He was suspected of targeting people as they walked down the street. Police believe he used a gun to force pedestrians to hand over their money and belongings.
He struck more than 17 times in Tempe, Chandler and Mesa beginning in late 2006, authorities said.
But it would be a month before Terrill Williams, 19, was tracked down, arrested and charged in the crimes.
Such cases would be easier to crack, police say, if law enforcement agencies could feed information into a central crime database.
That’s the goal of the new East Valley Gang and Criminal Information Fusion Center.
Staff at the center, scheduled to open in the fall at the Mesa Police Department, will gather, organize and analyze pooled information so it can be shared among East Valley agencies.
Mesa’s City Council approved plans for the center Monday night. “We were running all over creation from the east side to the west side of the Valley to find out where (Williams was) located,” Tempe police spokesman Sgt. Mike Horn said, “but if you have that information gathered in a central location in real time, you could find that, as opposed to just bouncing all over the place.”
Scottsdale police spokesman Sgt. Mark Clark said that since criminals cross city borders, “it’s only logical” that law enforcement’s best defense would be sharing information.
And officials believe the fusion center will make that sharing faster. Currently, when a crime is investigated in multiple jurisdictions, detectives have to call another detective and find out who is working on the case.
Here’s how the center will change that: An agency learns of a crime and sends the information electronically to the fusion center; the information is analyzed to find out if the crime is happening in other cities; all the data is combined and sent out to participating agencies so officers and detectives can review the material before heading out to the streets.
The center also can track gang members and others police need to be aware of.
A major tool that will help in the process is COPLINK, a new technology that will give police the ability to search through thousands of internal records in a matter of seconds.
“We recognize crime doesn’t respect jurisdictional boundaries, wherever they may be,” said Mesa City Manager Chris Brady during a Monday council study session where officials talked about the center.
Councilwoman Claudia Walters said she was surprised that police did not already have a formalized way of working together.
“(It’s) kind of shocking because we always assumed police share information,” Walters said. “We see things on TV, but we never realized that’s not the way it is.”
Every East Valley agency is participating in the center, except the Apache Junction Police Department.
Jay Swart, the city’s police spokesman, cited a lack of manpower as the reason for not joining. He said his agency already sends one officer to a statewide gang task force and cannot have another employee go to the fusion center.
The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office also isn’t participating.
Sheriff’s Capt. Paul Chagolla said his agency wasn’t invited to join, but that it wouldn’t participate anyway because the sheriff’s office is highly involved in a statewide fusion center and task force.
The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Police Department, federal authorities, the Arizona Department of Corrections Parole and Maricopa County Probation will contribute to the center.
Equipment for the program will be funded by forfeitures — guns, cash and property seized from people who are arrested for a crime or operating a criminal enterprise, such as running a house of prostitution or illegally selling arms.
Although officials believe the program will increase overall efficiency, the center’s activities will start slowly. Initially the program will only update officers biweekly, said Mesa Sgt. Kevin Baggs, but police plan to make it a daily routine.