Gilad Ben Ziv , VP Business Evangelist
May 29, 2024

Criminal Intelligence: A Deep Dive

Criminal intelligence

A recent Europol-led operation on an unprecedented international scale across 11 countries led to the arrest of 44 dangerous criminals. These suspects were part of a high-risk criminal network, considered one of the most threatening in the European Union1, which consisted of several criminal organizations that were working together to carry out large scale criminal activities in and outside the European Union. The network’s activities included drug trafficking on a massive scale across three continents, money laundering and illicit enrichment, among others. One of the key factors in the successful outcome of this operation was the strategic use of criminal intelligence, which enabled the law enforcement organizations to effectively dismantle the criminal network, which posed a significant threat to public safety.

Read on to learn about criminal intelligence and its crucial role in combating crime.

What is Criminal Intelligence?

Criminal intelligence (CRIMINT) is a vital tool in the arsenal of law enforcement agencies worldwide, playing a crucial role in monitoring, investigating, prosecuting and preventing criminal activities. It helps law enforcement understand crime patterns, trends, and the modus operandi of criminal organizations. Law enforcement can use criminal intelligence to facilitate a proactive approach that helps in combatting and disrupting crime at an early stage, as well as in effectively monitoring and investigating ongoing criminal activities.

Criminal intelligence is especially helpful in organized crime investigations, across multiple domains including counterfeiting, fraud, cybercrime, human trafficking, drug trafficking, environmental crime and more. Since criminal networks often operate with a high level of sophistication, they are challenging to investigate and prosecute. However, by using criminal intelligence, law enforcement agencies can gain valuable insights into the inner workings of these organizations, including their leadership structures, communication methods, and financial operations. This information can enable law enforcement to disrupt criminal activities at their source, leading to the dismantling of these criminal enterprises.

What is Criminal Intelligence Analysis?

Criminal intelligence analysis is a systematic approach employed by law enforcement agencies to decipher and interpret information pertaining to criminal activities. It serves as a critical tool in understanding and predicting criminal behavior, identifying patterns, and supporting decision-making processes for crime prevention and investigation. By assessing crime trends and threats, criminal intelligence analysis also aids in understanding how crimes may evolve in the future.

The criminal intelligence analysis methodology is recognized and utilized by multi-national organizations such as Interpol and Europol, as well as local law enforcement organizations and agencies throughout the world. According to the UN, “Criminal intelligence analysis is a philosophy which sets out how we can approach the investigation of crime and criminals by using the intelligence and information that we have collected concerning them. It provides techniques that structure our natural deductive powers and thought processes, the ‘natural intuition’, which proficient investigators use subconsciously all the time. It also provides tools that help us to understand the information we collect, and to communicate that understanding to others.”

The Criminal Intelligence Analysis Process

The criminal intelligence analysis process involves several crucial steps that help law enforcement agencies gather, analyze, and disseminate information to combat criminal activities. Let’s delve into these steps:

Criminal intelligence analysis cycle
  1. Direction and tasking: Initially, stakeholders define strategic goals and assign tasks to guide the investigative focus. This crucial phase ensures that all analytical efforts align with the overarching objectives, directing resources efficiently towards critical areas of inquiry.
  2. Data collection: This step involves gathering raw data related to criminal activities that might provide insights into criminal behavior, patterns and networks. Law enforcement agencies collect information from various sources, such as informants, databases, financial records and open-source materials.
  3. Evaluation of information: Analysts assess the reliability, relevance and credibility of the information collected. They consider the source, context, and potential biases to ensure that only accurate and valuable data move forward in the process.
  4. Collation of information: This step involves organizing and collating the evaluated information, in order to create a unified view of all investigation information.
  5. Analysis of intelligence: The heart of the process, analysts apply various techniques, such as link analysis, event charting, and flow analysis, to uncover hidden relationships, predict criminal activities, and understand criminal networks. This allows analysts to develop insights and gain a deeper understanding of the case.
  6. Dissemination of intelligence: The analyzed intelligence is disseminated to relevant stakeholders, including law enforcement agencies, policymakers and other security entities. Timely and accurate dissemination ensures that actionable intelligence reaches those who can act upon it effectively.
  7. Re-evaluation and request for intelligence: This step involves re-evaluating the intelligence resulting from previous steps in the criminal intelligence process, mapping out any remaining or new information gaps based on new directions, and initiating requests to obtain the new information that is needed.

The criminal intelligence analysis is an ongoing cycle, with each step informing the next. By following these steps rigorously, law enforcement agencies enhance their ability to prevent and combat criminal activities.

How Does Criminal Intelligence Analysis Assist Law Enforcement Investigations?

Criminal intelligence analysis provides a strategic advantage in law enforcement investigations, including cases involving organized crime, drug and human trafficking, and illicit markets such as counterfeit goods, pharmaceuticals, and banned wildlife products, where it aids in understanding complex criminal networks and predicting future incidents.  The following are ways in which criminal intelligence analysis can help:

  • Strategic planning: Helps in developing strategies for crime prevention, resource allocation and long-term law enforcement planning.
  • Tactical support: Offers direct support to ongoing investigations by identifying suspects and uncovering criminal networks.
  • Risk assessment: Helps assess threats and risks to public safety, allowing law enforcement to prioritize and respond effectively.
  • Problem-solving: Aids in understanding the underlying causes of crime and disorder, which can lead to more effective solutions.
  • Decision-making: Enhances decision-making, in terms of which investigation avenues to pursue, which suspects to bring in for questioning, etc., by providing evidence-based insights into criminal activities and trends.
  • Operational efficiency: Improves operational efficiency by focusing efforts on high-risk targets and areas, thus optimizing the use of resources.

