By Annie Mitchell, Supervising Crime Analyst, Los Angeles County, California, Sheriff’s Department; and Kimberle Swobodzinski, Crime and Investigative Analyst, Forensic Technician (Retired), Gardena, California, Police Department
urprisingly, there are many different responses to the question “What is a crime analyst?” The answers provided by law enforcement members will vary based on the different levels of need within the organization. Even within the organization itself, the knowledge and skill set and the level of needs of a crime analyst would be answered differently based on the many needs of the organization. If you asked, “What is the role of the crime analyst?” you would also hear a variety of tasks and needs, based on the office of the request. Responses may be based on the needs of the unit and department—specific to the actual location of the crime analyst within the organization.
The role of the crime analyst, by definition, has evolved over the decades, as have the duties and expectations of a crime analyst. The role of crime analysts today is that of chameleons, adapting to the many needs of the organizational mission they serve.
Today’s crime analyst can change roles at the sound of a police radio call, moving from stationary and reactive crime series identification to tactical analysis, becoming the primary intelligence center for a “hot” call crime or the center point for a multi-jurisdictional crime series unit. The crime analyst is a vital and much needed resource in any investigative unit where the skill set of data mining, social media, and Internet searching are needed. Many analysts are assigned to the Investigations Units or Detective Bureau, but agencies are also demonstrating a demand for their expertise in units such as Narcotics, Gangs, and Homicide or as a part of a multi-jurisdictional task force, fusion center, or Special Problems Unit.
Today’s crime analyst is no longer the closeted departmental statistician providing the annual, monthly, and yearly increase and decrease in crimes, although this is still a model daily task for the analyst and plays a big part in the analyst’s ability to “predict crime.” Today’s crime analyst is seen as a recognized support member of the unit and everyday crime fighter in the law enforcement arsenal. In keeping with change, the expectation of the role of the crime analyst has also evolved. Public television has helped to enlighten viewers to the value and role a crime analyst can play for a particular crime-fighting unit or law enforcement agency. One of the most popular television influences is in the television show Criminal Minds. This prime time television show showcases the role of Penelope Garcia, whose analytical skills and datamining expertise make her not only a vital and highly regarded member of the team, but also displays how the role of the analyst can provide key data that leads to many suspects, locations, and additional unsolved crimes. Crime analysts today are moving from the role of statisticians to becoming an integral part of criminal investigations. This portrayal has also helped to market crime and intelligence analysis as a career field. In today’s crime-fighting cache, the crime analyst is the mining expert of data hidden in the world of social media files, public records files, phone records, criminal association records, criminal history data, and much more. The role of the crime analyst also takes on a predictive role, anticipating future crime patterns and probable locations of occurrence. While statistics are still a part of the day-to-day activities, crime analysts are digging deeper into the meaning behind the increase and decrease of crime in order to assist in providing strategic and tactical information to their customers. This skill set alone can be a tremendous departmental asset when used to deploy manpower to deter crimes in a particular area, set up undercover plans in areas of probable occurrence or simply provide a display of high visibility to eradicate and disrupt crime from occurring on a particular day and during peak crime times. Whatever the mission, the crime analyst has become an invaluable tool within the law enforcement arsenal.
How do we build a valued crime analyst? The answer is simple—one training module at a time. The concept of “Building a Crime Analyst—one training module at a time” is a project sponsored by the San Diego Regional Training Center. The goal of this project is to design a fundamental skills and knowledge training course that would build a crime analyst, using learning modules and learning activities taught by subject matter experts in the field of crime and intelligence analysis. The skill set of critical thinking will also be a key module within the course. This training course will not only develop a working skill set for the student to handle the day-to-day tasks and expectations of the analyst, but also provide the training to assist with tactical analysis support during major incidents or serial investigations.
Working with the San Diego Regional Training Center, a recognized team of subject matter experts and course designers came together from agencies across the state and asked the question “What is a Crime Analyst?” With those answers, the group defined the modern day role of the crime analyst and carved out a 40-hour training course to “build a crime analyst.” The subject matter experts, a group of individuals with mixed job titles, law enforcement roles, and different levels of training and experience met to achieve this goal. Using recommendations from the experts and envisioning the end product, the course designers began their mission to design a solid model skill set and training foundation that would build a crime analyst to fit the needs and standards of law enforcement agencies statewide. After evaluating the recommendations and descriptions of a crime analyst from the experts, the designers created a training course to meet this need. In keeping with the goal, the designers began with the questions, what is a crime analyst and what is the role of a crime analyst. These two questions were the driving force in designing and identifying the training knowledge and skill set an everyday analyst would need to complete the identified role and mission of a crime analyst. The designers identified solid and daily core functions, foundation blocks of an analyst’s daily routine, and designed a series of training modules to provide both walk-away skill sets and knowledge of the subject content to build “today’s crime analyst.” The end result: a 40-hour, subject matter expertled, hands-on Crime Analyst Foundation training course. The course content includes training in the following areas:
- The Role of the Crime Analyst—Navigating within the Law Enforcement Environment
- Crime Trends, Series, and Patterns, Analyzing Data and Linking Crimes Together
- Predictive Analysis Skills—Forecasting Crimes Based on Statistical Data
- Critical Thinking and Writing Skills for Crime Analysts
- Investigative and Data Resources—Data-mining for Intelligence
- Social Media for Law Enforcement Analysts
- Understanding and Defining Threshold Analysis
- Investigative Case Support—Cell Toll and Tower Records Analysis
- Tactical Analysis—Real Time Analysis Support Using Data-mining
- Designing Crime Analysis Products for Any Departmental Budget
These are the foundational skill sets identified as being a part of the daily tasks of today’s crime analyst and are the building blocks that make up this training. For further information about this training class and to schedule personnel to attend this valuable training, contact the San Diego Regional Training Center, San Diego, California, http://www.sdrtc.org. ?
|Annie Mitchell is a 30-year employee of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department working as a supervising crime analyst. Annie has worked as a station analyst and was assigned as a member of the FBI—Joint Drug Intelligence Group (JDIG). She has provided analytical support to various task forces and has worked search warrant operations at both the station level and headquarters level. She is the past president of the Southern California Crime and Intelligence Analysts' Association. Annie has been a guest speaker at the California Gang Investigators Conference as well as at the International Association of Crime Analysts and the Crime and Intelligence Analyst conferences. Annie is also a member of the curriculum design team for the Building a Crime Analyst course.|
Kimberle Swobodzinski has more than 30 years’ experience in law enforcement working in both the analytical world and the forensic world. She recently retired from the Gardena, California, Police Department with 23 years of service working as both a crime and investigative analyst and a forensic technician. Her duties included both working as an investigative support analyst to the Investigations Bureau and working crime scenes. She received the 2009 CPOA Award of Distinction for her role in implementing a regional crimemapping program in her area. She is the curriculum designer for the Building a Crime Analyst course.
Please cite as:
Annie Mitchell and Kimberle Swobodzinski, “Building a Crime Analyst: One Training Module at a Time,” The Police Chief 80 (November 2013): 34–35.