A light shone one recent Wednesday evening in a conference room at the Marana Municipal Complex.
Inside, Dianne VanHorn addressed a roomful of students.
“So did all you guys get all the black stuff off your fingers from last week?” she asked.
By “black stuff,” she meant the powder the class had used the previous Wednesday to check for fingerprints on pretend crime scene evidence.
By “all you guys,” she meant participants in Marana’s 2009 Citizen’s Police Academy.
The academy mostly attracts Maranans with gray hair, some of them retirees from police departments in other cities. But younger people participate, too, including Marana High School students who receive class credit for the experience.
For 10 weeks straight, the students spend three hours each Wednesday evening learning about the inner workings of their police department.
The featured speaker on Wednesday, March 4, was a crime analyst.
“How many of you know what crime analysis is?” Janice Moser asked as a prologue to explaining her profession.
Until 18 months ago, the Marana Police Department didn’t have a position dedicated to analyzing statistics to detect trends and project when and where crimes might happen.
Now, when a homicide happens, the crime analyst uses her background in statistics to help police find the criminal. She also uses statistics to keep homicides from happening.
Moser drew students’ attention to a PowerPoint slide of a report she created for Marana police. The report predicted that a forced entry would happen within a circled spot on a map between 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. in the time period spanning Sept. 22-Oct. 12, 2008. What’s more, it predicted the crime would happen on a Monday, Thursday or Friday.
“In this case, the prediction was very accurate,” Moser said.
Next, Moser showed the class other types of reports — one that quickly cues officers in to the history of a crime, and one that maps where road accidents most often occur in town so police can efficiently allocate resources.
The final report Moser showed was a sneak preview of information that VanHorn said will be available from the Town of Marana Web site as soon as later this month.
The report shows how many property crimes have occurred in particular Marana neighborhood over a certain period of time. Prospective homebuyers can use it to compare the safety of particular areas.
“On the Web site, people will be able to hone in on their street,” Moser said.
The evening concluded with a bit of action. Lt. Jose Alvarez demonstrated handcuffing techniques on volunteers from the class.
Other topics for the Citizen’s Police Academy, which started Jan. 28 and runs through April 1, have included Taser orientation and lectures about drug-related crimes in Marana.
For more information about the academy, call 382-2049 or go to www.marana.com.