Monday, February 24, 2014

Eat, breathe, and sleep the 60 Steps

One of the most useful things a crime analyst can do for their department is to become a problem solver. What I mean is that crime analysts should be the first ones to identify crime problems in the community they serve. While being a clarion and sounding the alarm is important, a crime analyst becomes far more useful when they not only identify a crime problem, but they help shape the strategy to solve it. In fact, a whole policing methodology has developed from this idea. That methodology is called Problem Oriented Policing.

But just what is Problem Oriented Policing? Professor Herman Goldstein described it this way:
“Problem-oriented policing is an approach to policing in which discrete pieces of police business (each consisting of a cluster of similar incidents, whether crime or acts of disorder, that the police are expected to handle) are subject to microscopic examination (drawing on the especially honed skills of crime analysts and the accumulated experience of operating field personnel) in hopes that what is freshly learned about each problem will lead to discovering a new and more effective strategy for dealing with it. Problem-oriented policing places a high value on new responses that are preventive in nature, that are not dependent on the use of the criminal justice system, and that engage other public agencies, the community and the private sector when their involvement has the potential for significantly contributing to the reduction of the problem. Problem-oriented policing carries a commitment to implementing the new strategy, rigorously evaluating its effectiveness, and, subsequently, reporting the results in ways that will benefit other police agencies and that will ultimately contribute to building a body of knowledge that supports the further professionalization of the police.”
One thing I really want to accomplish with my posts this year is to provide guidance for those crime analysts that may have been placed in the job with little or no formal training. When I was planning the series I contacted a number of crime analysts about my idea. I was really shocked by the number of responses I got from crime analysts who said that they never received formal training when they started their career. I even had one that told me she was working in a clerical position in her department and one day her Chief walked in and told her she was now her agency’s crime analyst! While this isn’t the best way to bring a crime analyst on board, it is sometimes a reality.
It is my belief that becoming a problem solving crime analyst is one of the most important things an analyst can do to make a difference at the agency where they work. Identifying (scanning), analyzing, formulating a response and then assessing your effectiveness is the SARA model which is the heart of Problem Oriented Policing.
Ronald Clark and John Eck wrote a book for the University College London’s Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science. The book was titled Become a Problem Solving Crime Analyst in 55 Small Steps. This book was later revised and slightly expanded for US law enforcement as Crime Analysis for Problem Solvers in 60 Small Steps.
Regardless of which version you prefer, you really need to get one of these books. In the welcome or “Read This First” section of the book it has this statement:
“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.”
It then goes on to list a number skills that an “experienced” crime analyst has. If you’re a new crime analyst or haven’t mastered all (or any) that list of skills don’t let this warning scare you away. There is still a lot this book has to offer you. In fact, very few of those skills are needed to digest the 60 steps.
To show you how important I think the 60 Steps are to crime analysis, back in 2009 (and again in 2012) I went through each of the 60 Steps in a series of posts here on The Crime Analyst’s Blog. You can go through those posts here.
Here’s one of the best things about the 60 Steps. You can get the book free as download or even order a bound copy for free. There is also an online version. I believe that every crime analysis unit should have a copy of this book and every crime analyst should read it.
This brings up a related tip, as a crime analyst you need to set aside a regular part of your workweek for professional reading. Shut down the email client, turn down the ringer on the phone and shut your office door if you have to but spend time learning the craft of crime analysis. If you need something to read the Problem Oriented Policing Center’s website has plenty of great material to keep you busy and it’s all completely free.
What are you waiting for?

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