COLUMBIA BUSINESS MONTHLY — Published June 30, 2020 • By David Dykes —
In early May, Lexington-based FivePoint Solutions, a data integration software developer focusing on public safety judicial clients, acquired Street Smart, an information collection tool for law enforcement.
The deal marked the first acquisition for FivePoint, which has grown rapidly and organically since its founding 11 years ago.
George Lawson, left in blue, and Ro Lucas of FivePoint Solutions. (Photo provided) By John McCurry
FivePoint CEO Cicero “Ro” Lucas says his firm has separated itself from others in the industry by offering unique technology, listening to customers and configuring its business to meet their needs and work flows.
“We don’t ask them to change to fit our software; it is configurable, with the proper analysis on our part, to make their jobs easier. Not everyone has to use the same layout. We spend a lot of time developing a user interface that fits their needs. For example, we can design the cruiser dashboard layout for each individual officer based on what their responsibilities are and how they want it to function, what type of information they need access to.”
Lucas and his business partner, George Lawson, founded the company in 2009 in a garage. Six months later, the duo bought a building on Old Cherokee Road in Lexington. Steady growth through the years necessitated more space and last December, they bought a 22,000-square-foot building in Lexington to handle future growth.
FivePoint has grown by finding inefficiencies in government and developing products and services to solve them. The company has tripled its business over the past three years. The pair have been a good fit as Lawson guides the company’s technical expertise while Lucas directs sales.
Lawson explains that FivePoint's data sharing platform, FocalPoint, integrates with local, state and national criminal justice data sources. FocalPoint can query multiple disparate data sources simultaneously in real-time with a single sign-on.
Results from one query can automatically be cascaded into additional queries to improve the accuracy and completeness of the information.
“Data can be returned to our FocalPoint Dashboard or can be pushed to other criminal justice agency systems in real-time,” Lawson says. “The FocalPoint Dashboard is built to run on any smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop device capable of running any of the standard browsers.”
The information that FivePoint compiles is only used for criminal justice purposes and the information is only provided to the individuals that have been granted access by the agencies.
Lawson says privacy and security of the information is very important and is the company’s top priority. Solutions are developed and maintained based on the security policies provided by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
All of FivePoint's staff granted access to the secure information for development purposes must maintain FBI fingerprint background checks and must annually pass a Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS) security test. All activity by users is logged in an audit log and is regularly audited by the law enforcement agencies, according to Lawson.
Lawson cites the state of Florida as an example of where FocalPoint has helped law enforcement.
The Crime in Florida Abstract report published by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement shows there were 679,221 criminal arrest and bookings in Florida in 2019. Each person booked into jail has the right to a first appearance hearing in front of a judge to determine if they qualify to bond out of jail until their court hearing.
To help judges make a better informed decision on bond, pre-trial services staff run criminal background checks on each subject prior to their hearing. Lawson says before FocalPoint was implemented in 2016, criminal background checks were a manual process which required logging in and out of multiple disparate data sources and could take 15 to 45 minutes per person.
“After implementing our FocalPoint solution, queries against 11 disparate state and national data sources are run automatically each day for each subject and electronic criminal history reports are provided to pre-trial services staff within all 67 counties in Florida when they arrive in the morning,” Lawson says. “This process saves the state of Florida thousands of man-hours per year and helps improve the accuracy of decision making during the first appearance process.”
Lucas says his company has performed well despite challenged delivered by the Covid-19 pandemic. Courthouses have been closed, so some projects have been delayed. A strong backlog of business allowed employees to continue to work. With the acquisition, the firm now has 50 employees.
Lucas thinks that FivePoint may be able to leverage its technology into other areas of government, citing school safety as a possibility. He says with its technology, schools can monitor social media, explore anonymous tips, monitor mental health databases, and be proactive with potential threats to schools.
“Unfortunately, our first and largest client in that category came after the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida,” Lucas says. “Broward County was the epicenter of the tragedy that happened down there. As a result, the state government hired us to build a school safety portal. We deployed that and went live with it in August of last year with 1,500 schools. We are proud of that. We believe we have a product that meets all the needs to be proactive in identifying potential threats.”
Integrating Street Smart’s technology and personnel into FivePoint’s operations has been a time-consuming process. Lucas estimates the process will be complete by early July. The acquisition provides the company added expertise to fuel future growth.
Lucas views keeping the talent pipeline flowing as being FivePoint’s biggest challenge. The Columbia area has produced some key employees and the company has also attracted employees from around the country.
“Managing the growth is a challenge,” he says. “A company our size that has grown as fast as we have can have challenges. You hear stories of companies that grow too fast and we have some lofty goals for the next five years and with the leadership that we have brought in, I feel confident that we can reach our goals and objectives.”