Crime analyst Sandra Bibby (photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Crime analysts puts ‘puzzle pieces’ together to assist police officers

This desk work is ‘as important as a police officer’s on the street’

When a career criminal moves to Red Deer, Sandra Bibby is tipped off by other police detachments.

If a series of local break-ins starts happening, Bibby analyses computer data from many sources, including parole or probation officers, to see if this guy could have committed these crimes.

If the information she uncovers begins pointing in his direction, Bibby will flag him as a potential suspect to local police officers.

While the Red Deer RCMP must still gather evidence through surveillance, search warrants and other tactics, at least officers have a place to start, said Insp. Gerald Grobmeier, of the Red Deer RCMP detachment.

He calls the desk work that Bibby and the city’s two other civilian crime analysts do in focusing on persons, places and behaviors, “just as important as a police officer’s (work) on the street.”

Crime analysts have had a role in many high-profile local police cases, including the recent seizure of 29 firearms and other stolen property that resulted in 200 charges against a man and a woman.

Bibby is a municipal employee who’s been a criminal intelligence analyst for the City of Red Deer since 2011. While police officers see only part of the picture, crime analysts try to get the general overview, looking for larger-scope patterns and links, said Bibby, who has degrees in strategic studies and psychology.

She feels the most important aspect is keeping her mind open to all possibilities and avoiding pre-determined thinking while searching for links and relationships.

Red Deer is a well-situated city that gets a lot of out-of-town criminals from larger centres and smaller towns dropping in to steal stuff they can later take back and sell, said Grobmeier.

Vulnerable people who struggle with homelessness or mental health problems are also drawn to Red Deer because of its easier access to social agencies. They usually don’t break the law out of criminal intent, but circumstances, said Grobmeier, who doesn’t believe they belong in the justice system.

Bibby did a background analysis of one man who had 150 encounters with the police. She discovered that many of his infractions were break-ins to heated spaces where he intended to sleep.

Bibby flagged this information for police officers, who got the PAC (Police and Crisis) Team involved to connect this homeless person with housing and psychiatric care.

Grobmeier said sometimes these people end up back on the street. “We can deal with one person, maybe 100 times a year. But if we can reduce this to 15 times a year, then we’ve had some success.”

Bibby gets to know a lot about the small group of known local offenders. She’s involved in projects that target break-ins, nuisance complaints, and also does warrants and condition checks on offenders. Through gleaning daily emails from police detachments across Canada, she keeps local officers apprised of crime trends and advisories.

“Sandra tries to point us in the right direction,” said Grobmeier — and he believes she does it with a high degree of accuracy.

Bibby admitted she enjoys working in a “high-stress, action-packed environment… I like putting the pieces of the puzzle together.”

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