Implementing Crime Analysis


Determine Program Goals

First, you must determine what you want out of your crime analysis program. What types of crimes or disorder incidents are most important to you? What kinds of products would you like to see? How will the analysis program support the mission of the agency? Talk with other departments that have crime analysis programs for ideas, and attend meetings of your local or regional crime analysis association to network.

How Many Analysts

There are several ways to calculate the total number of analysts you need. The International Association of Crime Analysts recommends one crime analyst for every 1,500 UCR Part 1 crimes that an agency takes in a year. Alternative formulas are one crime analyst for every 1,800 NIBRS Group A crimes, one for every 30,000 calls for service, or one for every 70 sworn officers (only use this latter formula if you feel your staffing levels are adequate). If your calculation results in more than .5 but less than one, one full-time analyst is recommended. 

If You Do Not Need a Full-Time Analyst

Many agencies have benefited from maintaining a full-time analyst even if formulas indicate you need less than one.  If it is determined that a full-time analyst is not needed, there are ways to hire or appoint one-half, one-quarter, or one-eight of a crime analyst. The easiest is by assigning the analyst other duties that also don’t require a 40-hour week, so depending on whether you appoint an officer or hire a civilian, you end up with a crime analyst/patrol officer, a crime analyst/information systems manager, a crime analyst/dispatcher, and so on. Crime analysis duties are often assigned to a records administrator, investigative aide, or crime prevention officer. The key is to regard crime analysis as a set of techniques, rather than a full-time position. Few agencies have full-time identification technicians or accident investigators, but almost all have someone trained in fingerprinting and accident reconstruction. Crime analysis is similar. 

Another option for smaller agencies is to band together in a regional crime analysis initiative. Six towns of 18,000 residents may not individually have enough activity for a full-time crime analyst, but one region of 108,000 sure does. Since crime analysis is difficult without cross-jurisdictional data sharing, combining resources makes perfect sense for smaller departments.

Hire vs. Appoint

If appointing from within, look for computer proficiency, experience with statistics and research methods, and strong writing and communications skills. If hiring from the outside, make sure to take advantage of the IACA, which can advertise the position to its members through the jobs page (free) and the IACA Discussion Forum (free to members). 

Civilian or Sworn

There are advantages to both. Officer analysts usually take to the job detailed knowledge of the jurisdiction and its criminals. They understand how the police department works, and they may also have more immediate credibility with the other officers in the agency. Officers, however, tend to be police officers first and crime analysts second. Civilian analysts may stay in the field longer, more aggressively pursue training, develop their skills, become certified, and provide their agencies with the benefits associated with having a full-time career professional. Civilian analysts don’t usually get re-assigned or promoted, forcing the agency to appoint and train a new person. Agencies that can justify more than one analyst can give themselves the best of both worlds: a mixture of officers and professional civilian analysts in the same unit. For agencies with only one analyst, we recommend that they hire a civilian and keep their patrol and investigations levels at full strength.

Analyst Location

Organizational Location:  The IACA cautions that there are no absolutes here, but the position should be located in a place that best works for the agency. When practical, it’s often best to have a crime analyst report directly to the chief, so that he or she can support the entire agency and not be beholden to any one division. 

Physical Location:  Where the analyst is located is a very important decision and it relates directly to whom the analyst is intended to serve. Most often, the analyst’s location should be convenient for line officers and detectives. The tendency is often to locate the analyst in the administrative area of the department. This is acceptable only if the analyst is intended to serve those department members. If the analyst is expected to perform tactical analysis and analyze intelligence, it is highly unlikely that an office next to the Chief will facilitate foot traffic and walk-ins by patrol officers.

Equipment and Software

It is usually best to hire the analyst first, so that he or she can determine what resources are already available and research what other analysts in the area are using. Computer hardware and software applications are essential to the success of a crime analysis unit.  The analyst position tends to be a highly technical role within law enforcement.  As such, analysts need access to high performance hardware and a wide-range of software applications to be effective.  Software applications will be installed on the analysts’ computers, available on the agency’s network or intranet, or accessible through websites on the internet.

