Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Perception and reality

Don’t get me wrong, I’m mad as heck about two recent rape and robbery cases. We are working hard to solve these cases, and to stop this series before another victim is harmed. And I’m plenty annoyed at the two clusters of nighttime residential burglaries, too.

But some of the news coverage last night was, well, a bit sensationalized. One of the stories I watched made it sound like we were in the midst of an unprecedented crime spree. They even interviewed a gun dealer, prying a statement that sales were “up slightly.” I don’t mind law abiding citizens buying a gun for personal protection, folks, so don’t go off on me. My point is that the news coverage seemed to be portraying an out-of-control crime increase.

That is most certainly not the case. Here are Lincoln’s crime statistics, so far this year (well, as of Sunday) in comparison to the same period in 2008:

Keep in mind that we experienced a sizeable drop in crime in 2008, part of a longer term trend of crime decreases in the City. The number of crimes in Lincoln during 2008 was less than in 1986, despite a population increase of about 70,000.

During 2009, we will have some horrible crimes in this city of a quarter million. There will be several crime series, or patterns uncovered during the year. Any crime is one too many, but there’s nothing to be gained by exaggerating the situation by creating perceptions that are not reality.


Anonymous said...


I know that you all are doing absolutely everything that you can, and the drop in crime is significant. However, the issues that the press is screaming about..
The sexual assault, the home burgleries. Those are both significantly up over the same period last year. +9 for rapes and +32 for residential burgleries. Now, this is a BIG assumption, but since this is roughly the first three months of the year, you can project that we will be up +36 in rapes for the whole year, and +144 residential burgleries.

I know statistics don't lie, and you can lie with statistics, but considering that there is a big jump only 3 months into the year, perhaps we are on the cusp of a big jump in crime in those two areas.

I sincerely appreciate all of the work that you all do to keep us safe.

God Bless.

Tom Casady said...


As you pointed out, it's awfully early in the year to be making such a prognostication. Those are still small numbers, and a single big (or small) weekend could change things dramatically. I watch it continuously, though, so I'll keep you updated as the year unfolds.

Anonymous said...

Starkweather reincarnate, with penis. Opening at theaters everywhere.
At a theater near you!

Bill said...

The Chief said, "Any crime is one too many, but there’s nothing to be gained by exaggerating the situation by creating perceptions that are not reality."

TV ratings my good man, that's what's to be gained. Ratings = money

It's pretty sad though when a local newscast has to give local news the CNN treatment.

Anonymous said...

We've also had a big jump in March tornados. Let's interview someone who's decided to build a storm shelter because of yesterday and conclude tornados will happen more often.

that's what she said...

It's amazing how a couple of desperate meth heads (I'm assuming) can make such a difference.

Anonymous said...

The LJS and local stations lost their credibility with me a long time ago. I know recently they have quoted a person they never interviewed which needless to say, created problems for that person. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Go to any place in Lincoln that sells guns and / or ammunition. Ask them how business is. Or, Google "ammunition shortage" and read about it nationwide. I have been on a waiting list for 2 weeks at Scheels for a common handgun ammunition. THAT'S reality.

Anonymous said...

I suppose that part of the art of being police chief is managing both the perception and the reality. I heard you on KFOR this morning, and thought you did a good job of handling both, though I don't think the right people would be listening to an 11:00 AM radio talk show.

Anonymous said...

The local news media, whether it be print, radio, or TV, too often roughs out the story they want to run before they begin gathering facts. They'll run the story they want to run, regardless of what information comes their way. Too many change-the-world journalists, not enough investigative reporters. The former go with their emotions, but the latter have to do a lot of hard work.

One very annoying thing they do with disturbing frequency is to ask interview questions, and if they can't elicit the desired answers, then instead of quoting, they'll do an in-so-many-words paraphrase of what they think the subject should have said to support the paper's/station's agenda. This is precisely what they did with an employee of a local sporting goods retailer with reference to a large burglary from their store; they didn't get the quote they wanted, so they just "paraphrased" him, and gave people the impression that he'd said something that he hadn't. This got him a lot of flak, but it was no skin off the fishwrap's nose - they already had their angle, and they went with it, facts be damned.

Anonymous said...


Where is Atticus? I haven't heard from him lately and I miss him.

Steve said...


You most likely have the most accurate crime statistics for Lincoln, and I don't doubt them at all. Still, to us average citizens, it seems like Lincoln no longer has the safe, peaceful atmosphere of a small midwestern town like it once had. It "seems" as if we read about another armed robbery,assault,rape, or other violent crime every day. As most of us commenting on your blog seem to agree, the news media is sadly lacking in its ability to objectively cover the news. They often, intentionally or not, paint a picture that reflects poorly on the police department. At least, their stories raise lots of questions, and lots of emotion, in the public mind concerning the effectiveness of law enforcement and the judicial system in general; questions they fail to answer.

