Horry County police hire new analyst to help find ‘hot spots’ for crime

Published: Mar. 17, 2022 at 5:58 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - The Horry County Police Department has a new addition to their team: a crime analyst.

HCPD Chief Joseph Hill has been pushing for a crime analyst to be added to the department for years, and now he said there’s room in the budget to bring one on board.

“This is something that agencies across the region have,” Hill said. “Myrtle Beach has a crime analyst. It’s not new to law enforcement and that science is ever-evolving.”

Hill says many criminals are creatures of habit and a crime analyst will identify “hot spot” crime areas, so they can pinpoint where those crimes could likely strike next.

“We can identify those habits, whether they’re attacking the same neighborhood, committing a crime in the same time period, or if there’s a certain day,” the chief said.

Hill says “hot spot” analysis is something Horry County Police have already been doing. However, the crime analyst puts them in a position to use ‘predictive analysis’ to help prevent a crime from happening altogether.

In this role, the analyst will gather and provide information based on policing and crime trends in the community, to look at past trends and determine where criminal activity could happen next.

Part of that process includes utilizing data from 911 calls, reports and criminal records.

Hill says this type of predictive analysis will help the criminal analyst to predict the likelihood a crime is going to be committed. He added that this type of tool is critical towards helping to make neighborhoods safer.

“Whether it’s an auto break-in, a home burglary, and even a shooting in certain parts of the community where you serve. That’s just one of many duties a crime analyst will have, it’s phenomenal science,” said Hill.

The chief said he’s seen a similar approach to solving cases when he worked at a previous agency.

“I used a crime analyst to identify a burglar,” he explained. “He was committing burglaries from 11 a.m until 12:15. That’s very odd, small window of time. So why is that happening?”

Hill said the case was solved using what’s known as a predictive analysis process.

“We determined he was committing crimes on his lunch break. He was committing crimes going across another county coming into our county to commit crimes. Once we narrowed that down, we were able to set up surveillance to look for this individual and we were able to identify through phone pings a car. We actually identified the individual through a ‘trash run.’ He stole merchandise, put it in his suitcase, took it to his house, discarded the suitcase and bring the stuff into his house. Well, when he discarded the suitcase the tag was still on it from one of his burglaries. That’s just one of many examples of predictive analysis and how that can help solve crimes,” he said.

Hill said the analyst could also be used to assist with gang-related crimes and hopes in the long term that there will be additional analyst positions at each precinct.

“Because every precinct has a different crime situation going on,” he said. “That crime analyst will be able to pick up on those trends, isolate the cause and effect, and help law enforcement achieve those goals of keeping the community safe.”

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