In the beginning, analysts can do the majority of their work using Microsoft Office.  A mapping application is needed to present geographic information on a map but an analyst can start with online or less expensive mapping software.  As the CAU becomes more established, the analysts can evaluate crime analysis-specific software packages to determine which ones will best meet the agency’s needs and budget.

Software vendors offer applications that provide data analysis, graphic, and mapping capabilities. While these packages can make the job of a crime analyst easier, and can bring some basic analysis capabilities to line-level officers, they do not replace the need for a trained crime analyst. The IACA recommends hiring and training a crime analyst first and investigating purchases later. Once the analyst has had the opportunity to learn your agency’s data systems and understand your product needs, they can better assess what resources are required.

Through the Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative, the Office of Justice Programs within the U.S. Department of Justice has created a publication entitled Analyst Toolbox – A Toolbox for the Intelligence Analyst. This publication provides a listing of computer hardware, software, and database resources that an analyst needs or may wish to access.

Networking and Training

Join the new analyst to your local or regional analyst association and the International Association of Crime Analysts. Give the analyst the time and resources needed to become an active member of these professional associations.

Training and professional development are critical requirements in a computer-oriented profession such as crime analysis. The commitment to ongoing analyst training does not have to be expensive but it is crucial for the success of your program.

The training page will help you determine what training is necessary, affordable, and practical. In addition to classes on specific topics, the annual IACA training conference provides in-depth training on a variety of topics, as well as opportunities to network with other analysts around the world.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Standard Operating Procedures provide the framework for the Crime Analysis Unit (CAU) and how its members interact with the rest of the department and outside agencies. They give personnel in other units an overview of how the CAU operates and the type of work analysts are expected to perform for the organization. They set forth the crime analysis mission and function, and establish procedures for the work analysts perform in the organization.

SOPs presented in this section are actual department documents, posted here with the permission of the agency. They are intended to help an organization starting a CAU understand the type of information that belongs in a Standard Operating Procedure.

Standard Operating Procedure Examples

CALEA Accreditation

For agencies seeking accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), crime analysis is a vital function for three reasons:

  • CALEA currently requires agencies with more than 24 officers to meet minimum standards of crime analysis. For agencies smaller than this size, crime analysis is an “optional” standard, but even these agencies must meet 80 percent of the optional standards to achieve accreditation. The specific requirements of this standard are below.
  • Other CALEA standards essentially require a crime analysis capability to generate the types of reports necessary to meet the standard. For instance, Chapter 16 requires that “the agency allocates personnel to, and distributes them within, all organizational components in accordance with documented workload assessments.” Such workload assessments are usually done by crime analysts as part of the “operations analysis” category. Chapter 61 (“Traffic”) requires that agencies allocate selective enforcement operations on the basis of analyzed traffic accident data.
  • To satisfy any of the standards of CALEA accreditation, police agencies must supply a series of “proofs”—documents that show their actions are in line with their policies and procedures. Crime analysts are often called upon to conduct the necessary data queries to find individual cases that meet certain proofs. For instance, to prove that correct procedures have been followed on Chapter 72.6 (medical and health care services for detainees), the agency might ask the analyst to scour the records management system for an example of an arrestee who later required medical attention.

CALEA’s Crime Analysis Standards

Crime analysis falls under CALEA’s Chapter 15: “Planning and Research, Goals and Objectives, and Crime Analysis.” The standard requires that agencies establish directives for crime analysis, including: 1) source documents; 2) methods of dissemination; and 3) briefings of the agency’s executive staff on current patterns and trends. The standard notes, in part:

Crime analysis should provide currently useful information to aid operational personnel in meeting their tactical crime control and prevention objectives by identifying and analyzing methods of operation of individual criminals, providing crime pattern recognition, and providing analyses of data from field interrogations and arrests. Also, crime analysis can be useful to the agency’s long-range planning efforts by providing estimates of future crime trends and assisting in the identification of enforcement priorities.

Resources for Crime Analysis and CALEA Accreditation

For more information on crime analysis and CALEA accreditation, please read CALEA’s Chapter 15, which includes the standards specific to crime analysis. For examples of approved policies already in use, review the crime analysis standards from the following agencies:

 Analysis Unit Development Center