Drug Trafficking and Cartels

Long before we see the grizzled mug shots of drug lords on TV and in newspapers, there is a thorough process that leads to the snap of their handcuffs. With pressure from the media and public to make quick arrests, law enforcement agencies must utilize all available resources in an efficient and collaborative environment. Drug investigations span multiple regions and departments, making interagency collaboration essential to advancing an investigation.

Savanna’s collaborative, all-source analysis environment provides the necessary tools to discover hidden patterns, make important connections, and compile the evidence necessary for handling complex, interagency threats like a methamphetamine investigation with cartel ties.

Savanna Takes on Drug Trafficking

A group of law enforcement analysts wants to explore the arrest of drug king pin Ignacio Sebastain “El Rey” Chavez, and his relation to other drug busts that have occurred in Amarillo, Texas.

1: Frame the Problem

They begin by framing the problem in a Crumbnet, Savanna’s narrative mind mapping tool. They outline the original traffic stop that lead to his arrest, adding known facts about the car search, as well as early hypotheses and assumptions.

2: Build a Knowledge Network

With Savanna’s dynamic Occurrence dossiers, the analysts collaboratively populate an interconnected knowledge network about dealers, distributors, and purchasers of methamphetamine in the United States. Occurrences are the building blocks that capture people, organizations, things, places and events related to a problem area. In this case, the analysts use a Person Occurrence to profile Chavez. Under the Relationships section, they create a link to Raymond Travis Schmidt, another known drug lord, and attach Chavez’s past arrests under Events.


3: Visualize Data to Find Meaning

Then, they use a Linknet (Savanna’s link charting tool) to add multiple Occurrences from the knowledge network to visualize connections between Chavez and Schmidt. They add it to the Meth Investigation Space for later use.

Now, the analysts want to connect geospatial data about Methamphetamine production in the US and link it to the locations where Chavez’s various allies have been arrested. They drag a CSV (uploaded with the Savanna Grid tool) of production locations and drop it onto a Savanna Map. A temporal filter allows them to examine production and arrests from the last 10 years, and they add stylized filters to distinguish between them. The analysts take a screenshot of the Map to be used later and save it to their Space.

In Timeline, the analysts drop multiple Occurrences, such as various Person Occurrences, onto a visual span of time to draw connections between events within each Occurrence. Visualizing event times from multiple Event and Person Occurrences side-by-side gives the analysts the opportunity to see the arrest timeline of the individuals involved in the Kingbreaker investigation. They can also use the Selection panel in the Details sidebar to read more about the events on the Timeline, with links to view the events in more detail in the Occurrence view.

With Graphic, they can customize Grid (CSV) data to visualize the year and total sum of meth seized by the police as a bar graph. A quick glance at the graph shows that the largest seizure was made in 2012, at the peak of the Kingbreaker investigation. They take a screenshot to be used later in a Production.

4: Discover New Information

At this point, they’re curious about common hiding strategies for Methamphetamine. Because Savanna’s Search feature can pull indexed mentions of key terms from within PDFs and Analyst’s Notebook® Charts, they are able to find a previously built Chart uploaded by another Savanna user that outlines a recent investigation in Amarillo, which uncovered pounds of Methamphetamine hidden in cat litter.

5: Place Evidence

The analysts revisit the Crumbnet outlining the investigation and add discoveries and evidence collected throughout their analysis. From the Space Content panel, they add the meth productivity Map and meth seizures Graphic as supporting evidence to a node. All supporting evidence in Savanna is fully sourced, showing the date, time and source of the information that was added, with the original files available to view or download, making it easy to follow lines of reasoning and drill deeper into supporting evidence right from the Crumbnet.

The Result

Now, with the supporting evidence they have created and gathered, they’re ready to compile their findings by building a multi-page, fully sourced report in Savanna’s Production tool detailing found information and new hypotheses. In Production, they drag the Map image captured earlier, along with several other visualizations and content about their findings. Once complete, the Production is shared directly with team members using Savanna and exported to PDF to send to fellow analysts and decision-makers for further action.

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