by Cindy Waxer

From Computers to Crime Busting

Apr 28, 2009 3 mins
IT Leadership

Financial services CIO puts IT to work battling crime

When a high-speed chase on an interstate highway in Alpharetta, Ga., resulted in the arrest of a suspect with seven felony warrants, residents credited the work of a fast-acting police officer. Little did they know that a mild-mannered CIO was also to thank for nabbing the dangerous offender.

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Meet John Albers, CIO at Ronald Blue, a financial management firm with approximately $5 billion in investment assets. As CIO, Albers and his team ensure around-the-clock IT security, network operations, software development and media and project management. But that hasn’t stopped this volunteer firefighter from helping the Alpharetta Department of Public Safety (ADPS) roll out an arsenal of innovative crime-fighting tools.

“I’ve always had a knack for technology, but it’s in my blood to serve other people and give back,” says Albers. In 2006, he combined these passions by helping launch the Alpharetta Public Safety Foundation (APSF), a nonprofit group to raise funds, create programs and offer technical assistance to improve public safety.

Albers and the APSF have spearheaded several high-tech projects including the Mobile Plate Hunter 100, which nabbed the interstate-fleeing suspect. The MPH 100 is a $25,000 computer imaging system with infrared cameras that are mounted on a police car. The portable unit captures 1,500 license plates per minute and cross-references them against five national law enforcement databases. If there’s a match—red flags range from stolen vehicles to suspended drivers licenses—the system notifies the police officer. Only after Albers and other foundation members personally evaluated and tested the device did the APSF purchase it on behalf of the ADPS. He still assists and troubleshoots any network challenges that arise from daily updates to the system’s database.

Albers also lent his IT expertise to the creation of Alpharetta’s 911-Command and Control Center. The center grants emergency personnel access via a virtual private network to city security cameras. Albers installed and integrated a string of the digital cameras so law enforcement officials can better plan and execute emergency operations. “John’s expertise in the IT field has been a tremendous help,” says George Gordon, executive officer of public information at ADPS.

You’d think a financial services CIO would have his fill of putting out fires. But not Albers. “I’ll do whatever it takes and whatever my day dictates,” he says. “Whether it’s being a fireman, a CIO or a crime fighter.”