A Look at Types of Analysis in Law Enforcement

Graph of crime rate with 2005 emphasized
Graph of crime rate with 2005 emphasized (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Elizabeth Hall

Crime analysis is the practice and techniques of using data to study the patterns and trends of a particular area in relation to crime.  They analyze how these patterns and trends affect their jurisdictions, and how law enforcement agencies respond to these issues. An analyst in a smaller agency may be responsible for all three types of analysis, whereas in larger agencies there may be some degree of specialization between analysts due to more crime analysis staff.  Often when budget cuts happen in an agency, analysts are the first to feel the strain. There are three main types of analysis done in law enforcement agencies.  These are tactical, strategical, and administrative analysis and all performed to achieve different goals for your agency.  (Bruce, C.W., Hick, S.R., & Cooper, J.P., 2004)
Thumb Print Embroidery Wall Hanging
Thumb Print Embroidery Wall Hanging (Photo credit: Hey Paul Studios)
Tactical AnalysisAccording to the International Association of Crime Analysts (IACA) (2010), this function is used to help law enforcement in five primary approaches.  These include finding trends, hot spots, and series as they are happening instead of later.  Another use for analysis is researching data and analyzing it in relation to long-term problems facing the agency.  They are also responsible for furnishing reports utilizing data on demand.  The last two functions that analysts serve are developing and connecting local information in order to make their agencies look better.  Because these types of analysis are used to reach important, yet different goals, and are accompanied by their own ethical issues, crime analysts need to be prepared to perform and one type or all three types due to budgeting and staff considerations.  (International Association of Crime Analysts, 2010)
Tactical analysis refers to the routine daily operations that an analyst performs in order to identify crime series and hot spots in the jurisdiction.  Goals of the person forming this function are to identify any patterns happening in the jurisdiction, and finish a complete analysis of any existing patterns in the area.  Once the analyst has found that a series or pattern exists, they must notify the agency to develop the best strategies to apprehend the offender or group of offenders.  In most agencies, this is the analysts’ main responsibility, although as mentioned before they may have to perform strategical and administrative analysis functions as well.  (Bruce, C.W., Hick, S.R., & Cooper, J.P., 2004)
Tactical analysis, designed to assist the agency in methods of intervening these patterns immediately present a great aid to apprehend suspects and thwart the criminal efforts.  Because inform
Drug Enforcement Administration special agents
Drug Enforcement Administration special agents (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
ation is the most important commodity that we can possess, according to Bruce, Hick, and Cooper (2004), it is important to note the ethical issues that could arise during this type of analysis.  One ethical issue noted by Nicholls and O’Shea (2003), about tactical analysis is, that on focusing all or most of our efforts on the tactical analysis is wasting the potential of the information that is collected.  By focusing on catching single or group offenders instead of focusing our work products on the larger issues of community’s needs, which would better serve to reduce recidivism and the crime rates of our communities raises the question of the effectiveness that our work is actually producing versus the potential that is in reality being produced currently.  (Nicholls, K. Ph.D., & O’Shea, T.C. Ph.D., 2003)
surprised, at the crime scene
surprised, at the crime scene (Photo credit: pfv.)
          A good example of a tactical analysis would be the Shawnee Police All Points Bulletin, found on the IACA website.  This work product is tactical in nature, because it describes a specific series of robberies, cigarette robberies in particular that the analyst believes are committed by the same offender.  She goes on to forecast his schedule to the nights that the offender would strike, in this case she names a likely location, North Central OP, and states that the offender would target either Thursday, or Friday between 3 am and 4:30 am.  The bulletin also lists two suspects, both white male offenders, and then goes on to list the MO, in this case it is smashing windows with hammers, kicking in doors, and wearing masks with gloves.  The MO also notes that they target Marlboro and Camel brand cigarettes, and that they also, always use stolen vehicles.  She goes on to note that the last vehicle, a blue Chevy Silverado extended cab model was the newest vehicle, but since offenders were chased in vehicle, that they may have gotten a new one.  This bulletin, designed with GPS mapping, and a listing of committed crimes in the series, also furthers the tactical analysis.  (Wernicke, 2006)
Strategic Analysis
Strategic analysis is more focused on the patterns, trends, and causes of the problems associated with crime than in apprehending a particular offender.  Analyzing trends over large time spans allows the analyst to observe the increases, decreases, and normal fluctuations of crime in an area.  Even though some can be tracked down to a specific event, most have deep rooted causes such as social, environmental, political, geographical or economic causes that present deeper issues.  These also warrant more long-term solutions than arresting an offender or group of offenders routinely breaking the law in specific areas.  (Bruce, C.W., Hick, S.R., & Cooper, J.P., 2004)
One example of strategic analysis can be found on the IACA website entitled Ju
WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 14: (L-R) Boston Police O...
WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 14: (L-R) Boston Police Officer Tom Griffiths, Attorney General Eric Holder, National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund CEO Craig W. Floyd, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) participate in a ground-breaking ceremony at the future site of the National Law Enforcement Officers Museum, on October 14, 2010 in Washington, DC. The Museum will be built across the street from the existing law enforcement memorial in historic Judiciary Square. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
rupa Valley Station Bi-weekly Part 1 Crime Comparison at Central Crime Analysis Unit (2010).  This would be a strategic analysis because it is a comparison of increases and decreases in part 1 crime that not only looks at the data for the current two weeks, but also statistical information for the last three years.  This would imply that the bulletin is intended to show the changes in trends in crime patterns instead of apprehending certain perpetrators.  Not only does it cover the comparison by time, but also by area, day of week, and by crime type. This type of information can be used, to analyze problems and their causes, and would be used in discussions of long-term solutions.  (Central Crime Analysis Unit 2010)
Administrative Analysis
Administrative analysis is by far the broadest category of crime analysis, as it involves any kind of crime analysis reporting to administration in your agency to any other analysis not involving the direct apprehension of criminals.  This could be research, statistical reports used in explanation of funding needs for an agency, or demographic charting for the jurisdiction.  These products are even used in the courtroom sometimes.  Administrative analysis may not be the most exciting area of crime analysis, but is the main reason that agencies often employ analysts.  (Bruce, C.W., Hick, S.R., & Cooper, J.P., 2004)
 A good example of administrative analysis put to use in the courtroom would be the Edward Green Death Investigation timeline and map used to display pertinent information during the trial process.  The reason that the map and timeline are administrative analysis is because the offender has already been apprehended, therefore rules out strategical and tactical analysis.  The map provides a powerful visual presence of the spatial areas involved in the crime.  The timeline provides that same powerful visual representation of the times involved in the crime for the jury and judge to see.  (McClocklin, D.E., 2010)
There are three main types of analysis done in law enforcement agencies.  These are tactical, strategical, and administrative analysis and all performed to achieve different goals for your agency. Tactical research, according to Bellot (2010), is found most relevant to the Investigators, Special Units, and regular officers who perform routine patrols.  This function of analysis is the one used to aid in the apprehension of compulsive murderers.  She goes on to say that, strategical analysis is mostly used by those involved with the prevention of crime, and all aspects of patrol leadership from the Sergeant to the Unit Commanders. This kind of analysis is called upon when law enforcement needs to educate the community on a crime or address the particulars of reasons for increases or decreases in crime rates.  (Bellot, 2010)
The last type of analysis, administrative analysis is the branch of analysis that responds to needs of the “Chief, Commanders, Lieutenants, and department managers” according to Bellot, (2010).  These reports are also provided to give evidence of need for grant proposals and additional research, and crime reporting for the criminal justice system.  Although budget cuts mean less funding in agencies for analysts, they are an essential part of an agency’s success.  An analyst that can utilize data collections and interpret them in a manner that all agency personnel can understand, and provide information instantly allow the enforcement and apprehension officers to focus on their main roles within the agency.  (Bellot, 2010)

