Crime analysis: The Criminal Justice System of the United States

Governments all over the world use a criminal justice system to deal with crime and punishment. Most countries have a single, centralized institution that represents the entire system.

Criminal Justice System

In the United States, there is no single criminal justice system, but rather a network of agencies and processes. The network consists of agencies from federal, state, and special jurisdictional levels. Special jurisdictional levels include territorial courts and military courts. Although criminal laws may vary for each level, they are all based on the US constitution.

Jurisdiction and Main Systems

The jurisdiction that is in charge determines how the criminal justice system works in a particular area. Jurisdictions in charge are federal, state, city, county, tribal government, or military installation. Each jurisdiction has different agencies, laws, and methods on how to manage the criminal justice process.

The main systems are at the state and federal levels.

  • State Criminal Justice System. Handles all crimes committed within state boundaries or has state involvement.

  • Federal Criminal Justice System. Handles all crimes that happened on federal property in any state or are national in scope.

Cases that fall under the purview of the federal justice system include:

  • Espionage.

  • Treason.

  • The assassination of high-ranking government officials.

The criminal justice systems for special jurisdictions follow the same process. For instance, cases involving armed forces personnel fall under the purview of the military justice system.

The Components of the US Criminal Justice System

The criminal justice system has five distinct yet coordinated parts that function as a whole. The goal of the system is to make offenders pay for and repent their criminal activities while giving recompense to their victims.

These components all play a vital role in the criminal justice process:

Law Enforcement

Law enforcement officers are members of the police force, sheriff's office, military police, and others. They handle reports of crimes that occur in their jurisdiction. Officers gather/secure evidence and investigate crimes. They may conduct arrests on offenders, testify at court proceedings, and do follow-up investigations.

The Prosecution

Prosecutors are lawyers representing the federal or state government throughout the court process, not the victims. They question witnesses, present evidence in court, and decide on plea-bargain negotiations. Prosecutors review all the evidence brought by law enforcement and decide whether to file charges or drop the case. They are present from the first time the accused appears in court until sentencing or acquittal happens. 

Defense Attorneys

The defendant either hires defense attorneys or the court assigns one to defend the accused against the case filed by the government. If a prosecutor represents the state, the defense attorney represents the defendant.

The Courts

Judges run the courts and ensure that everyone observes the rule of law while the court is in session. They decide if an offender is fit for release before trial. Judges oversee trials and sentence offenders. They can also accept or reject plea-bargain arrangements.

supreme court


Correction officers are in charge of supervising convicted felons while in jail or prison. They are also tasked to supervise offenders who are out on probation or parole. Correction officers make sure that the facilities holding convicted offenders are secure. They also oversee the release process of prisoners.

Crime Analysis and The Justice System

Crime analysis is one of the most effective tools available that supports law enforcement. The primary purpose of this method is to identify and analyze patterns or trends in crime. Information on these trends can help law enforcement agencies effectively manage their resources. Crime analysis also assists detectives in the identification and apprehension of suspects.

Another critical role that crime analysis plays is on the formulation of crime prevention strategies. Devising solutions to disorder is no easy task, which is why quantitative social science data analysis is a vital part of the process. 

There are three types of crime analysis:

Administrative Crime Analysis

This type handles long-range comparisons for the administrative side of law enforcement. Tasks for administrative crime analysis include providing geographic, economic, and law enforcement information. Recipients of this information include police management, citizen groups, city officials. Comparisons are either quarterly, semi-annually, or annually.

Strategic Crime Analysis

The purpose of strategic analysis is to provide police services more efficiently and effectively. This purpose is fulfilled by matching demands for service with service delivery. It identifies unusual community conditions and provides information that assists with resource allocation. Resources include beat configuration and patrol schedules. It also deals with operational strategies that seek solutions to on-going issues by eliminating recurring problems and assisting in community policing. 

Tactical Crime Analysis

Immediate criminal offenses fall under the purview of tactical crime analysis. Its primary purpose is to promote quick response to recent criminal activities such as robberies and burglaries. This type of analysis provides information that assists law enforcement operations in identifying crime trends and arresting offenders.

Machine Learning in Crime Analysis

machine learning

Checking for patterns in criminal activity is tedious work for law enforcement officers. They have to go through piles of paperwork or evidence manually to predict and prevent crimes. The Justice Department and the National Institute of Justice launched an initiative that supports "predictive policing." Predictive policing is an empirical and data-driven approach to crime prevention.

Advances in machine learning are helping crime analysts find patterns faster and more accurate. A collaboration between MIT and the Cambridge Massachusetts police department developed a machine learning method called "series finder." Series finder uses an algorithm that tries to construct the "modus operandi" (MO) of a criminal. Series finder uses data to grow a pattern of crime, starting from a "seed" of two crimes or more.

For instance, if the program were to create a pattern on burglaries, it needs to pull data from numerous sources. These sources may include the day of the week, means of entry, and geographic proximity to other reported break-ins.

Machine learning is an essential tool for predictive policing now and in the future. Police can immediately prevent crimes based on emerging patterns or identified trends.