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Online Community Helps Police and Businesses Nab Crooks

LAS VEGAS - Repeat offender Freddie McBride Jr. opened the Macy's jewelry counter and slipped nearly $3700 worth of merchandise into a Macy's bag. Confronted by loss prevention outside the Sacramento Metro-area store, McBride shouted out to his getaway driver to "get his gun." In reaction to the threat, store security backed off and McBride went upon his way. 

McBride didn't stay a free man for long though. 

Normally a crime like McBride's would be nearly impossible to solve. But an expanding online community of law enforcement and loss prevention professionals has joined forces to help upend that probability.

Unfortunately for McBride, the Roseville Police Department of California used his picture caught by surveillance cameras to create an online alert in3VR's CrimeDex[1], a social network where law enforcement and businesses share business-related crime information. That alert was noticed by a California parole agent who realized McBride was a parolee in her office. In response, she called McBride and lured him into coming back to her office where police arrested him for armed robbery. Within four days of the alert, McBride was again in custody. 

According to Detective Sergeant Darin DeFreece of California's Roseville Police Department, who spoke during a session at ISC West,  McBride's crime and arrest demonstrates the importance of Web-based information-sharing portals where law enforcement and loss prevention professionals can trade information across multiple jurisdictions, identify common criminals they're all dealing with, and finally put them behind bars. 

CrimeDex, the tool DeFreece used to nab McBride, is the brainchild of former Portland Police Detective Jim "Gator" Hudson, now vice president of CrimeDex Services at 3VR. Fed up with the lack of cooperation between law enforcement and businesses to solve crime, Hudson quit his job and created his online community where vetted law enforcement, fraud, and loss prevention professionals could share information and videos of crimes, identify common suspects, and more efficiently target resources to end thieves' free-for-all. 

DeFreece said that without CrimeDex, McBride would have escaped. "We call these the unsolvables," according to DeFreece. "These definitely go into the random file. We don't work these cases unless we have something."  

The idea behind the online community, Hudson said during a session at ISC West, is to drive a sledgehammer into information silos and finally allow law enforcement and businesses to share information and videos of suspects in an efficient manner. Often times, he said, law enforcement and loss prevention professionals are working the same cases but don't know it because they aren't sharing information effectively. Hudson created CrimeDex to solve that problem. 

Currently CrimeDex is leveraged by 600,000 public and private security professionals, creating a Facebook-like social network that helps solve the crimes that plague businesses like organized retail theft and fraud. The crime data pumped into the community marries information and video and makes it searchable so security professionals can connect the dots across jurisdictions, like what happened in the McBride case. Currently, CrimeDex houses video and information on approximately 15,000 suspects and wanted criminals. 

Users can also send e-mail alerts organized around a geographic area to other CrimeDex participants to warn them of criminals active in their area and use facial recognition software to try and match a suspect they've entered into the system against a list of wanted criminals. 

Ted Barron, a former vice president and senior security manager at Wells Fargo Bank, said that the corporation has used CrimeDex to catch criminals preying on it. In one instance, the system helped catch a Russian citizen living in Oregon who used a computer program to steal $400,000 by matching payment cards to pin numbers across Oregon and California. 

CrimeDex, however, is a closed system that vets its customers to ensure they are law enforcement or loss prevention professionals.

Hudson says that if CrimeDex didn't vet its subscribers, criminals could use the system to determine whether they were on law enforcement or private security's radar and adapt to security professionals' latest tool. 

Photo of smash and grab byMarijn de Vries Hoogerwerff/Flickr