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What Role Does Data Play in Criminal Justice Careers?

The gathering and analysis of data is changing criminology and criminal justice jobs.

No doubt you’ve seen CSI or similar shows where criminal investigators turn to high-tech computer systems to help them solve crimes. While these shows aren’t entirely accurate, neither are they entirely fictional. The rapid advance of technology has led to the invention and implementation of new tech tools throughout the criminal justice system. In particular, the ability to gather and analyze vast amounts of data has proven quite helpful in the prevention and investigation of crime. Here are a few of the main ways those in criminology and criminal justice are using data in their day-to-day jobs.

Response Planning

What’s the most effective way to stop a criminal who’s using his or her car to flee from police? What techniques are useful in hostage situations? How can law enforcement ensure a natural disaster doesn’t lead to a spike in crime? To answer these and other questions, analysts within the criminal justice system are turning to data. By allowing analysts to find patterns between decisions and outcomes in tens of thousands of incidents, modern data computing is helping the criminal justice system develop smart plans for a wide variety of potential events.

What Role Does Data Play in Criminal Justice Careers?

Response Speed

Before computers, responding to a 911 call required physical maps. Now 911 dispatchers can geo-tag the location of calls and feed those locations straight into the systems of the police, who can then quickly respond. Data can also help police take the fastest response routes based on real-time road conditions. Plus, data on everything from flood patterns to crime patterns allow law enforcement to station resources close to the areas likeliest to require law enforcement response.

Crime Prevention

For years, those in criminology have understood that correlations between certain environmental and social situations can increase the likelihood that someone will commit a crime or that a neighborhood will become vulnerable to crime. These correlations are often complex and hard to detect, but modern data gathering and computing is making the task much easier. By analyzing vast amounts of geographically tagged data—such as truancy rates, unemployment rates, incidences of vandalism, etc.—law enforcement organizations can detect both large and subtle trends in crime patterns. They can then use this data to micro-target areas and/or people and take preventative measures before there’s even a spike in crime. Such uses of data have proven quite effective. During a Manchester, New Hampshire, pilot program, local police used advanced data analysis to institute preventative measures that resulted in a 12% reduction in robberies, a 21% reduction in burglaries, and a 32% reduction in thefts from motor vehicles.*

Criminal Identification

Using data to solve crimes is nothing new. In fact, police and crime scene investigators have used fingerprints for well over 100 years. Modern computing, however, has dramatically changed how and how quickly data like fingerprints can be used. At the most direct, law enforcement officials can now access databases containing millions of DNA profiles and fingerprints, allowing for faster and easier identification of suspects. On a more advanced level, law enforcement agencies from across the nation can input data from crime scenes into databases designed to find connections between cases. This can help law enforcement create profiles of specific criminals and narrow suspect lists.

How Can You Help Lead the Data Revolution in Criminal Justice?

Every year, our criminal justice system relies more and more on data analysis. This means we need more leaders who not only understand the potential of data analysis but know how to optimally use it. If you would like to become just such a leader, one the best choices you can make is to earn an MS in Criminal Justice Leadership and Executive Management. This specialized master’s in criminal justice is, at its core, a master’s in leadership, designed to help you become a senior criminal justice leader. It’s a type of MS in Criminal justice that’s particularly useful if you’re looking to advance your current criminal justice job.

The question is: can you find the time to earn an MS degree? Thanks to online education, you can. When you enroll in an online university, you won’t have to worry about missing work to earn your master of science. Instead, your online criminal justice degree program will give you the flexibility you need to complete your coursework at home and on a schedule designed to fit around your full-time job. It’s what has made online learning such a popular way for working professionals to earn a graduate degree.

If you want to help guide the ways data analysis is transforming the criminal justice system, an online master’s degree in criminal justice leadership can help you reach your goal.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an online MS in Criminal Justice Leadership and Executive Management degree program. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

*P. Williams, 6 Simple Ways to Help Fight Crime With Analytics, IBM Big Data and Analytics Hub, on the internet at

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,