Amanda Head turns numbers into narratives.
She’s a crime analyst with the Dunwoody Police Department. In her job, she collects and analyzes crime data and prepares statistical crime reports for other officers to pinpoint areas where crimes are likely to occur.
“I look at what [crimes] occurred the day before and look at trends like entering autos or burglaries, and connect with other local analysts to compare across the board,” she said.
She recalled one incident where officers caught two burglars she helped link to many other open burglary cases in Dunwoody and surrounding cities. “Big win for me after only being on the job for about eight months,” Head said.
In Brookhaven, Dunwoody, Sandy Springs and Atlanta, analysts such as Head help police departments predict and try to prevent future crime using data from past crimes.
“Analyses of trends, patterns, and hot spots provide law enforcement officials with the who, what, when, where, how and why of emerging crime in the community,´ Brookhaven crime analyst Kathy Esque said in an email. “Data analyzed can be used to develop effective tactics and strategies, interceding as soon as possible, preventing victimization and reducing crime.”
Sandy Springs Crime Analyst Pat Graham provided this example of how analysts work to prevent crime: “We see a suspect likes to break into cars every Wednesday at lunch time in the 5000 block of Roswell Road,” Graham said. “Patrols actually look for this suspect during this time frame and location.”
Atlanta police Lt. Peter Ries said officers can check crime data from their patrol cars. A computer program called PredPol provides up-to-date information and predicts crime on an ongoing basis, he said.
“It’s an additional tool that helps us,” Ries said, noting the program doesn’t replace the need for the tactical crime analysis unit he leads, which includes eight sworn officers, a sworn supervisor and three civilian analysts.
Head said she’s been interested in criminals’ mindsets and their activities since she was about 10 years old. She’s a civilian employee who wants to help officers from her desk inside the department. She jokes that she doesn’t have the “guts” needed to hit the streets and police the community as a sworn officer.
Head earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology from the University of West Georgia in 2009, and started with Dunwoody police in 2011. She became the crime analyst in February 2014, and then attended four classes over the course of a year at California State University for certification.
Crime analysts describe their statistics-based jobs as exciting. Esque said she likes her role in investigations because she gets to see an entire case through from lead to conclusion.
“As an officer, you don’t often get to see what happens after the arrest,” said Esque, who switched careers from accounting to law enforcement. “The entire case develops right in front of me and I do love doing it.”
Esque said that her accounting background led her to the data side of law enforcement. In her first law enforcement job, as a jailer in Newton County, other officers would ask her to “pull numbers.” She moved from working in the jail from 2007 to 2009 to earning her crime analyst and intelligence certification in 2013. She joined Brookhaven police in January as the department’s first crime analyst.
And she’s already seen crimes solved.
“Two serial armed robbery suspects have been identified, one has been arrested and charged and warrants have been obtained on the other,” Esque said. “A serial burglary suspect has been identified, arrested and charged.”
Sandy Springs’ crime analyst unit includes a civilian crime analyst manager and two crime analysts (one sworn officer and one civilian), department spokesman Sgt. Ron Momon said. Atlanta’s team also includes a mix of civilians and sworn officers.
Ries said applications for crime analysis jobs often come from people with backgrounds in statistics. “They could have worked in private industry, but they applied with the APD,” Ries said.
One Atlanta analyst transferred his experience in working with the federal government to analyzing crime data for Atlanta, Ries said.
Ries said over the course of his career, which started in Atlanta in 2003, he has grown to appreciate the benefit to seeing how crime affects the entire city. He said when working with narcotics units in just one of the six zones patrolled by Atlanta police, he stayed focused on that particular area.
“It’s really opened my eyes to different issues across the city,” Ries said. “It’s a larger challenge than just the zone. I like trying to help the zone commanders and the chiefs see where the crime is and as a team reevaluate and fight crime to make the community safer.”