Crime analyst is department’s hub

Cara Steele, left, with Police Lt. Andrew Copeland.

Keizer Patrol Division Supervisor Lt. Andrew Copeland describes the city’s Crime Analyst, Cara Steele, as “the hub” for the police department in fighting crime. Every section of the department relies on her work and nearly every piece of important criminal data in the region crosses her desk on a daily basis.

Steele’s primary focus is supporting the department’s Problem-Oriented Policing philosophy, which was recently featured in Keizertimes. That breaks down into various inter-department and state-and-local partnerships which she leverages to do her job.

She has been in the profession for more than 20 years in police departments from Temple, Texas to Salem, and said Keizer is not that different from the metropolitan areas she’s worked in, in the sense that she’s in near-constant communication with local and county officials all over the state the same way she once coordinated with precincts in Salem.

“The data set is often smaller, but the principles are the same,” she said.

Crime analysts use data and intelligence to essentially predict where and when a crime is most likely to occur, helping officers to be in the right place at the right time to not only catch offenders, but to prevent crime.

“Some of it is tucking stuff in the back of my head and pulling it out at the right time,” she said. “But it’s also about looking at a lot of different sources and putting things together and then working with the officers who are out talking to the people.”

Steele meets with the patrol division every morning, listens to the officers about what they are seeing and hearing, reads police reports, watches surveillance video, assists detectives in their investigations, goes on patrol with officers at times, and helps the department collect the evidence and information they need to successfully take a case to the district attorney for prosecution.

“That’s just what she does in the first 15 minutes of her day,” said Copeland.

On a practical level, she asks a lot of questions all day long, such as: “Do we have known offenders in a specific area? What is their (method of operation) and could this be linked to them? Do we have surveillance information?”

She combines this with at data from surrounding jurisdictions in order to track individuals and criminal trends, and according to Copeland it’s been very successful. He cited the department’s ability to stop the recent trend of mailbox thefts as one example.