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GangNET FAQs Part 1

Question 1: Are there special rules for the use of information on juveniles in the NC GangNET system?

While there is no specific rule preventing information from being collected about juveniles in a law enforcement intelligence system, there is a rule preventing the use of a photographic image of their face.  Photographs of scars, tattoos and other identifying information including biographic information are applicable. This information falls under the same protections of 28 CFR, Part 23 as described in this publication.

Question 2: Why is it important to maintain information on juveniles?

A good example would be when a juvenile matriculates from middle school to high school and the school resource officer (SRO) encounters some problems with a student he does not know.  If the SRO suspects this student is gang involved, he/she can query the NC GangNET system to determine if there is any information that might support these worries and help prevent rival clashes or other incidents on campus.  As juvenile involvement in gang activities is more prevalent, to not track juvenile gang involvement would have law enforcement miss the potential of identifying dangerous offenders.

Question 3: What information is collected, used, disseminated, or maintained in the system?

NC GangNET maintains personal information about individuals who qualify as suspected or confirmed gang members and associates under established criteria. NC GangNET stores the following data about each gang member and associate to the extent it is available: biographic information (name, date of birth, etc.), immigration status, gang affiliation, physical description, government-issued identification numbers, photos of the individual, and identities of gang associates, field interview notes, and criminal history information. NC GangNET also stores general comments entered by the certified user(s) that created the gang, individual member or gang associate record as well as a reference to the official evidentiary system of records where any official case files are stored.

NC GangNET maintains more general data on criminal gangs including gang names, various symbols they use, membership levels, and turf claimed. Each subject record in NC GangNET also includes the contact information for the certified user and agency that entered the information into NC GangNET so that they can be contacted, if necessary, by other NC GangNET users. Finally, designated NC GangNET users can quickly generate various reports such as gang rosters or statistical reports on demographics, and link analysis reports that identify commonalities between records in NC GangNET based on user-defined queries and criteria. Statistical reports do not contain any personal information about gang members. These reports are user-generated on an ad hoc basis and are not stored in the system for future use. These reports can be printed. 

Question 4: What are the sources of the information in the system?

Law Enforcement agencies in North Carolina obtain information such as statements or seized communications about gang members and/or associates directly from the individual or from other suspects, witnesses, informants, and victims during normal law enforcement investigative activities such as arrest, search, or field interview.  Law enforcement officers and support personnel may also collect and input information into NC GangNET from other law enforcement agencies so long as that agency's information satisfies NC GangNET criteria for designating an individual as a gang member or associate. Additionally, information on prison “Security Threat Groups” (STGs) is uploaded from the Division of Adult Corrections as well as information on “Community Threat Groups” (CTGs) from Adult Probation.  NC GangNET users also have access to the records of other federal and state organizations that use the GangNET software via its existing connection to the Washington, DC/Baltimore, MD HIDTA.

Question 5: Why is the information being collected, used, disseminated, or maintained?

The NC GangNET database supplements the existing agency records management systems by allowing investigators and support personnel to efficiently search, access, and review gang-related information in support of law enforcement investigations. Currently, many agency records management systems are not designed to consolidate and organize investigative materials about gang-related activity or to facilitate sharing of gang-related information with other law enforcement agencies. NC GangNET provides a central repository for all certified agencies and officers to use, enter, search and analyze information about gangs, gang activities, and gang members and their associates. The information is also maintained to allow the sharing of gang information with other law enforcement agencies in support of criminal investigations and related activities. At present, NC GangNET only shares information with other states and federal agencies via the Washington/Baltimore HIDTA.  

Question 6: How is the information collected?

North Carolina law enforcement officers who have been trained and certified to use NC GangNET collect the information directly from individuals during normal law enforcement investigative activities such as an arrest or field interview, from an informant, or by reviewing documentary evidence such as seized communications.  These officers and support personnel also collect information from prisons about gang members in their populations on an ad hoc basis. Before an NC GangNET user creates a new record, the NC GangNET software automatically queries the existing records and allows the user to update an existing subject record rather than creating a new record. This reduces the likelihood of duplicate subject records.  Additionally, information on STGs and CTGs (Corrections and Probation classifications of gangs) is bridged from their data into NC GangNET.

Question 7: How will the information be checked for accuracy?

Law enforcement officers and support personnel entering information into the NC GangNET database are trained on the identification and verification of suspected gang members and associates and only enter a subject into the database once the individual has been determined to satisfy the gang member/associate criteria. It is under the discretion of trained Investigators and support personnel to determine whether an individual meets these criteria and is entered into the NC GangNET database.  The system administrators may query a sample of NC GangNET records and check them for accuracy by contacting the originating office and verifying the information. Additionally, NC GangNET automatically queries existing records before allowing the user to create a new subject record so there is usually only one record per individual in NC GangNET.

