Community Policing Nugget
The Role of Crime Analysis in Patrol Work
As a patrol officer, have you asked yourself repeatedly, “What tools and resources can I use that will make my job easier?” The use of crime analysis enables law enforcement agencies to effectively and efficiently engage in problem-solving and is an essential component of community policing. Problem-solving requires robust analysis capabilities and can be applied to various levels of community problems. Despite the great potential of crime analysis and its importance to proactive problem solving, analysis activities are typically limited to a few individuals within departments. Little information exists about how patrol officers currently use crime analysis information and little is known about how they produce for analysis purposes. The COPS office, in partnership with the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), understands the importance of crime analysis and will study its use through a project called “Integrating Crime Analysis in Patrol Work.” Upon completion of this project, the COPS Office and PERF, will publish a guidebook describing best practices and containing highlighting the use of crime analysis and mapping for patrol work.
Both crime analysis and crime mapping are extremely important tools that can be used to help patrol officers solve problems on their beats. Recall the days when pin maps were displayed on the roll call wall depicting the rash of burglaries that occurred the previous week. With technology advances, crime analysts have the capacity to produce electronic versions of the traditional pin map, as well as more sophisticated mapping products, that will help patrol officers understand crime patterns in their beats. Crime analysis can be used to uncover patterns and trends and identify areas of the neighborhood with hot spot activity. Patrol officers often do not have access to crime analysts or are unaware of the products that the crime analyst can produce that will help them with their jobs. We encourage patrol officers to sit down with the crime analysts at their departments and discuss their needs and what products would be most useful to them in conducting their daily patrols.
The use of crime analysis can encourage partnerships between the local police agency and other law enforcement entities. As a crime analyst at the Albany Police Department, I worked on a grant program aimed at reducing community gun violence. Through statistical analysis and crime mapping, we identified gun violence hot spots. A working group was established that consisted of line level officers who worked the hot spot beats, detectives that were more intimately involved with the cases, probation and parole officers, the District Attorney’s office, and federal partners such as ATF and the FBI. The common thread among these key players was the use of analysis and mapping to identify repeat offenders, repeat locations, and offense patterns such as time of day and victim characteristics. Using these analytical tools enabled the Albany Police Department to partner with interested parties to address a specific problem.
The importance of crime analysis and crime mapping must be recognized by the top levels of police administration, from the chief of police or sheriff, to the assistant chiefs, and command staff. Executive staff should encourage patrol officers to communicate with their crime analysts about the products they need and what resources would help them do a better job. Crime analysts should be invited to roll call meetings to engage in conversations with patrol officers. They also should also be encouraged to go on routine ride-alongs for a better understanding of the environment they are analyzing and to acquire an insiders’ view on what officers face every day.