What Public Safety Analysts Want

We’ve spoken to public safety analysts across various law enforcement agencies throughout America. One of the biggest challenges they face is fellow team members not having a clear understanding on the purpose of the analyst.

This then leads to another one of the biggest roadblocks to gathering useful intelligence - agencies and personnel not sharing information.

While having data threads tangled across multiple systems and tools is one reason for a lack of results, it also does nothing to help with public safety!

So what does a crime analyst really do?

According to the IACA (International Association of Crime Analysts), Public Safety Analysts help solve crime in five key ways:

“- Finding series, patterns, trends, and hotspots as they happen
- Researching and analyzing long-term problems
- Providing information on demand
- Developing and linking local intelligence
- Ensure your department has a positive reputation within the community”

How can data monitoring tools help?

Analysts say it’s great to have a bird’s eye view of all their searches at one time.

With data monitoring tools, analysts can build a complex search using their analytical experience, then a patrol officer can simply log in and look at the dashboard to get the intelligence they need.

Having an overview of your searches on one dashboard allows you to get a snapshot of what is happening, so you know where to drill down further for the details.

How can analysts better monitor  open source intelligence (OSINT)?

Context is often an issue when trying to derive meaningful intelligence from OSINT. By working together with other intelligence operatives, departments and agencies, you will have more information and contextual analysis - helping you understand the bigger picture.

Working hand-in-hand with patrol officers is also integral to maximizing value from OSINT.

We asked analysts what they could be equipped with in order to do their job better.

OSINT changes every day, so tools need to be constantly updated too. Analysts say they want to have more input into the development of tools and features, and be regularly updated on new releases and how they are useful. Oftentimes, they find that there isn’t any chatter about new stuff coming up, or customer support doesn’t check in often enough. This additional support can be a huge help to prompt uses for the tool, brainstorm ideas on how to harness the value of open source intelligence, ideas for terminology & hashtags, and making the most of upcoming events.

Some of the top use cases for law enforcement to monitor OSINT were:
- Finding witnesses
- Reviewing profiles and activities of suspects
- Reviewing profiles and victims/witnessing
- ‘Tip-offs’ for crimes or emergencies
- Crime prevention
- Online sales of stolen property

Analysts often wear many hats in their role, so they need a dynamic tool that can handle a wide range of requests. Plus, agencies want to get more bang for their buck. So if a tool can be considered for various use cases within multiple departments, then it’s definitely a worthwhile investment!

For example, PIO’s can also benefit from monitoring open source intelligence. They can keep an eye on what bloggers and the media are saying about police activity, as well as current events and social issues in the wider community. If something looks more crime-related it can be passed on to the crime analyst. On the flipside of that, when an analyst detects a crisis situation, they can pass the intelligence on to the PIO for PR purposes.

Broader use cases for monitoring OSINT:
- Finding supporting evidence
- Monitoring public opinion
- Monitoring large events
- Anticipating protests and political unrest
- Reviewing video or images to find witnesses/assistance from the Public
- Gathering visual data for enhanced situational awareness
- Community/Citizen awareness
- Background checks for job candidates
- VIP protection

A lot of the feedback we got had to do with better utilizing tools. In-depth training, for both intelligence analysts and patrol officers, can go a long way in helping with this. I also means analysts can use their analytical experience to set up complex searches and filters, then a patrol officer can simply log in and find the information they need on the dashboard with ease.

Of course, more tools, staff and other resources are always a huge bonus!

Further Reading:

Thank you to all the analysts who gave feedback that contributed to this article. You can read further articles that informed the above here:
- http://www.iaca.net/dc_meet_an_analyst.asp?analyst=2
- http://www.iaca.net/dc_analyst_role.asp
- https://www.gchq.gov.uk/features/day-life-serious-crime-analyst
- http://criminaljusticeschoolinfo.com/legal-justice-news/2013/03/do-you-have-what-it-takes-to-be-a-crime-analyst-12313/
- https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2006/may/arias050506
- http://www.owlguru.com/day-in-life-of-intelligence-analysts/
- https://uwm.edu/news/three-options-to-study-crime-analysis-at-uwm/

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