Monday, August 25, 2008

The Friday series

I am going to write a series of posts this week about things that happened last Friday, August 22. I thought it might be an interesting way to examine some significant issues that just happened to come up on a single day.

The day started early, when I did a little crime analysis research at home and posted Catalytic Converter Thefts. It was an apropos prelude to the day's scheduled activity, teaching an eight-hour class, Information Resources, that I prepare twice each year for the students in our basic police academy.

During Friday's class, the students did a couple of exercises to examine two crime trends: thefts from automobiles in which convertible tops were cut, and auto break-ins occurring at recreational facilities. The students found only a handful of convertible top cases, but we discussed how they could approach these crimes if a series was actually occurring. There was no need to speak hypothetically about the recreational areas, though: the students found a group of these within the past few weeks, occurring at places such as the MOPAC trailhead near S. 84th and South Hazelwood Dr., the Jamaica North Trail parking lot near 27th St. and Saltillo Rd., and the Pioneers Park Nature Center.

Looking at these offenses, the pattern is clear. Car windows are broken out while the victim is away for a hour or two for a workout. We first noticed this modus operandi a couple of years ago. Recreational areas like these offer an obvious opportunity. I had the students try to think more like criminals, to identify those opportunities:
  • You can be pretty certain there is a purse or a wallet in the car. If it's an after-work workout, you have a good chance of scoring a laptop, too.

  • When someone un-racks a bike and rides off down the trail, you know you have a window of time of at least an hour or so to commit your crime.

  • You can simply wait around until the coast is clear, smash the window, and grab whatever is handy.

  • Once you've got the purse or wallet, you can hot-foot it to the nearest self service gas pump, and fill you tank with the victim's debit card (no PIN required.)
I asked the students to think about how they could impact this problem. Some of their ideas included patrolling these lots to deter thieves, talking to people arriving for visits to suggest that they lock their belongings in the trunk, parking in spots with good visibility, and getting some awareness and prevention tips out through the news media. We had a good discussion about the efficacy of a preventive approach compared to an investigative one, and personal face-to-face contact vs. news reports. We talked about routine activities theory: the concept that crime occurs when there is a motivated offender, a suitable target, and the absence of a capable guardian. Getting the word out to citizens increases guardianship, and may be the most effective way of reducing crimes of this type.

Since I was tied up teaching, I only glanced at my email during breaks. There were a total of forty emails in my inbox Friday. That's what I'll be working on today. A professor at the University of Nebraska wants me to speak to her ethics class, a colleague and the National Institute of Justice wants our 2006 Incident Report data for a research project, the County Administrator needs to schedule a meeting regarding the jail, a Los Angeles television producer wants to discuss filming an episode of a police reality TV show in Lincoln, and so forth. I have an interesting and varied job.


Anonymous said...

Whatch gonnah do when they come for you' In Lincoln? Hope it is a football Sat, and the first one this week is going to be one pooey of a traffic mess.

Anonymous said...

I heard it's a new series called ""Pirate Police.

And there will be no terms like 'pooey' used in the show.

Stay in school.

Anonymous said...

This summer I was tasked with a POP project at the Mopac trail head on S 84th targeting the larceny problems First I worked with Parks and Rec to install signs at the trail just before people leave on their journey. The signs Said "Lock your vehicles and secure your valuables" Second letters were sent to the Great plains trails network and Lincoln Track club for their newsletters reminding people to bring only what they needed for their rides and leave valuables in their trunks and out of sight. Third reminding officers to do a little more pro active patrol through that area. I guess this was one of those times that the pop did not work. Maybe I need to get out there in my spandex shorts for a little undercover work. What do you think? 935

Tom Casady said...

935 @ 9:26-

How do you know it didn't work? My guess is that there would have been even more without the intervention. How does it compare to the same time period in previous years?

Looks to me that only one of these has occurred at 600 S. 84th St. since your POP project began. My theory is that when citizens using the facility are aware of the problem, they are more likely to give the thief who has the place staked out the hairy eyeball, which in turn makes him a little aapprehensive, and more likely to move to the SW Team's hotspot at S. 27th and Saltillo Road, where there have been seven reported this year!

Somebody is obviously staking out the 27th and Saltillo lot from time to time, waiting to pounce. Wish we could find them. As much as I promote preventive approaches, there still is something "special" about catching a known offender in the act!

Anonymous said...

Here is more than likely your guy for the Mopac Trail head problems. Looks like his back deck has a nice overlook of the lot.

This guy was a thief since junior high, nice to see he has made some progress.

Anonymous said...

I believe that Eli, the "ex from Hell", was living at his sister and brother-in-law's home before he trekked across town tried to cave that poor woman's head in with an iron. He's presently awaiting an 8/26 docket call for that violent exploit.

I used to do very long bike rides out of town, for endurance training purposes. I used to ride to Beatrice or Crete, depending on how many miles I was trying to get in that day. I didn't drive to the edge of town and ride from there, I just rode to the edge of town and kept going. Even when we did group rides, we just biked to a meeting place and then rode out of town from there. I'm not pinning a rose on myself, just saying that I didn't make my car and valuables a soft target.

I've got a question for those that park at the trailheads and go for rides: Is Lincoln really that huge? Do you live so far from the trailhead that you can't just ride from your home to the trail and keep going? No, you don't, even if you live all the way across town. The most secure place to leave your valuables is locked up at home! Just leave your POV at home; it'll be there when you get back.

Tom Casady said...


That's good advice.

Anonymous said...

This idea might get some laughs! I think having some of the convicted thieves stand guard at these places. Maybe have an officer check to see if they are actually there. That way if anything does come up missing, you know where to start looking. I love this blog. I might even run for mayor next election!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, I knew that being a former triathlon type, you'd see the wisdom in using the pedal time to/from home to trail as time to wind up or down. In any case, they can't damage or steal what's not there, can they?

The last time I did my habitual weekly list of larcenies from auto from CVC, there were 56 of them. Only a tiny handful of those 56 incident summaries did not have any indication of a theft that in-part enabled by a careless owner. Unlocked doors, windows down, or swag left visible. Faceplates left on after-market stereos that were then boosted. Aftermarket anps and subwoofer boxes. Lots of purses and wallets. Back-packs. GPS units. Laptops and notebooks. CD cases, and so forth.

If you don't leave any loot in your car, they can't steal it. If they don't see any hint of swag in your car, they're not even likely to smash the window, when the next car's owner was too lazy to remove their faceplate or take their CD case inside. Don't be stupid!

Anonymous said...

wow, no more warnings for speeding.

Anonymous said...

Don't know what happened, some kind of typo on my part I guess.

As I wrote before, it's a new series called Pirate Police.

Rechtsanwalt said...

It was a good analysis report. It was nice to see how you have described the things here. Interesting post.