Bellot, N.R., (2010).  United States Virgin Islands Police Department.  Planning Research and Development Bureau.  Retrieved From: http://www.vipd.gov.vi/Departments/Office_of_the_Police_Commissioner/Planning_Research_n_Development_Bureau.aspx
Bruce, C.W., Hick, S.R., & Cooper, J.P. (2004).  Exploring Crime Analysis Reading on Essential             Skills.  International Association of Crime Analysts.  Overland Park, KS.
Central Crime Analysis Unit, (2010).  Jurupa Valley Station Bi-weekly Part 1 Crime Comparison.  Retrieved From: http://www.iaca.net/DevCenter/Products/JurupaValleyStationCOMPSTATReport.pdf
 International Association of Crime Analysts (2010).  Crime Analysis Unit Development Center.  Retrieved From:  http://iaca.net/DevCenter.asp
McClocklin, D.E., (2010) Edward Greene Jr. Death Investigation Map.  Retrieved From: http://www.iaca.net/DevCenter/Products/OntarioDeathInvestigationMap.pdf
McClocklin, D.E., (2010) Edward Greene Jr. Death Investigation Timeline.  Retrieved From: http://www.iaca.net/DevCenter/Products/OntarioDeathInvestigationTimeline.pdf
Nicholls, K. Ph.D., & O’Shea, T.C. Ph.D. (2003).  Crime Analysis in America: Findings and Recommendations.  Retrieved From:  http://iaca.net/Articles/CAinAmerica.pdf
Wernicke, S., (2006). Shawnee Police All Points Bulletin: Cigarette Smash ‘N Grabs.  Retrieved From:  http://iaca.net/DevCenter/Products/ShawneeCigSmashGrabRedacted.pdf

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