Thursday, July 17, 2008

Losing ground

With the population of Lincoln growing by about 1.4% per year, we need to add 4.4 officers per year just to tread water (317 officers, times .014). We haven't been keeping up, and the department has slowly been shrinking. Here's where we've been since I got this job in 1994, and adopted the goal of getting the department to 1.5 officers per 1,000 (click to enlarge):

We did pretty well during the decade of the 1990's, but when the economy headed south and Lincoln's sales tax went on the skid, we started falling back. Here's all the cities of 10,000 or greater in Nebraska and all the surrounding states, ranked in order of the number of police officers per 1,000 residents. The most recent comparison data available is from the 2006 FBI Uniform Crime Reports, so it's two years behind now, but we'll be in about the same place.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Chief, Let the few hundred people that read this blog know what needs to happen to get more cops. It's obvious that there aren’t enough of us to go around.

Prairie Dog said...

I can imagine that as population goes up and the number of officers has diminished that moral could be a problem since the distributed work load has increased. Over burdened/worked troops must be a struggle to keep them in the ranks.

What efforts has LPD taken to celebrate their officers who remain loyal in their profession over the years?

While Adam 12 may have been your CSI, has the increase in the number of police shows created any greater interest on choosing this profession?

Anonymous said...

I think you were looking for "Losing Ground."

Anonymous said...

These numbers are pathetic. This is giong to get an officer killed and it will be the city's fault. Oh but they will throw one heck of a funeral

Anonymous said...

why did you fail to put North Platte, NE on here?

Anonymous said...

why did you not include North Platte?

Anonymous said...

Chief;

I agree with you when you say we need more officers, but only if they are the "feet on the street" officer. Also- many of the small communities in your survey should not be used as a comparison. The departments there are mostly part-time or volunteer staffed- not full time officers.

Anonymous said...

Chief,
With all due respect, that is only one variable. If you want a stronger argument, look at the number of officers per crime. Even break it down to violent/non-violent and traffic. You will make a stronger case if you can show that number of crimes is going up per officer.

Anonymous said...

You might be surprised how agreeably a small tax increase might be received - as long as the monies could only go to LPD, and not be shifted out of the LPD budget for things like building transient/gang resorts (aka parks between campuses) or arena studies and shoveling tax money to Talent Plus. The large majority of homeowners in Lincoln really like LPD, and would be willing to pay for more officers and equipment.

However, they'd need to be sure that the tax increase won't instead wind up buying even more property for Lincoln Housing Authority, or funding study after study for this and that, just to mention two examples of burning up tax money.

Tom Casady said...

6:44--

Elect officials who will raise taxes or can figure out some other way to increase revenues. Police departments cost a lot of money, through no fault of our own. If you want more of, you've got to pay for it.

10:46/10:50--

Apparently North Platte did not contribute crime data or employment data to the FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2006.

11:14--

It does not matter if you compare us to small cities, large cities, cities of the same size, cities in our region, cities in the nation, or cities that have the same number of Pizza Huts. Any way you slice it or dice it, we are unusually small. Did you notice any other city of 200,000 or more that's even in the bottom half? Can you find more than one other City of 150,000 in the bottom half? When I prepare my graphs for the elected officials, I prepare many different comparisons and anticipate many possible angles of approach.

I come to budget meetings loaded for bear, and can produce the data quickly even if someone asks, "Well, yes, maybe we're small compared to THOSE cities, but what if you compared Lincoln to other State Capitals that have two L's or two N's in their name?"

That would be Tallahassee (2.20 officers per 1,000 residents), Trenton (4.24), Annapolis (3.12), Honolulu (2.25), and Indianapolis (1.98).

11:33--

You mean something like this? The City Council gets the full spiel every year from me, illustrated and in color.

11:37--

I tend to think you're right. I sense very high levels of citizen support for the police in Lincoln--higher than ever, and higher than most anywhere. But did you see the City Council majority's reaction to the very thought of a $15 per year increase in taxes to support City services? At any rate, I don't make City tax policy. It's a good thing, I think we've low-balled it for far too long, and need to pay the piper. Unfortunately, I'm not sure people (especially those who are elected) are quite ready to face the music yet. I don't really know what it's going to take.

Anonymous said...

Here's a huge future expense, and it's one that can't realistically be avoided forever: Lincoln really needs a large, dedicated, and purpose built Southeast Police Station. If you put that on the ballot as a bond issue, I think it would pass by a good margin. It'd get my vote, for starters.

