Friday, February 19, 2021

NorCo Council Briefed on Benefits of Regional Crime Center

Lori Vargo-Heffner
Among the items considered by NorCo Council during last year's budget hearings was a $100,000 request from District Attorney Terry Houck to help fund the Lehigh County Regional Crime Center. (It's also called the RIIC - Regional Intelligence and Investigation Center). Over the course of two hearings, Council member Lori Vargo-Heffner did her best to defund the DA. Specifically, she wanted to reduce the allotment from $100,000 to $50,000. In the end, she was the sole vote against Houck. Last night, DA  Houck asked RIIC Director Julia Kocis to explain precisely what the RIIC does. In addition, Nazareth Police Chief Randall Miller explained how it helps his department. 

Kocis explained that the RIIC, which began operations in 2013, has about 1,500 users among all the police departments in both counties, as well as the Pennsylvania State Police and several federal agencies. Basically, it collects the data generated by all local police departments, the counties, jails, state police, mug shots, state warrants, social media and even the dark web. Officers, with the assistance of analysts, can use this treasure trove of data to identify trends and solve crimes. 

The RIIC employs four analysts, two detectives, an administrative assistant and Kocis. It has received over $5 million in grants from government and private sources to develop software. Its annual budget is $1.3 million. Operational costs like personnel are largely funded by Lehigh County. 

Northampton County's contribution is just $100,000. 

York County participates in the RIIC, but its use is currently limited to identification of drug overdoses. 

Kocis said she'd welcome participation from other counties. 

DA Terry Houck explained that use of the RIIC is what led his office to the Allentown drug dealer who dealt a Christmas Day death to a former Pen Argyl wrestler.     

Though larger police departments might use the RIIC more heavily, Nazareth Police Chief Randall Miller explained that the RIIC is a great benefit to smaller departments like his as well. 

Bu using the RIIC, his department recently discovered that two Latin Kings are living in a Nazareth apartment complex. The RIIC has given him leads in a recent rare borough shooting.And it weeded out a possible child predator. 

Miller explained that his department received complaints that a crossing guard was making inappropriate contacts with children. This guard had no criminal record for child molestation. But thanks to the RIIC, his department discovered  that the guard had been under investigation in two other local police departments for sexual abuse of children. He indicated the only reason these departments filed no charges was because the statute of limitations had run. Without the RIIC, his department would never have known  about these previous investigations.  This "could have put Nazareth in a very bad situation," he noted. 

So if Lori Vargo-Heffner wants to know whether the $100,000 is money well spent, perhaps she should speak to the parents of those Nazareth children. 

Instead, Vargo-Heffner wants a specific breakdown on the RIIC's annual budget.  

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bored at work and watched some of this meeting on computer. What is with this person? She comes off as a wild and angry cat lady. What happened to the guy that use to run their meetings?

Anonymous said...

So you go out of your way to find an unflattering screen shot to belittle this strong woman, how dare you Edgar.

Anonymous said...

Rumor has it that they throw two bucks worth of dollar store peppermints in a bowl by the front door at least once a month. Perhaps Lori can squelch this obscene waste of taxpayer money with a thorough accounting of funding.

Anonymous said...

Boy, that picture was hard to take on an early morning. And she was voted in to help "lead" the county. Maybe if she shut up, did some research about topics, she would at least present as less of a goof. Not likely.

Anonymous said...

Could you find a more flattering photo of Lori? Lol! By the look of that one, she sould change her last name to Vile-Heifer!

Bernie O'Hare said...

The photo is directly from the meeting. I did not go out of my way to find one that was unflattering, but merely used a photo when she was asking a question that had already been answered.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The comment at 1:54 comes from Mezzacappa, the only person I know who for some reason refers to me as "Edgar."

Bernie O'Hare said...

I am really disturbed that she completely fails to understand the significant work done by RIIC in fighting crime and was instead going out of her way to find flaws. She should be ashamed of herself. She is up for re-election and needs to be shown the door.

Anonymous said...

Bernie at 8:24: That does not make the comment any less valid. Why risk undermining your credibility with such cheap shots? Not a good look, and no pun intended.

Bernie O'Hare said...

By no means a cheap shot. The photo comes directly from that meeting. If I spent my time trying to find a more flattering photo, I'd still be scouring the video. It is what it is.

Watch the video yourself. I doubt you can find a good one.

Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or does that look like Heckman wearing a wig???

peterjcochran said...

Bernie, so this facility with a few folks , acts as an advanced level of intelligence , inorganic to the other individual venues? Does the State Police run through there too? If this group is able to pull rabbit’s out their hat ,as in the crossing guard case, it would seen to me , hand m $100,000 and assess a user fee to the municipalities that request it. It would seem if their that good their worth it.

Anonymous said...

1) In an area that sorely needs more regionalized solutions to expensive operations, she's extremely misguided. It's good that all of her colleagues seem to know better.

