Crime Analyst: The People, Time, Space and Numbers of Crime

crime analystCrime, unfortunately, surrounds us. There is petty crime like misdemeanor theft and there are more serious crimes like kidnapping, assault and sadly homicide. How can we utilize deductive reasoning and keen observation to understand trends, patterns and environments conducive to crime? And what long-term solutions can be put into place that will reduce crime rates and prevent further delinquency? These are the fundamental questions of a crime analyst. Learn more from a real crime analyst and criminal profiler in the course Crime Studies.

So, What Exactly is Crime Analysis?

Basically? It’s the systematic study of crime. Of course crime analysis includes studying other disorderly conduct in cohorts with the police department and occasionally includes apprehension of criminals. Overall, though, crime analysis involves investigating crime-ridden areas, evaluating appropriate solutions and then designing a plan to implement. It’s more of a science than a social science, it relies heavily on data, statistics and analytics as opposed to theory and anecdotes. Statistics can make some people cringe, but it’s not that bad. In this course A Workshop in Probability and Statistics you can climb over your fear of the subject and get closer to becoming a crime analyst. Three major dynamics in crime analysis are socio-demographic, temporal and spatial information about crime.

Socio-Demographics

All this word means is: people. What demographic, or group of people, experiences crime the most? What demographic tends to be offenders? You can categorize people in a number of different ways and that’s what crime analysts do. They look at income, age, gender, education and race, amongst other categories, to identify “risk” factors. This is by no means indicating that one group of people, say 18-25 males, is exclusively responsible for crimes in area X, Y or Z. They are just factors that crime analysts incorporate into their more extensive research on crime. If a crime analyst knows that there is a lot of theft occurring in town, and that there is also a large geriatric population residing, they may be able to develop plans for banks to ramp up security on “pay-day” (social security checks) to prevent an increase in theft.

Temporal Nature

Temporal means time. Time is an important element of crime analysis as it conveys patterns. If we study crime patters in say, East St. Louis over 12-months, 3-years and 6-years, we can see if crime is more or less prevalent and which types of crimes occur more or less frequently. This kind of information tells crime analysts what variables may be key to reducing overall crime rates. It gets even more specific, temporal crime analysis includes studying times of day, time between like crimes and weekly or monthly crime records. By collecting all of this data crime analysts can paint a really good picture of the community they are researching. They can see that weekend evenings around 2AM there is a higher frequency of reckless driving and thus accidents; probably due to people leaving the bars. They can see that robberies tend to happen early morning during the week which is indicative of people leaving their houses empty when they go to work.

Spatial Dynamic

Technology has improved access to information for many different fields of work and study. For criminologists, or those investigating crime, using spatial recognition technology takes hours and hours of guess work out of the equation. The spatial dynamic to crime analysis is important because it allows investigators to see patterns playing out in neighboring cities, towns, counties and even states. It helps them evaluate what may be related or not, which can open up a lead on a case or present pertinent data to developing a remedy to on-going criminal activity. Many agencies encourage using geospatial data to narrow down patterns of crime that may otherwise go unconnected.

What Does a Crime Analyst Do?

Crime analysts spend their days doing field research like, gathering information about problem locations; and content analysis like, pin pointing trends and patterns in police reports. They study these elements deeply in order to comprehend who is committing crime, what crime is being committed, where they are doing it and who is falling victim. By identifying these variables they can see the bigger picture which enables them then again break down the information into comprehensive reports that assist police in doing their job more efficiently. Likewise, there are forensic analysts who spend their time in the field collecting data and in their labs studying data. If this seems more up your alley, read about the different types of forensic analysts in Careers for Forensic Analysts.

First and foremost, crime analysts are in a support role for the police. They use their analytical skills to help police apprehend a criminal. This doesn’t mean they are out on a car chase shoot ‘em up bang-bang style. They are likely thumbing through files, studying numbers and charts and trying to understand who could be at fault given the information on hand. If information is inadequate to capture an offender, they seek out more data through field research and further content analysis. In the course Data Analytics you can learn powerful ways to work with data.

Secondly, crime analysts exist to provide information for preventive measures. If they know that there has been a series of assault and battery incidents, they can draw up a “crime zone” that tells residents where the assaults have been happening, when they’ve been happening and who is most often victimized. By doing this, police can offer information to the public in an attempt to keep them safe. This includes things like lock your doors and don’t walk alone at night – or whatever the appropriate response would be. Crime analysts spend a lot of time studying disorderly conduct, too. It’s not all the bells and whistles of prime-time TV. Some communities have a high frequency of noise complaints, or false alarms and these are incidents that a crime analyst would be brought in to assess. Police may want to understand why these things are happening and what they can do to prevent them from turning into more serious events.

Lastly, crime analysts assess currently operating crime prevention programs and agendas. A police force may implement a program to reduce excessive partying (and thus drunk driving, noise and general rowdiness) in a college town. They may create something like the “party patrol” or some other installment that bears no weight on actually reducing the problem. A crime analyst will come in, gather data like they do, and then give the police an honest assessment of their on-going programs. This helps police bureaus save money, time and energy if a preventative measure is actually doing nothing, or worse, contributing to the problem.

Crime analysts usually study at a four-year institution earning their degree in criminology, statistics, research methodology, criminal sociology or criminal justice. If you’re interested in pursuing a degree in criminology, check out this course: Criminology Made Easy. Crime analyst’s salaries fall somewhere around $74,000, which makes studying for four years totally worth it. It’s also noteworthy to mention that crime analysts don’t just work for police forces, they often work in counter terrorism units, for government agencies like the FBI, CIA and DEA and can be independent contractors who go wherever is needed.