Policing hotspots has long been considered a valuable tactic to help management direct scarce police resources. The effective implementation of responses to “hotspots” requires police department personnel to analyze mountains of data they routinely gather; however, there is a key obstacle: police departments typically do not have enough skilled personnel or sufficient resources to perform advanced statistical analysis of the gathered data.
The Houston, Texas, Police Department (HPD) has found a creative solution by partnering with Northwestern University (NU). That institution has a highly competitive undergraduate program, Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences (MMSS), consisting of students possessing strong statistical and analytical skills. An NU faculty member, Dr. Mark Iris, who has a background in policing (retired civilian Executive Director of the Chicago, Illinois, Police Board), realized the potential to solve the issue of insufficient resources—match police agencies with high volumes of data in need of analysis with students having strong quantitative analytical skills who are in need of data for their senior year theses.