St. Paul police Senior Cmdr. Matt Toupal is crafting a summer plan for the eastern district in anticipation of the inevitable climb in crime that accompanies warmer weather.
This year, he has an extra tool to help make the most of his 90 officers — the department's first-ever intelligence analysts, former military intelligence officers now tasked with looking at when, where and why crimes occur.
More important, they're using statistics and human nature to forecast when and where criminals are likely to strike next.
"This allows us to focus our resources on areas that need the most help," said analyst Joseph Reiter.
It was with their help that Toupal learned that "quality-of-life" crimes — which reflect a deterioration of living conditions — involving juvenile suspects spike on Mondays and Tuesdays.
"It was a little surprise to me," said Toupal, who oversees operations in the eastern district. "The analysts serve me as a good reminder, or a nudge, to make sure I'm paying attention to certain things, because it's so hard to pay attention to everything. I see [the analysts], frankly, as a game-changer."
St. Paul police hired analysts Karl Battle and Reiter in October, joining a trend among big and smaller departments. Minneapolis police added two analysts this year, bringing their total to 24, and Edina police are in the process hiring their first analyst.
"Law enforcement agencies are catching on that if you hire somebody who's hired to connect the dots … in the long run, it pays off," said Nicole Hughes, president of the Minnesota Association of Criminal Intelligence Analysts.
When St. Paul's western district started seeing several burglaries in late 2015, Battle and Reiter identified a pattern in the Highland Park and Mac-Groveland neighborhoods. They pinpointed the peak times homes were targeted. Police deployed unmarked cars to patrol during that time frame, and saw a noticeable drop in burglaries.
In December, they identified a pattern of package thefts in the same district, and police arrested three women suspected in several thefts. "We can see more clearly, with their assistance, crime patterns as they're developing," said Senior Cmdr. Paul Iovino, who oversees the western district.
Battle and Reiter are using the skills they once employed to help fight wars abroad and deploy ships and aircraft across the world's oceans.
Battle, 25, a University of Minnesota graduate, was a sergeant in the Army, and last helped support U.S. operations in Europe from Fort Snelling. He also helped the Army identify potential conflict zones and navigate interactions with locals on the ground.
Reiter, 34, a St. Cloud State University alumnus, was a Petty Officer 1st Class in the Navy. Reiter helped direct reconnaissance ships and aircraft in the Navy's largest theater of operation, stretching between the North and South Poles and from Hawaii to Pakistan.
"The principles are the same," Battle said of intelligence analysis in the military and at St. Paul police. "We're not dealing with terrorists; we're dealing with criminals."
In addition to tracking crime patterns, Battle and Reiter are building new systems for organizing data.
When St. Paul received a $25,000 state grant to reduce vehicle accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists, they turned to Battle and Reiter to identify problem intersections.
There was no easy way to sort those accidents from other accident reports, so Battle and Reiter created new ways to code and organize them, compiling data going back to 2013.
Police are using the information to target enforcement and outreach at the worst intersections.
"In the past, our department has been data rich and information poor," said Assistant Chief Todd Axtell, who oversees the analysts.
Next up, they'll study how St. Paul police can best provide security at the proposed soccer stadium at University and Snelling avenues.
They'll look at how stadiums change neighborhoods, and examine crime patterns at soccer stadiums across the country.
Before Battle and Reiter, St. Paul police had staff looking at statistics, but without the specialized training.
The case was similar in Minneapolis, which began hiring dedicated analysts about nine years ago.
Minneapolis police Sgt. Scott Gerlicher, commander of the special operations and intelligence division, said they've been adding analysts ever since.
"Without [data], you're just out there putting out fires on patrol," Gerlicher said.