2) Low camera angles on Zoom meetings are notoriously unflattering. They often show more chins than a Beijing phone book. Raise the camera and lose 30 lbs. A quick Google search will deliver lots of tips on better Zooming.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'd defy anyone to produce a photo of her from that meeting that is flattering. I suspect you are right and that it is the low camera angle. I wanted to produce a photo from her while she was questioning the RIIC. It is what it is.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Peter, yes the PSP do use this tool. It is perhaps the most effective crime-fighting tool in the LV, next to you, lol. This is all due to the foresight of DA Jim Martin.

Anonymous said...

And who controls the crime center?
How does someone know if they are on the naughty list?
Someone gets branded by an "analyst" and now every police department now takes a sudden interest in you for no reason except you went to the capitol riots does that make you a "gang" leader ala Snover or a BLM protester who went to a protest?
How much white collar crime are they working on?
Or is just certain groups get special treatment?
There is plenty of opportunity for abuse by law enforcement.
Where is the oversight of the agency?
Who are the analysts and how are they held accountable for there actions?
For example what stops a cop from deciding to put everyone who ever complained about him or a fellow officer in a gang or drug dealer?
If he does that who will keep that from happening?
Amazing how when you would like to see a listing of all cops that have had complaints against them they cry privacy of the officer and those complaints could be untrue.
Yet the police feel perfectly ok putting someone in a gang based on what?
an anonymous tip?
How many times has that been wrong?

Anonymous said...

try
https://projects.tampabay.com/projects/2020/investigations/police-pasco-sheriff-targeted/intelligence-led-policing/

"First the Sheriff’s Office generates lists of people it considers likely to break the law, based on arrest histories, unspecified intelligence and arbitrary decisions by police analysts.

Then it sends deputies to find and interrogate anyone whose name appears, often without probable cause, a search warrant or evidence of a specific crime.

They swarm homes in the middle of the night, waking families and embarrassing people in front of their neighbors. They write tickets for missing mailbox numbers and overgrown grass, saddling residents with court dates and fines. They come again and again, making arrests for any reason they can.

One former deputy described the directive like this: “Make their lives miserable until they move or sue.”
Granted an extreme example of how the system can be abused

Anonymous said...

RIIC information is used in all kinds of helpful ways. As I’m posting this now, local departments are accessing RIIC to attempt to find vehicle owners to move their cars out of the way of a water main break...(all other methods of running the plates and finding phone numbers have failed...listening on my scanner)

Anonymous said...

February 19, 2021 at 4:58 PM

Paranoid about something? Snowflake

Anonymous said...

"Is it just me, or does that look like Heckman wearing a wig???"

on the contrary...Heckman would make quite a striking woman...

Anonymous said...

4.58
"Paranoid about something?"
well when the police abuses are common it is not paranoia.
when police bend backwards for their own
https://apnews.com/article/jason-ravnsborg-charged-3-misdemanors
imagine how that would work for "little people"
and abuse of little people--try
https://www.greenvilleonline.com/in-depth/news/taken/2019/01/27/civil-forfeiture-south-carolina-police-property-seizures-taken-exclusive-investigation/2457838002/
Just remember when the po-po gets sued for the abuse --you the taxpayer gets to pay for the judgement.

Anonymous said...

try
https://www.justice.gov/criminal-ocgs/about-violent-gangs
So i wonder if the regional crime center views the MAGA folks as a gang?
(1) an association of three or more individuals;---check
(2) whose members collectively identify themselves by adopting a group identity---check
(3) the association's purpose, in part, is to engage in criminal activity and the association uses violence or intimidation to further its criminal objectives--in part yep they did
(4) its members engage in criminal activity,---analyst says(beating an officer with an American flag) yep--check
(5) with the intent to enhance or preserve the association's power, reputation, or economic resources;--check
(6) the association may also possess some of the following characteristics: (a) the members employ rules for joining and operating within the association; (b) the members meet on a recurring basis;c) the association provides physical protection of its members from other criminals and gangs; (d) the association seeks to exercise control over a particular location or region, or it may simply defend its perceived interests against rivals;--check
So the folks that went to protest but did not break the law could be considered gang members.
Should the "analysts" be digging in further and as they claim in their example" But using the RIIC, his department recently discovered that two Latin Kings are living in a Nazareth apartment complex" so does that apply to say Snover? or anyone else in the maga crowd?
Do the maga members deserve special police attention?
Would it be okay for the police to pull up to a church and interrogate a maga member about his "gang" association as he walks out for all the other church goers to see?
Can the police go to the employer of the maga guy and drag him away while at work to ask him about all the others in the "gang"?
So you have to make sure that the crime center is on a firm leash or abuses can and will occur

Anonymous said...


“By no means a cheap shot. The photo comes directly from that meeting. If I spent my time trying to find a more flattering photo, I'd still be scouring the video. It is what it is.

Watch the video yourself. I doubt you can find a good one.”

And I’m single. No justice in this world!