He recently scoured the Baltimore police database of home invasion robberies and was able to connect 12 people through various associations to a series of crimes.

"Do we have a group? We're able to say that there's a reasonable chance," Crouse said, explaining why he thinks a number of people could be carrying out the string of home invasions. "There's a couple degrees of separation, but you can see something start to form. We'll forward it to the detectives."

The team has also been dabbling in social media analysis. Part of the analysts' evolving role includes persuading detectives, who sometimes closely guard information, to share more.

A resident monitoring the department's Twitter feed or watching the news would consider this Friday night a "quiet" one in Baltimore. But during the course of a few hours, Skinner monitored a bomb threat to the city's transit system, a kidnapping hoax involving an officer's child, multiple calls reporting shootings (none were determined to be legitimate), and juveniles misbehaving at the Inner Harbor, while he also kept tabs on crowds outside problem clubs and other hot spots. A father of four, he manages the chaos with calm and focus.

Meanwhile, Crouse was running the names of people arrested in Northeast Baltimore in search of the witness in danger. He called out the names.

"Anybody have a scar on their face?" Skinner asked. Crouse's screen then displayed a number of mug shots.

Sgt. Stephanie Lansey ran her own search, based on partial information, including possible street names for the site of the murder. Across the room, Officer Antwon Small pulled up a list of the week's arrests and scanned it for the names Lansey gave him.

He found a match. Crouse pulled up the man's mug shots, which showed a distinctive scar. Next they searched for his address — current, past and those of family and friends. Further research revealed that the man was being held in jail.

Within 10 minutes, police went from a nickname and other vague information to staring at a picture of the potential victim. Before, detectives might have brainstormed on their own, as the analysts would have been home before the incident cropped up.

Crouse pulled up a picture of one of the man's prior addresses using Google's Street View function.

Skinner jokingly asked whether Crouse could see the man in the view of his home.

"That's when we know we've really progressed."


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