What is Crime Analysis?

The International Association of Crime Analysts (IACA) defines crime analysis as a profession and a set of techniques. The professionals, who perform crime analysis, and the techniques they use, are dedicated to helping a police department become more effective through better information. The information that analysts provide can help:

  • Solve crimes
  • Develop effective strategies and tactics to prevent future crimes
  • Find and apprehend offenders
  • Prosecute and convict offenders
  • Improve safety and quality of life
  • Optimize internal operations
  • Prioritize patrol and investigation

What does a Crime Analyst do?

This is primarily a desk job. Crime analysts collect, collate, distill, interpret, and analyze crime data as they look for immediate patterns, as well as long-term trends in criminal activity. This could involve a park that has been a drug-dealing hot spot for 20 years to a street that has a high number of car accidents. It could entail ongoing issues with crime and disorder at budget motels and other after-hours venues and establishments. A crime analyst can take it apart, explore its dimensions, and help the police department come up with long-term solutions.

IACA Involvement

In 2010, the IACA chartered a Standards, Methods, and Technology committee for the purpose of defining the “analytical methodologies, technologies, and core concepts relevant to the profession of crime analysis.” They followed this statement with a report in 2012 stating that no schools offer crime analysis as its own undergraduate major. Of the small number of courses in crime analysis, usually in criminal justice or related programs, most classes concentrated on hands-on skills. The IACA iterates that current theory, tools, and techniques are imperative in the study of crime analysis.

Bachelor’s Degree

Currently, there are a handful of schools offering a bachelor’s degree in crime analysis. True to the IACA statement, one school has a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with a Crime Analysis Specialization. There are only 18 credits covering six subjects devoted to the specialty. Courses include criminal evidence, data analysis, information science, and crime analysis.

A similar program at another school offers a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice with a Crime Analysis Option. The coursework seems to be weighted to hands-on skills. The coursework includes geographic information systems, cartography, research methods, and statistics in criminal justice. This program does not cover any of the theoretical aspects stressed in the IACA report.

A program closer to the advice of the IACA is a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Crime and Intelligence Analysis. The curriculum incorporates intelligence theory and investigative philosophy with collaborative decision-making processes for crime and intelligence analysis. This includes scenarios, simulated exercises, case studies, and lab-based exercises.

Perhaps the most beneficial course in the above program is their course titled Crime Intelligence Analysis. This class provides students with skills related to the examination of crime data and the impact of technical tools such as geotechnology on the greater law enforcement and intelligence communities. Upon completion, students will be able to demonstrate knowledge of the crime analysis and intelligence analysis communities, perform analytical techniques, identify spatial characteristics, and describe report applications.

Coursework in the subject of intelligence also adheres to the IACA principle of combing theory with practical knowledge. A class in Intelligence should introduce you to counterintelligence, intelligence analysis for criminal investigations, military intelligence and National Security response strategies based on threat analysis.

Master’s Degree

At the graduate level, there are more choices to expand your knowledge and skills in crime analysis. Most of these programs are within the respective Criminal Justice degrees. A Crime Analysis concentration provides students with a theoretical overview of crime analysis, computer applications in crime analysis and investigation, the criminal intelligence process, the use of geographic information systems, statistical applications and research design.

The master’s degree affords more classes in both theory and application. You may have classes in Research Design and Analysis, Legal Issues, Computer Applications in Crime Analysis, and Theories in Crime Analysis. All the components to meet the standards outlined by the IACA. However, it requires a master’s degree to accomplish this objective.

Additional coursework in a Crime Analysis concentration may include Theories in Criminal Behavior. You study a survey of theories relating to the scope and nature of the crime problem. It gives consideration of the problems of deviancy including social norms deviancy, mental disturbances, juvenile crime, and the various possible and actual responses to deviancy. An understanding of the psychology of crime will help you analyze crime patterns and trends.

Training Options

The IACA is a resource for training in this field. This could be an option in lieu of a graduate degree. Their Professional Training Series offers a 12-week course in Fundamentals of Crime Analysis. The objective of this web-based program is to expose students to a variety of analytical techniques utilized in law enforcement to describe and understand crime patterns, series, and trends as they occur. Throughout this course, students will examine concepts; theories, practices, data, and analysis techniques associated with the field of crime analysis for law enforcement. Additional topics that will be covered include understanding criminal behavior, behavioral geography, linking crimes, forecasting, and prediction. (Cost is $445 for non-members; $395 for IACA members)

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