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Knowledge is power: How intelligence sharing assists investigations

Intelligence gathering helps officers identify specific crime trends, criminal organizations and suspects who pose a significant community or officer safety threat


Lisa Campbell, manager of the University of California Police Department Special Events, left, and UC Berkeley police officer Ally Jacobs recall their interaction with kidnapping suspect Phillip Craig Garrido at a news conference in Berkeley, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 28, 2009.

AP Photo/San Francisco Chronicle, Paul Chinn

By Tyson Howard, P1 Contributor

“As a former attorney general, I have the greatest respect for the criminal justice system. But it is not good at intelligence gathering.” – Former Attorney General New Hampshire and U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte

It is a given that law enforcement, probation and parole officers, and correctional officers have contact with individuals involved in criminal activity every day.

During these encounters we conduct intelligence gathering, whether it’s in the street or the prison, and sometimes this process overlaps. We interview witnesses and suspects, collect evidence and review any material we feel may aid criminal investigations.

Continual breakthroughs in technology and science are allowing us to solve crimes in ways officers never dreamed possible 20 to 30 years ago. Criminals are also getting savvier and constantly adapting. They continue to come up with more sophisticated ways of committing crimes and covering their tracks.

We try to stay current on crime trends so we can use preventive measures to stop the crime before it is committed, but sometimes we find ourselves two steps behind. This is why we must develop and share intelligence information with our peers.

What is intelligence information?

The gathering of intelligence information is a never-ending process based upon criminal predicate.

Unlike evidence from investigations, intelligence information remains confidential and is protected under state and federal laws. The utilization of this information can take a seemingly small investigation and turn it into a multi-jurisdictional investigation crossing several counties, states and sometimes even countries.

It helps officers identify specific crime trends, criminal organizations and, most important, suspects who pose a significant community or officer safety threat.

Case Study: Jaycee Dugard

The Jaycee Dugard case demonstrates how intelligence gathering can be critical to investigations.

Dugard was kidnapped in 1991, sexually assaulted and held captive for 18 years by Phillip Garrido, a convicted sex offender on parole.

When many of us heard about this case, we asked the same question: How could probation/parole and law enforcement officials have missed this for 18 years?

The answer is simple: There were several missed opportunities to share intelligence during that 18-year period that could have potentially brought the case to closure much sooner.

In his report into the case, Inspector General David Shaw of the California Office of Inspector General’s Office detailed that after Dugard was kidnapped, Garrido had contact with state parole agents, federal parole agents, law enforcement officers, fire department officials and prison officials. However, parole agents failed to contact local public safety agencies to share information regarding contact they had with Garrido.

Garrido was a registered sex offender on parole for kidnapping and sexual assault. He was convicted in both Nevada state court and federal court. Appendix B of Shaw’s report provides a summary of significant contacts Garrido had with public safety agencies, which included:

  • Garrido was on parole at the time he kidnapped Dugard in South Lake Tahoe, NV. Garrido’s first conviction had ties to South Lake Tahoe.
  • Garrido resided in Antioch, Calif., prior to and after kidnapping Dugard and there was a possible sighting of Dugard in Antioch, Calif., which was reported to local law enforcement.
  • Garrido was arrested on a parole violation by federal authorities and spent approximately four weeks in prison after he kidnapped Dugard.
  • Local law enforcement went to Garrido’s residence to check compliance with the sex offender registry.
  • Starting in 1999 and every year up to his arrest, Garrido updated his sex offender registry with law enforcement.
  • Garrido was stopped several times by law enforcement for traffic violations.
  • Neighbors called and reported to local law enforcement that Garrido had several tents in his back yard with people living in them. The neighbor advised there were children and they were concerned because Garrido had a sexual addiction.
  • During a home visit, a parole officer observed a 12-year-old girl at Garrido’s residence.
  • Garrido had 60 home visits conducted by parole agents.
  • Garrido was being monitored on GPS, which showed points in the far back of his yard near where he was keeping Dugard.
  • The fire department was dispatched to Garrido’s residence on several occasions for an elderly female and one time for a juvenile with a shoulder injury that occurred in a swimming pool.
  • A search warrant was executed at Garrido’s residence by a sex offender task force during part of a sweep on registered sex offenders.
  • Electrical wires were running across Garrido’s back yard, through the fence to the shed in the hidden area, which could indicate some type of criminal activity was taking place.
  • Garrido had his back yard fenced off into two separate areas but officers never searched the second section that was fenced off.
  • Garrido’s name was queried in a law enforcement database on several occasions.

It wasn’t until August 24 and 25, 2009, when Garrido took two young females to the University of California, Berkeley Police Department to obtain a permit for a campus event, that his activity sparked suspicion.

