Monday, June 16, 2008

Robbery trends

Last Thursday, the Lincoln Journal Star crime beat reporter, Lori Pilger, had an appointment with me to discuss Lincoln's 2007 crime stats. The result was this article. The online version doesn't include the 1991-2007 bar chart that was in the print version, but in a nutshell, the Part 1 crime rate in Lincoln have fallen steadily since peaking in 1991. Although there was an uptick in the violent Part 1 crime rate last year, violent crime was still pretty low--in the bottom half of that time period. Since property crimes in the Uniform Crime Report overwhelm violent crimes, the small decrease in thefts resulted in a lower overall crime rate.

I told Ms. Pilger that the crime which concerned me the most was robbery. We had our fifth highest year since 1991 in that category. The article incorrectly reported that it was the second highest year on record. I was probably the only one to notice that, so it isn't a big deal. Robbery concerns me because of the risk that it poses. Holdups, home invasions, and street muggings are incredibly dangerous, and significantly impact the feeling of safety in the community. Even the news reports of such robberies make people jumpy. Many folks don't realize from the news report that the victim had just sold an ounce of pot to a customer who came back with a couple pals and a gun to get the cash and the rest of the stash.

I told Lori that my perception was that the increase was not in robberies of businesses, rather street robberies and home invasions (which are almost always drug-related ripoffs). We ran the numbers on business robberies, which showed that although they've bounced around a bit the trend line was flat. After she left, I did a little more work on other types of robbery. Here's the result (click to enlarge):

Two things stand out to me: the steady increase in robberies at residences, and the unusually low (even in the worst years) number of bank robberies. The cup's half full.


Anonymous said...

Crime "reporting" and the local fishwrap. Probably a big reason that many people don't realize the back story from reading crime-news stories in the LJS is that the paper often tells an incomplete story, quite often do so on purpose. They either don't ask your reps the right questions, or they ask them, but then redact portions of the answers. There are certain things they don't like to print, including complete suspect descriptions, and also in-custody suspect criminal histories that show a pattern of similar behavior over time. They've still got the Rutledge-agenda mindset. They obfuscate by omission and by selection. When a paper has no real local competition, there is little reason to improve their product - they sling foul fare, but it's the only beanery in town, so most people choke it down.

The fishwrap story also never touched at all on the difference between actual crime rates and reported crime rates, probably because they don't even realize the disparities exist. I sometimes wonder how many LJS writers have broadened their horizons for any length of time by living in a large, high-crime metro area (Chicago or Phoenix, for example), and I don't mean while sheltered on a college campus, nor just during vacations and junkets to the area. I'd risk a guess and say very, very few. Not surprisingly, they are a bit touchy about on-target comments that question their ethics and competence, but rather than refuting the barbs, they just choose not to post them.

For the best Lincoln crime news and analysis, put down the LJS and come to this blog (and the LPD incident summaries).

Anonymous said...

..agree with anon 10:06 Also- I don't understand the "other" category in these stats. If it's not a bank, a business, a residence, or outside / open...then where is it?

Tom Casady said...


"Other", as in park, recreational trail, commercial parking lot, hospital, treatment center, correctional facility, school, church, and a few others.

Anonymous said...

Is there any steady increase in the rate of non-drug-related residential robberies, or is there only an increase in the rate when you add in the HIRs where you strongly suspect a drug connection?

Tom Casady said...


It's just impossible to say. We don't know precisely how many of these robberies are drug-related. I think most officers would agree that a large percentage of the home invasions are drug-related, though, and that's the type consistently on the increase.

There just isn't any good way to know for sure. Beginning last year, officers indicate on the Incident Report when they think an incident is drug-related, gang-related, or alcohol-related. Sometimes you have clear-cut evidence of that, but often you don't. The victim doesn't seem to be entirely forthcoming about why he or she would let two total strangers into the apartment at 2:30 AM, but despite your suspicions, you just don't have anything to firmly conclude that it's drug-related.

Anonymous said...

Is a fairly recent criminal history of drug offense(s) sufficient to raise the drug-related flag? Are you able to bring a sniffer dog into the HIR houses and do a quick check for drugs that way? However, doing so as a publicly-known response/procedure to a HIR might discourage reporting of a HIR at a home that wasn't "clean".

Anonymous said...

Once again, in their typical style, the Journal Star deleted part of the suspect description details for the Amigo's robbery story. If that paper is good for anything but training a new puppy, I can't see it. The KOLN website, however, did give a complete description of the robber.