Crime Watch: Crime Net

Police officers are known to be a pretty tight-knit group. Thanks to the internet, those bonds are now closer, and stretch well beyond their primary jurisdiction.

This has meant better crime fighting, because information is the lifeblood of solving crime. Sharing information has gotten a whole lot easier these days.

Police throughout our area are better connected, and that was the reason a recent crime in Northern Indiana led to solving a crime spree in Southern Michigan.

Area police officers are spending a lot of quality time together these days thanks to something called Crime Net.

“In short, it's an internet chat room for police officers,” explains Lt. Regis Thimons of the St. Joseph County Police Department.

This police only chat room has more than 400 members from a four state area that includes Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Illinois. That includes many Michiana police agencies on both sides of the border.

“We would never know that a suspect was taken into Michigan jail if it was not for Crime Net and being able to share this kind of information,” says Lt. Thimons. “Then if we are looking for a suspect we can also put that out there and say we are looking for John Doe. One thing leads to another and yeah we just had a case with him, he was just given a traffic citation.”

Crime Net serves as a deep pool of information that officers can cast a line into and hope for a big catch.

“We talk about maybe a case where we had suspects are doing a certain things and, if it sounds familiar, then that officer from another agency will contact us or vice versa and the we will share information and notes, and then we can talk about if it's the same suspects,” explains Lt. Thimons.

A prime example came in September when police arrested two burglary suspects following a high speed chase that ended in a cornfield in North Liberty.

Thimons says, during the hunt for the suspects, he and a couple other detectives realized the car they were chasing matched the description of a vehicle connected to a crime spree in Southwest Michigan that was mentioned in a Crime Net post.

Thimons then contacted authorities north of the border.

“Once the detective came down, and they were in custody in St. Joseph County, Indiana, she came down and interviewed them here in the jail and they did admit to the burglaries up there and we actually had evidence tied to out-of-county burglaries that in the vehicle that they were travelling in,” says Lt. Thimons. “Otherwise if we do not have Crime Net, we cannot find that information out and that property may go unclaimed or the case may go unsolved.”

Thimons says it quite common for burglars and stick-up artists to hit both sides of the border, which makes Crime Net, and the sharing of information, even more critical.

It's not just the sharing of information that makes crime net so important. Thimons says beyond the obvious is getting information that helps solve and prevent crimes, Crime Net has improved relations among area police agencies.

Crime Net has led to officers developing professional relationships with folks in other departments that might not have otherwise occurred.

Crime Net was that critical first step, and Thimons says now he can just pick up the phone and talk to detectives in other jurisdictions because he knows them. The more they talk, the more information is shared and the cooperation level among the departments has really soared and that's bad news for the bad guys

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