There is no such thing as a typical day in the life of a crime analyst, nor is it like TV. Megan Yerxa, MACJ ‘13, CACP ’13, combines data, does statistical analyses, and looks for emerging patterns to provide valuable information for detectives and officers fighting crime in the field.
Not quite satisfied with her job as a data analyst for a political marketing company, Yerxa found the MA in Criminal Justice (MACJ) program met her needs for a solid program with a great reputation in an interesting field. Night and weekend classes allowed her to continue working full time.
“The first several quarters were a transition,” she said. “I didn’t have criminal justice experience, but the more I went along and soaked up information, the more things started clicking. The faculty were very patient with me.”
The Crime Analysis Certificate Program (CACP) was not yet available when Yerxa started her master’s. When it was added to the criminal justice offerings, she jumped at the chance to add this skill to her resume.
Yerxa interned for 6 months with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives in its intel group. She gathered and analyzed data for special agents before landing her current job, while still a student, as a crime analyst at the Tacoma Police Department.
No stranger to technology, data crunching, and statistics, she finds the coursework for her crime analysis certificate to be directly applicable. Every day she uses crime mapping, incident reports, and data from 911 calls to produce valuable information for administrators and officers in the field. She enjoys her behind-the-scenes work.
“I see data analysis informing the decision of the command. They have to weigh a lot of different options, particularly officers in the field. Analysis helps them prioritize and use what they have more efficiently,” she emphasized. “When you can get down to the numbers and specifics and segment the problem rather than using a blanket approach, you can be more effective.”
Yerxa is a valuable member of Tacoma’s Child Abduction Response team. As an analyst, she has been trained to use every possible resource to respond to a child abduction. Knowing that the first few hours are critical, she relies on the tools she learned as a student: information-gathering techniques, foundational courses in criminological theory and behavior, and case studies.
“We pull from many different sources to provide information to the detectives and the officers on the street looking for the child,” she said.
Yerxa clearly enjoys her work at Tacoma PD, but the people she works with make it more worthwhile.
“The best part of my day is definitely the people,” she emphasized. “It’s a great staff, and the chief is very forward thinking and data-driven. They are able to utilize what we produce, implement solutions, and make the community a safer place.”
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Posted March 31, 2015