Not long ago the City of Carlsbad Police Department noticed an increase in bicycle thefts in downtown Carlsbad Village.
The thefts may have appeared random, but to City of Carlsbad Police Department Crime Analyst Cindy Tran they appeared planned. The time of day they happened, the type of bicycle stolen — high-end beach cruisers — the places, even the days of the week all held hidden data that told Tran something about the crime and the thief.
A Police Department-wide team met with Tran and pored over the details of the thefts. The team applied a technique called analysis directed policing, which involves analyzing crime trends to predict where and when a criminal will strike next, and made a prediction about the likely time and place the thief would next appear. They placed a bicycle in the expected location as bait and then stood back and waited.
Sure enough the thief showed up at the targeted location, and when he attempted to seize the bike police seized him, putting an end to the series.
The City of Carlsbad Police Department is using some proven crime-fighting principles — such as accurate and timely intelligence, effective tactics, distribution of officers and resources, and sound follow-up and assessment — to predict when and where criminals are likely to strike again. Analysis directed policing raises these methods to a higher level, resulting in catching some criminals in the act.
“Crime analysis directed policing allows us to work smarter,” said City of Carlsbad Police Chief Gary Morrison. “It helps us to be more effective by efficiently using precious resources and taking a team approach toward problem-solving.”
The City of Carlsbad Police Department has been using the analysis directed policing team method for several years. San Diego County is a pioneer in the use of crime analysis, with nearly all of the county’s law-enforcement agencies employing some version of analysis directed policing.
Carlsbad Police Department’s team approach involves every level of the organization. The analysis directed policing team includes analysts, supervisors, officers, crime prevention specialists and the community of Carlsbad. Taking it a step further, Carlsbad police often collaborate with neighboring police departments to improve their chances of catching a criminal in the act.
“Reviewing information daily and working together as a department-wide team enables us to quickly respond to a brewing trend,” said Carlsbad Crime Analyst Tran. “Also, if a crime is happening in Carlsbad, it is probably happening throughout the county. Collaborating countywide is essential.
Analysis directed policing has helped the Police Department solve several crimes recently and prevented many more from occurring. Here are some examples:
- Oceanside and Carlsbad were both experiencing vehicle and storage unit burglaries in parking structures attached to apartment and condominium buildings. Analysts in both cities studied the dates, days of the week, times and locations of the thefts, and noted that the burglar struck in the predawn hours. The thief took small, portable items, so he or she was likely on foot and wearing a backpack. They predicted the likely time and place of the burglar’s next strike, and officers patrolled the area at the chosen time and place. At 4 a.m. on the predicted day a person matching the description was spotted milling around the predicted place. Based on the description and suspicious behavior, the officers contacted the man and he was found to be carrying burglary tools. They made the arrest, ending one burglar’s spree.
- A thief was casing Carlsbad hotels, burglarizing rooms when guests were away. Crime Analyst Tran studied the times, days of the week and locations of the occurrences, and met with the analysis directed policing team. The team studied the hotel layout, noting how the burglar entered and exited the premises. Police placed extra patrols at the thief’s favorite hotel, and informed hotel security guards about the plan and when the burglar was next likely to show up. When the guards spotted the suspected burglar roaming the hotel’s halls at the expected time, they notified Carlsbad police, who made the arrest.
- In another case, a man was robbing hotel clerks in Oceanside and Carlsbad. Analysts from the two cities collaborated to study the suspect’s behavior; they predicted the clothes the man would wear and the car he would likely drive on his next robbery. The analysis directed policing team also predicted the robber’s next likely target area and type of hotel — he favored moderately priced hotels. Then Carlsbad and Oceanside patrol teams staked out the target area and watched for a suspect matching their profile. To the thief’s surprise, when he showed up to rob his next hotel, Oceanside police caught him before he could strike.
–City of Carlsbad