Thursday, July 31, 2008

Top POPs

POPs are problem-oriented policing projects. I've blogged about them on many past occasions. Around 14 years ago, I created a little one page form called a POP Project Summary, so we could collect a few brief details about these projects. Sgt. Don Scheinost collects the POP project summaries, maintaining an archive and using these as proof that we do what we claim to do when it's time for our accreditation.

Sgt.Scheinost sees some really good POP projects that follow the classic SARA problem-solving model: Scan, Analyze, Respond, and Assess. Some POP projects are a little weaker on the analysis and assessment, but they all represent an important aspect of our style of policing: don't just respond to incidents and take reports, think about the problem or the conditions, and how we can address that more effectively. The Chief's Corner contains lots of examples of good police work wrapped up in creative POP projects.

Last week, I was in Washington, D.C. at the expense of the National Institute of Justice, serving on a panel to discuss the use of police data to support broad community initiatives. With time on my hands, I attended some of the other presentations. Dr. Gary Cordner intrigued me with one of the slides in his presentation "Taking the Information Highway Beyond the Next Interchange." It was a screen shot of another police department's web site, Port Washington, Wisconsin.

The Port Washington PD posts a short description of their POP projects on their public web site. I liked that idea a lot. I think it gives citizens a little bit more insight into what the police do, beyond what they see on the latest episode of Cops. I sent an email to Chief Richard Thomas, letting him know of my intention to steal his idea, complimenting his 19 officers on the work reflected in their POP projects, and suggesting that he tell his city manager I said so.

We can't post them all (we completed 160 last year), but Sgt. Scheinost and our public information officer, Officer Katie Flood, are going to pick a few every month and maintain this short summary of POP projects on our web site. Look for it in the "What's New" box, and under "Information and Events".


Anonymous said...

I was heartened to see LPD's completed POP project in College View, the one to wade into the increasing number of unregistered cars in that area. One of the reasons some don't register their cars is that they wish to avoid contact with any authorities. That's the reason that CV has at least one check-cashing place now, even though there's a nice local bank right there. When you've got garnishments you're trying to duck, and warrants out for your arrest, the hairy check-cashing fees are probably a way of life.

Anonymous said...


That is an awesome idea to steal from another department. Great Steal!!!

Anonymous said...

Regarding the dropping crime rates thing, how about the rate of business robberies? They didn't break that one out in the stories, but left it lumped in with all other robbery types. The reporting rate on that crime is usually close to 100%, unlike street robberies and home invasion robberies (especially if the latter two are drug-related or the victim doesn't want any contact with LE).

Lastly, regarding business robberies, Crime View Community shows those biz robberies occurring more in the last half of the month than the first half. Is that pretty consistent over the long term?

I've got my theories on why that (robberies toward month-end) might be - it involves public assistance checks and when they arrive and when that money runs out. If your girlfriend is broke, you've got to go get your dope money from somewhere else - until her next monthly round of checks arrive and you can run back for your monthly sponge.

Tom Casady said...


You'll find that data in this post on The Chief's Corner from June 16th. As you will see, the trend in business robberies looks good. It hasn't changed much in the past six weeks since I posted that, although we did have our first bank robbery of 2008 in the interim. So far, our bank robbery clearance rate this year is 100% and the average lapse of time between the robbery and the arrest is 6 minutes. ;-)

Anonymous said...

So the rise in the robbery rate is primarily due to more street robberies (and other open areas, like bike trails and so forth), if we can extrapolate that partial 2008 data. Interesting. Do you think that the reporting rate for street robberies has gone up, down, or remained fairly static? I know it's hard to say for certain, but I'd tend to trust your instincts.

Tom Casady said...


I can't see anything that would have affected the reporting rates for street robberies, so I think the increasing trend is genuine.

In many of these robberies, the victim's story is shaky: you suspect that it's actually a john who was shaken down by a pimp, or a drug purchaser who got jacked for his cash. In still others, you can see some high-risk behavior by the victim that contributed to (not excused)the crime. But we've had several in July of the worst sort: ordinary citizens going about their business, accosted and robbed. A couple of these have been in broad daylight.

I am particularly concerned about these types of street robberies, and we are watching this closely. Having been (along with my wife) a victim of one of these myself, I know personally how damaging this kind of crime is to the victim and to the community.

Anonymous said...

It's a shame, but you almost have to put that "...high-risk behavior by the victim that contributed to (not excused)the crime" in there, but if you don't, some whiner will accuse you of blaming the victim instead of the criminal. They need to realize that this isn't an ideal world, and things that look and act like prey tend to attract predators, just as they do in the animal kingdom.

For the most part, street robberies (the genuine ones where the victim wasn't at first committing a crime themselves) is that the victims tend to be lower-income individuals in the lower-income neighborhoods. People walking to their first shift job before sunrise, for instance. Like any other predator, street robbers pick a soft target - the small of stature, the elderly, the physically and/or mentally handicapped.

Ideally, we'd like to see no street robberies at all, but the robber being beat down by the victim would be OK too, especially with an arrest tacked on. However, most robbers won't target a 25 year old Merlin Olson type, but rather a much softer target, preferring easy cash to having their back broken in three places by a beefy victim.

Occasionally, they only think they've got a soft target, and it turns out the reverse is true.

