Carefully Analyzing the Crime Pattern
To analyze the crime pattern carefully, the crime analyst studies reports and may even have to contact patrol officers or detectives to ask for more information. It is important to categorize the crime pattern, but it is also very important to pull together all of the available and relevant information in order to know as much as possible about the crime pattern, to be able to make predictions about future crime events, and to be able to offer a profile of the offender or offenders.
Lets take an example of a series crime pattern that was featured in the “Crime Pattern Types” section. In this example, there are a series of home invasions in two upper-middle-class neighborhoods in a suburban community. They all take place during the day, and two males, dressed in what appear to be utility company uniforms, go into homes to rob them. The culprits have been identified as two white males in their twenties, who wield handguns and make their escape in a blue Honda Civic.
Having identified this as a series crime pattern, the analyst can use some inductive reasoning to begin to develop a useful profile. If they are daytime burglaries, then the young men are either unemployed or work night shifts. If they are carrying handguns, then they may have recently purchased or acquired these guns. If they are driving a blue Honda Civic, then the car may be registered to one of them. Given this beginning formulation, the analyst can begin to query available databases to try to learn about men in their mid-twenties who might live within a several-mile radius of the suburban neighborhood. They could have been recently paroled, so parole databases can be reviewed. The Motor Vehicle Department or secretary of state database can be checked for Honda Civics registered to people in the area. By putting together this kind of intelligence, when the crime analyst reports about this crime pattern, she can add other information that will be helpful to detectives who are investigating this series.
Notify the Police Department about the Identified Pattern
Having identified a crime pattern and gathered more data to give the police as much information as possible, it is then time to send a bulletin or report to the police department.
The way crime pattern intelligence is communicated can vary, and that variety of formats can be related to the pattern that has been discovered by the analyst. Here are three examples of the way an analyst can report his results:
- 1 Repeat incident location report: This is a standardized weekly report to provide more information for various units in the police department when the analyst has identified repeat incident complaints at the same location. The report will generally consist of addresses that meet a particular threshold (e.g., a minimum of four calls for service) within a designated time period (such as over a period of four weeks). Other information that may be included in this report might be the dates of previous calls for service, the time of day for each call, the type of call, the disposition of the call, the case number, and the name of the officer(s) that responded.
- 2 Crime report data variables used for pattern analysis: This report is more like a request for help than the identification of an actual crime pattern. The analyst will, in this communication, have a list of recommended variables to be included in future police reports to enhance crime pattern analysis. For instance, the analyst may ask that police reports in the future give the time of day and the names of any people (whether complainants or witnesses) interviewed.
- 3 Crime pattern bulletin: This report summarizes the relevant information on crimes that have been linked together as a pattern. Although bulletins will vary in their style and format, each will contain basic information in order to alert other units within the police department of the essential information about the crime pattern. A bulletin may consist of maps, graphs, addresses, or descriptions or profiles of suspects.
Work with the Police to Address the Crime Pattern
Having communicated the existence of a crime pattern through a bulletin or report, the tactical crime analysts job is not necessarily complete. Often, he or she will work with other units within the department to come up with strategies to address the crime pattern. But, first, the analyst is in the position that he or she is giving up control over the process. In effect, having issued a report or a bulletin, the process gets turned over to the operational units. The operational units may elect not to have the analyst continue to work as part of a team crafting a strategic response. Then, again, the operational unit—whether a patrol unit, a detective unit, or a drug program—has to work with whatever information or intelligence is passed on to them, regardless of its quality or operational relevance (Bruce and Ouellette, 2008). One of four things may happen at this point. The operational unit may discover that the analyst failed to turn over sufficient information or the information is somehow faulty. In other words, one thing that may happen is that nothing happens: The intelligence is not actionable. The second thing that could take place is that while the information may be actionable, the police agency has no process in place to do anything with the intelligence. So, no action takes place. Third, the operational unit may take the intelligence and develop strategies—but without further assistance from the crime analyst. Or, fourth, the crime analyst is seen as a valuable member of the team to help develop strategies for dealing effectively with the crime pattern.