Data-informed policing solves marijuana mystery at Utah State

Police at Utah State University’s police department used data analyses to find the source of a marijuana smell that had riled the community.
marijuana growing tent
(Getty Images)

Data analysis recently helped Utah State University’s police department pinpoint the source of reports from faculty and students of a marijuana smell on campus.

Reports of the smell reached a peak in the fall semester of 2022, with concerns escalating to the point that the university had “community leaders, church leaders, addressing our administration wanting answers,” former campus police chief Blair Barfuss told The Salt Lake Tribune.

While campus police suspected the reports might stem from student dorms, data analysis showed the source of the smell was actually a research lab that was growing marijuana for medical research, Barfuss said. Campus police also learned of a family of skunks living on campus, which may have accounted for some of the reports, he said.

This story was shared by Barfuss at Utah State’s first campus safety conference on March 2, as an example of how the university is working to use data analytics to improve the efficacy of its policing.

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