Crime data analysts help sheriff's office solve more cases

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —

Computers have changed crime fighting, and Channel 9 has learned the Orange County Sheriff's Office will upgrade a department that few people even know exists: a team of analysts who use data to solve crimes.

Deputies and detectives may make arrests, but increasingly, they get an assist from analysts like Katie Sapp, who is part of a new breed of digital detectives who scour databases and make connections that lead directly to suspects ending up in handcuffs.

Analyst Amanda Marion specializes in pawn shops and can see a file on every TV, gun and guitar pawned overnight in Orange County, Marion then searches for matches to stolen property, hoping for a hit in a case.

“That's an everyday thing,” Marion said. “I'm able to solve a crime through pawn data.”

Last fall, somebody stole $500,000 in metal from Orange County Public Schools.  Since every sale of scrap metal results in a record, specialists went to work, diving into their databases, searching for large volume metal sales.

The searches aren’t just in Orange County, but anywhere within 100 miles. And within 30 minutes, the analysts got a hit.

“That solved about 50 cases,” the unidentified analyst said.

 “As a crime analyst, we also try and prevent crimes from happening, so we look for hot spots,” said Sapp.

Analysts found one hot spot last summer in Windermere after a sudden spike in car break-ins.  With computer crime mapping, analysts identified the hot spot as public parks.

Deputies stepped up patrols and closed the case with another arrest.

Crime analysts told Channel 9 everything from information written on traffic tickets to descriptions of tattoos can end up in the department's databases, so information that once went into filing cabinets is now instantly accessible.