The Crime Analyst and Police Investigations

The preceding pages of this chapter have provided a quick overview of a criminal investigation. It is not meant to be exhaustive, and we will discuss further aspects of criminal investigation in future chapters. But what has been written in this chapter simply serves as an introduction in order to highlight the fact that the tactical crime analyst is part of an investigative team.

On a daily basis, officers and investigators encounter criminals, victims, and witnesses, as well as responding to complaints. Each individual, or location, has a relevant history; for example, individuals may have previous arrests, gang affiliations, social media postings, pawn shop activity, and relevant information linking them to unique crime trends. These data are stored in databases that require significant time to mine and disseminate results. Without immediate access to this information, police personnel are hard pressed to make the quick connections and deductions necessary for effective policing. Real-time crime analysis provides officers in the field with pertinent information instantaneously.

Real-time crime analysis has proven to be an effective, proactive or reactive, crime fighting tool that aids in ongoing and follow-up investigations. In the past, officers returning from the field would sift through pages and pages of records to find information related to an investigation. Now, however, real-time crime analysis provides them with information pertaining to their investigations, and in some cases, even before they make it to the scene.

A real-time crime center (RTCC) gives the analyst the ability to monitor Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) and work directly off dispatched jobs. This allows the analyst to begin a preliminary workup on CAD information, such as address of incident, vehicle data, and so forth, and prepare a data summary for the responding unit should they call for the information. In addition, the analyst can have direct communication with units via police radio, CAD messaging, 911 dispatchers, and telephone. The analyst utilizes multiple source databases, which allow him or her to provide relevant information to officers in the field, usually within a matter of minutes. Real-time analysis is also an effective tool in the follow-up investigative process by conducting research on—and providing additional information for—solvability’ factor deduction.

Success stories, such as the one discussed below, are the best way to illustrate how the use of a real-time tactical analyst, or any intelligence analyst for that matter, can assist in the swift, successful conclusion to criminal investigations.

Case Study: Homicide

The tactical analyst was asked to research the history of a victim who sustained a gunshot wound to the head. Surveillance video showed the suspect riding a bicycle as he approached the victim. Holding the gun in his left hand while wearing a white glove on it, the suspect shot the victim.The suspect was last seen traveling in a southerly direction. In addition to any intelligence that would indicate the victim having a dispute with anyone recently, the analyst was asked by homicide investigators to look into area gang members as possible suspects, focusing on any who may be left-handed.

Through the analyst’s research, she was able to locate social media accounts for multiple gang members who occupied turf in the area of the homicide. After going through numerous gang members’ accounts, the analyst located a social media account of a person of interest who was an active member of the gang who claimed that area as their own. The social media account, however, was under a moniker and not an actual name. The analyst noticed that on this social media account page, the newly developed person of interest had a photo of himself in a professional sports uniform, and the photo was tagged with the name of a local semi-professional sports team.

The analyst researched the website of the sports team and found the current roster of players. As it turned out, the person of interest was an active member. This confirmed to the analyst that the gang members social media account and the team roster belonged to the same individual. In addition, the team roster listed the individual by his real name instead of the moniker he used on his social media account, and provided a photo.The analyst now had an actual name to research.

The analyst continued to view multiple photos of the person of interest from the sports team’s website and discovered, in several of the live-action photos, that the person of interest appeared to be performing while favoring his left hand.

The analyst then reviewed a surveillance video of the suspect, right before he shot the victim, and noticed that the glove the suspect was wearing looked similar to the glove that the person of interest was wearing during the live-action game photos on the semi-professional sports team’s website. The analyst also compared the newly identified person of interest’s social media photos to his photos with the semi-professional sports team, and noticed that he had the same muscular build as the suspect in the surveillance video.

In addition, now that the potential suspect was identified, and his gang affiliation confirmed, the analyst was also able to identify several potential witnesses through various gang-related intelligence and social media accounts. These witnesses included:

  • • A gang member who had recently posted a photo of the deceased male
  • • A possible witness who was later identified and interviewed
  • • Three close associates of the suspect who also had gang affiliations
  • • An individual who was identified through corner store video footage of the actual homicide and turned out to be a witness to the homicide

The analyst sent all the intelligence and photos of the person of interest to the investigator.

The homicide investigator advised the analyst that by using her identification and a photo of the person of interest, he was able to create a photo array. As a result of the photo array, the investigator was able to gain a positive identification of the individual as the person who was the shooter. The individual was eventually charged with murder.

Success stories like this one not only serve to describe the investigative and analytical process used by the tactical crime analyst, but also help to clarify any misconception that the tactical analyst may lack an investigative mindset.

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