Their only piece of information was a partial licence plate number.
But from the moment a call about an assault in progress was dispatched last winter, it took a team of analysts and criminal intelligence officers only 90 minutes to identify a suspect who was later arrested.
The Real Time Intelligence Centre – British Columbia (RTIC-BC) is a new 24-7 operational unit in Surrey, B.C., that's helping speed up investigations by providing relevant suspect information in real time to officers responding to serious incidents.
While officers deal staff with a call, teams of intelligence and criminal-analyst assistants use the critical details that 911 operators enter into an electronic dispatch system to sift through up to 30 databases for information that could help the investigation.
"We're a force multiplier," says RCMP Insp. Vaz Kassam, who is in charge of the RTIC-BC. "If we're monitoring, then officers at the scene have up to seven people helping them in the background."
RTIC-BC employees monitor the dispatch system and police radio for calls where police units are dispatched. They begin an analysis only for incidents where there is a threat to the safety of officers or the public.
Officers can access some of these details from their police cruiser, but most of the research must be done back at the office.
"We might give officers something in half an hour that they would have figured out on their own in five days," says Tracy Mundell, a criminal analyst assistant at the centre since September 2014.
In addition to the real-time analyses, the centre also accepts requests from investigators at any stage in their work.
The centre has a multi-jurisdictional partnership between the RCMP and the province's municipal police forces, as well as Canada Border Services Agency, Correctional Service Canada, B.C. Corrections and B.C. Sherriff Services.
The unit's 43 staff members, which include permanent RCMP positions and municipal police officers who rotate every four years, have access to the databases of all the partner agencies.
"There needed to be more information-sharing between these agencies because criminals don't have jurisdictional boundaries," says Kassam.
He says the RTIC-BC became the central repository that gave them the ability to monitor all the information coming in from every police jurisdiction in the province.
Partners in crime-fighting
Since joining the unit two years ago, acting Sgt. Leigh Hodak of the New Westminster Police Department has seen the benefit of law enforcement partnerships first hand. Last fall, his team's knowledge of a series of bank robberies in Burnaby and Westminster helped police catch the offender when he struck again in Vancouver.
"We had the suspect's vehicle description and we knew his method of operation and that he was going to hit again very soon," says Hodak, who's in charge of one of the teams of analysts.
His team alerted the Vancouver Police Department and soon after, as predicted, the suspect hit another bank. Using the vehicle description provided by the RTIC-BC, responding officers quickly found and arrested the suspect.
"Having knowledge of everything that's going on throughout the province is a nice holistic approach to policing," says Hodak. "If a police force is working just in its own community, it's not aware of what's going on around it."
Though the RTIC-BC doesn't track the status of investigations, its employees measure success by the surge in calls and requests — they've seen a 35 per cent increase between January 2018 and 2019.
"It's really rewarding when we can provide information to officers that they wouldn't have available to them or wouldn't have known until a lot later in their investigation," says Hodak.