Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Not a wild guess

Urban police departments in cities of our size almost always divide the patrol landscape geographically into districts. We call our's Team Areas, or just Teams. We have five, which would be about par for the course in cities like Lincoln. Our Teams are further divided into beats. Into each beat, on each shift, a certain number of officers is assigned.

A good deal of numbers crunching goes into the allocation of resources to Teams and beats. We conduct an annual workload analysis that kills a couple trees in order to make sure that our field resources are distributed in a way that mirrors, as much as possible, the workload. This is not perfect, because you've got the realities of schedules to deal with. You can't bring in an officer to work two hours, go home, then come back for six more; you can't split days off, and so forth.

A misconception I confront occasionally is the mistaken belief that we assign officers equally across the city or across shifts and days. A reporter asked me about this recently, and wanted some information to back up my response. I produced a simple map of our Team and beats for her, with three measurements: The total number of officers assigned to each beat, the number of officers per square mile that represents, and the number of officers per 1,000 population. I thought it was an interesting graphic that the general public might like to see (click to enlarge).

Southeast Team is the two orange beats, Center Team the green beats, and so forth. Here is the response I sent to the reporter with a few points to remember:

"Attached is a graphic that shows the total number of officers assigned to each patrol beat, the number of officers per square mile in each beat, and the number of officers per 1,000 population (based on 2,000 census block data). Thus, the Southwest Team's A beat has a total of 26 officers assigned, which is a density of 4.36 officers per square mile, and a ratio of 1.0 officers for every 1,000 residents.

A few things to keep in mind:

1. These are only uniformed patrol officers in non-supervisory positions (no sergeants, in other words), and I intentionally left out the 10 school resource officers.

2. This is the full staffing of each beat, and those officers are spread across 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. When you do the math on that, on average there would be a little less than 20% of the total on duty at in given time--in reality, it's never 20% because we staff up on the peak days and hours, and down on the off peak days and hours.

3. As you can see, with the exception of the downtown area (which is drastically skewed by a small resident population but a huge amount of non-resident use and commercial activity), Southwest Team A Beat is staffed at a considerably higher level than anywhere else--and four times the level of Southwest B Beat.

4. We do not staff our teams and beats based on square miles or population, but rather by workload demand. The assignment of police officers to areas, shifts, and days off is based on a complex annual analysis of workload: police incidents, arrests, special events, and so forth--and the time consumed by those activities. Our staffing is a reflection of where and when the workload is distributed."


Gun Nut said...

A question for you Chief:
Do you know of any programs that give housing allowances for officers to rent or buy homes in high crime neighborhoods? I would think that officers actually living in some of these high incidence neighborhoods would be a positive. This would also help the younger officers who are in the early part of their careers through a tough financial struggle. I know that nobody likes to live in a run down neighborhood if they can afford to go upscale but doesn't it make sense that if your officers live in a neighborhood that they work in they will try even harder to improve the area? Everyone wants the best for their family.

Maybe some of our city council and State lawmakers need to work on this.

Gun Nut

Tom Casady said...

Yes, HUD's Good Neighbor Next Door program (it used to be called "Office Next Door") does exactly that. We have only had two officers that I can recall who have taken advantage of GNND, in part because there are very few HUD foreclosures in the Lincoln revitalization areas. When they do come up on the market they tend to be small and, shall we say, "lived in." It's certainly something I'd be looking into if I were a young man and didn't have an entire basement and garage full of stuff!!!

Anonymous said...

NIFA could be a great help to young Officers just starting their career. If one has a steady job and good credit, they'll help you get into a home with a safe, fixed rate morgage and even front you the down payment through a 2nd morgage (forgiven after 9 years, I believe). It still amazes me how many Nebraskans have never even heard of NIFA.

Some (the military veterans) are presumably assisted by the VA Loan Guaranty Service when it comes to buying their own digs.

Anonymous said...


The one thing that might make your map more informative and that I'd be curious to see is the CFS also integrated into this map.

Tom Casady said...

Yes, I thought about including that, but it wasn't really part of the reporter's request, and would have taken another half hour or so. Teams would be easy, but we don't normally produce statistical reports by beat, so I would need to cook up a quick GIS project.