Friday, March 27, 2015

Motown lowdown

I was in Detroit most of the week, helping teach a seminar on crime analysis for police executives, funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, a division of the United States Department of Justice. I agreed to serve as a so-called "subject matter expert" at two or three of the ten seminars planned around the country.

This one was bigger than Oregon, with about 20 agencies in attendance, such as Grand Rapids, Flint,  and Detroit. It was a great group, and I had some excellent offline discussions with the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Michigan Department of Corrections, Canton Police, Grand Rapids PD, and the Detroit Public Schools.

A highlight for me, though, was on Friday morning after the conference. With late flights and time to kill, my two co-instructors and I managed to invite ourselves to the Detroit Police Department Crime Analysis Unit, on the seventh floor of the spanking new downtown police headquarters. Hey, what do you know: it's a Department of Public Safety joint police and fire facility! Sgt. Sloan and Deputy Chief LaValley were our hosts.

I was impressed with their operation, which, despite the huge size differential, employs a quite similar thought process and strategies to those we use in Lincoln to make information available to our personnel in a straightforward and accessible interface relying upon a web browser and an Intranet.

Dr. David Martin, from Wayne State University's Center for Urban Studies, spent quite a bit of time showing me how he has helped DPD create a web-based Intranet interface to the police RMS and other information systems. It is very similar in concept to the strategy that has guided Lincoln's police information resources since the mid 1990's, and cutting edge. I hope I left Detroit with at least one good idea from Lincoln: I know they left me with one.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Not the first time

The Lincoln Police Department and Lincoln Fire & Rescue are planning on co-locating into a joint facility somewhere in southeast Lincoln, where a fire company and the police officers of the Southeast Team will share a station serving both agencies. This project is among those funded by a proposed three year, quarter cent sales tax that will appear on the ballot at the April 7, 2015 City primary election.

These two projects appeared separately in the City's capital improvement program until a couple of years ago, when they were merged. We think that it makes good sense to combine these facilities, in order to save the architectural fees, land acquisition, and infrastructure such as paving, footings, and HVAC which would be necessary for separate facilities. It will also facilitate a good working relationship between LPD and LF&R.

As this description from 1886 demonstrates, it's certainly not the first time the two public safety agencies have shared a common home base (click to enlarge.)


Friday, March 20, 2015

Information is the lifeblood

I just read an interesting Incident Report by Officer Brad Hulse, case number B5-023247. Officer Hulse stopped a vehicle last night with one headlight out, and got an odd feeling that something more was going on then a bad bulb. Back at his patrol car, he checked the driver's information, checked the Nebraska and Missouri drivers license database, checked local police contacts and reports in the LPD database, looked up drivers license photos, as well as information and photos from the Nebraska Department of Corrections.

After a few minutes of research, he discovered why things seemed odd: the front seat passenger was wanted. He had an outstanding warrant for violating his parole release from prison for burglary. Although he tried to deflect the officer by lying about his name, Brad's hunch and his initiative resulted in the subject's return to prison.

The accolades belong not only to Officer Hulse, though, but also to all those people who worked so hard for so many years to put all that information at his fingertips. They built and maintain an incredible police records management database, mobile data network, and user interfaces that are superbly accessible to the people who need the information, right where they are. Information is the lifeblood of policing.

Last night's case is not unusual. I see similar reports regularly, where fast access to information in the field is an important factor in a dynamic investigation. This capability is a huge advantage, that we should never take for granted.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Clearance rates, 2014

I've had a number of questions about crime clearance rates lately, most seeking to compare Lincoln with other jurisdictions. Here's the problem: while I have Lincoln's clearance rates for 2014, the source for the rest of the country, the FBI's annual Uniform Crime Report (UCR), Crime in the United States, isn't published until the fall. Thus, the latest comparative data I have is from the 2013 UCR. Nonetheless, here's the comparison for Lincoln in 2014 vs. others in 2013.

Arson is reported separately, since it can be either a violent crime or a property crime, depending on the circumstances. As you can see, Lincoln fares well overall, topping the rate for all agencies and for similarly-sized cities on six of the eight Part 1 offenses. The glaring exception is rape, where our clearance rate is quite low. I have a theory on that, about which I expounded several years ago in this post--but you'll have to read the comments to get the details.

Friday, March 13, 2015

EMS calls increasing

As of midnight, Lincoln Fire & Rescue has responded to 3,988 medical emergencies so far this year. That's a 14% increase over the same time last year. I'll be watching this closely as the year unfolds, because it is part of a long-term trend of increasing EMS calls. The growing population of Lincoln is part of the explanation, but my guess is that baby boomers reaching the age where medical needs are greater is bending the curve a bit. There was an 18% increase in the number of citizens over the age of 65 in Lincoln from the 2000 census to the 2010 census--greater than the overall population increase.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Public safety information

On April 7, Lincoln residents will vote on a ballot proposition to establish a quarter cent sales tax for three years. This proposition would fund two public safety projects: replacement of the aging public safety radio system, and construction of four new fire stations (one a joint police and fire station) to serve a growing community.

This morning, the City is unveiling a website to provide citizens with information about these projects: safety.lincoln.ne.gov. The site features several short videos of firefighters and law enforcement officers explaining the importance of the radio system and the importance of a four minute travel time to life-threatening emergencies. These videos were produced by the Citizen Information Center, and run from one to 7.5 minutes.

I appreciate Scott, Todd, Jeff, Dan, and Brent participating in these. They did a great job describing the need, completely without a script. And thanks to Jami, Justin, and the rest of the staff at the CIC for their editing work and spinning up a nice site with a lot of good information.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Props from NYC

The Lincoln Police Department received a little tip 'o the hat yesterday from a city council member in New York City, according to this article from the New York Times.


Mr. Williams has apparently read this description, which I wrote an eon ago. It gets picked up from time to time, and I am asked for permission to republish it a couple times a year. Although it dates from the mid 1990s, it is still valid today.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Why it is critical

I had a speaking engagement last week at the Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals Group. My topic was discussing the two public safety projects that would be funded by a three year quarter cent sales tax, a proposition that will appear on the ballot April 7 at the City's primary election.

In the process of explaining why the City's aging public safety radio system is so important, I had a sudden epiphany (is there another kind of epiphany?): one of the best ways to understand this is simply to listen. As if on cue, Chamber of Commerce staff member Kyle Fischer pulled out his smartphone and launched his scanner app.

His app was tuned to the official feed published by the City, which consists of the primary police dispatch talk groups, and the fire & rescue tactical talk groups. It's particularly interesting to listen to during the most busy periods of the day, and you get a real feel from doing so about the events that are breaking in the City, and how police officers, firefighters, and dispatchers depend on this system.

The feed is in stereo: police on the left, fire & rescue on the right. I like to use the balance control on my car stereo to emphasize fire & rescue over police a bit, since I've already spent 40 years listening to police radio traffic. I won't entirely mute police, just notch it down to a lower volume--or the reverse if something in catching my interest. There are tons of smartphone apps out there for Internet-published radio feeds (I use 5-0 Radio Pro), or you can listen to it on the web from your desktop or laptop, at broadcastify.com .