Maths students help enhance East Midlands police forces

A group of students from the University of Leicester have been helping police with their enquiries – but not in the way you might think.

Six undergraduate Mathematics students have teamed up with forces in the East Midlands to enhance policing through efficiency analyses.

As part of a new project in partnership with the East Midlands Policing Academic Collaboration (EMPAC), students examined policing demand and offered suggestions in how forces can better represent the communities they serve through their recruitment.

Four of the students used analysis skills learned on their course to scrutinise real-world crime data, and designed forecasting models to map out predicted areas of growth – and identify upcoming challenges – over the next four years.

Applied Mathematics student Hannah Chander said:

“For us as students, it’s such a wonderful experience to work with professionals, be trusted with real-life problems and to be able to present ideas that may not have been thought of before.

“Combining the academic rigour, logical reasoning, and critical thinking from pure mathematics and the methods and techniques from applied mathematics, we had the foundations to formulate a successful solution for the forces. This new independent work was daunting initially, but we quickly learned to manage our time, work professionally with industry partners, and engage in team environments all whilst not being able to sit in the same room as one another.

“I’m proud of the fact that our projects could potentially positively impact on improving policing.”

The second group looked at recruitment data and analysed demographic factors to help improve accessibility for applicants, especially those from ethnic minority bacgrounds.

Applied Mathematics student Ritika Dutia said:

“This project allowed us to implement techniques we have learned throughout our degree into a real-world problem. It is fascinating to see how we can use Mathematics to detect where changes can be made within the recruitment process.

“At school, you’ll often hear children asking ‘What’s the point in learning this? How will this help in real life?’ and I think that this project really highlights the applications of Mathematics in society.”

Police from Leicestershire and Derbyshire took part in the collaboration on behalf of the East Midlands region, which also covers Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire.

Superintendent Mark Housley from Lincolnshire Police said:

“It’s been a great opportunity to work with students to get their views and insights on what are very important issues for us in policing to continually improve in.

“I’ve been impressed in how the students have listened to our professional work context and then come back with their original ideas and contributions to help us re-fresh our thinking.”

The initiative forms part of a strategic approach by the University of Leicester to link Mathematics students with public and private sector industries so that the students can apply and hone their talents – using real data – whilst also contributing problem-solving benefits to industry and the community.

Jeremy Levesley is a Professor of Applied Mathematics who leads the initiative at the University of Leicester and added:

“Sometimes people don’t realise the skills and knowledge applied mathematicians have that can help in a number of different ways, particularly in making sense of data so that improvements can be made.

“Working with policing has been a great experience and we hope to repeat and expand the initiative in the future.”