Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Busy few days for investigations

During the previous four days, July 27 through the 30th, the Lincoln Police Department investigated four suicides. One victim jumped from a downtown parking garage, two died of asphyxiation, and the fourth was a shooting victim. The ages ranged from 14 to 54. Suicides rarely make the news unless they occur in a public place, due to the editorial policies of the news media organizations.

Each of these cases is demanding, from an investigative standpoint. You must treat any unattended violent death as a possible homicide until the evidence demonstrates otherwise. That means a full-scale crime scene investigation at the outset. Even when the evidence points to suicide, you still need to continue a credible investigation that locates and preserves all relevant evidence, in the event that future questions are raised, and to help family members cope with the death.

Despite the recent spate of suicides, the number this year is actually lower than the same period in 2006--17 last year, compared to 14 this year. We have also investigated 154 suicide attempts so far in 2007, compared to 171 for the same time period in 2006.

Nonetheless, four suicides in four days puts our investigative staff under some pressure. During that same time, we have had several other high-profile crimes that demanded quite a bit of followup work--most notably an unprovoked stabbing of a runner on the Mo-Pac recreational trail, a gun shop burglary, and a rash of graffiti vandalisms in the downtown area that was apparently our fault because of our absence from the affected alleyway while chasing 95 other events between 1:00 AM and 6:30 AM, including the public suicide, a sexual assault, another mental health investigation of a suicidal subject, and the usual alcohol-related assaults, disturbances, wild party complaints and fights that dot the wee hours of a Sunday morning.

I wish they hadn't taken the clairvoyants out of my budget.


Anonymous said...

Tell the idiot business owner to install a light in the alley and pay the utility bill for it.

GMP said...

Chief Cassiday, there are very few in Lincoln who feel the LPD are not doing their jobs. Unfortunatly, they are also the most vocal. A great majority of us in Lincoln feel you and your department are doing a wonderful job. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

LPD does a great job, especially considering the relatively small size of their annual budget. A few days ago, the Chief pointed out that similar-sized Baton Rouge had a much higher murder rate than Lincoln, even though ther PD had twice LPD's personnel strength.

How much higher? According the 2005 FBI crime stats, BRs murder rate was 12x that of Lincoln! Furthermore, robbery was 4x Lincoln's rate, auto theft was over 3x our rate, and burglary was over 2x our rate. I don't think some of these anti-LPD folks realize how low serious crime is here.

The Chief will probably correct me here if I'm wrong, but the rates for crimes like rape and larceny were fairly similar, and I'm guessing that's partly due to the fact that in cities like BR, those crimes often go unreported to police. Many "lesser" crimes (petit larceny, vandalism, and so forth) are likely just accepted as a part of everyday living by many in high-crime cities. I'm not including rape as a "lesser crime", just saying that in a low-crime city like Lincoln, a rape may be more likely to be reported when it happens.

You can see a similar disparity, though to a lesser degree, between Lincoln and Omaha, just 50 miles away. For those that think Omaha is as bad as it gets, BR is a lot worse than Omaha.

Then there is lovely Detroit, with a murder rate 22x that of Lincoln.

Tom Casady said...

Anonymous 2:36

You're observations are quite correct. I think that minor crimes go under reported in a high-crime environment, and crimes such as Rape or Burglary go under reported when respect for the police (or faith in the police) is low.

If you really want to compare crime stats across cities, the best measures, in my view, are the crimes with very high reporting rates--crimes that are serious, crimes that are difficult to fail to report to the police, regardless of what one thinks about their effectiveness. Here are the crimes that meet my criteria--

Auto Theft
Business Robbery

Compare Lincoln on those three and there will be an eye-opener. Since the FBI does not break out robberies at businesses at a separate category, you'd have to look at the whole shebang on robbery, but it's still a lot more indicative of comparative crime than something like burglary or larceny-theft.

Anonymous said...

I work with officers in a metro area and am shocked at what is "HBO'd". Hope Lincoln never comes to that. You can't solve big city problems and give small town attention to detail with current staffing for much longer. Everybody gets burned out at some point.
-the poor speller

Anonymous said...

I believe an HBO disposition is the best way to implement community policing unless a lack of further action counters it. Further action may be required by circumstances and often is, however. Also, bogging down the entire system with reports, citations, and such should be avoided when HBO will accomplish the same results.

Anonymous said...

Those 3 crimes would be hard to not report. With murder, there's a corpse laying around, and with business robbery or auto theft, no police report probably means that no insurance claim would be paid.

I can see some ambiguity as far as residential burglaries and non-business robberies are concerned. I'm not sure how the FBI classifies home invasion robberies. Do they classify them as armed robberies or as residential burglaries?

Tom Casady said...

A Home Invasion robbery is an FBI Uniform Crime Report Robbery, if it involves actual or threatened force or violence--as opposed to a case in which a burglar happens to break into a home where the victim is sleeping, but leaves without any threat or act of violence. That would be classified as an FBI UCR Burglary.