Tools for Analyst Communication

While tactical crime analysts may develop their own format for reports and bulletins, there is software developed to help crime analysts create a crime analysis bulletin.

For instance, Microsoft MS Access 2000 (more recent updates include Access 2007 and Access 2010) is such a program. It can track “customers” that request the bulletins, facilitate data entry, recognize multiple relationships among records, provide exporting capabilities, create automated reports, and allow powerful query tools, all of which are important in crime analysis. Typically, the analyst downloads data from larger systems into smaller desktop software or, when the agency does not have a large enough system, it enters data directly into the desktop software. Analysis helps to determine multiple crime series, trends, sprees, clusters, or patterns—as needed by the police department or agency. MS Access 2000 was modeled after an MS Excel version that was developed by the Phoenix Police Department.

Some police units within police departments, such as the Crime Analysis Unit in the Criminal Investigations Bureau of the Chesapeake Police Department in Virginia, have developed a series of bulletins and reports— each with different fonctions. Since the Crime Analysis Unit is responsible for providing detailed and timely crime analysis to all levels of the Chesapeake Police Department, including command personnel, supervisors, detectives, and patrol officers, information from the Crime Analysis Unit gets disseminated in different formats.

For instance, “crime bulletins” identify specific crime problems. “Crime alerts” indicate that crime problems previously identified in a crime bulletin are continuing or increasing.“Crime leads” detail information relating to the identification of suspects in criminal cases or information related to serial crimes committed by the same suspects. In addition, the Crime Analysis Unit puts out specialized crime studies and statistical reports.

Some crime analysts also create and disseminate maps depicting crime hot spots and aerial imaging using the latest mapping technology'. Or they may update and maintain statistics and mapping for the various other units, such as a drug offender program. Still other tactical crime analysts may be responsible for monitoring new laws in their state and for keeping up with emerging technology within the field of crime analysis.

Providing Actionable Information

It has been pointed out that crime analysts cannot provide actionable information if they do not have the time, training, or tools to implement the latest methods in data querying, spatial analysis, temporal analysis, forecasting, publications, and a host of other crime analysis skills (Bruce and Ouellette,

  • 2008).To remain at peak performance, a crime analyst or crime analysis unit needs the following:
    • Adequate staffing: The IACA defines adequate staffing as one analyst per 1500 Uniform Crime Reports Part I crimes (agencies with fewer than 1500 Part I crimes should have at least part-time analysts). Agencies with fewer analysts run the risk that they will miss some patterns or will be unable to fully analyze crime and disorder issues (Bruce and Ouellette, 2008).
    • Time: The 1:1500 ratio assumes that each analyst will have 40 hours a week to devote to crime analysis. Appointing analysts and loading them up with nonanalytic duties will almost certainly doom a program to inadequacy.
    • Initial and ongoing training: An initial round of basic training for new analysts should be supplemented with annual classes and professional conference attendance (Bruce and Ouellete, 2008).
    • Proper equipment: Necessary equipment includes modern computers; software for data analysis, statistics, and publications; and a geographic information system (GIS).

Getting Analysts out of the Office

A good first step in orienting the crime analysis unit toward an operational focus is to make sure that crime analysts leave the office sometimes. Bruce and Ouellette (2008) point out that no good analysis comes out of an ivory tower or a cloistered computer room. Instead, analysts must:

  • • Have a true understanding of the nature of crime, criminals, and the social dynamics of the jurisdiction in which they work
  • • Know what types of information operational units find valuable
  • • Understand what tactics and strategies have a realistic chance of success
  • • Plug themselves into the informal intelligence exchange that happens on the ground level of any agency, discovering relevant facts that do not always make it into police reports
  • • Get the insight of officers, detectives, and community members into the analysis process

If a police officer comes to the job of crime analyst, he or she may already have much of this knowledge. However, many crime analysts were civilians first—not police officers or detectives. Therefore, the analyst who comes from a civilian background should take steps to develop these resources, but new analysts will likely need the support and encouragement of police department leaders to get out of the office now and then. Police agencies should encourage crime scene visits, ride-alongs, participation in offender interviews, and a regular, open exchange of information, intelligence, and ideas between analysts and investigators.

 
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