Wednesday, November 19, 2008


This is part 3 of a series. Read Monday's post, if you haven't already.

Ducks are victims or targets. A citizen who leaves the keys under the driver's side visor in his car is a sitting duck. A retailer who keeps a considerable amount of cash in the register, rather than making timely deposits is a sitting duck. A gaggle of catalytic converters conveniently piled up by the fence at a salvage yard is a flock of sitting ducks.

Focusing police efforts on the victims and targets is generally more productive then devoting those efforts exclusively towards offenders. We've shown over and over again that you can reduce crime with straightforward prevention methods. It is much more efficient and effective, in most cases, than investigating cases after the fact and seeking to arrest the offenders. Since ducks can be both persons and things, you can engage in strategies primarily aimed at changing potential victim behavior, and in strategies that are primarily aimed at making the thing less craved.

Craved, as in: Concealable, Removable, Available, Valuable, Enjoyable, and Disposable (I believe Ronald Clarke originated that, but it's become so commonly repeated, I'm not certain.) If it is difficult to dispose of stolen property, it is less craved. If the thing is concealed from view and protected by a lock, it's less available. If the product won't work without an electronic code, it's less enjoyable. Car alarms, removable-face plate and auto disabling stereos, fox urine sprayed on park fir trees, regulation of pawn shops, cable locks on school laptops, the list is long on efforts to harden targets in order to make them less craved. Some target-hardening initiatives have been especially effective. You'd be hard pressed to find a credible explanation for the drop in business burglary other than the proliferation of alarm systems, for example.

Many of our efforts in situational crime prevention involve attempts to increase guardianship. In this approach, we seek to make people more aware so they will be more watchful. We also encourage them to notify us when they observe criminal or suspicious behavior. We encourage the use of countermeasures that make it easier to guard themselves and their property: security lights, visibility corridors, CCTV, alarms, controlled access, drop safes, and many others.

I'd give the Lincoln Police Department good marks for our work on preventive strategies in the duck pond. We practice problem-oriented policing department-wide, and we do a pretty good job of recognizing crime trends and jumping on them early with preventive strategies. There are many good examples of these in past posts on the Chief's Corner, such as:

-Making it harder to offload stolen bicycles.
-steps to protect portable GPS units.
-Recommending the use of better locks.
-Suggesting getting your car up into the driveway when possible.
-Contacting us about suspicious behavior.

If I were to pick out the two best examples from my blog of LPD efforts to reduce crime by focusing on sitting ducks, though, it would be our comprehensive strategy to reduce metal thefts, and our projects to reduce open garage door burglaries.

Finally, there is a special category that must be mentioned: repeat victims. In preparation for this post, a ran a report I had never created before: 2008 Incident Reports summarized by the name of the victim. After winnowing out the obvious (various retail stores, City of Lincoln, Lincoln Public Schools, etc.) I was left with a list of individuals who had been repeatedly victimized by crime this year. When you look at these victims, you find that almost all of those at the top (there was one exception in the top 8) are women who are in domestic violence situations and have been repeatedly assaulted, had property vandalized, been stalked, had their protection order violated, and so forth. In many cases their assailant had been arrested on multiple occasions, and in a couple of cases, he is presently a fugitive. If we can intervene effectively to protect these repeat victims, there is a chance we can prevent very serious crimes.

The Series:

Theory and practice
Evidence-based policing


Anonymous said...

Increased lighting might actually make some kinds of crime more likely.
Could you give an example of those types?
Thank You

she said...

Thanks for the advice. I won't let myself be a sitting duck.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't take a very big sliver of the population to make a lot of opportunity for criminals. Even if 99% of our close-to-300,000 metro-area citizens have common sense (and I'm being kind with that number), the other 3,000 will keep providing a lot of criminals with opportunities for illicit income, and keep your PD awfully busy.

To boil it down: Don't be dumb! Providing soft targets for criminals not only feeds them, it also attracts more of them to your neighborhood and town.

Anonymous said...

RE: repeat victims.

About 10 years ago, I was at LGH E-room cuz my mom had been in a car accident. The nurses were chatting with a woman who was disheveled, had been crying, etc. A few minutes later, a police officer came into to chat with her. Officer called her by name when he arrived, so he clearly knew her.

As the conversation unspooled, she said she didn't want to press charges against the batterer. The officer said to the woman, "well, why do you keep going back to him? We cannot help you if you keep going back. You need to try to help yourself." The officer suggested Friendship Home, but she refused. She was all sobby and sniffly, but said she would try.

I was not hopeful about that, and I figured that she would have an encounter with that same officer sooner rather than later.

Anonymous said...

Yawn again

Anonymous said...

Larceny from auto and burglary- my grandpa used to say that when people leave their yard lights on it only lets the criminal see what they want to take. people are going to steal regardless of alarms and lights, best bet is not leave stuff in your car and keep your shades drawn at home.

ARRRRG!!!! said...

I think you can guess which duck is my favorite. (hint: it's in the bottom row)

Tom Casady said...

6:38 Am-

Lighting is one of the most-researched issues in the entire field of crime prevention. I can sum up the scientific findings:

"might, might not."

The impact of lighting is highly situational.

1:26 PM-

You really need to find another blog, if you find mine so boring. Not that it isn't boring, mind you--as I've said before, sometimes I even bore myself. But why put yourself through the agony?


The post you know I had to moderate out is one of your best. You have earned yet another chance.

Anonymous said...

Business burglary in Lincoln question: In the last 12 months, what proportion of the reported biz burglaries occurred at locations with alarm systems armed?

ARRRRG!!!! said...

I knew you'd like that one Chief. I'm eagerly awaiting the birth of the off spring so I can go pheasant hunting.... bird dogs.

Anonymous said...

There is safety in numbers.

that's what she said...

The debate rages on....

Anonymous said...

just a brief note on suspicious behavior-I have recently learned that it is suspicious to be alone in your car with the motor running and the headlights on--why I'm not sure. When it is cold outside and you have to go somewhere-do you allow your engine to warm up? Or do you just start your car and move on right away? And as far as the headlight thing...I must be the only person in Lincoln that has a newer vehicle-they come equiped with something called "dayglows". This being that the mintue you put the key into the ignition of your car the headlights come on-my question to you is have you ever tried to turn them completely off with the motor running? It is not easily done. I guess to the officer that questioned me,he must have thought I was up to no good-being a female and everything. I guess that 6:30 pm is an unusual time for women to be alone in their cars with the motor running. And since I was in my parking space to the apartment building I live -well believe you me I will try not to be alone again-though I am not willing to become attached just for this reason,do you think my dog would be considered a companion? Thus relieving the problem of being alone in my car.I believe this police officer was acting more suspicious then I.

Tom Casady said...


The officer who talked to you was looking out for your welfare. I would think you'd appreciate a police officer taking the time to do so. If it bothers you that a police officer is keeping a watchful eye on your apartment complex and checking on your wellbeing, then just exercise your right to not speak with him or her.

Lorimor said...

Who's going to go duck huntin' if one in twenty ducka are armed? :)