Thursday, January 17, 2008

Perplexing trend

Last night was our monthly ADUCAT meeting, and among other things we were discussing a recent spate of residential burglaries at apartment complexes. We got an update on the status of a current investigative effort that is quite promising, and on the prevention strategies that have been underway. This isn't the first time that residential burglaries have been on our agenda, and we've had some creative efforts concerning these crimes in the past several months that I've reported on previously in the Chief's Corner. The current pattern has been a little different, in that it has included a larger number of door-kicks: cases in which brute force is applied to a regular exterior door, breaking the door jamb away from the lock bolt.

Tuesday night, I was at a meeting at one of our nicer new apartment communities, the Links at Lincoln, where about 100 residents had gathered to talk about an outbreak of burglaries plaguing their 612 units. In advance of the meeting, the management staff at the complex had spoken to me by telephone, and also been quoted in the local press in a way that was just slightly testy--as if we hadn't been doing anything, when in fact we have worked hard on this trend and cleared half the cases.

I pointed out that of the 36 residential burglaries there since January 1, 2007, eighteen appear to be the work of a single suspect who was arrested several weeks ago: an employee of a subcontractor who managed to get his hands on the master key. The remaining 18, though incredibly annoying and frightening to their victims, probably would not be nearly as alarming compared to any other similar-sized complex in Lincoln over the course of a little more than a year. It's still too many, though, and we had a great discussion in the clubhouse Tuesday about what needs to be done to drive that number down. The meeting went really well, and it was about the largest turnout I can recall in my career for anything of this sort--a very good sign.

Anticipating finger-pointing that failed to materialize, I had taken along data concerning the 20 year trend in residential burglary and maps depicting all the hotspots for apartment burglaries (the Links is hardly alone). I never used any of this, but the 20-year trend is interesting nonetheless (click to enlarge).

The burglary rate has fallen precipitously since 1987. I understand why commercial burglaries are down (better and more alarms and security systems), but this just doesn't seem to apply to residential burglaries. Residential security systems are still rare in our city. The decrease is pretty significant--about a 30% reduction in the burglary rate. The actual number of residential burglaries has dropped slightly since 1987, despite the addition of around 54,000 residents. This is different than other crimes, all of which have increased to varying degrees. I like it, I just don't fully understand it.


PrairieDog said...

In order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to obtain.-Mark Twain

With the addage of the internet, box stores and easy credit there is less of a need to commit these crimes. I would lean towards a displacement of burglaries have now populated financial and indentity theft crimes. Not to mention the retail's industry dramatic rise on employee related thefts that are written off each year. This number has only grown with the increase in box stores about the nation.

But for goodness sakes Chief, I do like your closing comments talking about the increase in other crimes. Without it I thought a reader may come at you by saying we don;t need more officers if the numbers continuously go down.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps our demographics have changed over 20 years? We baby boomers are getting too old to be breaking into houses.

Anonymous said...

Are the residential burglaries that occur keeping roughly the same proportion between apartments and detached houses, or is it swinging more toward apartments than has been the case in the past?

From reading the news stories as well as your own incident summaries, it looks like many people still don't realize the bang-for-the-buck of a simple piece of broomstick.

Anonymous said...

Here is an off topic question. What are the laws or local ord about in dash DVD players. The Chapter 60 of DMV code says not televisions....but what about in dash DVD players?

Thank you

It is perplexing said...

I would like to see how many book-in charges were generated over the the past 10 years for burglary. Go furhter to see how many were convicted on the Burglary charge and did not have it plead down.

I would next like to census those charged and/or convicted with burglary and see when/if they fell off the Lincoln grid by using current intel/phonebooks/NCJIS wage information.

This would identify the following types-family tree criminals, imports from other areas/states and corrected beahviors.

Anonymous said...

