It's a question police departments grapple with every day: How do you stay one step ahead of the bad guys?

A police chief may have found the answer on a Lehigh County college campus.

Since 2010, the Pocono Mountain Regional Police Department has lost about 20 percent of its officers, due to budget cuts.

So the department is looking to students at Allentown's Cedar Crest College to curb crime.

"It is possible to prevent crime from occurring in the first place," said Cedar Crest criminal justice professor Scott Hoke. "Many departments don't think how geography can be used to identify patterns to prevent crime, solve crime."

A crime prevention partnership has developed between Hoke and Pocono Mountain Police Chief Harry Lewis.

Hoke said his 32 students analyze crime data given by Lewis to figure out criminal trends.

Hoke explained one map among his data shows "where and when this particular house is burglarized. Those around it are at a greater risk of burglary than had that house never been burglarized."

Students get credit for the work. Lewis gets intelligence he can
directly use.

"We have the ability to focus our proactive patrols on specific areas rather than a random patrol pattern," Lewis stated.

Data like this doesn't come cheap. Software can cost upwards of $14,000. But because Pocono Regional police officers are using collegiate cartography, it doesn't cost them a dime.

"They supply us with with a service an agency our size could never afford or do because we don't have the manpower or budget," said Lewis.

As great as the program is, the chief said more police on the street is still the best tool for preventing crime.