By Greg Jones
Editor’s Note: The original Crime Mapping News series has content that is still relevant today. It can be accessed at: policefoundation.org
As the former editor of the Crime Mapping News, it is my distinct pleasure to contribute to the new Crime Mapping & Analysis News. The Police Foundation has been a significant contributor to the understanding, importance, and practical implications of policing in the United States and abroad since its inception in 1970. It has contributed to the field of policing in a variety of ways, including but not limited to scientific evaluations of routine preventative patrol, shift work practices, community policing, and responses to domestic violence. Other contributions covered the provision of ethical and management studies, culture and climate surveys; and comprehensive review and analysis of national policies, such as immigration and its impact on policing services in specific geographies and communities. Besides a long list of other notable publications, the Police Foundation has continued to maintain an innovative approach to policing by staying attuned to evolving trends in policing such as less-lethal technology (i.e., Tasers), early warning systems (EWS), geographic information systems (GIS), automated vehicle locator technology (AVL), and crime mapping and crime analysis.
Crime mapping and crime analysis have grown expansively over the past quarter century and become an integral component of policing practices. Law enforcement leaders and researchers alike have increasingly recognized the amount of skill and levels of training (see also Amendola & Jones, 2010) involved in becoming a proficient crime analyst. Furthermore, through efforts of numerous scholars and practitioners in the field, the International Association of Crime Analysts (IACA) and regional crime analysis associations, as well as the production of crime mapping and crime analysis publications such as the former Crime Mapping News and Crime Analysis Case Studies (both Police Foundation products), it has been made clear that crime analysis can provide critical support for crime prevention and crime reduction strategies. However, it is important to recognize that in order for this support to occur and be consistent, analysts must have access to comprehensive training, a variety of data sources, and support from their supervisors, managers, and leadership (see also Boba, 2003 and Ratcliffe, 2007).
In my opinion, crime analysis is a profession that has been taken “far too lightly” in policing. In the early days, crime analysts were characterized as “the data people” who were typically tasked with managing the department’s police data, responding to data requests, providing basic crime bulletins, and fixing computer and/or software issues similar to what IT professionals were trained to do. As a result, their knowledge and skills were not being maximized to provide analytical support in a tactical, investigative, or strategic manner. However, the mischaracterization did not stop there. Not only were their skills and abilities minimized, but also crime analysts were often finding themselves and/or their unit placed on the fringes of the police department’s operations. In other words, they were not placed in units or divisions that demanded significant attention or a high level of respect so to speak. To make matters worse, analysts were and still are being used as “Compstat junkies” – where all their time is spent generating reports for Compstat meetings each and every week. Thus little to no time is dedicated to proactive or strategic analysis, which are both important aspects of having an efficient and effective crime analysis unit. Even today, the misinterpretation of the appropriate role of crime analysts continues to infringe on the overall mission of crime analysis that, I believe, is to be the “engine of analysis” that effectively drives the efficient distribution of limited police resources and maximizes police strategy, when applicable, on a recurring basis. As such, it is important that a police department utilize its CAU in the most effective and efficient way possible. The Police Foundation’s publication entitled “Integrated Intelligence and Crime Analysis: Enhanced Information for Law Enforcement Leaders” (Ratcliffe, 2007) provides a comprehensive overview of the issues commonly perceived in police departments regarding crime and intelligence units. Moreover, it provides recommendations for departments to improve their operational and analytical efficiency with respect to criminal intelligence gathering and creating intelligence products, and how to minimize the duplication of effort that may often arise based on some of the overlapping objectives of each unit.
Over the past fourteen years, including my time serving at the Police Foundation and recently in my volunteer capacity serving with the IACA, I have witnessed and been able to be a small contributor to the tremendous growth in the use of crime mapping and crime analysis. Some of the more recent growth is reflected in the growing number of certification programs across the country, crime analysis courses being offered at colleges and universities including online courses, training courses being offered by various vendors, numerous publications that have been dedicated to the field of crime analysis including a scholarly journal (i.e., Crime Mapping: A Journal of Research and Practice), and the increase in membership of analyst organizations such as IACA over the years. For example, IACA membership has grown by 55% just in the past four years, from 1,659 in 2010 to in 2,575 in 2014. In addition, there has been significant development on the computer software and program side of crime mapping and crime analysis. In the early 1990s there were only a handful of programs available to support crime analysis work, but now there are too many to count. These programs range from sophisticated statistical applications such as CrimeStat, whose development was supported by the National Institute of Justice, to pre-packaged crime mapping and analysis programs offered from different vendors around the United States. Even some of the most widely used GIS mapping programs (e.g., ArcGIS, MapInfo) have evolved to include toolboxes and features that can specifically support crime mapping and crime analysis work.
It is my hope that this newsletter continues to highlight the importance of crime mapping and crime analysis in policing and furthers the push for crime analysts who work tirelessly to support their departments in combating crime, disorder, and other community-oriented problems in their respective jurisdictions. I encourage analysts to read this newsletter with a deep appreciation for all of those practitioners, scholars, and leaders who have paved the way for crime mapping and crime analysis to be where they are today and for those that continue to push their boundaries.
Former Editor, Crime Mapping News
Amendola, K., & Jones, G. (2010). Selecting the best analysts for the job: A model crime analyst assessment process for law enforcement agencies. Washington, D.C.: Police Foundation.
Boba, R. (2003). Problem analysis in policing. Washington, D.C.: Police Foundation.
Ratcliffe, J. (2007). Integrated Intelligence and Crime Analysis: Enhanced Information for Law Enforcement Leaders. Washington, D.C.: Police Foundation.
- This is current membership information as of March, 2014. Information was provided by IACA.