Tracking Criminal Patterns Analysis Unit Passes Information to Police

Article excerpt

Tucked away in a back room at Jacksonville police headquarters

is a team of crimefighters who don't carry guns or badges but

still hunt thugs and thieves.

Their main weapon: the computer. Their ammunition: loads of

information gathered daily by police about crimes and criminals

in Jacksonville.

They are the members of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office crime

analysis unit, which primarily tracks crime patterns and trends

and passes the information on to police. Their successes

include:

In 1995, a sex crimes detective concerned about several rapes

on the Northside asked crime analysis for help. An analysis

found a series of rapes committed in similar ways by someone

matching the same description. The detective received a list of

possible suspects, one of whom was later arrested and charged as

the Northside rapist.

About 18 months ago, a crime analyst tracked a string of

burglaries at a strip mall on Arlington Road. He was able to

give police information such as how and when the burglaries were

occurring, and a stakeout by officers led to an arrest.

In May, a crime analyst noticed a trend of flimflam ripoffs on

the Westside being committed against mostly Navy personnel who

were accosted in business parking lots. A suspect description

and other related information was developed, and a patrol

officer spotted the suspect as he was about to rip off another

victim. About 20 cases were cleared.

About the same time, a woman was robbing Westside businesses. A

crime analyst studied links in the robberies, put out a bulletin

with a suspect description and other related information, and

the woman was arrested.

Chief of Detectives Rick Seibler said the crime analysis unit

helps police supervisors identify hot spots of crime so officers

can be deployed where they are needed. Police can also keep an

eye out for suspects using common descriptions provided by crime

analysis, and similar crimes can be tied together once an arrest

is made.

"Without them, you'd be back in the dark ages," Seibler said.

"The information they provide is absolutely essential for us to

do our jobs. You have to have some measure of where the crime

patterns are. You need to know where your market is."

The unit includes a senior analyst, seven other analysts and

three clerks. It has existed for at least 15 years at the

Sheriff's Office and was staffed by police officers until four

years ago when they were replaced by civilians, said Renea

Chandler, senior crime analyst.

Crime analysts track homicides, robberies, sex offense,

burglaries, auto thefts and juvenile arrests. They spend up to

half their time entering information from police reports into

computer data bases, which are used to search for crime

patterns. …

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