Friday, April 4, 2008

...and darned if you don't

The Lincoln Journal Star allows readers to post comments on certain articles. I do not delude myself into believing that posted comments are representative of the citizens of Lincoln overall. Nonetheless, I like to read them at times, because there are occasional nuggets of wisdom that inform, or humor that entertains.

I have noticed that there is a sub-set of LJS commentators who regularly bust my chops about the fact that among many, many other things, the police department engages in efforts to reduce the impact of high-risk drinking parties on neighborhoods and on the community. Here's some typical examples of the critique:

Kurt wrote on January 27, 2008 3:22 pm: "...maybe it would have never gotten this bad if the police weren't so worried about our small keg parties and instead busted the crack heads... "

Shelly wrote on January 28, 2008 6:13 pm: " ...there's always five to seven cop cars downtown...what about cops that bust college parties?"

mike wrote on March 22, 2008 2:42 am: " ...I do not know what we pay our police chief for. He attacks bars, bar owners, people of legal age who party...get a life and go stop some real crime."
It was strangely gratifying to open Wednesday's Lincoln Journal Star and see an article about the North Bottoms neighborhood containing just the opposite criticism:

"...Caudill lives in Omaha, but spent 21 years in the North Bottoms and keeps a place at the Hayward Place Condos, a complex he manages. He left more than a year ago, driven out in part by his frustrations over late-night parties and what he believes was inadequate police enforcement...."
I'm used to catching it from both directions at the same time.

I empathize with Mr. Caudill. When you have a job, kids, and responsibilities, it's not much fun living next door to some hard-partying 20-somethings who regale you with their exploits in the wee hours. There is a legitimate police role in trying to control illegal behavior that makes it difficult for other residents to enjoy their own home. You should expect the police to do so, but you should realize that it is only one of many competing demands upon their resources.

I think the key is to try to maintain balance: don't become so focused on one or a few issues that other important issues are neglected, and don't ignore the small stuff lest it becomes big stuff. You can read all about our efforts to reduce the impact of large drinking parties, the rationale behind those efforts, and the results.

Jean Ortiz, the author the North Bottoms article, wanted me to comment about Ed Caudill's criticism. I told her that we have focused a lot of effort on the North Bottoms, but that ultimately the police were not responsible for the economic and social trends that have caused this neighborhood to go from an area of families and owner-occupied houses to an area primarily of rental houses attractive to single young people. We didn't close Hayward Elementary School, cause Reifschneider's Grocery to be replaced by a mini mart, build Interstate 180 or move the University of Nebraska to the doorstep.

I also told her that my perception was that the conditions in the neighborhood have noticeably improved in the past decade or so. I was thinking about things like the replacement of the rickety 10th Street overpass, the demolition of a group of seriously-dilapidated houses, and the new streetscape features recently installed. But I was also thinking about the police incidents occurring in the neighborhood. I told her that if I could have a couple of hours, I would bring some data to bear on that, and see if my perception holds any water. She was near her 4:00 P.M. deadline, and declined. My own curiosity had been piqued, though, so I produced this spreadsheet:

Column B is wild party complaints, column C is total police dispatches, and column D is dispatches to disturbances of all types. I made another chart looking at bell-weather crimes: burglary, larceny from auto, drug offenses, and assaults. It showed the same pattern. Looks like my perception was pretty accurate.


Prairie Dog said...

I wish the "don't pick on us party goers" would leave their addresses on the blog.

I can see it now. Then the next time I am ready for my morning constitutional I could stop by a fine establishment in the downtown area and order a coffee. My coffee and I would then stop by the "young goers" rental where I would go drop my growler on their porch or in their yard.

I would then retire to the sidewalk and turn up my morning radio show with a coffee and wait for their expression upon the discovery of my gift.

He acually did it.... said...

I love the graph.....

Anonymous said...

Since warm weather is expected this weekend, the party action should be ratcheting up in the North Bottoms.

Anonymous said...


I think you've done something like this before - maybe on a different "trigger" like firearms - but it would be pretty interesting to see the percentage of calls you handle in a day / week / month where alcohol is a factor.

I'm not just talking about the keg parties, and DUI's - but domestics where one or both have had some alcohol. Child abuse, sexual assault, criminal mischief, disturbing the peace, theft, - you know the list - and many times alcohol is a contributing factor in the incident.

It amazes me the blind ignorance some people show to the linkage between alcohol and other social problems.

I just wish you could track the number of other crimes you prevent when you break up a party and stop 20 - 50 "innocent party goers" somethings from drinking too much and driving, fighting w/ someone, smacking their girlfriend, stealing a bike, breaking a neighbors yard decorations, going "too far" w/ another unwilling party goer etc etc.

It would also be interesting to track the investigative and enforcement hours that you have to spend "after the fact" when you have a big party that you didn't hear about or get to break up - but yet get to deal with the aftermath.

