Connecticut College Magazine · Spring 2011

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On the cover: Writer/producer Lee Eisenberg '99 entertainS a packed evans hall in the first of a series of centennial "Conversations with alumni" in January. Photo by Bob Macdonnell

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Analyze This

Lives: Brett Goldstein '96

By Julie Wernau


On his first day as a Chicago cop, Brett Goldstein '96 volunteered to walk the most dangerous beat in the city.

Two years earlier, he had been admiring the Sears Tower from his loft office at OpenTable.com. Now here he was, wearing a Glock-22 pistol on Chicago's West side — and thinking about his Connecticut College adviser and Ghana.

“He told me, 'You're going to Ghana. You're going to see the problems for yourself.' And I learned there that I could do that. I could go outside my comfort zone,” Goldstein says, remembering the day Alex Roberto Hybel, Susan Eckert Lynch '62 Professor of Government, convinced him to take nine months abroad.

Today, Goldstein is in charge of a new unit at the Chicago Police Department, the Predictive Analytics Unit — a division he helped start from scratch that mines and analyzes police department data to predict where crimes are likely to occur next.

And he's still out on the street at least once a week.
Goldstein says he gets his sense of adventure from his wife and college sweetheart, Sarah F. Duggan Goldstein '97. It was Sarah, says Goldstein, who first had the idea to go to Ghana and who pushed him to move to Chicago to take a job at OpenTable — a startup whose future was still unclear when Goldstein joined.

“I knew nothing about technology,” says Goldstein, who majored in government. “I mean nothing — I could log in to AOL. If I hadn't had that liberal arts background, I wouldn't have been successful. You can write well, think well, analyze well, think through critical questions.”

At OpenTable, where customers book their restaurant reservations online, Goldstein frequently traveled to far-flung parts of the world as the director of information technology. Sept. 11, 2001, was no different. When the first plane hit the World Trade Center, Goldstein was on the tarmac at Chicago Midway International Airport.

“Suddenly, everything started to go off — I get a pager message, something about a national emergency. Then my phone comes through with a voicemail. It's my mother (Myrna Chandler Goldstein '70), screaming for me to get off the plane,” he says.

Sixty seconds later, the plane was evacuated. But the day changed his life.

“I had the epiphany that — 'You know, Brett, you need to do something that has more value than making sure that someone's reservation transaction goes through,'” he says.

Three years later, that opportunity presented itself. Goldstein was finishing his master's degree in computer science at the University of Chicago when Sarah pointed out an upcoming exam to become a Chicago police officer.

In 2009, three years into his police career, Goldstein secured a $200,000 National Institute of Justice grant to launch his predictive-analytics project.

The unit analyzes 2 million 911 calls a year and police data from the city's 24,500 blocks to pinpoint where a crime is likely to occur — a potentially groundbreaking approach to law enforcement.

“Everything's about prevention,” he says. “The classic model in law enforcement is reactive. … It's academic. It's intellectual. Yet it's high value for the community. Maybe what I'm doing is saving lives.”


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