Crime analysts review all police reports every day with the goal of identifying patterns as they emerge. Analyses of trends, patterns, and hot spots provide law enforcement with data of emerging crime in a particular geographical area. Police use this information to develop effective tactics and strategies, interceding as soon as possible, preventing victimization, and reducing crime. They also help agencies identify areas that need additional attention, determine training and equipment needs for the department, and help administrations develop sound, appropriate budgets for the departments.
You could start your future career in crime analysis while attending high school by working as an intern at a state or local police agency or with your sheriff’s department. This is an excellent way of knowing what goes into the daily life of an officer. Many departments offer ride-along programs for high school students. Your initiative will also look good on a resume and something to mention during a job interview. This is also something you can do during the summer if attending school on campus. It also helps that 7 out of 10 internships result in a full-time job offer.
Candidates should be U.S. citizens and typically have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, usually in criminal justice, criminology, criminal justice research, or criminal justice policy. Other acceptable degrees are sociology, psychology, and public administration. As with most jobs in law enforcement, be prepared for an intensive background check, medical examination, interview, and possible psychology review. Be mindful to avoid associations with criminals, and refrain from any criminal behavior, especially serious misdemeanors, DUI’s and any felony.
For those beginning their degree search, there is a difference between criminology and criminal justice. People who study criminology look at crime as a social phenomenon and thus a social problem. They study all aspects of crime and its effects on society as a whole. Students of criminal justice focus on the system in which crime is detected, prosecuted, and punished. Criminology careers tend to be more academic in focus than those in criminal justice are, though there is some overlap between the two.
This is a job that some police departments may require or prefer prior experience. Therefore, you could gain experience while earning your degree online in one of the aforementioned degrees. Or, you may prefer to continue gaining experience in law enforcement while enrolling in classes designed for crime analysts.
Not all crime analysts have specialized training or a criminal justice degree. Instead, they learn on the job. They hone their investigative skills through the analysis of complex sets of data. Newer crime analysts will likely work with a more experienced person to learn what it takes to be a skilled analyst. This way, they learn processes and procedures to help them identify trends and patterns in crime.
To get a head start on your training, The International Association of Crime Analysts (IACA) offers online classes. Training opportunities are available in a variety of formats to suit your learning style. They currently offer web-based and instructor-led classes. The IACA classes are open to members as well as non-members. The IACA posts all of their upcoming online classes at their website. For example, there is a Webinar on the Fundamentals of Crime Analysis in July 2018. The cost is $395.
The IACA launched the Professional Training Series in 2005. The association developed specific curricula to address core competencies needed to be a proficient crime analyst. Professionals with extensive subject matter expertise design and teach the classes. Working analysts will find the coursework suitable for various experience levels. Regardless of your degree and experience, this is a convenient way to advance or begin your education in crime analysis.
An important trait of a crime analyst is to have an analytical mind. After all, the profession is the analysis of data using a set of techniques. Although the profession has long been called crime analysis, in truth many analysts spend most of their time looking at non-criminal incidents, including disorder calls, noise, domestic disputes, and traffic accidents.
Additional skills you will absolutely have to have are oral communication and the ability to write effectively, efficiently and coherently. It is one thing to be able to analyze data; you must also be able to present it effectively. This is why communication skills are essential. Criminal justice and criminology workers must be able to articulate their actions and reasoning to maintain their credibility.
Candidates for this profession will also benefit from the knowledge of database and geo-mapping software. This can be an important key to putting yourself a step ahead of the competition. In addition, you should join a crime analyst organization, such as the IACA. Membership in the IACA is restricted to those persons who have a demonstrated interest in crime analysis or criminal intelligence analysis. Membership is a mere $25 for one year. The fee provides special members-only content such as RSS feeds for new jobs, analyst tips, and conference presentations from prior years.