The profession of the crime analyst, even though relatively new, has become an essential part of almost every police department. It attracts a growing number of people who are interested in working in law enforcement but not necessarily as a police officer or deputy sheriff.
Crime analysts are employed in more and more departments and the selection process is very comprehensive. You will need to work hard in order to make the shortlist of best qualified candidates for the job. Therefore, it is important to know what are the main requirements for a crime analyst and what are the main duties and responsibilities. The guide below will provide you with comprehensive information and insights about the career of a crime analyst.
What does a crime analyst do?
Crime analysis is a law enforcement function that involves systematic analysis for identifying and analyzing patterns and trends in crime. This means that the crime analyst is responsible for analyzing available data and looking for patterns in order to help solve a crime or predict it. The duties include reading police reports and crime statistics and using a myriad of resources in order to be able to fulfill the given task. The crime analyst should be able to work with crime mapping technology, computer-aided dispatch (CAD), read police reports and keep contacts with other professionals in their area and around the country.
It is interesting to know that as a profession the crime analysts appeared back in the 1960s, even though some of their functions have been performed for many years. Crime analysts were positions which used to be only found in very large law enforcement agencies, Nowadays they are present almost everywhere.
It is important to know that the crime analyst does not usually visit crime scenes to collect evidence. The collection of forensic evidence is done by detectives, crime scene investigators, and the crime lab. The job of the crime analyst is to analyze and interpret the information and evidence.
What are the basic requirements for crime analysts?
There are several very basic requirements that you must meet in order to become a crime analyst. They may vary from department to department but as a minimum include the following:
- Be a citizen of the USA
- Be a high-school graduate or hold a G.E.D.
- Have a clear background
Prior experience in law enforcement is generally not required. Holding a bachelor’s degree is also not a must, however most of the agencies are looking for candidates who have successfully graduated from an accredited college or university.
There will be a competitive selection process. Those who are selected will undergo a full background check. It is a bit similar to the hiring process for police officers.
How to be more competitive?
The job of the crime analyst is very desirable and it will be competitive to be selected for the position you are applying for. Here are a few suggestions:
- Education is quite important and having a bachelor’s degree in a relevant discipline, such as criminal justice, criminology, psychology, sociology or public administration will be a great plus for you;
- Experience in the field will be a major advantage. As it is hard to gain relevant experience, however, having worked as law enforcement officer also counts. As a matter of fact, becoming a crime analyst is a good continuation of the career of a police officer. You can also consider working as an intern at a state or local police agency or with your sheriff’s department in order to gain experience and have a competitive advantage during the selection process;
- Analytical skills and critical thinking are also a must, since this is the main requirement for your job. Having strong attention to detail, being able to work long hours are also great abilities to possess for this job;
- Good knowledge of relevant technologies, such as working with database and geo-mapping software, CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) software and computer applications and tools in general takes you one step closer to the dream career;
- Oral and written communication skills are also of high importance since your task will be to analyze some results and then communicate them to the relevant departments in the most concise, clear and coherent way so that further action can be taken.
The more positive attributes you bring to the job, the better your chances of getting hired as a criminal Analyst.
Which are the five main duties of a crime analyst?
According to the International Association of Crime Analysts there are five main ways, in which the crime analysts help the police department they are working for. These are:
- Finding series, patterns, trends, and hot spots as they happen
The task of the crime analysts is to review police reports every day in order to identify patterns as they start to appear. If there is an emerging problem of any kind, the police officers will be informed of it as soon as a pattern can be established. This may be any kind of crime – for example a burglar targeting the same type of businesses. The crime analysts see patterns not only in types of crimes but can also identify hot spots – potential streets or parts of the city that are targeted by criminals. The information provided is used to develop the correct strategies and tactics to counter crime and prevent it at an earlier stage.
- Researching and Analyzing Long-Term Problems
The tools of crime analysis are efficient not only helping the crime analyst with establishing patterns but can be applied to long-term problems as well. The crime analysts may have a look at problems that are persisting for many years, such as parks known for drug-dealing, budget motels with high levels of crime, etc. They can dig deep into the issue, analyze it and offer a new approach or a more permanent solution to the problem.
