Monday, February 25, 2008

Impact of growth

Lincoln has a steady historic population growth rate during the past 100 years that averages a bit over 1% per year. Since the 2000 census, Lincoln's population has grown by about 21,000. Essentially, in the past seven years, we've added the city of Columbus, Nebraska to our population. Columbus, a little city at the confluence of the Loup and Platte rivers, is Nebraska's 14th largest city. It has six public elementary schools, one middle school, one public and one parochial high school. It has a library, senior center, 34 churches, a hospital, a community college, and a pair of 18-hole golf courses.

Columbus also has a police department, with 35 officers and 17 vehicles. Taking on the population of Columbus since 2000, Lincoln has added 21 officers. Considering the extant administrative, investigative, and support infrastructure in place in Lincoln, I'd say that's about right to account for the population increase. Trouble is, Columbus started out a lot larger than Lincoln in police per capita to begin with. Columbus has 1.63 officers per 1,000 residents. Lincoln has 1.30 per 1,000. If Lincoln's police force was the same size as Columbus, we'd need to add 90 more officers to our force of 317. If we did that, we would then rank sixth in Nebraska in the ratio of police officers to residents, still way behind places like Omaha and Grand Island.

Lincoln's growth is having a major impact on the police department. If you draw a circle with a radius of half a mile at 87th and Highway 2, we handled 339 police dispatches within that circle last year. In 2001, we handled a whooping eight. It's not just the number of dispatches, though, it's also the geographic spread of the city. Lincoln's added nearly 15 square miles during that time period. Think about this: the officer sent to the traffic accident at 87th and Highway 2 at shift change is travelling nearly 8 miles as the crow flies from headquarters. If you're wondering, it's a 23 minute trip at 3:30 p.m..

Here's an interesting graphic of Lincoln's geographic growth I made for a presentation I did at the City Director's meeting last Wednesday. It's an animated map of Lincoln's historic growth. Click on the image to start the loop.


Anonymous said...

Did someone say "Southeast Satellite Station?"

Anonymous said...

I assume you "mile out" the cruisers relatively quickly in the Southeast Team area. That's a lot of ground to cover with the number of officers assigned there. Don't get me wrong, I understand why troop density is lower down here than it is in the other team areas.

6:51 mentioned something I've been thinking about lately. There are subs at the Auld Rec Center, 45th & F, and Union College. Are you looking at adding another anytime soon?

Personally, if I was the owner of a large shopping mall, I'd cut out a piece of the property and let you have it on $1 per year lease. It'd be a win-win all around, and would more than make up the loss of regular rent by always having LPD at my mall in case I needed them there. Most of the customers (wannabe gangstas and binge-drinkers excepted) like seeing cruisers at the mall 24/7, as do most business owners with working brains.

Anonymous said...

I read recently that the mayor's office is planning to mail surveys out to a certain number of our city's population with regards to where they want their tax dollars to go to. I said then that I would indicate a significant increase to law enforcement. This definitely reinforces that belief.

Anonymous said...

Did someone say 'more cops?'

Tom Casady said...

6:51 & 8:48-

Actually, the geographic spread of the Northwest Team (27.3 sq. mi.) is even greater than the Southeast Team (26.4 sq. mi.)--though the population and workload (thus officers) is less.

One thing we don't need is more small telephone-toilet-computer offices like Auld or Union College. It's not that these aren't valuable, but the nine we have so is sufficient. As you note, lots of property owners would be happy to give us a little office. We pay no rent at any of these. Rather, we need two or three more full-blown police substations like the Center Team Station and the Northeast Team Station. These are places where the employees actually report for work. They need full facilities, such as report rooms, interview rooms, locker rooms, offices, equipment rooms, assembly areas, parking, and so forth.

We've needed those for years. Cities inevitably reach a size where it is no longer practical to deploy from headquarters, and Lincoln's been there for a long time--but there has been no money to fund capital improvement projects in Lincoln.

Both the Center Team and Northeast Team Stations were opened with tax-increment financing redevelopment projects. Neither would have been my first priority, but you have to take advantage of the opportunities that arise. You can bet I'll be looking for any south Lincoln opportunity that arises.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking of something more like an acre of land, not a bolt-hole storefront. I think that's about the size of the Central Team station lot. Something like the lot the Wells Fargo bank is on at the SW corner of 70th & Pioneers (not that lot obviously, but one like it).

It would be a far, far better use of tax dollars to just buy the land and build the station than a lot of things I've seen the city planning lately (did someone say "arena").

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Chief I realize this is a little off topic but just a quick question regarding the NE team station. Why weren't there provisions made for parking? Cruisers and POV's are left to park in the Walgreens lot, on the street or in the mud/gravel area west of the station. I do realize there is a garage but what is the capacity?

Tom Casady said...


The only drawback to the gorgeous NE Team Station is that parking is just a tad tight. There are enough stalls, but barely. We had to sign the north half of 49th Street for police vehicles only. The lot to the west will eventually be part of a redeveloped commercial/retail complex, rather than mud. We park two marked units on Walgreen's lot one on the Huntington side, one on the 48th St. side. This is at Walgreen's invitation. It helps us with two stalls, and helps them with a little deterrence.

On his way to work on February 7, Officer Jeff Hanson parked his personal vehicle, and was traversing the Walgreen's lot in plain clothes when he found a suspect in the process of breaking into a car on the Walgreen's lot. The arrest was made, and believe it or not the same idiot got arrested doing the same thing on February 16 when another citizen caught him in the act.

Our defendant, a 16 year old, now has 15 arrests, beginning at age seven. He's not very successful at his chosen occupational field.

Anonymous said...

For those 15 arrests, how much total clink time has the errant youth served?

Tom Casady said...


He's a juvenile, so the records are a little difficult to retreive, but as best I can determine it looks like he's spent a total of 65 days in youth detention centers.

Anonymous said...

What are the chances of him being charged as an adult in escapades like this recent larceny? Statistically, is it likely he'll continue to be wrist-slapped by the court side of the system until (as J.J. Evans might malaprop) he "passes from childhood into adultery"?

Anonymous said...

with these glaring examples and numbers you've posted here and on previous posts, where does the responsibility fall to get this shortage fixed? Is it up to you to get the ball rolling?, the police dept union?, the city council appropriately allocating the funds where most needed? How do we fix this, it seems most of Lincoln would support an increase to the police dept. Where is the wistle cause I'll be the first in line to sound the horn.

Tom Casady said...


Slim, based on my past experience. It generally takes a heinous crime of some sort, or something that catches the public eye big time--Turco, Alexander, Collier all come to mind.


I've been making my pitch for years, and the union's position is the same. Time are tough for the City financially, though, and nobody's running for Mayor or Council on a platform of raising taxes. I suspect we'll be high on the list if and when the City's sales tax revenue returns to the glory years of the 1990s.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, is this kid ( A8-017361 ) that fine young man's junior sibling? Starting off their career at the same age, it seems.