ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — With crime surging in the Star City, police officers are not the only ones working to find criminals. Behind the desk, a group of data analysts helps the Roanoke Police Department to solve crimes — sometimes before they even happen.

The iSTAR (Intelligence, Statistics, Technology, Analysis, and Research) Team’s goal is to leverage data and use it to provide intelligence to officers and detectives about where crimes are occurring in the present and where they might occur in the future.

“It’s no secret that we are dealing with different types of violence. We are seeing crime trends across the nation go higher than they have in quite some time,” said Andrew Reece, senior crime analyst with the iSTAR Team.

According to Reece, providing police with the times and days of the week that crimes occur, the common characteristics for the crimes, etc. is essential.

“If there are unique offenders involved that we could pinpoint to give officers information about who they should be looking for, that’s a major advantage that years past would not have been a thing that they have had access to,” said Reece.

Reece showed WFXR News’ Kelsey Jean-Baptiste an example of how it works.

Reece opened his digital data map and asked the computer to show him vehicle larcenies from a specific point in time. From there, the computer showed him all of the places where people have reported vehicle break-ins. Using that information, Reece would see if there is a trend that could indicate where the criminal might strike next.

“We’re looking for threats that might be coming in from other areas. We’re talking with our regional partners, we’re talking with the State Police and our federal partners to see are there any terrorist threats that we need to be aware of. We’re coordinating that information, we’re digesting it, and making the appropriate personnel aware,” said Reece.

He adds that when it comes to shootings, police can send data back to the iSTAR Team, who can analyze it and match it to existing data to help find criminals more quickly.

In fact, police say the iSTAR Team’s use of evidence and video surveillance to determine a suspect vehicle and direction of travel helped lead to a man’s quick arrest in connection with a shooting in northwest Roanoke on Monday, May 9.