Prison has long been a breeding ground for organized crime organizations and gangs to expand their following and influence over new members. Although locked within prison walls, criminal leadership continues to expand their influence and commit crimes with the help of outside collaborators. Using open source intelligence (OSINT), law enforcement can review communication related to criminal groups operating in prison, identify potential collaborators and foil contraband attempts that threaten prison stability, officers’ safety and ultimately endanger the public at large.

The Rise of Organized Crime in Prison

In October 1992 Brazil’s Carandiru prison, located in São Paulo, was the scene of a brutal massacre that resulted in the death of over 100 inmates. In response, inmates formed organized ‘self-protection groups’ meant to protect them within the prisons. However, these groups rapidly evolved in tactics and strength into well-established organized crime organizations. The largest of these organizations is the Primerio Comando da Capital (First Capital Command) commonly referred to as the PCC.

With increased activity within Brazil and the expansion of activities into other Latin American and European countries, understanding the PCC’s network of collaborators is crucial to public safety.

Investigating Prison Communication with OSINT Capabilities

To get a better sense of the PCC’s prison activities and possible breaches in security, investigators identified a prison-related online communication channels using Digital Clues’ ProFoundTM platform. Investigators collected its content and flagged certain members of interest for further analysis.

Content collected from these channels was then analyzed using ProFoundTM mass data analysis capabilities. Due to the size of the data set collected, a tailored keyword dictionary was activated, and allowed prompt textual filtering to identify themes and patterns. Investigators deciphered terminology used in communications to indicate contraband requests by inmates and compiled a list of the results. This intelligence was then used to recognize conversations referring to contraband, smuggling tactics and ultimately pinpoint the smuggler involved in PCC contraband operations.

In parallel, investigators began mapping out connections between three top incarcerated PCC members and their possible communication channels with outside collaborators. A dedicated crawler was created using the platform’s Robot StudioTM. Lists containing the compiled information of all the connections to each of the PCC members were created. The lists were subsequently intersected and visualized to establish mutual links and identify persons of interest potentially on PCCs ranks and payroll.

Leveraging OSINT Findings for the Investigation’s Next Steps

OSINT tools provide investigators with the ability to analyze and filter vast amounts of unstructured and structured textual data to identify and decipher code being used within prison walls. Identifying this terminology gives law enforcement insight into criminal activity in and outside of prison, helping them maintain stability on the grounds and increasing officers’ and the public’s safety.

The ability to integrate new sources of unstructured data as they surface, is crucial to the workflow of investigations. In the case above, the incorporation of mission-dedicated crawlers, and the ultimate structuring of the data for analysis, allowed investigators to recognize links within minutes that would take months or years manually. In turn allowing law enforcement to foil contraband attacks by closely identifying individuals of interest and planned operations. An ever-expanding library of OSINT resources at your fingertips can make all the difference.