The concept of crime analysis is not a new one, as criminologists have long looked for patterns of criminal behavior to glean all sorts of answers about deviant behavior. The profession of crime analysts though, as indispensable as they have become, is a relatively recent innovation within policing.
Due largely in part to the advent of community-oriented policing, crime analysis has been a growing field since the 1970's. Once limited to only federal or very large metropolitan departments, nearly every police agency in the U.S. now employs someone in an analyst capacity.
Job Functions and Work Environment of Crime Analysts
The field of crime analysis provides crucial information to law enforcement bodies. Analysts read police reports and look at crime statistics. They identify patterns and glean helpful data that can be used to help police command personnel better allocate their police officers, detectives and other assets so that they can place their departments in a better position to prevent and solve crime.
Crime analysts have a host of resources at their disposal, including crime mapping technology, computer-aided dispatch, police reports and contacts with other professionals in their area and around the country. They use these resources to look for trends and to provide answers to issues puzzling police in real time, which in turn helps law enforcement better prepare and significantly enhances their investigative capabilities.
Analysts locate times and areas where a particular crime or a range of criminal activity is occurring. Identification of these areas, called hot spots, helps law enforcement better plan their manpower needs, pinpointing when and where police officers should patrol in order to maximize their effectiveness.
The job of a crime analyst often includes:
- Gathering and analyzing crime statistics
- Producing reports
- Developing intelligence
- Advising police commanders
- Identifying criminal trends, including emerging problems
- Using crime mapping technology
- Using computer-aided dispatch programs
- Researching long-term problems and presenting response strategies
Most often, analysts are non-sworn members of a department, making crime analysis one of many great civilian criminal justice careers. In some cases sworn law enforcement officers may perform the functions of an analyst. Analysts typically work in an office environment and evaluate data, rather than responding to crime scenes or investigating individual crimes.
Analysts may also serve in roles dedicated to intelligence gathering. Criminal intelligence analysts provide crucial information to law enforcement personnel about potential criminal activity and, even more important, officer safety information and bulletins. Through intelligence gathering and interpretation, criminal intelligence literally helps save the lives of law enforcement officers by keeping them up to date on potential threats and the movements of dangerous people who would do them harm.
Crime analysts play a very important role in helping detectives and investigators solve crimes. By looking at police reports, data and trends, they can gather important clues, such as methods and motives, that can help lead to the identification of a suspect.
Education And Skill Requirements for Crime Analysts
In most cases aspiring crime analysts must have, at a minimum, a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, criminology, or another related field such psychology or sociology. While pursuing an education, a focus on classes such as probability and statistics will prove helpful.
Some agencies may allow candidates to substitute some or all of the college education requirement for relevant work experience. Though finding experience can be difficult at times, internships and volunteer work can help candidates make connections in the field and get on a career path.
In some cases, criminal analysts may serve in sworn law enforcement positions or in supervisory ranks. In these instances, police academy training, several years of service and possibly promotion will likely be required as these will be specialty positions.
Analysts must have strong communication and analytical skills, as well as great writing ability. They need to be able to locate and interpret data and must be able to repackage and present it in a way that can be easily understood by others. They should have a passion for research and a genuine desire to assist and support law enforcement in preventing and solving crime.
Job Growth and Salary Outlook for Crime Analysts
The field of crime analysis continues to grow, especially as departments seek ways to save money by civilizing positions and finding efficiencies. Because analysts can help agencies better allocate their manpower while at the same time find ways to reduce crime, the role of analyst is proving invaluable to the law enforcement profession. This means that there will likely be ample opportunity to find a career as a crime analyst in the future.
According to SimplyHired.com, the average salary for crime analysts is around $56,000 per year. Payscale.com reports that starting salary for analysts may be between $34,000 and $50,000.
Is a Career as a Crime Analyst Right for You?
Crime analysis has become one of the most important functions within nearly every police agency. Found at every level of law enforcement, analysts support and bolster investigators and patrol officers and help them do their jobs and stay alive.
Crime analysts work in a fascinating field, combining research and analysis with policy and program planning. A vital tool for helping law enforcement respond to, solve and even prevent crime, a career as a crime analyst is an excellent opportunity to help communities and support the policing function. If you have a knack for research, interpreting data and deciphering patterns, a career as a crime analyst may be the perfect criminology career for you.