Collecting Intelligence


  • 1 Investigation
  • 2 Sources of information and intelligence
  • 3 Interplay between the intelligence analyst and the criminal investigator
  • 4 Databases

Learning Objectives for Chapter 8

  • 1 Gain a better understanding of the interplay between the criminal investigator and the intelligence analyst
  • 2 Begin to understand the use of databases in criminal investigations
  • 3 Develop an initial understanding of the number of possible databases that can be accessed by the intelligence analyst to assist in criminal investigations

Information is the most valuable commodity in the world. It’s more valuable than money, for with it one can make money. It’s more valuable than power. It’s more valuable than goods, for with it one can build, acquire, and improve goods. In any business, in any industry, in any part of the world, the right information is absolutely priceless.... Businesses invest a great deal of money, time, and resources in the quest to acquire information—information about their products, and how to improve them; information about their competitors, and what they’re up to; information about customers and what they want; information about the business itself, and how its various divisions are doing. Governments rise and fall on information—information about the opinions and attitudes of their citizens; information about allies; information about enemies. Information wins wars, builds cities, heals the sick, enriches the poor, and—most relevant to our purposes—solves and prevents crimes.... Such is the case with crime analysts. Crime analysts provide information to police agencies about crime, disorder, calls for service, police activities, and other areas of police interest, all with the goal of helping the agencies do their jobs better ... the analysts raw material is data, which might come from numerous sources. Out of this data, the analyst seeks to create information, which he then delivers to his “consumer”—the police agency.

(Bruce, 2008, pp. 7-8)


When investigators arrive on the scene of a crime, some information will be available to them. For instance, the first responders to the scene—typically patrol officers—will have secured that scene, helping to prevent contamination of the evidence and locating and identifying witnesses and suspects. Normally, that will mean that the criminal investigators will have access to a number of sources of information. Those sources will include the victim, any evidence left behind by the perpetrator(s), witnesses to the crime, and, perhaps, even one or more suspects.

This sometimes considerable amount of information may be all the investigator needs in order to solve the crime and arrest a suspect. However, more often than not, there will be insufficient evidence to lead to an arrest and the suspect will not be known or identified. In that event, the investigator or detective will need to draw on other sources of information to begin the process of investigating the crime and pursuing the criminal. Essentially, then, the investigator must rely on intelligence.

As you learned in previous chapters, intelligence is the information or data that are collected and evaluated. For an investigation to make any progress, the intelligence that comes to the investigator must be reliable and relevant. While the investigator has the usual sources of information—victims statement, forensic evidence, and witness statements—often other intelligence is required for the blossoming of an investigation. This is where the intelligence analyst and the tactical crime analyst play a critical role.

Interplay between the Intelligence Analyst and the Criminal Investigator

As the role and importance of the intelligence analyst increase, in a certain sense, there is a synergy and a merging of roles between the investigator and the analyst. In a perfect police department, the investigator and analyst would think along the same lines as both work in tandem to investigate a crime. While the detective is on the scene in the beginning and has access to his or her direct sources of information, the intelligence analyst is away from the actual crime scene, but can access numerous sources of intelligence while taking new data fed to him or her by the investigator and helping to connect the dots between a crime and a criminal offender.

The investigator feeds information that he or she gathers in the field to the analyst, who can use previously collected and warehoused intelligence to, in turn, send data back to the investigator to help move the investigation in appropriate directions.

The interplay between the intelligence analyst and the investigator may start even before the detective arrives on the scene. A skilled intelligence analyst will begin accumulating information valuable to the detective early in the process. For example, if the crime is the armed robbery of a convenience store, the analyst can quickly determine a number of pieces of information for the investigator:

  • • The name of the convenience store
  • • The owners of the store
  • • Whether there have been previous robberies at this store
  • • The outcomes of previously reported crimes at the store
  • • Whether suspects were identified in previously reported crimes at the store and whether arrests were made
  • • The names of previous suspects or arrestees
  • • The addresses of those previous suspects or arrestees

By arriving at the scene with this kind of intelligence, the investigator can interview victims and witnesses with a more informed perspective and ask more probing questions. But from that point on, the investigator can provide feedback to the analyst and can ask more pointed questions of the analyst. For instance, the investigator may want to know:

  • • What other robberies have occurred in the area recently?
  • • Is there a pattern to the robberies over the past few months or longer?
  • • What weapons were used in other robberies in the vicinity?
  • • Who were the suspects in those recent robberies?
  • • What are the residence addresses of all previous suspects in local robberies?
  • • Do any of those suspects have a record of robbery arrests or convictions?
  • • Which known criminals live in the vicinity of this and previous robberies?
  • • What photographs are available of previous suspects?
  • • Do these photographs resemble the description of the perpetrator(s) in this current robbery?

By obtaining answers to these kinds of questions, the investigator can determine the next steps in the investigation. He or she may determine that interviews should be conducted of previous suspects in local robberies to check on alibis and movements around the time of the latest crime. In addition, he or she may decide to solicit information from other police officers who work in the vicinity of the robbery or from confidential informants in the area who may be able to share important information.

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