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
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
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
"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