This article was written with the assistance of Michael Winslow, a Senior Police Analyst with the Scottsdale Police Department in Arizona.
Being a Crime Analyst is an exciting and growing field. A Crime Analyst is a position that exists within a law enforcement agency, local, state and federal, with their main role is working in data. That data can be anything from crime statistics, calls for service, field information cards, any type of information on people, and basically being the main depository for information, and then taking that information and making it usable for the law enforcement agency. Whether that be creating bulletins, making maps, doing different types of pattern identification and getting that information relayed back to the officers and detectives, is probably the main component for a Crime Analyst. The other piece to that is going to be on the intelligence side, working with people and doing various types of intelligence analysis to gather information to assist officers and detectives as to where people may be currently. Where people live, numbers to contact them, different ways to be able to locate individuals that detective and officers may be looking for.
What is a Crime Analyst
Crime Analysts positions can be civilian or sworn position. Most tend to be on the civilian side, meaning that they’re not a sworn officer. So while they can do a lot of different things, they don’t have the power to arrest anyone, and they do not carry a firearm. A Crime Analyst who is a sworn law enforcement officer can go out on surveillance, and they have the power to arrest somebody, Whereas on the civilian side, it would be limited to mainly office work, sometimes being out in the field, but definitely not going hands on with anybody.
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Requirements to be a Crime Analyst
The educational requirements will vary from agency to agency. for the most part, a bachelor’s degree is going to be a minimum qualification. There are some agencies that have had a very basic entry level position where the agency would have a minimum requirement of either an associate’s degree, or some type of certificate. However, a bachelor’s is going to be the standard requirement to be a Crime Analyst. Having a master’s will make a candidate more desirable. For the type of degree it will vary. Some Crime Analysts have degrees in criminal justice, psychology, GIS or geographic information systems. There are a lot of different types of degree fields that can potentially be related to crime analysis.
Crime Analysts often do presentations, for command staff, and for the public. Being able to conduct presentations, along with knowing how to utilize the software associated with presentations, is very beneficial.
Communication skills are vital to being a Crime Analyst, because analysts work with a lot of different types of people and personalities. Being able to adapt and change the way that you communicate and relay information is definitely something that is huge. Crime Analysts are relied upon to be able to take information, make it usable, and make it something that everybody can understand.
Knowing your way around a computer is going to be essential to being an analyst. A lot of the software programs that Crime Analysts use are specific to that field. Therefore, is unlikely that someone new to the field would have experience with this specialized software. However, knowing how to use general computer software is very important. A plus would be having any type of mapping software experience. There are a few out there that are the industry standards. Knowing how those work is very beneficial.
General problem solving skills are important. Analysts tend to think a little bit different, often thinking outside the box. That’s one of the reasons why Crime Analysts are so valuable to the field, especially in an investigation.
Often during an investigation there can be tunnel vision that ends up happening, with investigators thinking on one path, and that is the same path that they’d been on before. Crime Analysts get in there and are able to offer a different type of perspective that sometimes isn’t being thought about. It is very effective in helping out in investigations when they get really complex. It is important for a Crime Analyst to have the drive to learn, and to research new things. Problem solving skills are going to be crucial, complex thinking, and trying to think like a criminal and looking at human behavior come into play.
You definitely have to have to be a bit of an extrovert, or at least be able to fake it. You’re going to be working with people within your agency. You are going to have to present yourself, your ideas, and what you have learned. You have to be comfortable talking in groups, talking to other people. You have to be able to do this effectively.
It is also important to understand that while there’s a lot of different things that you’re going to be exposed to, if you’re that type of person that has to get out and be out in the field, the job of Crime Analyst is a bit different than that as compared to other police department jobs.
Crime Analyst Hiring Process
When looking for law enforcement jobs, the general hiring process for a crime analyst is similar to the police hiring process and includes an application, possibly a resume and cover letter, and probably some type of supplemental questionnaire.
Often the hiring agency will want you to explain different investigations that you may have worked on or other types of experience that you may have in the field, different software programs that you have experience using.
Once you get to the interview process, it’s a panel interview where you have at least three people that are going to be asking you a variety of questions. One of the members of the interview panel will be a Crime Analyst. You will be asked questions about why you are qualified for this position, your education and experience, and special skills that you have. You may also be presented with a scenario that you are asked to analyze.
Depending on the agency and the position itself, you may have some type of an police written test that would entail specific job functions, or being able to critique a specific product as to what you would do to improve it. You may even have a scenario-based problem where you’re going to be given a set of data, have to present or create some type of a product. People often want to know how long long does it take to be a police officer, so along with that is the length of time for the Crime Analyst hiring process. Because their are often less elements with the Crime Analyst hiring process, it does not include a police officer physical fitness test requirements, and usually does not include a law enforcement entrance exam or traditional police oral board questions, the hiring process can be substantially shorter in length than that of a police officer.
With most law enforcement jobs including that of a Crime Analyst, prior to being offered the job, you will have to go through a full police background check investigation, just like anybody else that would be going to work for a police department or law enforcement agency. You will have to complete a full background packet, meet with a background investigator, do a polygraph test questions, and then you will have a drug test. Some agencies will even have you do a police psychological test. For Crime Analyst jobs with a federal law enforcement agency, a security clearance may be required. This process for this involves an extensive and lengthy background investigation.
There are entry level positions that exist as a Crime Analyst, some are called research aid, or investigative aid, so it might not have the exact title as crime analyst, even though you may be doing some of the same kind of analytical work. Some agencies have a Crime Analyst with multiple levels. There may be a level one or two, or a senior Crime Analyst.
