Crime Analysis TTA: You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby
By Julie Wartell, BJA NTTAC Consultant and independent advisor on public safety issues relating to crime analysis, problem solving, and justice systems
When I started at the San Diego (CA) Police Department in crime analysis, the only technical assistance that was provided was by the people I was fortunate enough to work with – other analysts and police officers, as well as the researchers with whom we partnered. Here we are, 24 years later and crime analysis as a field has evolved enormously, as has the amount and types of training and technical assistance (TTA) available. Crime analysis helps law enforcement agencies enhance their capabilities to analyze and use data to make informed decisions and prevent crime. Not only are software companies, academic institutions, and private organizations providing crime analysis-related training, but the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) has also stepped up its game in terms of supporting the use of data and analysis in crime reduction and prevention for the criminal justice field.
One of the amazing resources for police and other justice agencies that BJA now offers is “Crime Analysis on Demand” via its National Training and Technical Assistance Center (NTTAC). Started a little over two years ago, this program provides training and/or technical assistance to agencies (via a short application) wanting to implement or enhance their crime analysis capabilities. BJA NTTAC then connects the agency with one of its providers in order to further discuss their needs and create a plan. To date, there have been 20 BJA NTTAC TTA crime analysis engagements, primarily involving policing agencies and one prosecutor’s office. These agencies range from small to large, and from crime analysis newbies to agencies with well-established programs.
In the agencies with which I’ve been connected, most start with an onsite assessment of their current crime analysis capacity to include reviewing documents and data, interviewing stakeholders, and going on ride-alongs. After the initial recommendations are made, some agencies request additional TTA to help implement the changes and enhance their crime analysis capacity. Whether it is improving the data and reporting process, learning to apply GIS (geographical information) beyond official crime data maps to understand problems, or working closer with the cop on the street, agencies of all different experience levels can benefit from BJA NTTAC’s Crime Analysis on Demand program.
The TTA that agencies request varies in terms of level of need. A couple of agencies were either starting a new crime analysis unit, or re-starting one after many years of not having a unit. They were looking for ideas on staffing, training, software tools, and products. One agency needed TTA specifically focused on analyzing their data, as they did not have analytic resources. And, in one agency I worked with, my initial observation was “you guys are doing great things, I’m not sure why I’m here.” The response was that they believed they were well-functioning too, but that “it’s always nice to have an outside expert’s input.”
In addition to BJA NTTAC’s Crime Analysis on Demand program, BJA funds several other programs that not only emphasize the importance of data and analysis, but also provide crime analysis-related TTA to the grantees/sites. These include the Violence Reduction Network and the Smart Suite (e.g., Smart Policing, Smart Prosecution, Smart Supervision, and the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation). I have been fortunate to work with many of these programs’ sites (including law enforcement, research partners, and partner community organizations) in a variety of ways by providing input on data, reviewing analysis products, and conducting crime mapping and problem analysis training.
While I have worked in crime analysis for over 20 years and provided TTA to scores of criminal justice agencies throughout the world, I continue to not only learn something new in all of my efforts, but also to establish a wonderful, extended network of colleagues – analysts, officers, researchers, and community members. We all continue to support and learn from one another as we move forward with the common goal of crime reduction and prevention.
If your agency or community is interested in the BJA NTTAC Crime Analysis on Demand program or other TTA resources, complete our application or contact BJA NTTAC at BJANTTAC@ojp.usdoj.gov. For more information on the crime analysis work of BJA and its partners, click here.
If you are interested in submitting the work of your organization or jurisdiction for consideration to be featured in a future TTA Today blog post or to obtain information related to a particular topic area, please email us at BJANTTAC@ojp.usdoj.gov.
Points of view or opinions on BJA NTTAC’s TTA Today blog are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice, BJA, or BJA NTTAC.