Campus News Campus Spotlight

Crime analyst helps enhance campus safety

Megan Thompson is a senior crime analyst for the UGA Police Department. (Photo by Chamberlain Smith/UGA)

Megan Thompson uses details to increase security, reduce crime

Megan Thompson’s top priority is your safety.

As a senior crime analyst for the UGA Police Department, she works with officers to increase security and reduce crime on campus.

“It’s ingrained in us to keep people safe and keep the community safe,” Thompson said. “I always try to keep that in mind.”

Thompson has a bachelor’s degree in art history and classics from UCLA and thought she wanted to go to law school. She decided that wasn’t for her, but she stayed in the criminal justice realm and took a position as a 911 dispatcher in her hometown of Oxnard, California.

In 2016, Thompson transitioned from 911 communications to crime analysis with the Oxnard Police Department. She moved to Athens to accept a crime analyst position with the Athens-Clarke County Police Department in 2018. She joined the UGA Police Department as a crime analyst in 2021.

“We have a lot of support here from the community as well as the administration,” she said. “The money recently set aside for more work on campus safety speaks to us as a department, saying that we are valued. It’s a direct show of support.”

Working at a university police department is different from other police departments, according to Thompson. The type and amount of work varies from what she encountered with the Athens-Clarke County Police Department. The kinds of cases are different, and she has more time to work on them. But she pointed out that the tools and methods to obtain information are still the same.

“It’s a great feeling to help with solving a crime,” she said.

Thompson’s interest in crime analysis stems from her interest in research. She is still able to help others and serve the public by gathering information that builds cases. Thompson was inspired by a friend and co-worker who moved from working as a 911 dispatcher to working as a crime analyst. That same friend now works for UCLA’s police department. In fact, they’d one day like to form an association for crime analysts working for police departments at higher education institutions.

Thompson’s work helps officers make better and more effective decisions by providing them with data and information. She and her co-worker, Nate Berger, follow the crumbs left behind and gather the details officers need.

“The information has to be right. It cannot be conjecture. It cannot be a feeling,” she said. “I feel a sense of urgency in performing this work. While it may not necessarily save someone’s life, it’s important.”

Megan Thompson and Nate Berger work with officers to increase security and reduce crime on campus in their positions as crime analysts. (Photo by Chamberlain Smith/UGA)

Her overall work can be divided into three areas. The tactical work involves case investigation—the kind of thing one might see in an episode of “NCIS.” The strategic work centers on making things more effective. For example, Thompson recently ran a report on what calls the mental health co-responder assisted with to better assess that position’s schedule. The administrative work includes things like incident-based reporting for statistical purposes.

In general, Thompson said she’s there to complement the boots on the ground.

“Our goal is to increase security on campus, and it takes a lot of careful, deliberate, fair-minded effort,” she said. “One of the things that I really love about working here is that I feel like we’re a progressive police department, meaning that we’re respectful of and grateful for the good relationship we have with the UGA community.”