In 2011, the Lodi Police Department was developing strategies that they hoped would combat the sharp rise in gang violence within the city. One of those strategies was Dale Miller.
Lodi Police Chief Mark Helms hired Miller, who spent nearly 30 years as a patrol officer and sergeant with the department, as the department’s crime analyst. His job was to study crimes, identify trends and provide officers with enough information to become proactive instead of reactive.
Within only a few months, gang crime in Lodi started to decline.
Two years later, Miller is still using information to help officers identify and fight developing crime trends.
Burglaries, auto thefts and repeat offenders are just a few problems Lodi is facing. And with Miller’s help, officers are gaining more tools that allow them to be at the right place at the right time.
Dale Miller sat down with News-Sentinel reporter Kristopher Anderson to answer a few questions about being a crime analyst.
What is crime analysis?
I gather patterns. I recognize that there are repeat suspects in certain areas or identify certain areas that are being hit hard. When you’re working a shift, you only see a snapshot of what’s going on. I’ll read every single report, so I get a big-picture idea. I summarize everything that officers are doing on their shifts and put it into a big-picture report for them so they have a better idea of what’s going on.
How does crime analysis today compare to when you were an officer?
It was not as complex as this. We would know that the gang activity was flaring up, maybe at Hale Park. But the information I put out is dates, times, so I can tell that maybe Friday night or Saturday night is a peak period between these hours. We’ve never had that before. You knew what was going on based on your observations, but you didn’t know what was going on during other shifts or your days off.
Give an example of how crime analysis has helped solve a crime.
We were getting hit with commercial burglaries six or seven months ago. So I was preparing bulletins on those, and based on that we were able to put cars out where we were getting hit the heaviest. Based on that, we were able to catch a window smash burglary in progress. We’ve had some successes with this.
What are the most alarming trends you’ve seen since you became a crime analyst?
Property crime and probably repeat offenders. From what I used to see when I was working, if you had a parole violation, the parole violator would be off the streets for six to nine months. Now, we’re arresting the same parolees three times in a month for a parole violation.
Auto theft is one of our major crimes. It’s literally out of control. What I’m seeing is it’s a lot of the same people.
Do you study specific crimes or identify trends?
I mostly study trends. Officers will come to me and say they have this type of crime, this type of suspect. Is there anything you can find out? But the majority of my duties are general crime trends.
Give an example of how this has helped fight crime.
Our gang unit is very good about knowing what’s going on. But there was some stuff they didn’t know because it would happen on their time off, or patrol would handle (it). I was compiling everything and giving them more detailed information. I’ll compile all the burglaries from the prior month and look for the same (main objectives). So if they pick somebody up, then they can match them up and they can close cases.
What is the future of crime analysis?
From some of the articles I’ve read, it’s predictive policing — based on the past, where are they going to hit in the future? It you relied just on numbers, that would be great. But when you add the human factor, you’re throwing people in there who are under the influence of drugs and that’s going to skew your numbers all over the place because you can’t predict what those people are going to do. It’s about giving more specific directions to officers on the streets.
And you’ve been able to do that?
I think so. Our gang crimes have really diminished. We have a lot less shooting than we had a couple years ago. So we are being successful with that.
Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.