Crime analysis has become a common feature of U.S. law enforcement agencies. According to a 2008 Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) survey, 89 percent of responding agencies reported having staff whose primary or secondary duty was crime analysis, and the number of analysts has likely increased since then.
But in light of ongoing budget woes, elected officials are asking law enforcement executives to explain how civilian positions, especially those of crime analysts, contribute to the goals and mission of policing. Law enforcement professionals want to know how they can articulate the value of crime analysts, and whether cost-benefit analysis (CBA) can help demonstrate a return on investment for these positions. To put the bottom line up front: the field has not provided many cost-benefit studies of crime analysts to date.
This paper offers guidance for police executives grappling with this issue. The first section gives an overview of the steps involved in CBA and the challenges of using this technique. The second section poses questions about crime analysts that police executives need to answer as part of conducting a CBA. The final section of the paper discusses key considerations when performing a CBA of crime analysts.