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Regional Intelligence Center already a successful crime-fighting tool, DA says

By Will Lewis, Reporter, WLewis@wfmz.com
Published On: Apr 24 2013 07:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 26 2013 06:33:27 AM CDT

Police and prosecutors are crediting a new intelligence center with helping them connect the dots in a pair of homicide cases.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

It turns out tail lights were the clue that helped police identify a suspect in January's homicide outside Scoobie's Gentlemen's Club in Bethlehem.

Police and prosecutors are crediting a new intelligence center with helping them connect the dots in the case.   

It's a way for Lehigh County investigators to search 3.5 million pieces of information in a matter of seconds.

"Information drives everything in society these days, said Jim Martin, Lehigh County district attorney. "Drives businesses, government, schools."

That information is stored at the Regional Intelligence and Investigation Center, also known as the "RIIC," in downtown Allentown.

The idea for the $2.8 million center was first developed in 2006. Federal grants made it a reality when it opened this past January.

“As we build success stories, public officials will come up to the plate and provide some additional funding,” added Martin.

The system can search locations, persons of interest, phone records, property and even firearms records.

“I'm convinced, even though that data existed out there, it's impractical and impossible for the detectives to be able to go through or even have access to all those records because it spans all those other police departments,” said Chief Jason Schiffer, Bethlehem Police Dept.

In four months, the RIIC is credited with helping investigators solve two homicides by connecting phone and other records.

In the Scoobie's case, all Bethlehem police had to go on were the tail lights of a suspected getaway car.

"That most likely would have turned into a cold case, and who knows if it would have ever been solved without this,” added Schiffer.

Bethlehem tracked those tail lights to Ulysses Rodriguez, a suspect in the January shooting outside Scoobie's Gentlemen's Club.

It took phone records, processed through RIIC, to help investigators nab the two suspects in connection with the killings of three people in Berks and Lehigh counties.

“That case shows definitively that crime doesn't know any borders,” said Martin.

Currently, all police departments in Lehigh County and four in Northampton County use the RIIC.

Jim Martin's plan is to regionalize the system among Berks, Lehigh and Northampton counties.

Northampton was originally on board, but the county decided not to integrate police records.

“I don't have any reasonable expectation that is going to happen," said Martin. "I wish they would take another look at it.”

Martin is hoping grants and money from the private sector will continue to fund the center for years to come.