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Crime Analysis for Problem Solvers in 60 Small Steps

Crime Analysis for Problem Solvers in 60 Small Steps

This 60-step manual assumes that you are an experienced analyst and that you are accustomed to providing the kind of information needed to support police operations. This means that:

  1. You use modern computing and know how to access and manipulate comprehensive databases.
  2. You know how to use software to map crime, to identify hot spots, and to relate these to demographic and other data.
  3. You routinely produce charts showing weekly or monthly changes in crime at departmental and beat level, perhaps to support CompStat-style operations.
  4. You are accustomed to carrying out analyses into such topics as the relationship between the addresses of known offenders and local outbreaks of car theft and burglary.
  5. You may have carried out some before-and-after evaluations of crackdowns, such as on residential burglaries or car thefts.
  6. You have some basic knowledge of statistics and research methodology such as is provided by an undergraduate social science degree.

The manual builds on this experience to prepare you for a different analytic role as a key member of a problem-solving team. Indeed, the latest writings on problem-oriented policing see crime analysts as central to this new way of policing communities. These writers argue that many of the weaknesses of current practice result from the insufficient involvement of well-trained crime analysts at each stage of the problem-solving process.

The manual prepares you for this new role by providing you with a basic knowledge of problem-oriented policing and the related fields of environmental criminology and situational crime prevention. You cannot adequately function as a problem-solving crime analyst without being conversant with these fields. Nor can you fill this role without rethinking your job, and the early sections of the manual explain how to take a more proactive approach. You cannot simply wait for your police colleagues to come to you with requests for information. Instead, you must take the initiative at every stage of the project in defining the scope of the problem-solving effort, in trying to analyze the causes of the problem, in helping to find an effective response, and in setting up the project so that it can be evaluated and the police can learn from the results. This means that you must be an integral member of the problem-solving team, that you must explore sources of information and data well beyond those that you normally use in your work, that you must stick with a particular project much longer than you normally would and, finally, that you will share the credit for its success, or the disappointment for its failure, equally with the other members of the team.

The manual assumes that analysts who take on this new role are interested in contributing to the development of their profession. Assisted by vastly improved data-bases and powerful computing hardware and software, crime analysis is on the verge of becoming an exciting new specialty. Indeed, it has already begun to attract a cadre of well-trained and highly motivated professionals who are vital to the development of policing in the 21st century. You can make your contribution by communicating the results of your work in professional meetings and in the journals of your profession. By doing so, you will not only help your profession and policing in general, but you will become a more informed and valuable resource to your own force.

The manual is short enough to get through in a weekend. It would be hard work and probably worth doing, but it was not designed to be read and then shelved. Instead, we hope that you will find it to be an indispensable reference source that you will keep near your desk, consulting it whenever needed in the course of a problem-solving project. This is why it is designed to be robust, allowing for continuous use. When open at a particular step it is designed to lie flat on your desk so that you can consult it easily when working at your computer.

We have arranged the steps to follow logically one from another, in line with the SARA model (Scanning, Analysis, Response and Assessment), though each is self-contained and deals with a specific topic. This should make it unnecessary for you to leaf through the manual, jumping from place to place, when dealing with a particular topic. To get the best out of the manual you should be thoroughly familiar with the list of contents and you should have browsed through sections that interest you to get an idea of the coverage. But you need only study a particular step when you have an immediate need for the information it contains. In any case, this is the best way to learn: to seek and apply information when you have a practical need for it.

In some cases, we do deal with a particular topic in more than one place. For example, Step 12 provides a general introduction to the concept of displacement, while Steps 48 and 49 explain how to check for various forms of displacement at the evaluation stages. The combined glossary and index at the end of the manual should help you find where a topic is mentioned in more than one place.

We use examples from other countries as well as from the United States. We sought the best examples to make our point, so even if the context is foreign, the principles are universal. We hope this diversity of ideas stimulates creative thought: "Could that approach be adapted to this problem? How could we do it?"

We have not referenced the manual as fully as an academic publication for several reasons. We have already tried to distill the essentials of the literature at each step. We also doubt that busy crime analysts will have much time for academic reading. Lastly, few of you will have ready access to the specialized libraries that hold this material. But occasionally you will need to know more about a topic, and at each step we identify key articles or books that you should be able to obtain more easily. Where possible, we have chosen those that are accessible on the Web. If you need help with references, feel free to email one of us at the addresses given earlier. We would also be glad to receive any comments on the manual, especially suggestions for improvement, which could be useful if we prepare later editions. Most important, please don't be shy about suggesting your own analyses for inclusion!

The Home Office and the British Police

As explained in the Acknowledgements, we have developed this manual from an earlier version that we prepared for the Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science at University College London.We have removed British terms and spelling and have replaced many of the British examples with American ones. But you will still find many references to things British. In particular you will see frequent mention of the Home Office, which is equivalent to the U.S. Department of Justice. It has overall responsibility for matters relating to crime and justice in England and Wales, including the police. There are only 43 police forces in England and Wales (for a population of about 50 million), so the forces are much larger than most American police departments. There is also much more uniformity among British police forces in policies, rank structures, equipment, and deployment. This is partly due to the oversight provided by the Home Office (which provides 51 percent of each force's budget) and regular inspections by Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary. The Home Office also funds a great deal of research on crime and criminal justice and has its own large research department that publishes many studies of direct, practical relevance to police. Recently, it has sponsored much work on problem-oriented policing, including the original version of this manual.