by Dr. Laura Wyckoff, Bureau of Justice Assistance Fellow
Focusing resources on high-crime places, high-rate offenders, and repeat victims can help police effectively reduce crime in their communities. Doing so reinforces the notion that the application of data-driven strategies, such as hotspots policing, problem-oriented policing, and intelligence-led policing, work. Police must know when, where, and how to focus limited resources, as well as how to evaluate the effectiveness of their strategies. Sound crime analysis is paramount to this success.
What is crime analysis exactly? Crime analysis is not simply crime counts or the change in crime counts—that is just information about crime and not an analysis of crime. Crime analysis is a deep examination of the relationships between the different criminogenic factors (e.g., time, place, socio-demographics) surrounding crime or disorder that helps us understand why it occurs. Sound crime analysis diagnoses problems so a response may be tailored to cure it, or reduce the frequency and severity of such problems.
Data-driven policing and associated crime analysis are still in their infancy and are not typically integrated into the organizational culture as well as traditional policing strategies. Many agencies are still not aware of the advantages of an effective crime analysis unit, and others may not have the resources or knowledge to effectively integrate one. Of those that do employ crime analysis, many may not fully understand or accept this approach, or use it to its potential.
Additionally, police command staff typically are not analysts, so they may be unaware of how to guide this work to provide “actionable” crime analysis products that can be helpful for crime reduction efforts. At the same time, analysts are usually not police officers and may not be aware of how police respond to crime problems (both tactically and strategically), or what types of products will be most useful.
To be more effective at combating crime using data-driven strategies, we need to overcome these barriers and knowledge gaps. That is why the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) established the Crime Analysis on Demand initiative. This initiative has a number of training and technical assistance opportunities focused on increasing crime analysis capacity in agencies across the nation. BJA’s National Training and Technical Assistance Center (NTTAC) is providing police agencies access to crime analysis experts that provide recommendations, training, and technical assistance to help agencies improve their application of crime analysis.
Additionally, the Police Foundation’s recent Crime Mapping and Analysis News publication provides a synopsis of the different services offered through this initiative. Other resources for crime analysis can be found on the International Association of Crime Analysts and the International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts’ websites.
Dr. Laura Wyckoff is the Crime Analysis Fellow for the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), where she assists in guiding BJA and the field in crime analysis best practices.
BJA NTTAC has a training and technical assistance (TTA) initiative focused on Crime Analysis on Demand and is offering TTA resources that will help police department leaders assess their needs related to crime analysis. If you know a police agency that would benefit from TTA or if you are a police agency with a critical need, click here to complete the online TTA request form. If you are interested in authoring a TTA Today blog post on the work of your organization or jurisdiction, please email us at BJANTTAC@ojp.usdoj.gov.