By integrating criminal intelligence into their operations, law enforcement agencies can move from a reactive approach to a more proactive and preventive stance in combating crime. This not only helps in solving crimes more efficiently but also contributes to the disruption of criminal enterprises and organized crime networks before they can cause harm.

What Skills Does a Criminal Intelligence Analyst Require?

A criminal intelligence analyst is at the forefront of crime prevention and detection, and requires a diverse skill set to effectively navigate the complexities involved in intelligence analysis.

  1. Analytical skills, critical thinking, and problem-solving abilities are critical in building a broad intelligence picture from small pieces of information, determining which information to focus on, deciphering intricate patterns within vast datasets, enabling the identification of potential crime locations, and predicting criminal activities. 
  2. Technical proficiency is crucial, as analysts harness various technological tools to process and interpret data efficiently, staying abreast of advancements in data analytics and other relevant technologies.
  3. Language proficiency and regional/cultural knowledge enhance the analyst’s ability to interpret nuanced information accurately, especially in cases involving international crime syndicates or terrorist organizations.
  4. Time management and task prioritization are necessary skills that ensure the timely analysis and dissemination of critical intelligence, enabling proactive measures to prevent crime and terror and combat organized crime.

What Are the Main Challenges of Criminal Intelligence Analysis?

Criminal intelligence analysts face a myriad of challenges, stemming from the dynamic nature of criminal activities and the complexity of modern investigative landscapes:

  1. Generating real-time insights swiftly enough to aid investigations and apprehend suspects before they evade capture can be difficult.
  2. Identifying actionable leads within the vast sea of data is particularly challenging, requiring analysts to sift through mountains of information to pinpoint relevant details.
  3. Making connections between members of organized crime groups, smuggling rings, or fake pharmaceutical operations, and other criminal networks, demands a deep understanding of the intricate operations of criminal networks.
  4. The anonymity afforded by digital platforms poses a significant challenge in identifying perpetrators, as many criminal networks use anonymous accounts and transfer money through untraceable means on the blockchain, or through international controller networks (ICNs) or other systems that circumvent regulated financial institutions.  
  5. Collaboration skills are essential, as the analyst often acts as a broker between many different domains and agencies (FININT, counterterrorism, local and federal law enforcement agencies, etc.).

What Tools Are Helpful for Criminal Intelligence Analysis?

In order to mitigate and overcome the many challenges facing law enforcement in the criminal intelligence analysis process, it is critical that analysts and investigators are armed with the correct tools. These tools encompass a range of technologies and methodologies designed to streamline and accelerate intelligence gathering, analysis and decision-making processes. Key investigative analytics solutions include:

1) Decision intelligence: Decision intelligence platforms combine data fusion, AI-powered analytics and data visualization to help analysts streamline complex investigations involving sophisticated crime networks.  

  • Data fusion refers to the process of collating information from multiple sources to enhance decision-making. This may include integrating data from sources such as dark web marketplaces and other digital forums, to create a more comprehensive and accurate picture of criminal events. This capability accelerates and enhances the Collation of Information step of the criminal intelligence analysis process, as it allows data from virtually any source to be easily ingested and organized within a unified platform.
  • AI-powered analytics can help analysts process data faster and uncover hidden insights. For example, by automatically tagging predefined objects that appear in video files, analysts can classify and prioritize large volumes of video data with far greater efficiency than if they had to review the raw footage. This particularly valuable in cases involving complex crime networks and diverse unstructured data.
  • Data visualization is crucial when analyzing large volumes of criminal data, to highlight important insights and connections, and help the analyst focus on the most important data points. Presenting relevant information on link charts, timelines and maps, accelerates criminal investigations and allows analysts to quickly attain data-driven conclusions.
Decision intelligence platform data visualization

Data visualization in the NEXYTE decision intelligence platform

2) Blockchain analytics: As many organized crime and terrorist groups use cryptocurrency platforms to facilitate illicit activities, a blockchain analytics solution is essential for de-anonymizing these transactions and revealing the criminals and their crypto wallets behind illicit financial activities. Blockchain analytics helps police catch perpetrators and proactively reveals the identity of others involved in crime networks, who may not have been known to authorities.

Blockchain analytics

Blockchain analytics platform reveals suspect’s activities

3) Operational intelligence: These tools enable field teams to access real-time intelligence during operational missions, enhancing their ability to operate with speed and precision.

4) Network intelligence: Solutions in this category help analysts and investigators to analyze suspicious communications to generate intelligence, aiding in the uncovering of threats and generation of new leads.

Click here to learn more about how investigative analytics solutions can accelerate criminal intelligence analysis.

Sources:

  1. https://www.eurojust.europa.eu/news/44-arrested-europe-wide-crackdown-against-high-risk-criminal-network
  2. https://www.theiacp.org/sites/default/files/2021-08/Criminal%20Intelligence%2008.2021.pdf
  3. https://www.keiseruniversity.edu/criminal-intelligence-analyst-career-guide/
  4. https://www.apu.apus.edu/area-of-study/intelligence/resources/intelligence-analyst-skills-what-type-of-skills-are-needed/

Let's Empower Decision Intelligence

Gilad Ben Ziv , VP Business Evangelist

Gilad Ben Ziv has over 30 years of experience in the Intelligence Division of the Prime Minister's Office in Israel, holding a rank equivalent to Brigadier General. Gilad has an extensive background in intelligence, counterterrorism and homeland security, including on the ground experience in special operations, intelligence gathering and eliminating terror threats. As VP Business Evangelist at Cognyte, Gilad is responsible for helping law enforcement, national security, national intelligence and military organizations to hone their intelligence strategies and technology plans, through a profound understanding of their needs, challenges and threats.
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