Chief, I can't help but see a trend on how you love the use of "technology" in your department. This may be why I have heard you refered to as "Chief Radio shack". I believe the drop in residential burglaries is obvious, and has nothing (or at most little)to do with technology. Just good old fashion police work done by LINCOLN's officers. In the last several blogs I have read how technology has helped identify, solve, and even reduce crime. While this may be good I'm willing to bet many crimes have been identified, solved, and reduced by a good "beat cop" getting to know his area, and know the people in it. I think it's about time to hear about good "old fashion" police work done by good old fashion officers. I dont mean the ones who seem so ready to pat you on the back and stand by your office door. I'm talking about the ones who do their job without praise but with criticism. The ones who may drive a little fast going to calls. The ones who shake people down to get info, even if it means troubling a few "innocents". These are the cops I want patroling my neighborhood. Not the ones who have a glassy eyes from staring at a computer screen or your "data". If I see a few cops at The Mill enjoying a cup of joe. I hope he stays a few minutes longer and drinks an extra cup. I know a relaxed cop who enjoys a few moments while working is a better cop then the ones who are worried about being promoted, or worried what others are saying about him. These are the cops who are getting the job done. You can't get to know the peeps in my neighborhood by staring at a map with the latest crime trends. And lets face it, the peeps are the ones with info, and the peeps wont give this info to a DORK in a uniform, but would give it to a solid cop who cares. The DORKS are easy to pick out. They are the ones with the shiniest of boots, the cleanest cruiser, the ones who say "sir" and "mamn". The ones who are worried what others think of him. Sound familiar? The solid cops are the ones who just stop to say "what's up". They dont seem to worry what you or anyone in the department may think. They are not worried about face time on the tube.

Tom Casady said...


Am I just paranoid, or is there supposed to be some kind of veiled insult in there? Are you the same guy who pushed me around in high school on my way to the library?

If so, cut to the chase: "Chief, you're a dork, and I don't like you." Saves a lot of unnecessary typing.

Have you been reading this blog for longer than a week? Try:

The Oscar goes to
Sure sign of sprint
Message for the graduates
The Closer and Law & Order are fiction
Keeping a lid on it
Catch your breath
Better than a bullet
It's a team effort
Happy birthday, Laurie
Nice arrest but help needed
Game one in the book
A fine tour of duty
Determined effort by the team
and some inspiration
Third shift wrap-up
Veterans Day on the street
...pants on fire
We'll miss her

And many others. Sorry if I offended you with a graph. Did I say or even imply that "technology" has anything at all to do with the decline in residential burglaries?

There are some pretty good theories proposed in other comments, but most don't explain why burglary is declining and other property crimes are not.

Prairiedog's opening hypothesis is very interesting--We've had a huge increase in forgery and fraud during the past 20 years. Maybe the overall M.O. of thieves has moved towards higher-gain, lower-pain crime types. Burglary, after all, requires some manual labor. You could throw your back out!

Gun Nut said...

I think I have posted this story before but I think it is worth repeating.******************
I was doing a strip search of an inmate headed to the visiting room (NSP). When the inmate removed his shirt I noticed several scars that looked like bullet scars. I asked him, " Are those bullet wounds?".

He said yes. I then asked if he got them in a shootout with the cops.

He said "No, I used to be a burglar and I broke into a home where the occupant was home. He had a pistol and he shot me three times".

I asked the inmate if he learned anything from the experience. He told me,"Yes. Burlarizing is dangerous work. When I get out I am going to look for a safer line of work. . . maybe stealing cars".

Gun Nut

Anonymous said...

That's true, to boost a purse (and wallet/checbook/cards) out of an unlocked car makes almost no noise and the thief spends almost no time-on-target to complete the crime. A locked car makes a little more noise if you smash the window, but doesn't take appreciably more time. Compared to doing a burglary, it carries far less risk of apprehension at the point of the crime.

Then, it's off to do heavy CC fraud and check forgery, preferably before the crime is discovered and especially before it's reported. I suppose you could prompt the local news media to assist you in pleading with people to not leave stuff in their cars for thieves to boost, but you already have, and still they leave tons of swag to be stolen.

Technology user to anon 5:01 said...

In this day of technology the good cop gets some data such as residential burglaries or accident prone intersections then goes to have a cup of joe while reading what the data says. He/She then takes that knowledge and goes out and makes contacts or writes tickets in the areas being hit the hardest and maybe comes up with a POP project and tries to put a stop to the particular crime/problem that is happening in that area. This good cop can figure out the crime trends on his/her own true enough, but technology puts it all together in a neat little package that can be looked at on a map to find the crime trends. The good cop uses the new fangled 'nerdy' information along with good old fashioned police work to help put a stop to crime. Most civilians would be surprised to know that just a few people are involved in the majority of the crime in a city and usually commit those crimes close to their home base. If those few people can be put in jail or educated then the crime rate goes way down and the good cop can then enjoy his/her joe a little while longer. If using technology makes a cop a DORK then so be it. Our 'nerdy Chief Radio Shack' is doing his best to make that all possible. If you can do better then do it, other wise go in the corner and shut up. Either way, give the guy a break and stop breaking balls. It is getting old.

Anonymous said...

"Sir", "What's up" with calling me a "dork"? Actually, the cops nursing coffee at the Mill probably do have the cleanest cruisers because the rest of use are out working. Some of you use this blog to whine about nothing. Suck it up and work. We're cops so we should have thick skin and not feel to need to cry and whine on this site whenever we see an opening.