Anonymous said...

Little Johnny's kindergarten class was on a field trip to their local police station where they saw pictures tacked to a bulletin board of the 10 most wanted criminals. One of the youngsters pointed to a picture and asked if it really was the photo of a wanted person. 'Yes,' said the policeman. 'The detectives want very badly to capture him.' Little Johnny asked, 'Why didn't you keep him when you took his picture ?'

Anonymous said...

I didn't really read the article, but my top pop is Dr. Pepper with Cherry Coke as a close second.

Anonymous said...

POP projects that are set up to actually do something are good. However, as an officer on the department, I see Sergeants making up POPs (towing vehicles, doing a certain amount of traffic, etc.) & passing them out for officers to complete just to get the POP stats up. If I find a worthwhile task that needs to be completed, then I'm on it! But to do POPs for the sake of stats, I shan't do...

Tom Casady said...


Right on. Quality and results are what matter. Good POP projects have identified significant problems, collected/analyzed some information about that, come up with an approach (often involving more than just the police) to the problem, implemented that, and reviewed the results. That's the SARA model: scann, analyze, respond, assess. Some of our POP projects are just routine stuff wrapped in a POP project summary. That's OK, it's just not what problem-oriented policing is about, and we should strive to do more projects like the ones I highlight here in The Chief's Corner.

Anonymous said...

Glad to see you agree with anon 4:18 Chief. There are some team Captains that require a certain number of POP projects a year. As you said, I always thought the POP project was used to take care of a problem that has arisen. If we are required to do a certain number of them then are we in a sense not creating problems just to take care of them?

Tom Casady said...

Come on, are you trying to tell me that there aren't enough problems in the City, so that requiring officers to be involved in solving one means that they have to "invent" problems to "pad" numbers? I think not.

I appreciate well-executed projects over merely more projects, but we certainly have plenty of issues amenable to POP projects that we can work on. If you are lacking ideas, see me, I'll start a list....

Cars are being broken into at parks, pools, trailheads while the owners are recreating--probably by thieves who are staking out the lot and waiting for an opportunity.

Registered sex offenders are failing to register address changes, and not living where they claim.

Tens of thousands of people are failing to pay their motor vehicle taxes in Lancaster County, and their Lincoln wheel tax.

Window peekers are plying their trade at apartment buildings daily.

Storage garages with are being burglarized with bolt-cutters, and nobody is suggesting to the owners that they get a better lock.

Daytime residential burglars are entering unlocked and open garages.

Street robberies and purse snatches are up and victims either going to work early in the morning or coming home late at night have been targeted.

GPS units are being snatched from cars.

Teens are grabbing beer from open garages.

Women are being raped at high-risk drinking parties, gangs are pulling robberies and/or thefts at or around these, and repetitive problem addresses are generating a litter, noise, and other problems for the neighborhood.

Aluminum ladders and trailers are being left unchained and outdoors and are being stolen.

Peddlers (mostly those without permits) are casing homes for burglaries.

Thieves are prowling used and new car lots looking for unlocked vehicles.

Contractors are having tools and equipment stolen from construction sites and construction trailers that are lightly-secured, with equipment that is sometimes unmarked....

Read the e-bulletin board, the intel summary, click on "recent reports".

Anonymous said...

You listed quite a few examples of crimes that are at least partially enabled by the victims. Not securing (or poorly securing) property, leaving swag visible in their vehicles (this includes leaving the faceplates on aftermarket stereos), not closing their garage doors, voluntarily engaging in high-risk intoxicated activity. Crime happens to soft targets, so harden yourself! Modify your behavior, where you go, and what you do, as much as you are able. Don't be the softest target in sight.

Now this one:

"Street robberies and purse snatches are up and victims either going to work early in the morning or coming home late at night have been targeted."

That kind of victim really doesn't do anything to partly enable their own victimization (nor did you even hint that they did), and that's why this crime type burns me (and LPD) so much. I'm not sure how to make a big dent in that one. There's only so much they can do.

On a very thin budget, they can't pull a car out of their hat to avoid walking through higher-crime areas on the way to work, and they can't wave a wand to make themselves a foot taller and 100 lbs beefier. They can't always walk in pairs or groups to present a harder target. They could get a cheap bike and ride in the street to reduce their robbery risk, but they may not have secure places to lock up a bike both at home and at work.

Anonymous said...

Here's a robbery, about which our great local paper apparently couldn't be bothered to dial up the watch commander and ask a few questions:


That sounds like somebody heading on foot from a downtown hotel to Amtrak for a train. Can you tell us any more about this one? If not, we can wait for the great paper to remember both where their phone is and how to dial. Their editor and writer will habitually redact the suspects' descriptions anyway, giving us every detail but one.

Tom Casady said...

2:25 -

Victim was meditating on a patch of grass at an unknown location in the city, when 3-4 male suspects of unknown race, age, and description pounced upon him at 4:00 AM. The victim has a lengthy history of...let's say, issues.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the details; the paper still hasn't heard of it. How about this one:

SW B 164 ROBBERY 2259 08-03-2008 2600 BLOCK PINE LAKE RD A8-076036

Was that one as it appears, another robbery of a business at closing time? Do the suspect descriptions resemble those of the previous Amigo's robbery several days ago?