Cornelius George sees big opportunity in the use of technology as a crime-fighting tool.
That’s the concept behind Indianapolis-based Chuqlab Inc., which George established in 2019 along with cofounder Blaine Dirker.
Chuqlab offers audio transcription software that law enforcement agencies and prosecutors can use to help solve crimes and build cases. The concept: allow users to quickly search hours’ worth of recorded inmate phone calls, body cam footage, police interviews and other audio files to find information that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to find in a manual search.
“I want to give detectives, I want to give law enforcement, I want to give prosecutors another tool in their belt,” George said.
Chuqlab rolled out its first product, called CrimeMiner, in September. George said the technology is now being used by 17 organizations across the U.S., including law-enforcement agencies, prosecutors and task forces.
CrimeMiner has already been used to discover a suspect’s confession and to identify the locations of weapons that investigators had been looking for.
“You would be surprised the type of things that people discuss on jail phone calls,” George said.
Plenty of other companies, including Rev.com, Otter and Happy Scribe, offer audio transcription technology. But those services aren’t useful to law enforcement agencies, George said, because of the volume of audio recordings those agencies generate.
One Chuqlab client, for instance, had 2,000 hours of audio recordings associated with just one cold case, George said. And, he said, without a service like Chuqlab, no law enforcement agency has the staffing or the budget to create or search through such volumes of transcripts. “You’re trying to find the needle in the haystack.”
Right now, George and Dirker are Chuqlab’s only two employees. But the company has growth ambitions, and late last year, it landed an incentives offer from the Indiana Economic Development Corp. to help further that goal.
The IEDC offered Chuqlab $800,000 in tax credits based on the company’s plan to hire 50 employees by the end of 2025. The incentives are performance-based, meaning that the company can only claim the tax credits after they create jobs. George said he hopes to have eight employees by mid-year and closer to 20 by the end of 2022.
George, 40, has a background in both business and technology. A native of Liberia who moved to the U.S. as a child, he earned a bachelor’s degree in business from Franklin and Marshall College in 2004. After graduation, he worked at Merrill Lynch and Raymond James before shifting to cybersecurity, with jobs at several firms including Indianapolis-based Rook Security.
George was selected to participate in the spring 2021 cohort for Gener8tor’s Indianapolis gBeta program, a seven-week accelerator for startups.
George, who is Black, said he believes Chuqlab’s technology can help remove bias from the investigations process.
Because of the volume of calls that a jail or prison might handle every day, George said, only a small percentage of calls typically are monitored by officials. And if humans are involved in selecting whose calls are monitored, conscious or unconscious bias can affect those selections. But if the facility has the ability to record and search through all or most of those calls, that potential for bias drops away.
Chuqlab’s technology also allows facilities to keep tabs on inmates’ phone calls without having a prison official listening to the calls in real time. Rather, officials can search transcripts for relevant information after the fact. That, George said, gives more privacy to inmates who may be having family conversations that contain nothing of interest to an investigator. “We actually bring back more dignity to people that are in those situations than they have right now.”
Oh, and about the name of the company: Pronounced “Chuck-lab,” George chose the name to honor his late cousin, Charles Johnson, who died at age 36. Johnson, who was living in New Jersey and working on a doctoral degree, suffered a fatal stroke while he was on a visit to Liberia in 2019.