey

Site Camden, NJ

Spotlight on Success

One of the initial gaps identified by Camden partners was the need for a National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) machine. The Camden County Police Department has a disproportionately high national gun homicide rate, and the integration of NIBIN into agency operations would be a positive contribution to reducing this rate, through the improved evaluation of ballistics for investigative leads. To support this VRN site in its violent crime reduction efforts, ATF helped Camden purchase its own machine for conducting ballistics analysis, reducing the processing time from four to seven days to six to eight hours. This faster timeline made it easier for local police to quickly link guns used in crimes to other shootings, develop leads and ultimately arrest perpetrators. The Camden County Police Department has developed 77 investigatory leads with this ATF technology.

Network-Wide Implementation

One of the early successes of VRN has been the provision of federal law enforcement-related resources to VRN sites, including ATF’s NIBIN technology and firearms tracing assistance; DEA’s El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) and Emerging Technologies Training; the FBI’s Violent Crime Coordinator assigned to each site and Digital Imaging Video Response Team (DIVRT) Initiative; and USMS fugitive task forces, tactical training, and warrant analysis and response.

Chicago, Illinois

Spotlight on Success

The FBI provided DIVRT training and kits to Chicago. DIVRT training helps law enforcement officers develop skills to rapidly recover and extract video evidence from areas near a crime scene, exploit video evidence through the utilization of both traditional and social media platforms, and generate tips from public citizens in solving crime. This effort led to the posting of crime videos on the department’s Facebook page; the first posting led to the arrest of a suspect within eight days of posting.

Network-Wide Implementation

The FBI serves as a key partner in VRN and its violence reduction efforts. The FBI has provided extensive resources to VRN sites—including DIVRT training (10 sites), media training (three sites), task force initiatives, and a VRN FBI Violent Crime Coordinator assigned to each site to ensure effective navigation of FBI resources—and has enhanced its partnership and collaboration opportunities with the sites, focusing on improving investigative efforts.

Image of Chicago, IL

Detroit, Michigan

Detroit Michigan image

Spotlight on Success

Sponsored by BJA and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and in partnership with Michigan State University, the Detroit site has embedded analysts from the university into multiple major VRN partner agencies, including the Detroit Police Department, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, the Michigan State Police, the Detroit Public Schools Police Department, and the Michigan Department of Corrections. The analysts support violence reduction efforts of the local agencies, promoting proactive and data-driven crime prevention and control efforts, including development of weekly crime updates. The analysts provide weekly analytic products and help to enhance the analytical unit within the police department. Police officers formerly serving as ad hoc crime analysts have been redeployed back into communities, and the student analysts, working under the cooperative supervision of the police department and the university, deliver high-quality analytical reports to police leadership.

Network-Wide Implementation

Integrating crime analysis into law enforcement operations can have a positive impact on violence reduction efforts. To encourage and support the potential to increase analytic capacity within the Network, VRN has provided opportunities to conduct peer exchanges to observe how other agencies both in and outside the Network and utilize crime analysis to drive their crime reduction and prevention strategies. In addition to peer learning opportunities, VRN has provided crime analysis assistance (such as Crime Analysis on Demand, Crime Analysis for Executives training, crime analysis general technical assistance) to all 10 sites.

Oakland/Richmond, California

Spotlight on Success

Technology can have a beneficial impact on violence reduction efforts, helping sites understand their technology capabilities and the improvements and enhancements available to them. As a result of the VRN-sponsored technology assessment from BJA subject-matter experts, the Oakland/Richmond site has established a technology working group to better understand technology capabilities within the site, enhance existing processes, and enhance communication, collaboration, and regional information sharing among the local partners.

Network-Wide Implementation

Through VRN, all sites are offered the opportunity for BJA to conduct a technology assessment that is designed to identify technology-related successes and recommendations for improvement. Technology assessments have been provided to all 10 sites and are able to equip sites with a comprehensive understanding of their technology strengths, gaps, and available resources for improvement.

Site Chicago, IL

Wilmington, Delaware

Wilmington Delaware city photo

Spotlight on Success

One of the early needs identified by Wilmington was to improve homicide investigations and increase homicide clearance rates. Prior to VRN involvement, Wilmington’s homicide clearance rate was approximately 10 percent. As a result of this need, VRN delivered a homicide investigation assessment, training for police and prosecutors, and a peer learning opportunity with the Richmond, Virginia, Police Department homicide unit. Through the support of VRN resources, the Wilmington Police Department implemented changes to its homicide investigative process, which included the use of checklists to delineate actions and responsibilities at a crime scene; use of social media to promote transparency with the community; and enhanced assistance for victims and witnesses. This coordinated delivery process, in addition to other local violence reduction efforts, helped Wilmington increase its homicide clearance rate by 40 percent in 2015.

