The Role of Crime Analysis in Patrol Work:
New Developments

In the December 2008 release of the Community Policing Dispatch, the use of crime analysis in patrol work was discussed:

In January 2009, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services and the Police Executive Research Forum, held five focus group meetings to discuss the current use of crime analysis for patrol. The participants were selected from law enforcement agencies that show promising practices in crime analysis. The five groups were patrol, supervisors, crime analysts, commanders, and a mixed group of participants from the individual groups.

Key themes that were identified across the various focus groups will be discussed in this article.

  1. Distinguishing between Information and Analysis. While the use of information and analysis is important for police departments, it often is incorrectly identified as analysis. Information is routinely retrieved at the call or incident level. Analysis results from synthesizing the information and making conclusions about problems, trends, or patterns from the data. The types of products that are most useful for patrol officers typically contain information to help them solve an individual call or crime. For the analysis results to be useful to a patrol officer, it must be actionable. Actionable analysis contains information that directs police personnel to a particular response in a particular time and place.
  2. Distinguishing between “Looking At” and “Using” Crime Analysis. “Using” analysis means that an officer will respond to a problem in a systematic way, based on the analysis. The officer does not just receive the information but actually performs his or her tasks differently according to the information received. It is important to spend the limited resources of crime analysis units on producing reports that are relevant and useful to patrol officers.
  3. Focus on Short-Term and Long-Term Activity. Analysis primarily used for the patrol function focuses on short-term activity such as case support, intelligence analysis, and pattern analysis. While patrol functions primarily on responding to immediate tasks, such as calls for service, the crime analysis unit and command structure can focus patrol responses on long-term problem areas, such as addresses with repeat calls for service when they are not responding to calls for service.
  4. Clear Vision and Purpose for Crime Analysis. The purpose and use of crime analysis should be supported from the chief through the command structure. The chief should set the vision for the use of crime analysis, but the command staff needs to understand the purpose of the products produced and how to utilize crime analysis.
  5. Accountability. One of the primary barriers to crime analysis is a lack of accountability. To view analytical capacity and problem solving as important and essential, there must be a system of accountability to make sure analysis is used. Essential features of accountability are report writing and improving the quality of the data that are collected.
  6. Role Clarity and Expectations. Police departments often mistakenly rely on patrol officers to take the initiative to solicit and use analysis. This reliance results in analysis not actually being used by patrol officers. Department should provide guidance to patrol officers on how they should use the analysis provided to them. It is important for the command structure to clearly define expectations concerning the use of analysis at the patrol level.
  7. Communication with, Marketing, and Providing Training for Crime Analysis. For the use of crime analysis to take hold, institutional training techniques such as Field Officer training and In-Service training should incorporate the use of analysis and problem solving. The marketing of crime analysis and training of personnel on crime analysis products and uses should be integrated into the normal processes of the agency. It is important to realize that line-level officers are not the primary users of crime analysis. Officers in patrol often do not see beyond their own shift and have a difficult time synthesizing the larger perspective. It is essential for supervisors to make sure that the larger perspective is incorporated into patrol tactics.
  8. Automation of Information. One of the key recommendations for useable analysis for patrol services is the automation of information. Law enforcement agencies should automate as much as possible so patrol can access timely information that, in turn, frees up time for in- depth crime analysis.
  9. Collaborative Development of Analysis Products. The types and contents of analysis products should be the result of collaboration between commanders who have the perspective of crime reduction, responses, and accountability, and analysts who have the knowledge of data and relevant analysis techniques.

These findings will be presented at the upcoming Tenth Annual Crime Mapping Research Conference held by the National Institute of Justice on September 17–20, 2009 in Louisiana. The Crime Mapping Research Conference is not just about presenting information about crime locations. The conference is about understanding crime and public safety and the effect on communities. It represents a range of research findings, practical applications, technology demonstrations, and policy results. Presentations and workshops for the 10th conference will highlight the principles of geography in research findings, applications in practice, technology demonstration, and policy results in solving crime and public safety problems.

For additional information, contact Nicole J. Scalisi, Social Science Analyst, at 202.307.6204 or by e-mail at nicole.scalisi@usdoj.gov.

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