- Providing information on demand
Crime analysts know how to work with data from records or the CAD system. They know how to pull the information from the software, how to interpret graphs and tables and present the data in a format that is clearer. If you need some statistical information as to the youth crime rate over a period of 10 years, for example, crime analysis is the tool to use. The analysts will extract the data and present it in the form you need it – it can be a map, chart, graph, table or another visual product. Furthermore, the crime analysts can help with forecasting information such as the demand for police officer in the following five years.
- Developing and linking local intelligence
We often hear how important it is to have the right intelligence tools or to interpret it correctly. If you want to work as a crime analyst that would be one of your duties. Therefore, it is good to have a strong understanding of criminal intelligence. Criminal Intelligence is information compiled, analyzed, and/or disseminated in an effort to anticipate, prevent, or monitor criminal activity. This means monitoring criminals and criminal organizations, their activity and goals, the cash flow, their management and plans, etc. Local crime analysts working at the police departments contribute a lot to gathering and interpreting this kind of information.
The job of the crime analyst is to know international, national and state intelligence and check if it fits with the local information they are dealing with. For example, if FBI has announced that terrorists are using forged passports from France, then the analysts will be very careful whenever they see a police report containing information about a French passport. The crime analysts will sift the various intelligence data received from all level and present you with the information that is relevant for your department.
On the other hand, the crime analysts can use the criminal intelligence analysis tactics and methods to solve local problems. They can prepare charts showing the relationship between different gang members or prepare a time-line of a crime for a court presentation.
- Making your department look good
Having a crime analyst working for your agency will improve its image before the community and the local officials. This is due to the fact that you will be able to provide the relevant information about any crime trends in the proper format once you are asked for it. The department website and press releases will contain professionally compiled data and analyses presented in charts, tables, graphs that make it visible that you are on top of crime. The crime analysts will help with drafting better reports, newsletters and alerts using the skills they have. All these tools will improve your communication with the media representatives and the general public you serve.
What are the salary and career growth options for crime analysts?
If you want to become a crime analyst, inevitably you are also interested in the salary and growth options that you can expect. According to the information provided on Pay Scale, the average pay of a crime analyst per year is $46,720.
Naturally, the pay depends on the expertise you have and the years of experience. Based on the skills you possess the payment may vary as follows:
- Statistical analysis – median salary of $47,000
- Data analysis – median salary of $47,000
- Geographic information systems (GIS) – median salary of $46,000
- Research analysis – median salary of $43,000
It is good to know that the pay increases with the time spend on the job. Usually, people work as crime analysts for about 20 years before they pursue a different career path. Here is some idea about the average total compensation, including tips, bonuses and overtime pay that you can expect depending on the time spent on the job:
- Less than 5 years – pay of $44,000
- 5 to 10 years – pay of $49,000
- 10 to 20 years – pay of $48,000
- 20 years and more – pay of $78,000
Note that the figures are calculated based on the information provided by anonymous users of the site and there were different participants for each tier, hence comes the higher pay for the second tier compared to the third. You should also keep in mind that the payment varies from department to department, so make sure to ask for this information in advance.
Is a crime analyst the right job for me?
If you are wondering whether the job of a crime analyst is the right for you, perhaps you should ask yourself the following questions: Do I find crime analysis a fascinating field to work in? Am I good at research, interpreting data and deciphering patterns? Is the idea of solving and preventing crime appealing for me? If the answer to all of them is “Yes”, then you should definitely pursue a career in this field.
If you are not quite sure whether the crime analyst is your dream job but you are positive that the law enforcement is the field you want to work in, then you need to check the other law enforcement job openings for other possibilities.
The job of the crime analyst has become one of the most important ones for almost every police agency. It is a vital tool to help fighting crime in all its forms and thus support a healthier community. Analysts are working at every level of law enforcement and support the work of investigators and police officers on a daily basis. It is a profession that requires a lot of dedication and hard work but repays with excellent results both in short and long term.