Since its inception, John Jay College has been an institution proud to educate public safety leaders in law enforcement, fire suppression, and emergency medical services. Every day, these brave members of our community work hard to keep us safe. We’re continually grateful for their service, and in recognition of their considerable contributions to our safety, we’re dedicating our “Behind the Badge” series to them. In these articles we get to see the man or woman “behind the badge.” We get to know what inspires them, understand what challenges them, and most importantly learn about their jobs through their own thoughts and experiences.
New York Police Department (NYPD) Crime Analyst Joanna Baranello ’20 proves that a passion for math and data can be quite helpful when fighting and preventing crime. “When I was in high school I loved watching TV shows like NCIS, CSI, and Law & Order. That was what really sparked my interest in law enforcement. I also took a criminal justice class my senior year of high school and I really enjoyed it. That’s when I decided to major in Criminal Justice when I went to college,” says Baranello. Throughout her college career she continued to develop a strong interest in law enforcement, but she wasn’t quite sure where she would fit in career-wise. She wasn’t interested in patrolling the streets. She didn’t envision herself becoming a prosecutor or a defense lawyer. But, she still wanted to help communities and keep them safe. Then, during her junior year of college, came a crime analysis course called “Crime Analysis and Mapping” and she started to imagine her future. “I’ve always loved math and working with data, so from the first day of that class, I knew crime analysis was it for me.” We connected with Baranello to learn more about her data-driven career in the NYPD.
What does a typical day on the job look like for you?
I start off the day by reading the complaint reports from my precinct that came in the previous day. I check for any data quality issues, making sure what was on the handwritten copy is the same as what’s on the typed copy. I also make sure that every report has the correct crime classification. This is so important because it ensures that the analysis I do and the reports I produce later will be accurate. Reading the reports gives me a good understanding of what’s going on in the precinct and allows me to put together similar incidents which may be connected. I use a pattern recognition system called “Patternizr” which searches through hundreds of thousands of reports to look for patterns and similar crimes. From there I’ll compile crimes that seem to be related and send them to the borough office so they can send an alert out. The remainder of the day mainly consists of putting together a variety of ad hoc reports for the bosses in the precinct. These are statistical reports for various crimes showing our numbers this year versus last year, the raw number change and the percent change, and a lot of detailed analysis showing what are the problem days, times, and sectors. I’ll also provide a crime map as a visual aid to easily identify where exactly the problem areas are located.
“I use a pattern recognition system called ‘Patternizr’ which searches through hundreds of thousands of reports to look for patterns and similar crimes.” —Joanna Baranello
Describe your best day on the job. What happened that day to make you proud, happy, or encouraged?
My best day on the job so far was a time that my analysis led to identifying a suspect leading to his arrest. The detectives had a really good wanted flyer of this guy, but no one was able to identify him. They put out a crime stoppers tip and someone responded to it only giving his nickname and social media handle. I searched the handle in our database and it turned out that it was listed in another criminal complaint. From there I was able to pull that person’s arrest history and when the mugshot came up it was an exact match to the person in the wanted flyer. They arrested him a few days later. It definitely felt good knowing something I did helped make a difference and solve this case.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your job? How did you overcome this?
When I first started this job, the most challenging aspect for me was feeling so overwhelmed about working in such a large organization. My previous job was at a mid-size company with less than 1,000 employees and I knew a lot of people, even if I didn’t work directly with them. The NYPD is the largest police department in the world, employing nearly 55,000 people. When I first started, there was just so much to learn. Not just learning my own role and responsibilities, but also learning how the entire department operates; what the roles were for the different units in the precinct, and learning the responsibilities of each bureau. Uniformed officers are trained in the academy for six months, but civilian employees don’t receive that type of training. It also didn’t help that I got on the job shortly before the pandemic and was working from home. Luckily, I have good bosses and co-workers who were always open to walking me through what to do and answering any questions I had.
“It’s nice to know that the work I’m doing is impactful. It’s rewarding to know that even though I’m only one person out of 55,000 people in the department, I play a small role in keeping New York City safe.” —Joanna Baranello
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?
It feels good when something I do helps out in some way. Whether it’s just providing the reports someone needs or my research and analysis leading to an arrest, it’s nice to know that the work I’m doing is impactful. It’s rewarding to know that even though I’m only one person out of 55,000 people in the department, I play a small role in keeping New York City safe.
How has your John Jay education enhanced your career in law enforcement?
What I love about John Jay is that it affords their students so much opportunity. The professors are all so knowledgeable and serve as great mentors and connections. In 2018 I passed the New York State Crime Analyst Level 1 Certification Exam. If it wasn’t for a professor at John Jay, I would have never known this certification existed. While at John Jay I also had the opportunity to participate in research as a research assistant along with some peers and a professor of mine. Working on that project gave me experience with research and working with data, and I still use those skills today. When I was a student, my email was always filled with internship and career opportunities; the way the school helps its students is nothing short of amazing.
“While at John Jay I had the opportunity to participate in research as a research assistant along with some peers and a professor of mine. Working on that project gave me experience with research and working with data, and I still use those skills today.” —Joanna Baranello
Can you remember any specific lessons or classes that really stuck with you or inspired you in your career?
I loved all the classes from the master’s degree program, but the two that stand out are “Problem-Oriented Policing” and “Crime Mapping” because those gave me the most hands-on learning experience. In “Problem-Oriented Policing,” we were tasked with selecting a crime problem and writing a guide on how to respond to that problem. This taught me how to delve into a problem from inception and think critically to ask meaningful questions and gather as much information possible to understand why this problem is occurring. Once you fully understand the scope of the problem, it becomes easier to come up with a solid plan to address it. In “Crime Mapping,” we got hands-on experience using ArcGIS—which is a great tool that many crime analysts use in their day-to-day work. With ArcGIS you can create maps displaying crime in a certain area and you can also add a number of overlaying data. Having this experience with ArcGIS was a great skill to have while applying for jobs.
What advice would you give to future law enforcement officers, firefighters, or emergency medical professionals?
My advice would be to take advantage of every opportunity offered to you. There is so much to get involved with at John Jay and they are always advertising research, internship, or career opportunities. There are so many opportunities to gain experience and build your resume which will only benefit you in the future.