Long-Range Perspective of Strategic Crime Analysis
The collection and analysis of data spanning a long period of time is the essence of strategic crime analysis. This type of analysis is research focused
because it includes the use of statistics to make conclusions (Canter, 2000). This form of analysis can be useful to police departments in terms of crime trend forecasting or using data to estimate future crime based on past trends (Canter, 2000). With crime trend forecasting, important decisions can be made as to the deployment of patrols as a reflection of the changing volume of criminal activity. Another important benefit of strategic crime analysis is the analysis of changing community dynamics and risk factors that might be contributing to the particular crime trends of a specific area (Canter, 2000). Once again, this type of analysis over time can result in more informed decision-making that can lead to police partnerships with other city and community agencies which can help to create more long-term, sustainable reductions in criminal activity.
Crime Trends Analyzed by Strategic Crime Analysis
Strategic crime analysis and tactical crime analysis differ in that tactical crime analysis looks at current crime patterns, whereas strategic crime analysis examines long-term trends or chronic problems in crime and disorder. Examining those long-term trends generally takes longer and requires the analyst to collect his or her own data instead of relying exclusively on police reports.
In Chapter 11, you learned about crime patterns, but now it is time to learn about trends. A crime pattern is not a crime trend. In general, crime trends are long-term increases and decreases in crime, or simply changes in the characteristics of a crime over a period of time. Crime trends can occur over months, years, decades, or even centuries, but are rarely discussed in terms shorter than a month or longer than a decade. Sometimes, they can be traced to a single cause (e.g., a new shopping mall or a shortage of heroin), but at other times they have numerous obscure and indirect social, environmental, economic, or political causes.
Positive crime trends represent increases in crime, while negative crime trends represent decreases in crime. Neutral crime trends have to do with a consistent volume of crime, although there may be shifts in the characteristics of crime from time to time.
Another term that it is important to define is problems, which is to be distinguished from trends. A crime problem usually refers to multiple crime or disorder incidents with common causal factors. Some experts have suggested that trends can be viewed as the symptoms, while problems should be perceived as the underlying causes. Problems occur over the long term and keep returning each year or are committed by multiple offenders.
Crime trend information can be useful in alerting the police to increases and decreases in levels of activity. However, since crime trend analysis does not examine shared similarities between specific crime incidents, a crime trend is not a crime pattern. A crime pattern is not a chronic problem. The most all-encompassing definition of a crime problem comes from Ron Clarke and John Eck, who define it as “a recurring set of related harmful events in a community that members of the public expect the police to address” (Clarke and Eck, 2005, p. 40).
By analyzing trends and chronic problems, strategic crime analysts hope to contribute to new ways of dealing with ongoing crime problems.
Data that Strategic Crime Analysts Examine
The primary purpose of tactical analysis is to effect an arrest and gather adequate evidence for a conviction. Strategic crime analysis looks at more long-term goals, such as crime reduction plans that might be implemented by an agency or in cooperation with municipal officials.
Many police agencies are trying to implement problem-solving approaches to understand crime and address trends and patterns of criminal activity. But problem-solving works best with an infusion of both crime analysis and intelligence gathering (Peed, Wilson, and Scalisi, 2008).
As with tactical crime analysis, strategic crime analysis may start with police data. However, too often police data are inadequate in trying to explain the root causes and underlying opportunity factors associated with problems. Analysts must collect qualitative data using qualitative methods, such as interviews, surveys, focus groups, environmental assessments, and external research. Initially, analysts use police data to form hypotheses and then test these hypotheses with further field research.