By Seth Daniel
Whether it’s a string of trash barrel thefts, a pattern of housebreaks, or connecting with other police departments to apprehend dangerous criminals, crime analysts have come a long way on the local level and Everett has been a pioneer in using this new technology to fight local crime.
The Everett Police Department employs two full-time crime analysts, Melissa Trzepacz and Lauren Mondshein, who help police routinely get information on everything from the most serious crimes to the more mundane infractions. Using computers and technology and connections with other analysts around the area, they are able to fish out patterns and provide information to officers in real time while they’re in the field.
A prime example was last year when there was a string of home burglaries where the motive was the same every time – push in an air conditioner and grab valuables near the window, usually when the homeowners were sleeping.
Detectives huddled on the matter after several robberies, but it wasn’t a closed circle. Sitting beside the officers were Trzepacz and Mondshein. As detectives continued to work the case, the two analysts took information given to them and figured out a pattern.
“We found a pattern going across the city,” said Mondshein. “When you looked at it on a map, it was a line. We ended up getting the officers in that area information about where we thought something might happen.”
The result, after some good police and analyst work, was an arrest and the end to the breaks.
“That happens because we sit with the detectives,” said Trzepacz. “A lot of departments the analysts are herded in a corner. We work with the detectives and speak with them and can advise them if things look valuable in terms of information…In a nutshell, we look to help officers do their jobs as efficiently and safely as possible.”
While the job has little to do with what people might see on television in the ‘CSI’ series, it does have a lot to do with following trends using technology and advising the police about how to intelligently allocate resources. If there have been numerous robberies in one area, or along one bus line, chances are there might be another in that location – and so police can be ready before the next event happens.
“It’s really about being more proactive to crime,” said Trzepacz.
Trzepacz came on as the first analyst in the Everett Police Department six years ago, and at first, she said, no one knew how she could be useful.
“When I started this unit, I had no real training in the field,” she said. “I’m self taught. I never got a lot of demands for help from the department because we were one of the first departments around here to have a crime analyst. They didn’t know what to do with me. I began looking at the crime reports from Everett and from the surrounding areas and issuing them bulletins and alerts. As our toolbox expanded, people started to see the value in what we were doing.”
Nowadays, they have the cell phones and e-mails of every officer on the department, and Mondshein provides e-mail briefings three times a week to all officers – which is important because police in Everett work four days on and four days off. When they come back, they already know from the briefings what has transpired in terms of crime.
Some of their work has been more on the intelligence end, once creating a centralized map of suspected gang members for members of the gang unit – who were all working on separate cases and weren’t able to see the bigger picture of interconnectedness.
“They all had investigations and were working on them separately, but they were not talking with each other,” said Trzepacz. “We decided to get all that information into a central document for everyone to see. Those in the gang unit were really able to use it.”
Added Mondshein, “Officers are zoomed in a few levels and to a specific area. We are zoomed out and can see everything that’s happening in the city.”
They have even taken on special assignments from the City, tracking the theft of City trash barrels once when there was a spike of about 20 thefts in one month. And naturally, a pattern emerged which they were able to share.
Beyond that has been a growing network of analysts who have sparked a greater level of cooperation between neighboring departments. While police departments in the area have always worked together, many times information sharing was unheard of. Even though criminals rarely stop their criminality at a City line, police often were stopping their investigations at those lines.
That has changed, Trzepacz and Mondshein said, as more analysts in neighboring communities have been hired. With more analysts, a state and international organization has taken root and through that, a strong partnership of sharing information has developed.
“It’s no longer just looking at a robbery here and wondering if it was related to a robbery here last month when, in fact, it was related to a robbery in Chelsea one hour ago,” said Trzepacz. “There was a robbery in Chelsea recently and we had a pictured of the suspect from their analyst in minutes. We sent it out to all of the officers. That didn’t happen before…You never feel like you’re alone. You can always get a starting platform from other people who are analysts.”
And whether it’s graffiti popping up throughout the city, the locations of overdoses, hot spots for gun crimes or even dog licenses – the Everett crime analysts can track it, and probably already have.