Westminster PD’s crime analyst sorts through reams of data in search of answers

By Jessica Peralta

Elizabeth Yee’s job title isn’t often popularized on modern TV crime shows. She isn’t a detective. She’s not CSI. But she definitely helps solve crimes like homicides, sexual assaults and robberies.

The best she can liken her job to – as a Westminster Police Department crime analyst – is a financial analyst. Both jobs deal with numbers and provide forecasting based on data. But her job looks at criminal activity rather than financial planning.

“My nuts-and-bolts [of the job] are linking crimes together,” said Yee, who has been a crime analyst for 14 years.

A typical day for Yee involves lots of reading. In fact, she roughly reads about 3,000 crime reports a year – and that’s a low estimate.

“Actually in my own time, I don’t read books,” Yee said. “Why would I read a book? Every day is a book in my life.”

While scouring through the reports, Yee makes sure to write notes and comments for herself in the database – these can later be searched when working on specific cases and looking for patterns. On Mondays, she’ll look over all the weekend reports and try to find crime patterns there that she can pass on to detectives. She averages about 15 reports a day.

Elizabeth Yee, crime analyst for the Westminster PD, with her multi-screen computer system she uses to help solve and prevent future crimes.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“She’s able to link and find all the common stuff from the different crimes,” said Det. James Wilson, who works in robbery/homicide. “That information (helps us) solve crimes better.”

He said he recently worked on a robbery case in Little Saigon involving a series of thefts of gold chains. Through her pattern analysis, Yee was able to assist in determining a suspect.

“She pays close attention to all the detectives’ cases,” said Sgt. Alan Iwashita, Crimes Against Persons Unit supervisor.

He said Yee’s work is “vitality important” to crime solving, including in the area of missing persons.

Another aspect of Yee’s work involves keeping in contact with the analysts at other agencies to help spot crime trends on a larger scale. On a weekly basis, she receives anywhere from 15 to 30 crime bulletins from other agencies that she sifts through in order to send out the most relevant ones to others at the WPD.

Det. Rachel Proulx, who works in property crimes, said Yee often runs queries for her on the agency’s database to help find possible matches based on suspect description, type of crime and other search parameters. She said she’s seen Yee come up with some information off the top of her head.

“She’s able to find other cases that are related,” Proulx said.

Elizabeth Yee, crime analyst for the Westminster PD, talks about her career in law enforcement.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Memory does play a big role in Yee’s work in spotting crime patterns.

“If I read it once, I remember it,” Yee said.

Though she never planned to work in crime analytics – she graduated as a psychology major and thought she’d get a job related to human resources – she enjoys her work.

“I think that’s the fun stuff … sorting through the data and helping create a story for them,” she said.