Network-Wide Implementation

The delivery of training and technical assistance to support sites in improving their investigative efforts has been a key success of VRN. Homicide investigation assessments and trainings have been delivered to five VRN sites; domestic violence training and assistance and peer exchanges have been delivered to four sites.

Phase 2 VRN Sites

Compton, California

Spotlight on Success

In efforts to increase collaboration and information sharing and to accelerate investigations of violent crime cases in Compton, DOJ federal partners provided extensive assistance to Compton in 2015. This assistance included law enforcement operational support from the FBI, resulting in the execution of multiple search warrants and arrests and the recovery of several firearms; NIBIN and firearms tracing training from ATF; numerous VRN-related felony cases filed by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office; embedding of an Assistant U.S. Attorney, two FBI agents, and a FBI Violent Crime Coordinator in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Compton Station; and support from the USMS on apprehending defendants with outstanding arrest warrants for felony cases.

Network-Wide Implementation

Enhancing and expanding collaboration and information sharing are two notable accomplishments of VRN. This increased collaboration develops in the annual VRN Summit, which leads to increased interaction and partnerships as new strategies and opportunities are implemented within each VRN site.

Compton, California image

Flint, Michigan

Flint Michigan image

Spotlight on Success

Flint received ATF firearms tracing and technical assistance, enabling the police department to process 784 firearms and eliminate its backlog. This effort has allowed the police department to rapidly process newly submitted firearms and has provided investigative leads to older gun-related crimes. In addition, following ATF’s assistance, the police department instituted policy changes related to firearm testing and ballistics submissions so that backlogs do not occur in the future.

Network-Wide Implementation

Enhanced federal law enforcement resources have been an instrumental component of VRN efforts. Many VRN sites have been able to reduce firearm processing backlogs, enhance operational efforts, improve prosecutions, and improve investigations as a result of federal law enforcement partnerships, including support from ATF, FBI, DEA, USMS, and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices.

Little Rock, Arkansas

Spotlight on Success

Through a VRN-supported peer exchange visit to an intelligence-driven prosecution symposium, Little Rock’s Office of the Prosecuting Attorney has enhanced its violence reduction efforts and is now targeting offenders charged with lesser crimes using vertical prosecution. In addition, the office is providing notifications to parents of juvenile gang members involved in crimes.

Network-Wide Implementation

Violence reduction is not solely a law enforcement effort; it requires a holistic approach which includes input from partnerships with prosecution. As a part of the VRN mission and beginning with the annual VRN Summit, representatives from all justice components, including law enforcement, prosecution, corrections, probation and parole and others, are brought together to discuss how their site can improve and enhance its violence reduction strategies.

Little Rock Arkansas image

Newark, New Jersey

Newark New Jersey image

Spotlight on Success

Newark representatives participated in a peer exchange visit to VRN site Camden to discuss a variety of violence reduction efforts, including ATF NIBIN processes and the Camden County Crime Commission Initiative, and to explore Camden’s Real Time Crime Center. This peer exchange also provided the opportunity for Newark and Camden leadership to share experiences and lessons learned in VRN.

Network-Wide Implementation

In 2015, VRN coordinated 26 peer exchanges among the VRN sites and other jurisdictions across the country. These peer learning opportunities allow VRN sites to share best practices, information, tactics, and experiences within the Network and with agencies outside the Network, promoting a community of practice. Peer exchanges delivered in 2015 include trips to DEA’s El Paso Intelligence Center; the New York City Police Department; High Point, North Carolina; and Richmond, Virginia, focused on homicide investigations, technology, CompStat, intelligence analysis, and other areas. In addition to peer learning outside of VRN, VRN sites Camden, Chicago, Wilmington, and Oakland/Richmond have hosted other VRN partners this year to share experiences and processes.

West Memphis, Arkansas

Spotlight on Success

After receiving training and technical assistance for developing and enhancing crime analysis capabilities, the West Memphis Police Department (WMPD) created its first law enforcement analyst position to support investigative and intelligence capabilities in the Criminal Intelligence Division. VRN helped WMPD develop an online social media presence to aid in community outreach and analytic capacity.

Network-Wide Implementation

VRN provides resources and support to assist sites in their efforts to reduce violent crime. One of these resource areas is crime analysis. The integration and use of analysis in a criminal justice agency can support agency leadership as they focus on crime reduction strategies through applying evidence-based statistics and findings to direct resources.

Site Chicago, IL

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