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The Other Side of Intelligence

Barry Balerud knows the important role intelligence can play in fighting crime. Now he and his team are working hard to make other law enforcement officials see it the same way.

Balerud has been the director of Criminal Intelligence Service Alberta (CISA) for about two and a half years now. But his relationship with the agency goes back much further to his days with the Calgary Police Service, most recently as an Inspector with the Criminal Operations Section. On that side of police work, Balerud had good experiences with CISA as he worked files from the street level to the organized crime level.

A CISA analyst gives a presentation on the 2018 Provincial Threat Assessment.

Now that he’s on the other side, working with CISA, Balerud wants to help other law enforcement officials see the value in what his team is doing.

“Historically, operational teams have been critical of intelligence; they’ll challenge intelligence. It’s not easy being responsible for intelligence, but I take it seriously. It’s a big responsibility,” he says. “We want to make sure we’re getting the best intelligence and information out there for the operational teams.”

CISA has roughly a dozen employees, including strategic intelligence analysts, information facilitators, security intelligence officers seconded from Correctional Services Canada, and two people who deal with the Automated Criminal Intelligence Information System (ACIIS). Together, they monitor and assess organized crime in Alberta, relying on reports submitted by partner agencies ranging from city police departments and RCMP detachments to Alberta Fish and Wildlife, the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission and the Canadian Border Services Agency.

“Their job is really to analyze and establish the identities of those criminal networks, to identify who the police should be looking at,” Balerud says.

“In a perfect world, we’re getting information in real time that’s relevant, but that’s a challenge,” he adds. “Raw information flows through CISA daily, but we typically get a lot of our intelligence products from our police partners all at once, in a collection plan, near the end of the year.”

Information from those reports – including the scope of an individual or group’s operations and the markets they’re involved in – can be disseminated throughout the year via intelligence reports, but much of CISA’s efforts go into producing a Provincial Threat Assessment each April. The PTA outlines low-, medium- and high-threat organized crime groups operating in the province, and identifies individual Persons of Intelligence Interest who may be influencing crime trends in the province.

“The PTA is for their awareness, and hopefully police will use it to devise strategies against the more serious targets,” Balerud says. “Historically, the PTA was produced for very senior management, the Chief level, to use strategically, to determine if they want to allocate resources to target groups. But I think it’s transitioning more to an operational tool. When they’re looking for targets, it’s another tool that’s available to them.”

Reports mostly come from partner agencies within Alberta, but CISA’s scope is much broader. Each province in Canada has its own criminal intelligence service and produces its own PTA, which CISA receives and cross-references. The federal government also operates Criminal Intelligence Service Canada, which produces a National Threat Assessment.

Aside from producing intelligence reports and the PTA, though, Balerud also sees his role as one of advocating for CISA and educating partners on the value of its intelligence products. He hopes that will increase the flow of information to CISA and make those products even more comprehensive in the future.

“CISA needs to be embedded within our partner agencies’ intelligence models,” he says. “With the larger police agencies in Alberta, each one already has intelligence models in place. CISA needs to be part of that whole process, so when those agencies are collecting intelligence in their jurisdiction, as part of that intelligence sharing process, that is naturally shared with CISA.”

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