What Is Crime Analysis?
Crime analysis is a discipline of public safety analysis, which provides information support for the missions of law enforcement or criminal justice agencies. Strictly speaking, crime analysis involves:
- The study of criminal incidents
- The identification of crime patterns, crime trends, and crime problems
- The analysis of these patterns, trends, and problems
- The dissemination of information to a police agency so that the agency can develop tactics and strategies to solve patterns, trends, and problems
Other types of public safety analysis include criminal intelligence analysis, criminal investigative analysis, and police operations analysis.
The difficulty is that most law enforcement professionals–including, usually, the Massachusetts Association of Crime Analysts–don’t use the term “crime analysis” in its strict sense; instead, they use it to mean “public safety analysis” in general. This makes sense because most police agencies don’t have enough money (or enough crime) to hire four separate types of analysts. Thus, in many departments, you find “crime analysts” performing all four types of public safety analysis.
With that in mind, MACA takes a broad view of the term “crime analysis” and focuses its training on all aspects of public safety analysis.
What Do Crime Analysts Do?
Crime Analysts perform the following types of services for law enforcement agencies:
- Identifying and disseminating information about crime patterns and crime series so that the agency can intercede and stop them as soon as possible.
- Identifying and disseminating information about crime trends and crime problems so that the agency can develop long-term policies, strategies, and problem-solving solutions to address them.
- Forecasting future occurrences in crime series so the agency can attempt to apprehend the offender.
- Researching the modus operandi and characteristics of known offenders to determine who may have committed a crime or a crime series.
- Preparing a regular newsletter or bulletin for the agency.
- Analyzing traffic accidents, noise complaints, and other non-crime quality of life issues.
- Preparing monthly, quarterly, or annual reports (including statistical reports) for the agency.
- Conducting and analyzing community surveys
- Forecasting police activity volume in future months and years.
- Analyzing the effectiveness of police programs.
- Analyzing workload distribution by shift and geographic area.
- Providing database querying, statistics, and other types of law enforcement information on demand.
- Preparation of charts, graphs, and maps for reports, community presentations, or courtroom presentations.
Just about any work that involves research, data, statistics, or maps can fall under the heading of “crime analysis.” The crime analyst is the information center, the data processor, and the cerebrum of a police agency.
In order to perform these tasks, crime analysts must have a number of skills, including:
- A solid understanding of criminal behavior
- Thorough knowledge of the analyst’s particular jurisdiction
- Knowledge of research methods
- Ability to collect, manage, collate, and query data
- Ability to understand and synthesize crime information
- Critical thinking skills
- Ability to calculate descriptive, inferential, and multivariate statistics, and to create meaningful charts and graphs based on those statistics
- Understanding of demographic analysis
- Strong writing skills
- Strong computer skills, including databases, desktop publishing and word processing, spreadsheets, and statistical packages
- Ability to use a Geographic Information System (GIS) and a thorough understanding of spatial analysis and spatial statistics
- Presentation skills
- Interpersonal communications skills
Check out the following resources:
Our article for police departments: What Is Crime Analysis? (PDF File)
International Association of Crime Analysts Web Site: http://www.iaca.net
International Association of Crime Analysts. Exploring Crime Analysis. IACA, 2004.
Osborne, Deborah and Susan C. Wernicke. Introduction to Crime Analysis: Basic Resources for Criminal Justice Practitioners. Haworth Press, 2003.