2008 Safety, Security and International Affairs

James “Patrick” McCreary and the BJA Information Sharing Team

Developed the capability to connect law enforcement databases, with broad information sharing uses that include improving Amber Alerts and supporting the National Sex Offender Public Registry.

Every parent has a responsibility for protecting their children, and the list of potential risks can be overwhelming, from harmful UV rays to inappropriate TV shows. One of the most ominous threats facing any parent is the danger posed by sexual predators. Patrick McCreary and his team at the Bureau of Justice Assistance have given people a tool to help them guard against this hazard. The Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public website allows the American people to enter their zip code or address to see if there are any convicted sex offenders in their vicinity. As impactful as this website has been, it is actually just one application for an information sharing model that McCreary and his team developed, thus transforming the way law enforcement officials operate and making Americans safer from a variety of threats.

For more than two decades, Patrick McCreary had the honor of serving as an Indiana State Police officer. In this position, he quickly learned that there is no asset more valuable for fighting crime than information. He also recognized that one of the biggest problems holding back crime prevention efforts was a limited capacity to share knowledge across different jurisdictions, because information was stored in incompatible formats. Each law enforcement agency’s database essentially spoke its own language, which prevented it from communicating with other networks. McCreary joined the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) where he had the opportunity to bring together leaders from across the country to help address this problem for his colleagues in Indiana and nationwide.

McCreary’s team worked with DOJ’s Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative (Global), which serves as a Federal Advisory Committee (FAC) and advises the U.S. Attorney General on justice information sharing and integration initiatives, to create the Global Justice XML Data Model (Global JXDM). Through the support of Global member organizations, BJA partners nationwide, and the unique public and private sector partnership provided by the Integrated Justice Systems (IJIS) Institute, the model began serving as a universal translator between justice databases, allowing them to talk to one another and dramatically leveraging their impact and utility. Ultimately, Global JXDM has saved millions of dollars and has made justice information sharing faster and easier for law enforcement organizations by providing the sharing tools and techniques that agencies would have had to develop on their own.

Today, the Global JXDM serves as the underlying basis for the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM), which provides a framework for information sharing between more than 200 federal, state, local and tribal entities. More specifically, this work is being used to help stand up more than 50 “fusion centers,” which are operational units in 46 states where law enforcement and private partners come together to coordinate the collection, analysis and sharing of homeland security and law enforcement intelligence.

Use of NIEM and supporting technology is having a real impact. It not only allowed the Justice Department to link local, state and tribal sex offender databases, it helped them do it faster and cheaper than anyone ever expected. Amid predictions that it could take years to create, 22 state registries were connected in only six months, and within a year all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico were connected. In the first 48 hours after the website went live, there were 27 million hits. As of May 2008, the registry has received more than 1.8 billion hits from more than 14 million visitors. The project wound up costing $1 million, as opposed to some projections that it would cost as much as $25 million. Global JXDM is also used for Amber Alerts, which have rescued more than 230 children by immediately sending bulletins to law enforcement officials and the public when a child is abducted.

Global JXDM was adopted by law enforcement officials in central Florida who estimate that their enhanced information sharing capability helped them jail 700 offenders in the past year that otherwise would not have been arrested. Even the European Union, through a program called Eurojust, is using Global JXDM to connect 27 separate legal systems which use 22 different languages, to support cross-border investigations.

Whether it’s providing information to parents who are concerned about the safety of their children or a police officer in Indiana trying to respond to a tip about a terrorist threat, Patrick McCreary and his team have changed the way law enforcement information in America is shared and accessed, making all Americans more secure.