Tuesday, November 18, 2008


This is part 2 of a series. Read Monday's post, if you haven't already.

There is a lot of police focus on wolves--primarily catching them. Crook-catching consumes a huge amount of police resources. It's a job police officers generally find rewarding.

The concept behind our crook-catching is either incapacitation or deterrence. If criminals are identified, arrested, successfully prosecuted, and sentenced to incarceration, there will be an interval of time when they are unable to ply their trade. That alone should have a salutary effect. Once released, the offender may be deterred from committing the next crime by the memory of the unpleasantness involved in the last one (specific deterrence). Other would-be criminals will be deterred by the example (general deterrence.)

There are plenty of examples of the failure of incapacitation and deterrence. I've blogged about some of these in the past. The fact of the matter is that the old saw "crime does not pay" may not always be accurate. Your chances of actually being incarcerated for a given crime are quite small. This table from my friend Dr. Jerry Ratcliffe's fabulous book Intelligence-Led Policing makes the point:

Even when cases are reported to the police, cleared, and result in a conviction and sentence, the results can be discouraging. Police officers generally see so many examples of shortcomings in the criminal justice system that we become rather cynical. On the other hand, we still hold out hope that even short brief incarceration, and loosely-supervised probation help. On occasion, criminals change and become law-abiding and contributing members of society. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that most of the people we arrest are not repeat customers. Our attention needs to be directed towards the most ravenous wolves--the small percentage of repeat offenders who are responsible for the better part of all crime.

We also engage in strategies aimed at displacing offenderss. Assistant Chief Jim Peschong, the best hunter of wolves I have known, believes that one of the reasons we enjoy a low violent crime rate is that we track down criminals with uncommon zeal and celerity, putting pressure on suspects that would draw less police effort and attention in some cities. I concur. It's hard to measure, but Lincoln is not a good town to live in if you a petty criminal, or even a just a chronic lead-foot. Other examples of such displacement strategies would be Project Safe Neighborhoods, and Warrant Focus Areas. With these projects we are trying encourage criminals to either leave or lay low: either one works for me.

We expend the least effort on strategies to prevent wolves from becoming wolves in the first place. You could argue that some of the work of our school resource officers involves promoting pro-social behavior by young people. That's also part of the purpose of such things as the Lincoln Police Department's midget football program, our law enforcement Explorer post, and our early-diversion process for youngsters who commit law violations. These are pretty small operations, though, compared to criminal investigations.For the most part, wolf-prevention is the domain of other institutions and organizations: family, church, mentors--the whole "it takes a village to raise a child" idea. Although we are a fairly small player in the prevention realm, we believe in it, and we support (both individually and organizationally) such efforts as Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Teammates, and the Boys and Girls Club.

The Series:

Theory and practice
Evidence-based policing


Anonymous said...

Wolf Hunting:
If staffing allowed it would be nice to see prowl cars. Similar to the "X-squad" of years past, but better in that if we treated it like a specialized position, we could hand pick the officers on it, ensuring we get good proactive officers. I think that if you put Kossow-Cronin, Sorensen-Fankhauser, J.Hanson-M.Schmidt on that, they would impact crime immediately and routinely. I'd volunteer to be the Sgt supervising that crew Chief! Could you please show the readers a comparison of those Officer teams sats, misd-fel arrest. They might not compare to Jim, or from my memory of Myerson's proactivity, but these are probably the new age "wolf Hunters" as you called them.

Lorimor said...

Attention political leaders!! Read and heed! Many of you, too many, will complain that our gun laws are "too lax" and more gun laws are needed to combat crime.

What's the point?

As illustrated by the "crime funnel" graphic, the problem is OUR JUDICIAL SYSTEM IS BROKEN and to a large extent is a dad blame JOKE!!!


So, instead of spending your time making snide remarks about the NRA and its membership, why not spend your time fixing a rather obvious and ongoing problem? Or is that too hard?

Besides, enacting laws that largely affect only the law abiding is a stupid, stupid way to fight crime.

Anonymous said...


You forgot another huge reason we have a low crime rate: active neighbors and citizens.

Couldn't help including:


Anonymous said...

I tend to think of crooks as being more like bears than wolves; mainly looking for the easiest meal they can get, and most of them are awfully dumb. They'd rather tear open a stationary and quiet hefty bag for a couple of pounds worth of spoiled turkey than chase your cocker spaniel around the yard for a meal (however, if the spaniel is all that there is, then rover is probably a goner).

Anonymous said...

...and speaking of big, dumb bears, the Save-Mart shooting suspect (good work, kudos to your PD) is a previously-convicted felon, which the local rag neglected to mention, as is their usual habit. One thing is for certain, he wasn't even able to legally have a gun in his possession, much less use one to commit a violent felony.

Anonymous said...

Would the crooks be the village idiots then?

Anonymous said...

Here's my take on why legislators make redundant new laws: The primary job of most elected officials isn't serving the public, sadly, it's getting re-elected. If the majority of the voters want their government to "do something" about crime (and not have that "something" cause taxes to increase, like building more jail cells would), then you ram through some redundant laws on a regular basis, so that you can point to them and say, "see, we're doing something".

They'll just get pled down on a 6-for-1 deal anyway, just like the old laws did, but the main thing is that you'll keep getting re-elected to your plum job for enough terms to qualify for a pension! Job well done!