Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer has hired a former Teradata Corp. executive to build a Dayton “fusion center” — an office where data is tracked and analyzed in fighting crime.
Bruce Langos, former Teradata chief operations officer, said the effort is new in Montgomery County, and he’s building the operation from the ground up.
“It’s a criminal intelligence center that the sheriff is establishing,” said Langos, 62, a former West Carollton police officer. “It’s a lot of data analytics obviously, which is of course in my background. That’s what he has asked me to put in place.”
Plummer said last year he requested $300,000 from Montgomery County commissioners to set up the center, but the request was rejected. So Plummer said he cut one deputy’s position to get the center started.
“There’s a cost to this, and as long as the benefits outweigh the cost, it’s a win-win,” Plummer said Monday.
The center would be a place where information can be shared, Langos and Plummer said. The focus will be on tracking crimes as well as commercial and public databases to help law enforcement make smart decisions — to, as Langos put it, “Look at criminal activity and be able to predict criminal activity in the county.”
Langos’ new title is “director of the Criminal Intelligence Center.”
Plummer said there are plenty of local police jurisdictions and plenty of information out there. Langos said there are 29 law enforcement departments in the county.
“Let’s do one intelligence center, so we’re not duplicating efforts,” Plummer said.
“We’re going to be more strategic about investigating crimes, going after the right criminals, instead of a carpet-bomb approach,” the sheriff said.
Nearly a third of Montgomery County jail inmates suffer from mental illness of some sort and end up in jail repeatedly, Plummer said, touching on a longstanding concern of his.
“Arresting people is easy,” he said. “But that doesn’t solve the problem.”
Eventually, if the center gets enough community buy-in, Plummer hopes other departments will “chip in” and the center will hire more analysts for a truly countywide operation.
Currently, Plummer said he can assist outside communities with “major” crimes such as homicides. “We just don’t have the resources to help with all your petty crimes,” he said.
He was disappointed with the county’s rejection of his funding request, but he said he is building the center anyway. “My budget is very, very tight, but we’ll make it work.”
He said he is approaching foundations and non-profits for grants to help fund the center, but he had nothing to announce yet.
“My opinion is that Bruce will do the work of five cops,” Plummer said.
As long as he doesn’t go over his department’s annual budget, county commissioners can’t stop him from spending money as he sees fit, Plummer said.
“I can tweak any of my funding any way I want to combat crime,” Plummer said.
Joe Tuss, Montgomery County administrator, said Plummer, as a separately elected office, has no requirement to consult with county commissioners and county government about spending within his office. Tuss put Plummer’s operating budget at $28.8 million.
“He runs his operation as he chooses,” Tuss said.
Tuss was not aware that Plummer had cut a deputy’s position to hire Langos, but he said that is the sheriff’s prerogative.
“We agree with the sheriff that we need more data to make the community safer,” County Commissioner Dan Foley said.
Since 2005, Montgomery County has funded the Justice Web system — a system that lets police officers and judges enter a name and obtain an individual’s criminal history. That system has more than 4,000 users across 17 counties in Southwest Ohio, Foley said.
But the system Plummer is planning would be stronger if it were multi-jurisdictional, with more than one community supporting the system, Foley said.
“Everyone needs the same data,” he said.
In the 2016 budget, county commissioners authorized an additional $5.5 million for replacement capital, operations, vehicles and “major systems replacements,” including completely replacing the basic data and communications systems for the Sheriff’s Office, Tuss said.
“At some point, there have to be priorities about what we fund and what we don’t fund,” Tuss said. “And these were clearly high priorities.”
The center will be able to consider existing criminal activity with an eye toward solving cases that remain open and unsolved, Langos said.
It will use geo-spatial mapping, predictive analysis and other tools, Langos said. It can draw from social media and other databases.
Teradata, a spin-off of NCR Corp., focuses on helping customers make sense of lots of information, sometimes called “big data.” Langos said it was his choice to leave the company for the opportunity Plummer offered him.
Langos’ salary is around $55,000, about a mid-level deputy’s salary, Plummer said. He said the two analysts Langos has hired make about $40,000 each.
Messages were also left with commissioners Judy Dodge and Deborah Lieberman.
Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said he and Plummer have spoken about a fusion center, and he likes the idea. Criminals don’t care about municipal boundaries, so the idea makes sense, if communities share the information, he said.
“Particularly multi-jurisdictionally, it only makes sense,” Biehl said.
Biehl questions if there is commitment to do it from others. “I think it has been a challenge, if you will, to get jurisdictions to share their data,” he said.
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