Crime Analyst Training
Once hired, depending on the type of analysis that you’re going to be doing, you will have training that’s going to be specific to any software that you’re using. So any of the databases, even if it’s just using Microsoft products like Excel, and Access, and things like that, there’s will be some type of software specific training.
There isn’t an analyst academy, but depending on the type of analytical products and the analysis that you’re going to be doing, there are more formalized trainings for working analysts. There is a five-day Foundations of Intelligence Analysis Training, FIAT, put on by the International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts. The FIAT course teaches the basics of analysis, how to gather information, and how to present that type of information. Most agencies have multiple analysts and new analysts will be paired up with an experience analyst during their initial period with the agency.
Different Types of Crime Analysts
Depending on the size of an agency and the crime volume that they deal with, they may have analysts for specific types of crime. There may be an analyst that specializes in robbery, or one that specializes in homicide. An agency may have a tactical analyst that is going to be looking at the types of crimes that are occurring right now. They’re going to be doing all of your current series, so if you have a crime such as a series of bank robberies that’s going on, they’re going to be putting the bulletins together, and getting all that information out to the officers on the street to be able to help apprehend those persons responsible for the robberies. There are analysts that are going to be more in the planning or administrative side that are going to be looking at patrol allocations, beat structures, and how many officers are needed in a specific area at any time of the day. There are a lot of specialty fields that fall under the title of Crime Analyst, and there’s a lot of different ways a Crime Analyst could be utilized by an agency.
Traditionally, in the past there were two different types of analysts. There were crime analysts that only look at crime. They looked at crimes that were occurring, looking for patterns and trends in the data, and then being able to use that, make certain statistics and reports and products, bulletins, things of that nature based on the crime data. On the intelligence side, for an intel analyst, they’re looking at people, groups of people, and gangs, but fir intel analysts their work is strictly going to be on the people side. Over the years as things have evolved, and there started to be a lot of similarities between what a crime analyst did, and what an intel analyst did. If you were good at being a crime analyst, you had to be able to know how to do some intel analysis, because it’s people that are committing the crimes. Over the last five to ten years a lot of agencies have started to take their crime analysts and their intel analysts, and combined them together. They’re doing a combination of crime analysis and intelligence analysis. They’re looking at the crimes, but then they’re also looking at the people as well, and doing their research on the people, and not just the crime.
Type of Work done by Crime Analysts
Some of the types of work done by Crime Analysts doing investigative work include link charts and association analysis, trying to connect people to specific places or specific groups. Some analysts are more heavily specialized in the geographical aspects, making different types of maps, whether it is a standard type of pin map, dots on a map, or density maps. Some analysts do predictive analysis, actually trying to forecast out where future crime is going to occur based on previous crimes. Crime Analysts exists at every level of law enforcement, including local, state, even with federal law enforcement agencies such as with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Secret Service, or the Drug Enforcement Administration.
How to get a job as a Crime Analyst
When looking at law enforcement careers, networking is important and any type of law enforcement organizations that Crime Analysts belong to will be beneficial for someone interested in going into that field. One such organization is the International Association of Crime Analysts. There are a lot of professional associations in specific states which provide some great resources not only for training, but networking within the field and even as a mentorship program where people can get paired up with a working analyst, and be able to ask them questions about how to get into the field, how to prepare for the field, and things of that nature.
How to get Experience
Usually some type of experience is required in order to be hired as a Crime Analyst, even for an entry level position. So how do you get experience? Try to get any type of internship, whether it be paid or volunteer, where you’re working directly in a crime analysis unit, because it’s going to set you that much further ahead. By the time you go into an police oral board interview, you’ll already know what the job entails, how that job works. You may even know some of the people that are doing your actual interview because you’ve been already in the department.
Misconceptions about Crime Analysis
Crime Analysts do not work directly in forensic science. They are not like crime scene investigators, or some of those other things that people see in movies or television. While there are forensic scientists that work in a lab, and there are crime scene technicians that are that go out to collect the evidence, take photographs, and things of that nature, that is not what Crime Analysts do. Their main focus is in data, whether that be crime data, or looking into data about people.
Crime analysis is a growing and expanding field in all types of law enforcement. It started off very small, and nowadays it’s hard to find an agency, even on a smaller scale level, that doesn’t have an analyst or at least someone that’s doing some type of analytical work for their agency. And on top of that, you’re starting to see agencies that invest so much in that data-driven type of policies, that they’re having multiple analysts within their department. These analysts are doing various types of analysis, whether it be anything from administrative type functions, patrol allocations, redistricting of cities, to literally having analysts housed in investigations and doing a lot of investigative work to assist detectives and investigators to help clear out crimes. Crime Analysts will be right in the thick of it when the a series of crimes are going on.
How to learn more about Crime Analysts
For anyone interested in the profession, a terrific resource will be professional associations. The International Association of Crime Analysts has some great information on their website including information about what a crime analyst does, what types of products and training that’s out there. The International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts is another great resource. There are a lot of colleges now that are offering different coursework in crime analysis and investigative analysis. Those would be good resources as well to take a course in it and see if it’s something that interests you enough to make a career out of being a Crime Analyst.
This article was written with the assistance of Michael Winslow, a Senior Police Analyst with the Scottsdale Police Department in Arizona. Mr. Winslow has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice and Criminology from Arizona State University and is a past President of the Arizona Association of Crime Analysts.