ChinMusic said...

Wow - sorry for the bitterness from our anonymous poster.

Not sure that I really want to go to living in a community where our police officers "shake people down" even if it bothers some innocents.

Let's remember that the writer's guild is on strike - so FX hasn't been showing the new season of The Shield yet.

I for one am glad that LPD is able to afford the systems and databases necessary to provide this information, and have no complaint with a chief (who is responsible for department outcomes) that can use a little Radio Shack magic to spot trends, focus limited resources on trouble spots, justify manpower decisions etc etc.

Re-read the post a few days ago where a convicted sex offender had moved across the street from a school - and how they were able to deal with that violation quickly and cleanly - without any shakedowns. Any parent who reads that and can't say "Thank God for Chief Radio Shack (and all the others who support him)" isn't fully conscious.

What I originally was going to ask has to do with burglar alarms and whether they made any difference. You mention them as being a help in commercial burglaries.

Also - do these numbers include theft from garages when doors are left open? Wasn't sure if the loss of a few cases of pop / beer from an open garage was categorized as a burglary or not.

Tom Casady said...


Yes, those garage fridge thefts really do count as burglaries. Garages that are entered by someone who intends to steal something--whether open and unlocked or not--would be burglaries under the FBI Uniform Crime Report definition:

"The unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or a theft."

For the record, I do not own anything from Radio Shack, have never used a soldering iron, wouldn't have any idea how to replace a hard drive, and I can't reset the time on my digital watch when daylight savings time ends. If I could find the manual to that Timex, I might be able to figure it out, eventually. I think people like 5:01 confuse adeptness with information and adeptness with computers--two quite different things. I have a fair amount of one, but very little of the other.

Anonymous said...

Not to beat the subject to death, but, 5:01 had some good points, along with some that went a step too far. I agree that any beat cop worth their weight in salt already knows what apartment complexes are being victimized, what neighborhoods are active, where the frequent fliers are plying their trade, etc. They don't need a pin map or graph to do their job. At the same time, they do come in handy once in a while when speaking to the public about crime trends, explaining why I am making field contacts in a specific area, or magically ringing a bell when a RSO is living too close to a school. As in most cases, a balance is most effective. It does no good to have the technology if we don't have the good street cops to go out and handle things day to day where the rubber meets the road. And I know a lot of good street cops that occasionally sit down and look at data to help them focus their efforts. The word 'dork' or 'nerd' would never enter my mind when describing these officers. Technology assists the street work, it does not take it's place. But to ignore the potential value of the technology would be like eliminating some of our tools from our toolbox.


-JS- said...


You knew someone was bound to send you this.

Anonymous said...

This blog must have some kind of mysterious power to shape local events. Remember when you posted about suicides not being any more common during the holidays - then just a few days later, we had a rush on them? Then I posted, asking whether or not "suicide by cop" was classified as suicide or justifiable homicide (the latter was correct), and in your reply youy also stated it had fortunately been a long time since we'd had one here - but just a short time we had a SBC.

Now, in a burglary-themed post, you mention a particular complex - and the next day, you have three more break-ins there.

It's like Ripley's...or maybe like thugs "commuting" down from Omaha on I-80 to "shop" at The Links, so handy from that highway, with rapid departure enabled by that proximity. Some fishwrap comments indicated the possible use of sledges to force one door. Maybe they're even using homemade breaching rams, probably an idea helped by watching too much "Dallas SWAT" on the boob tube. I'd understand if you didn't want to post this comment because of that, because they don't need any helpful suggestions, but I just thought I'd throw it out there.

JT said...

I'm gonna just jump by all the comments about "cheif radio shack" as I don't feel that I have anything to add to that topic. Our police know best how to do their job and I for one, fully support their use of new technologies to bring them information faster and more organized than ever before.

On topic: is it not possible that simply less burglaries are getting reported? It seems likely to me as rates for other crimes increase, lincoln probably has a higher # of criminals of all varieties. SO my point being, if somebody breaks in my house and steals my tv, but i'm running a meth lab in my basement, well I'm not too likely to be calling the cops to report it and have them come poking through my stuff. Just a thought.

P.S. I'm NOT running a methlab in my basement, just to clear that up. :P

Anonymous said...

Perhaps not coincidentally, are the Northridge Heights apts (over on 28th & Fletcher) also starting to be a burglary hotspot?

Tom Casady said...

Eight in the past six months, which is probably about normal for a complex of this size. Some of these could be related to Fountain Glen and the Links, but no certainty in that.

Standby for news later this week or next.