PALM BAY, Fla. – Lt. Lance Fisher's best leads usually come from the corner office in the back hallway of the Palm Bay Police Department. That's where the crime analysts sit.
"You have two ladies and that's all they do, they just absorb all this information, they're like two sponges," Fisher said. "I'll walk in the hallway and they'll say, 'Hey, Lt., come in here real quick, I got this. I just got the vehicle and I know who these guys are.' These ladies get this information over and over and over again all day and they absorb all the information."
Fisher said the analysts have a direct line to all officers within the department -- out on the streets and inside the building.
All of those officers feed every tip they get to the analysts, who, in turn, plot, chart, and log the information to generate suspects and leads.
"They're the hub of our agency," Fisher said. "All the information that you have your officers dealing with every day, dealing with the same people over and over, we have our crime analysis unit here in the hub of our agency, any officer has direct contact. I think it's important that as we get the information that we put the information back out."
Fisher said the analysts create their own maps, showing juveniles who are on probation or sex offenders who've registered. They connect the dots for officers searching for a suspect or responding to a call.
One of the analysts, who did not want to be identified, showed News 6 anchor Erik von Ancken a map she'd made.
"So that we can send them (officers) to directed areas, like where you see a trend," the analyst said. "We want our officers to focus on that area versus an area where we're not really seeing an issue."
While News 6 was interviewing Fisher, a report of a suspicious person popped up on the analyst's screen. She immediately flagged down her lieutenant.
"Hey lieutenant, we have a suspicious person in Knecht Park, a white male with gray hood," the analyst said.
She then did a search of all recent suspicious persons, their locations, and emailed out the information and the map to all officers in the field.
"So let's say there's a vehicle burglary coming in in this area, they know all of the juveniles who are in the area who have a probation status, and can look for any juveniles that have a history similar to that," the analyst said.
Fisher said recently the analysts compiled tips and identified several juveniles who were suspected of burglarizing vehicles up and down the Central Florida coast. They were arrested.
"They [the crime analysts] recognize those trends, and they immediately jump on it," Fisher said. "Talking about the vehicle burglaries, they had huge bulletins boards with faces and names, they can tell you who talked to this person. Just by having all that real-time information we were able to know kind of what areas were being targeted, and what people were doing the targeting."
Fisher said car burglaries in Palm Bay have been cut in half because of intelligence from the analysts.
"For them to come in with a piece of paper and say, 'Hey, I found the stolen items, here's the suspect, all you have to do is assign that case.' That's huge," Fisher said. "Detectives aren't out there having to hit the streets, they will solve a case just by doing crime analysis."