Computer Crime Research Center


New Mansfield crime analyst tracks perps via computer

Date: April 21, 2008

MANSFIELD -- The first thing Beverly Lewis does when she gets to work at the Mansfield Police Department each morning is pull together recent reports on her computer to catch up on burglaries and larcenies.

She's looking to see if some of those incidents might tie in with past crimes, leading officers to a certain suspect.

"I start the reports. Then I go get my coffee ..." she said.
Since recently earning certification as a crime analyst, Lewis has set a goal of working with police officers and Neighborhood Watch groups to better identify criminal patterns.

Relatively few cities Mansfield's size can boast of having a certified crime analyst, police Chief Phil Messer said. Lewis is the only such analyst in north central Ohio.

"This is the most interesting work that I have ever done," Lewis said. "I feel like I'm no longer just part of the administrative side of the police department. I'm more of a part of the law enforcement side."

She generates pin maps and reports, using software to spot situations where prompt attention could mean catching a suspect. By acting swiftly with good data, "you can actually prevent this from happening to someone else," she said.

"I look for patterns in the days of the week, the times of day ... This gets out to officers as soon as possible."

Lewis also forwards monthly crime reports to Neighborhood Watch groups, through community policing officers, to let residents know about problems in their areas.

Patterns appear more frequently in some crimes such as burglary, she said.

"A lot of the burglaries are 'tuck-and-carry'. The suspects may not have a car. They are very likely to live in the same area the crime occurred, so burglaries occur close together," she said.

Lewis has developed a keen eye for detail, especially odd ones.

The thief in one burglary in January didn't steal the usual items -- laptop computers or cash. "The guy stole perfume, undergarments and chicken. It sounded like it had sexual overtones," she said.

Lewis mapped the location with an overlay showing addresses where sex offenders live nearby, so officers would know whether a criminal who'd chosen similar victims was living in that neighborhood.

"Some of them may never have reoffended. (But) it gives us a potential direction, or at least puts us on alert," she said.

Another puzzle currently intrigues her: the astonishing number of thefts involving video game systems.

"You would think the market for those would be saturated. Are they playing them? Are they trading them? Are they pawning them?"

Lewis said her goal is to increase the speed at which crime-tracking reports can be produced, plus improve data quality. Because the records department tends to be two or three days behind entering incidents into the computer system, the crime analyst adds some information on her own to make reports more complete.
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