Monday, June 18, 2007

Schools common target

I'm a graduate of Culler Middle School, where I first met my wife. So I was particularly aggravated to see the school burglarized, and $6,000 damage done by senseless vanadalism. The only good thing is that the case was promptly solved by the officers on the Northeast Team, who arrested a 20 year old suspect they encountered on another call--after surmising that he was Culler burglar. He's no stranger to vandalism: in January, we arrested him for a string of 127 car windows shot out with a BB gun overnight on January 6-7.

Just last Thursday, I received a phone call from a TV news reporter who wanted to talk about school burglaries, because her perception was that these were on the increase. Sometimes such perceptions are based on a few recent cases that have triggered news stories, so it's always best to look at the data before drawing conclusions. I had done this a couple months ago at a Lincoln Public Schools Safety & Security Committee meeting, so I already knew that there was a great deal of fluctuation from year-to-year, and no clear trend.

While the number of cases so far in 2007 is higher than normal (29 public school burglaries, and we're not quite halfway through the year), the dollar loss is not out of line in comparison to the rest of the decade.

Prior to Saturday's arrest, we had recently arrested two separate groups of people who were burglarizing multiple schools, so I am hoping the frequency subsides.

These burglaries are especially annoying, because as taxpayers, we all bear the cost. I have frequently heard people wondering why Lincoln Public Schools doesn't install alarm systems, or hire more overnight custodians to watch the schools. While the logistics of alarming a large building with many entrances and lots of people who access these after hours could be daunting, I imagine that the answer is primarily in the data: suffering the losses is not good, but it is probably considerably less than the cost to alarm and monitor over 50 buildings properly.

Nonetheless, from the standpoint of the police, we love catching burglars, so we like anything that improves those odds!


Mr. Wilson said...

Do you have any explanations for the large drop between 2003 and 2004? Or is it just your standard statistical hiccup that's likely to crop up in any data set?

Tom Casady said...

As you suggest, statistical hiccups are likely at work. This is true almost anytime you have such small numbers. A short spree dramatically impacts the data when the cell size is small.

A factor that influenced the high number and big loss in 2003 was the construction of two new high schools. About $48K of that year's loss was accounted for by two burglaries (25 laptops, among other things) at North Star and Southwest High.

Anonymous said...

Any insight into the mind of the vandal? I am constantly amazed at the senselessness of some of their acts. The energy that some of these kids have to expend to drag furniture around, break things etc -
Just curious if there is some sort of explanation as to why these kids can't get off their *$$ and mow the lawn but they can spend all kinds of energy dragging desks down to the school pool or busting up a computer room.

Anonymous said...

This is shocking. Those that wreck things should pay for them.

Anonymous said...

Jesus is the answer