The subject's record may be updated, expanded and corrected any time the subject is encountered by participating agencies and officers, which improves the accuracy of the information. As a safeguard, if NC GangNET data is found to be helpful in the context of a current investigation, officers are required to obtain and verify the original source data from the agency.  Source verification coming from the same or another agency, that collected the information, prevents inaccurate information from being relied upon during the investigation and any subsequent trial.

Question 8: Given the amount and type of data collected, what privacy risks were identified and how were they mitigated?

Privacy Risk 1:

NC GangNET may contain records about individuals who are neither gang members nor associates.

Mitigation:

This risk is mitigated by having automatic purge parameters in place which permanently deletes stored personally identifiable information (PII) if that information has not been accessed within five years, in accordance with 28 C.F.R. Part 23. Furthermore, every user of NC GangNET undergoes agency-wide and system-specific training to ensure adherence to all policies pertaining to the system. It is important to note that NC GangNET data is never used directly as evidence to prosecute crimes. NC GangNET contains references to the official evidentiary systems of records, which makes it possible for officers to verify the accuracy of information before taking action based on that information.

NC GangNET is solely a data repository with limited search and analytical tools that help users identify individuals and organizations that may be involved in gang-related criminal activity. It is incumbent upon the investigator who uses NC GangNET to fully check all original data sources.

As a safeguard, when investigating potential violations of state and/or federal laws users are required to obtain and verify the original source data from the agency that collected the information to prevent inaccurate information from propagating.

Privacy Risk 2:

There is also a risk that NC GangNET collects more information than necessary for the purpose of the system.

Mitigation:

For NC GangNET to be effective, it must contain as many details on gangs and gang members and associates as possible so that users can search the database for the individuals or organizations they are researching. Systems used for law enforcement purposes typically require more information than non-law enforcement systems to serve their purpose. This risk is mitigated by the limited retention period (five years from the date of last recorded activity) for information about individuals. Also, only certified users with a “right” and/or a “need” to know information contained in the NC GangNET system my query its data.

Question 9: Describe all the uses of information.

With through information entered, the system users may search the database for individuals with more accuracy. North Carolina law enforcement use NC GangNET for various purposes in connection with criminal investigations and other law enforcement activities. For example, an officer may search NC GangNET to determine whether an individual who is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation is associated with gang activity. Such information may reveal to the officer a connection between the crimes being investigated and gang activity, which could help refocus the investigation. The officer may also use NC GangNET to identify the individual's known gang associates or fellow gang members who may be witnesses, suspects, or accomplices to the crimes being investigated.

NC GangNET users are also able to see the other personnel who encountered the NC GangNET subject, which may facilitate information sharing pertaining to the investigation or prosecution of a particular individual or case.  NC GangNET also electronically shares gang information between other states and federal agencies through reciprocally connected GangNET software of the Washington/Baltimore HIDTA.  Via their own GangNET systems, out of state and federal law enforcement users can query and obtain read-only access to the data in NC GangNET.  North Carolina users can also access out of state and federal information in the same way by querying the Washington/Baltimore HIDTA network of state and federal GangNET system.

Certified North Carolina participants may use NC GangNET to produce statistical reports on gang activities for various law enforcement, management, and reporting purposes. NC GangNET also allows users to conduct link analysis among the various records to identify individuals that may be connected by an attribute such as an address or an associate. These connections and associations may provide leads for investigators to follow in pending investigations.

NC GangNET users can also quickly generate gang rosters identifying all members of a particular gang. NC GangNET data is never used directly as evidence to prosecute crimes.

NC GangNET is solely a data repository with limited search and analytical tools that help NC GangNET users identify individuals and organizations that may be involved in gang-related criminal activity.  It is incumbent on the investigator that uses NC GangNET to fully check all original data sources. 

Question 10: What types of tools are used to analyze data and what type of data may be produced?

NC GangNET has a query interface called “Find Subject” which provides users the capability to search over 50 unique field types against NC GangNET subject records. For example, a list can be generated searching all subjects with a tattoo on the front side of their left leg.  Additionally, NC GangNET includes many standardized statistical reports that provide aggregate counts based on the report type. These reports are pre-programmed and require a user to supply basic criteria such as age, gender, or ethnic background. The ad-hoc query reports allow users to create and save custom query templates that are not already included in NC GangNET. Users can construct their own reports using any information contained in the database. These reports are built using standard structured query language (SQL).