Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Factors in crime, 2008

As I reported near the end of last year, we now collect fields in police incident reports to note whether the case was related to gangs, drugs, or alcohol. Here's the data for 2008:

Since the total number of incident report was down almost 7% in 2008, I think it is fair to conclude that the increase in drug and alcohol related incidents is a reporting phenomenon--we've gotten better about pulling the lever when we think drugs or alcohol played a role in the incident.

These are soft data. It's the officers' best guess as to whether gangs, drugs, or alcohol played any role in the case. Since many cases aren't solved, and many others are solved several hours or days after the offense, there often isn't much of an opportunity to know whether or how these things factored in. Incidents like gang-related graffiti or alcohol-related assaults are fairly straightforward, but you may not know that a burglary (for example) was committed by a someone who was under the influence of alcohol, or that a forgery was committed by a suspect who needed to money to fuel a drug habit.


Anonymous said...

Isn't there a certain amount of gang-related crime that some victims may be hesitant to report, for fear of retaliation? Extortion, for example. I'd think that there would be at least a few protection rackets from time to time.

Anonymous said...

TO:January 21, 2009 9:31 AM
Good point. Nonreporting is most exlemplified by the Commenwelth saga in the 1980's
Some employees knew of the misdealings and never came forward because of the retaliation factor.

Tom Casady said...


No doubt. I imagine gang members who are victimized by other gang members are hesitant to report. Every now and then, we'll have someone show up at the hospital with a serious and suspicious injury, for example, who won't cooperate with us, or who tells a pretty obvious whopper. There are probably also many drug-ripoff robberies and burglaries that we never learn about.

Anonymous said...

We've swapped posts about this before, but aside from murder (bodies rot and smell), business robbery, and business burglary (police reports needed for insurance claims), the reporting rates of other crimes can strongly deviate from the actual crime rate when the murder rate increases and the city becomes more lawless in the citizens' eyes. Even auto theft can be very under-reported when the owner has warrants or some other reason to not desire police contact. If you've got warrants out and your cheapo car isn't even registered or insured, why contact the police if it's stolen? They'll take your report, sure, but then arrest you on the warrants, because both are their duty.

I saw someone from Omaha saying "Yes, murder and business robbery are up, but the statistics show that other crime is down!", like that made it so. Based only on reported crime, Lincoln probably has a higher rape rate than Omaha, and higher rates of larceny, assault, and burglary as well.

Does any sane person really think that's true?

No, it's just that people aren't reporting a lot of the crime that does occur up there, including home invasion robbery and street robbery, unless somebody gets shot and needs med care.

Anonymous said...

Here's a relevant question: What percentage of Lincoln's population is gang-affiliated, according to your data?

Anyway (and you already know this but for some of your readers), look here for an example of a gross inaccuracy in crime rates. Detroit has about 24x our murder rate (in 2006, and I think it's even higher now). Does anyone actually believe that such a hell-hole city can really have a larceny rate half that of Lincoln? If they believe that, you need to find out what they're smoking.

For some reason, most likely a voluntary delusion or pure stupidity, a lot of people trust those numbers as if a guy named Moses just brought them in on a flat rock. Big-city mayors like them, because they make their cities look a lot better. Journalists, hardly ever the sharpest blades in the pack and definitely not the most aware of statistical methodology, pump out one rehashed article after another, using those inaccurate numbers to rank cities for "safety". Those articles are best used to line your birdcage or train your new puppy.

Tom Casady said...


Well as of now, we have 641 individuals in our gang intelligence database. Divide that by Lincoln's population of 252,000, and you get one-quarter of one percent.

Regarding Detroit, I think 12:22 describes the phenomenon pretty accurately: the more serious crime you have, the less likely people are to report the little stuff, and the less likely the police are to officially record it. I think in most cases there isn't anything intentional going on to "cook the books," rather, it's the inevitible outcome of being up to your ears in alligators.

This is one of the many reasons it's always a little bit shaky to compare crime rates between cities. IMHO the best crimes to look at if you're trying to get some sense between two cities are murder, robbery, and auto theft. The worst crimes to compare would be burglary, aggravated assault, and larceny-theft.


I'm not that leery of auto theft numbers. I think (in Lincoln, at least) few people would fail to report their car missing--if for no other reason, not wanting to get blamed for whatever becomes of it after the theft.

Anonymous said...

0.25%? They sure seem to be troublesome out-of-proportion to their representation in society.

Speaking of good story-tellers, how about that one over in Millard, the guy that said he heard a noise downstairs, went down and six men were there. They demanded cash, then shot him, whereupon he ran to a neighbor's house for help, and the six men all fled, he says. Instead of calling an ambulance and EMTs, while he staying still and keeping the wound elevated with a pressure dressing applied, he was driven to the hospital, where he told his story after law enforcement (because of the gunshot wound) showed up. The house he lives in is valued at 75K, and it's a rental owned by his relative who lives in Papillion. I think the victim drives a rusty old Bronco.

Now then, six men is a pretty big burglary crew, almost a strike team; I wonder if they were there for the priceless artworks that adorned the walls, or maybe the Faberge egg collection. Perhaps they were there because the average resident in that area keeps hefty sums of cash handy. Maybe I'm just a jaded cynic, but that whole story smells like it's a little past the sell-by date.

Anonymous said...

Interesting statistics. Thank you for posting them and giving others the chance to comment.

I've become especially interested in the gang statistics since my apartment complex was recently "tagged" with gang graffiti.