I'd bet that the Chief has done some rough calculations regarding the cost of such a SE Station, land, construction, etc. Would it have detention facilities, so that a bus run down to County could move prisoners and let SE Team Officers instead get back out on the street faster? All sorts of things that we'd like to hear. The SE Team area is growing like mad. That area might not be the most crime-ridden (you don't exactly have a lot of incidents in the Country Meadows subdivision, for example), but it pays a lot of taxes, and its extreme edges are a long drive from the main station.

Tom Casady said...

10:14-

It is in the City's Capital Improvement Program (p. 4), along with a few other capital construction projects. It's been there for seven years. Trouble is, there are no appropriations to fund the capital improvement program. In the past few years, virtually all the capital improvement expenditures have been taken out of the City budget to make ends meet.

A future bond issue is a possibility, and one that has been discussed extensively with the Finance Department, Mayor, and other City departments that are potential partners for a joint or shared use facility.

City bond issues for facilities have not fared well in recent years at the ballot box, and even when they do, it's not free money: you have to service the debt, which requires a new expenditure every year for the life of the bond. The lack of operational funds in the City budget makes our elected officials reluctant to take on that debt.

I think this, too, is something that is most likely going to happen only when the City's revenue rebounds in some significant fashion--through increased sales tax, growth in the property tax base, or a property tax rate increase. Right now, the political environment seems to take option three off the table entirely.

But things change. I would never have predicted the Northeast Station would materialize.

Anonymous said...

No new capital improvements, no money to pay for Lincoln's growth, barely getting by on current funding. Sounds like a city that is going backwards. Deferring these difficult decisions is only going to make it tougher to climb out of the hole later.

Perhaps the local elected officials are taking their cues from the Feds? If only they could use "deficit spending."

Anonymous said...

Do you remember off the top of your head what the For/Against was on the communications system upgrade bond issue? I don't remember exactly what year that was, even though I voted for it.

Anonymous said...

I thought what would make the most sense (which is probably why it wasn't done) was to have built a NE/SE station on O street and kill two birds with one stone.

Tom Casady said...

1:16-

That was 1995. I can't even remember what I had for dinner last night ;-)

My recollection is that it passed pretty easily. The City sales tax revenue was through the roof, so nobody was looking at the possibility of a property tax increase at that time. In fact, the City had been rolling back its property tax levy considerably as the sales tax revenues were taking bit leaps.

2:33-

Me too. I liked anywhere east of 70th between Holdrege and A. I though the lightly-used park land on the NE corner of 70th and A would be great. You've got to remember that the NE Station (and Center, for that matter) were both projects that came looking for us, not the other way around. Both were essentially "gifts" from Community Redevelopment projects, and would not have happened otherwise.

Anonymous said...

A white SUV with chrome wheels is seen every day on Thomasville to Bellville DR It is Ne plate PTD 201
OR PTO 201, various times.
In any case the neighbor says this person has FAKE plates also has a boom box to loosen your teeth.
Dispatch had the facts all scrambled and sent the meter maid to some residence when I told them it is seen every day in the PM and I did not say I thought the vehicles owner lived near here. DAH

Signed: I pay my wheel tax

Anonymous said...

Perhaps with the correct funding, the new SE susbtation could look like this. I fear Lindberger would drive away the citizens.

Anonymous said...

I think we need two approaches to address this problem, from a police and fire stand point. 1) is a that LPD continues to move into the current century with equipment from the same pool of money that is needed for people and recruiting. I am sure LFR is in the same boat with safety equipment. I would think a police fire bond issue to address current technology, safety and equipment needs, coupled with a realistic (not LPS) building needs portion, would be well accepted by the voters. 2) We need to do a much better job of tell and showing what a deal for the price city services are. We hear and see mass discussion about the mayor raising the property tax 1 cent, yet when the schools--who eat most of your property tax, court fines, and a number of other undisclosed taxes like it was non-filling jello--need more the check book comes open and no one shows up to ask why. And, if they did, the School board would not listen any way.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, more trouble in the Indian Village subdivision. It was surprising that the home invaded (A8-070377) was not a rental, but instead owner-occupied. I believe that is unusual for a HIR in Lincoln. Do you suspect anything else was stolen (but not reported), or just the items reported?

If things are as they read in the newspaper, then it sure sounds like a house guest or someone similar purposely left the back door unlocked before they left ("I'll just grab my beer from the fridge [unlocks back door] see you later"), in order to grease the skids for accomplices that were queued to arrive a short time later.