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Durham police chief applauds province-wide computer system
PowerCase helped solve six homicides in 2004
By Jillian Follert
Article appears courtesy of Durhamregion.com
OSHAWA – When it comes to the benefits of technology, Durham Regional Police Chief Kevin McAlpine says you can’t argue with the numbers.
Out of six Durham homicides in 2004, six were cleared by investigators using the Major Case Management System, a massive central computer known more commonly as PowerCase.
“It wasn’t the only tool they used, but in six out of six cases it was a factor,” the chief says. “It’s something we use every single day for all kinds of investigations. The system is an amazing asset.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Community Safety Minister Monte Kwinter announced an amendment to the Police Services Act that makes PowerCase mandatory for Ontario’s 60 police services, a move Chief McAlpine says is long overdue.
The system, which took eight years and $32 million to create, automatically scans reports for similarities, such as addresses or licence plate numbers, that could link a single perpetrator to crimes in different jurisdictions.
Work on the system began in 1997, after Justice Archie Campbell determined that a lack of coordination and communication hampered the work of the Green Ribbon Task Force, a multi-jurisdictional group of police officers investigating the murders of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy.
One of his key recommendations was a common automated case management software application to be used in investigating homicides and sexual assaults.
“Durham had officers on the Green Ribbon Task Force and on Justice Campbell’s steering committee, so this is an issue we are very familiar with,” Chief McAlpine said. “We started using the system in 2002 because we realized how important it was. Now everyone is going to be using it, which will make it even more effective.”
While about half the province’s police services were already using PowerCase prior to the announcement, many smaller ones were unable to manage the cost of training and software. Police services will now be responsible for internal administrative costs only, with $5 million in annual ministry funding earmarked to cover the rest.
While some have criticized the cost and called the technology a departure from traditional police work, Chief McAlpine said he wouldn’t want his investigators to be without it.
“You use the old-fashioned police work to get the information that goes in the system. Then the system does things no human being could do… it keeps track of all the little nuances and similarities,” he says. “We haven’t had a big multi-jurisdictional case to use it for yet, but when we do I know it will be a huge advantage.”
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