by ANDREW HUYGEN
For Reporting Texas and KUT News
GEORGETOWN — Four Texas State University MBA students have been working with the Georgetown Police Department this year to find possible solutions to a persistent problem: senior citizens living in the Sun City retirement community are increasingly being targeted for identity theft and fraud.
Dave Roshan is one of the graduate students working with the police department to find a possible solution for the issue.
Most surprising, Roshan said, is “what basic mistakes they are making,” including “carrying their social security cards with them, leaving their checkbooks out in plain sight. … They’re very trusting.”
Roshan and group members Mario Hernandez, Elizabeth McWhorter and Kurtis White made a number of suggestions for the police department in dealing with the Sun City fraud problem.
“The first one is basically upgrading the police department’s capabilities, and that includes working with Texas State’s criminal justice department for advanced analytics and regression analysis to see any trends that the data can help with,” Roshan said.
Another program is called ‘S.A.L.T.,’ for Seniors and Law Enforcement Together, in which the police department works with senior citizens on ideas to prevent crime. To stave off loneliness in the senior population that can lead to vulnerability to crime, the group discussed partnering with honor society students at the local high school to spend more time with them, Roshan said.
Laurie Brewer, the assistant city manager for Georgetown, saw the potential benefits of the partnership from the beginning.
“We were really excited to develop some programs that would not only allow [the students] to do some business case analysis that’s real-world experience, but to also do something that would be useful to the city,” Brewer said.
Brewer is impressed with the suggestions the group has for preventing the fraud and hopes to implement them in the near future.
“They had some good solutions,” Brewer said. “Some may take a lot of time to implement, but yeah, I think we can definitely use some of those ideas moving forward,” he said.
Matthew Painter, the director of the MBA program at Texas State University, sees two major benefits of graduate students working with agencies such as the Georgetown Police Department.
“The first is a cost savings, because if you were to compare this project to a police department working with a consulting firm, you’re talking about substantial amounts of money,” Painter said. “The other benefit was that with the staff going through the process with these students, it kind of engages them from a different angle, and so irrespective of the results, just the exercise is beneficial for the staff.”
Georgetown’s assistant police chief, Cory Tchida, said he was excited to get an outside perspective.
“A variety of potential topics for them to research and make recommendations were discussed,” Tchida said. “The fraud project is a good one because of the number of seniors we have within the Sun City community and their propensity to be victimized by fraud crimes. Many of these fraud crimes are preventable so, with out-of-the-box thinking, there are ways to reduce the impact of this crime.”
Tchida remains bullish on the idea of building partnerships between universities and public institutions like the Georgetown Police Department.
“I would always suggest that [police] departments and nonprofits work with universities and colleges when given the opportunity,” Tchida said. “They are a treasure trove of research capability, understand the importance of evidence-based methodology, and can provide a different perspective outside of the traditional law enforcement realm.”
Brewer is upbeat, too, about the partnership’s future.
“It was a tremendously positive experience for all of us,” he said. “We’ve got some new ideas on real issues we were facing, and that’s just a very positive thing for us. We hope that we will be able to do this every semester.”
by ANDREW HUYGEN writes for Reporting Texas, a UT School of Journalism program, where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between Reporting Texas and the San Marcos Mercury.