JT said...

excellent graph! :) I walked around with a friend who lives in the middle of this area for about an hour on wednesday. There has been excellent upgrades to the sidewalks, and lighting in this area, as well as the awesome new 10th st bridge. It is much better place to live than it was even 3 years ago when I last was up there.

however the fact remains that being high density renters properties and so close to campus, it will definately draw in more of the younger more active crowd. (and thus parties) You just can't delete the problems entirely.. just move them around the city.

Not that I'm saying a group of legal citizens having a kegger is a "problem"

Anonymous said...

I see you are still taking digital photos of your dry erase board to 'store' data.

Anonymous said...

I think you should download an update for your excel program, it seems to have a bug.

I just have a quick question: if over the same time period more student renters move into the formerly owner-occupied housing, then wouldn't the data be slightly skewed by the under reporting of incidents? It seems as though college students would be less likely to turn in a neighbor's kegger if they are going to have one on the following Tuesday. I guess my question would be, do college students turn each other's "wild parties" in?

Of course the graduation of my former rugby teammate Kevin Koss, probably lends to the decline as well...ha

Tom Casady said...

Anonymous 10:58-

That's an excellent observation, and I had the same thought.

Because of that, I ran another spreadsheet (as I mentioned in the post) of a group of "bell weather crimes", things I thought would not be particularly susceptible to a reduced reporting phenomenon--if it exists--caused by fewer homeowners and more college-aged renters. These crimes were burglaries, larcenies from auto, narcotics cases, and assaults.

1998 104
1999 136
2000 136
2001 90
2002 135
2003 107
2004 91
2005 92
2006 79
2007 68

So, 2007 is 53% below the 10-year average, and the decline has been quite steady, and tracks the decrease in overall dispatches. To me, this would tend to indicate that a greater tolerance to noise, disturbances, or parties is not the cause of these declines.

Still, though, it could be the demise of that old rugby hangout at 1018 Y Street.

Anonymous said...

Who brings more economic activity to North Bottoms? The college kids with disposable income, or the people with dead-end, low class jobs. Keep that in mind when the police wage war on those going after an education.

Anonymous said...

I predict 470 calls for today. We're over halfway there already as of the time of this posting. This warmer weather really brings out the troublemakers.

HeHateMe said...

Keep in mind the people that actually pay property taxes and are having their peace and quiet disturbed by those college kids with disposable incomes who don't pay property taxes.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous 2:11

Just to clarify, the police do not wage war on any group with the exception of criminals. It doesn't matter how much disposable income you have to throw around. From the lowest income family man to the richest trust fund baby, if you commmit a crime we will be there to enforce the law equally.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8:32-

Go read some Henry David Thoreau, and then reconsider your black and white position on the law. That goes double for you, Chief.

Tom Casady said...


I've read Thoreau. What exactly did I do to merit this lecture? The guy who posted near the end on my Monday post on April 1 at 5:31AM acuses me of being a "bleeding liberal," now you seem to be insinuating that I'm some kind of dogmatic knuckle-dragger.

Hey, come to think of it, that was sort of the topic of this post, wasn't it. Darned if you do, darned if you don't.

Anonymous said...

I've read Thoreau too. Anarchist rubbish. I guess I missed his commentary on how the government should allow people to urinate on others houses or throw their beer cans on their lawn every weekend. We should change our oath of office to say that people with disposable incomes should not be arrested or subject to the same laws as everyone else.

Anonymous said...

It's all a circle Chief.

Anonymous said...

Hang in there Tom. Remember, you asked for this "good news - bad news" attitude from people when you decided to start this blog. As you used to say, take the good and use the bad to make you a better officer.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait until the college students with disposable incomes graduate, go out in the real world and get one of those "dead-end, low-class" jobs. Then they'll be the ones calling the police when their 2 year old is awakened at 3 in the morning by their neighbors "house-guests" peeing in their bushes. And they'll be the one cursing those "lazy cops that didn't do anything about that stupid party" when they're spending the day picking up broken beer bottles all over thier yard & driveway. Yeah, LPD are a bunch of bullies who have nothing better to do than harrass "innocent" party goers.

I had a "kegger" (well, it was a gathering where a keg was present) at my house last summer. It was amazing how we were able to have a really good time, the cops didn't have to come "bust" us, and none of my neighbors complained. But I guess that's because we're all a little older, employed full time, some of us have kids, and we weren't there simply for the purpose of getting totally and completely drunk.
If all you whiners would just GROW UP... maybe LPD would have more time to go out and "solve some real crimes".

Anonymous said...

Denying the students the ability to throw keggers in their college years is the real crime.. Looks like the police budget in Lincoln needs to be cut if their wasting time and money busting college kids for partying.

Anonymous said...

For a possible clue as to who has a thing for Thoreau, you might want to take a peek at UNLPD incident 08001523.

Anonymous said...

I haven't figured out how it is possible to believe that one has the right to break the law. The law is reasonable in the view of most of the populace. If you don't agree, work to CHANGE IT. You don't have the right to infringe on other people's rights. You can party, you can have your friends over, you can play music, play pool, drink, grill whatever. The law is trying to address that the rest of us just don't want to know about it.