The employee who had contact with Garrido was concerned by Garrido’s behavior and the girls’ conditions. They discovered that Garrido was a registered sex offender who was currently on parole. An officer with the police department later contacted Garrido’s parole officer and advised that Garrido had been at their campus. UC Berkeley is approximately 40 miles from Garrido’s residence and Garrido had a 25-mile travel restriction placed upon him.

Because this officer shared this information, Dugard was located the following day and Garrido placed under arrest. The case of a child missing for 18 years was solved in two days after an officer reached out and shared information considered suspicious. This case was solved without any of the bulleted information above.

How Intelligence is Used and Gathered

Ask most civilians what comes to mind when they hear the words “intelligence gathering” and you may get a story of Starsky and Hutch entering a bar and asking their trusted source of information, “Huggy Bear,” what the word on the street is. Most of us would agree that sometimes it really is just that easy! Other times we have to work for intelligence and put ourselves in a position to uncover the information.

Each section of the criminal justice system plays an important role in developing and sharing intelligence information. However, before we can collect and share intelligence information, we have to make sure there is some type of criminal element. We are not in the business of collecting information on law-abiding citizens and all information needs must meet the requirements of Federal Code 28 CFR Part 23.

The Role of the Corrections Officer in Intelligence Gathering

Correction officers interact with inmates every day. This interaction can provide valuable information. Correction officers can identify gang members and gang hierarchy, as well as which offenders are associating with each other.

They can develop confidential sources that will provide information into criminal activities other inmates are engaged in.

They have access to inmate records, which can include visitor logs, phone call logs, letters, e-mails, and details or friends or family who put money on their books.

The Role of the Probation/Parole Officer in Intelligence Gathering

Like the corrections officer, the probation/parole officer works closely with offenders.

Probation/parole officers can help identify offenders who are using drugs and, through good interviews with the offender, they may be able identify the source and where the offender hangs out.

They have all of the offender’s information, which can include addresses, phone numbers, employment information, people they are residing with, people they are associating with and what their schedule is.

Probation/parole officers regularly conduct home visits on offenders. This allows the probation/parole officer to go into the residence and identify possible problems that would be difficult for a law enforcement officer to have easy access to.

The Role of the Law Enforcement Officer in Intelligence Gathering

Regardless of the position or agency, all law enforcement officers can provide valuable intelligence information.

Officers can gather intelligence information through interviews, contact with community stake holders, traffic stops, calls for service, confidential sources or possibly just by walking into their favorite convenience store at 3 a.m.

Random situations occur all of the time during which officers can gather intelligence.

The Role of Community Members in Intelligence Gathering

We are not going to share intelligence information with community members, but we can listen to what they have to say. Community members want us to keep our communities safe and will offer help. The benefit of this interaction is twofold: The officer gets information to further a criminal case and the boss is happy because the officer was engaged in community policing. It’s a win, win.

Ways to Collaborate

Officers from all levels and jurisdictions should work together on developing and sharing intelligence information. Ways we can accomplish this are:

  • Conduct monthly or weekly meetings. This can be local, regional or statewide.
  • Push out bulletins to an officer from each agency where the information can be used. That officer can then forward it out to the rest of their department.
  • Build relationships through networking at trainings.
  • Get to know resources and skills that other agencies have and can be utilized by your department.
  • Get the information into the right hands.
  • Follow right to know, need to know: If you have intelligence information that is highly sensitive, it is okay to protect that information, and only share it with other officers directly involved in the case.
  • If your state has a Fusion Center or Intelligence Center, provide your information to them. This is probably one the best ways to ensure the information will get to the right people.
  • And, most important, work together. We are better when we do!


Intelligence information sharing involves trust and cooperation. As a corrections, probation/parole or law enforcement officer, our jobs may be different, but we all want to stop criminal activity from destroying our communities.

It is amazing how insignificant one piece of information can be to an officer, but when that officer shares that information with peers from several jurisdictions, it can be like opening a flood gate.

Intelligence gathering and sharing is one the most important tools we have in combating crime within our communities. It helps identify suspects, keep informed about new and evolving criminal trends, and makes our communities safer.

About the author
Tyson Howard is a probation/parole officer with the 4th Judicial District Department of Correctional Services in Iowa, assigned to the High Risk Unit. He is a current member and coordinator for the Iowa Law Enforcement Intelligence Network and a member of the Iowa Narcotics Officer Association. Previously, he held the rank of officer and then sergeant with the Centerville (IA) Police Department for 6½ years. In addition, he was assigned to the South Central Iowa Drug Task Force Special Operations Group for 5 years. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice from Buena Vista University.