Northampton seeks gambling money to join crime database

to update computer systems and enter existing information from 27 Northampton County police departments and the county prison into the RIIC database. Lehigh County commissioners recently warned Martin to find partners to share the burden of funding the RIIC or risk losing their support. Computer Aid created the initial RIIC database and network used by all of the departments in Lehigh County. I think they have always supported it philosophically,” he said.

Reporter Tom Shortell contributed to this story.

Lehigh County District Attorney James Martin and Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, supported by county and city officials, jointly funded a study in 2006 into the feasibility of creating a searchable database of law enforcement records for the Lehigh Valley.

“Initially it was a $500,000 cost and there was no way we had this kind of money in our budget, Morganelli said last week.

Larry Palmer, the Palmer Township police chief and chairman of the Northampton County Chiefs of Police Association, supports the effort. My detectives will sit for hours and try to link phone numbers in a case.”

While the redevelopment authority’s grant would fund entering Northampton County law enforcement records into the RIIC database, it does not cover the yearly costs of continuing input and use.

“This is the first step, to get integrated,” acknowledged Palmer, the chief in Palmer. He did not include an estimate of how much that would be, instead noting that it is a negotiable amount “based upon usage; per capita; and/or UCR (Unified Crime Reports) numbers.”

Dalrymple, who submitted the application, declined to comment on it before Monday’s vote.

The searchable database includes prison records, arrest records, traffic stops any reports that police create and are filtered into the system. During a recent demonstration, Julia Kocis, director of the RIIC, clicked through arrest records that showed the names of everyone else in a car and then used those names to track down the arrest records of those people.

The application calls for $407,000 of gaming money to be paid to Computer Aid Inc. The 11board members appointed by Northampton County Council represent Bethlehem and the surrounding municipalities.

If a grant funded by gambling revenue comes through, police reports from 28 law enforcement agencies in Northampton County would be added to the Regional Intelligence and Investigation Center, or RIIC, a database that right now holds more than 4 million reports ranging from homicide arrests to prison phone records but only from Lehigh County.

That would allow investigators to access RIIC for Northampton County reports, which could be anything from the arrest records of suspects, the cars they drive, their nicknames and, if they spent time in prison, the names of friends who put money in their prison commisary account.

Lehigh County paid more than $831,000 to keep the RIIC in operation in 2015 and it will cost $913,000 in 2016, using money from the county budget, the district attorney’s budget, drug forfeiture money and grants from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and the Trexler Estate, according to county records.

That inmate admitted to police he had driven someone nicknamed “Los” or “Slime” to the club on the night of the homicide in the woman’s SUV. Commissioner Brad Osborne said he was encouraged to learn of Northampton County’s grant application, saying it showed an intention to back a critical tool for law enforcement.

Each year since the RIIC opened, Martin and Morganelli have spoken about getting Northampton to join the RIIC. Last year the redevelopment authority granted Bethlehem $400,000 for a fire engine, $120,000 to Bethlehem Township for an ambulance and another $101,000 to the township for two police cars.. “I’m glad that Northampton County is willing to support the RIIC financially. And, according to the application, police have known criminal organizations to launder their money by getting casino chips and cashing them.

Martin said he expects the cost to Lehigh would go down if Northampton was brought on board, but he said there is no estimate of how much that would be.

“The request for funding will also include a continuing request to assist in funding operations,” Dalrymple wrote in the application. Using the RIIC, they discovered an Emmaus woman owned a CRV who otherwise had no connection to the crime, but had visited a prison inmate in the past.

EASTON Cops in Northampton County may soon be able to solve a murder with a few keystrokes and little more than a phone number or a vehicle description.

Police said it makes sense to use gambling grants to fund the RIIC database, since there have been more than 800 records entered into it since 2014 that make reference to the casino. Investigators then searched the RIIC database for people with those nicknames and found they were both listed as Rodriguez’s nicknames in a previous arrest report.

If the grant is approved, the project would begin in June and be completed by late July 2017, according to the application.

Police say the information would be a boon in helping solve crime, and the $407,000 grant would solve a longstanding funding problem that’s kept Northampton County from joining the RIIC.

The Northampton County Sheriff’s Office filed a grant application with the Northampton County Gaming Revenue and Economic Redevelopment Authority, which may vote Monday night on the application filed in March by Sheriff David Dalrymple.

Investigators had a description of an SUV they believed was a Honda CRV or a Volvo and a list of people in the Lehigh Valley who owned those vehicles. He said that despite only containing information from Lehigh County, the RIIC assisted in solving crimes for the Easton, Bethlehem, Bethlehem Township and Colonial Regional police departments.

The example Martin often uses in touting the benefits of the RIIC is the case of Ulysses “Slime” Rodriguez, who was convicted of killing another man in 2013 outside a strip club in west Bethlehem.

“A lot of smaller departments don’t have the manpower to go through these reams of documents we get when you subpoena the telecommunication companies for records,” Palmer said. And each year, Morganelli said, he hasn’t had the money.

Grants are given out by the redevelopment authority to local governments impacted by the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, which funds the grants through gambling revenue. “We would have to find additional money to sustain participation on a yearly basis.”

Northampton County’s grant application comes at a critical point in the RIIC’s history. “[The RIIC] can do it all on a fairly fast basis. Police departments in Bethlehem, and the boroughs of Walnutport, Northampton and North Catasauqua currently participate in the RIIC.

But while Martin opened the RIIC seven years later in Allentown with more than $1.3 million in federal grants and $500,000 in Lehigh County funds, Morganelli has not been able to get onboard.

There is no estimate in the application for how many records would be added from Northampton County.

But earlier this year, Morganelli and Martin said, they were talking about other matters when Martin suggested using gambling revenue to fund Northampton’s entry into the RIIC

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