I'm sure this blog takes a good deal of your time. However, it is greatly appreciated by your faithful readers, and often fills the tremendous information gap left by the media.

As I read the comments to your blog, as compared to comments on LJS online articles, I can't help but feel your readers are much better educated, thoughtful, and mature than the average LJS reader. Or, is this because you simply don't post comments that don't meet a certain level of sophistication (for lack of a better word)? Once in a great while, I'm surprised by what you allow through. I'm curious, though, if you delete a lot of them.

Atticus said...

Any chance your latest graph will make it to the LJS or the tv media? Or would that ruin their journalistic 'angle'? I'd like to see a bit of a thump-on-the-cranium type reality check to halt the prevailing 'sky is falling' mentality. Of course I could just stop reading the comments in the LJS and that may help my blood pressure as well...

Tom Casady said...


Don't know. Me, too.


I only moderate out bad profanity and ignorant personal insults (clever ones usually make it.) I had to moderate two comments this week from the same numbskull, but that is highly unusual. I'd say that only one or two a month would be normal.

Regarding why it "seems" that violent crime is happening every day, that's because it is, and always has been. There is a lot more media coverage these days than ever before, so you are much more likely to hear about it today than you were 20 years ago. My first day as police chief in January, 1994, there were two reporters at our daily briefing. Today, there will be seven or eight. There was no Internet, no full-time talk radio stations, no Journal Star website, only one local TV station, etc..

That said, the media outlets still cover a tiny fraction of the totality. I was on my monthly radio show at KFOR this morning, where I told the host, Dale Johnson, that yesterday--a rather mundane Monday--we responded to 342 incidents, including 10 missing persons, 7 assaults, 6 burglaries, 5 child abuses, 31 prowlers, 19 vandalisms, 8 frauds, and a Partridge in a Pear Tree. It's a hopping City of a quarter million. Always has been.

Anonymous said...

Chief, you know that statistics are not the all knowing, for example.. just because its reported a burglary and in the stats, does not mean some dope head is tired of paying for their rent to own 50 " TV and thus makea bogus report of burglary.. also a lot more burglaries are from similar people of life styles and questionable characters. The recent rash is from good normal, hard working people who were home and did not have their dope stolen. The point is.. its not all wrong to say that someone or some people have caused more trouble in a short time than has happened in a long time.

Anonymous said...

What's good profanity and clever personal insults?

Anonymous said...

Chief Casady, Could you give an update of how many citizens in Lincoln have signed up for CrimeMapping.com??? I'm president of Woods Park Neighborhood, and I find this tool extremely helpful, and would like to do a PSA through NeighborWorks/Lincoln Policy Network regarding this site. I think the last I read in one of your blogs was that only 750+ citizens had signed up for this free service, out of 250,000+ citizens in Lincoln. Could you give an update?

Anonymous said...

Can you split the 2007 and 2008 robberies into business and non-business? I know the DOJ doesn't do that, but thankfully LPD does, and as you've said before, the biz robbery rate is more accurate than the non-biz robbery rate (because of non-reported non-biz robberies).

Tom Casady said...


I'll see if the Omega Group can get me an update. If I get one, I'll write a fresh post about it. Keep watching.


I'll do better than that. Here's the robberies of businesses for the entire decade:

2000 39
2001 50
2002 66
2003 54
2004 41
2005 64
2006 37
2007 41
2008 43

You might re-read this post.

Anonymous said...

Oops, I guess I specified the wrong time period for splitting the biz and non-biz robberies. What I meant was YTD robberies for 2009 and the same period for 2008, both split into biz and non-biz.

Anonymous said...

Yikes - people are very quick to throw stones at the media.

The Chief's concern is a valid one, but I'm worried that some of the commenters are forgetting many of the helpful things and public service that local media provides (in many cases, for free). Case in point: the chief's KFOR interview mentioned in a comment.

Anonymous said...

"in many cases, for free"

Stones? How about a boulder avalanche?

Yeah, I just know they were giving away the commercials bracketing that interview broadcast. How about listing the wondrous free stuff, un-supported by advertising or used for pin-a-rose-on-us PR, that the local media provides - and that we couldn't get for free alsewhere. Leave out anything bent so far to the left that I almost have to angle my head 90 degrees, in order to see it.

Local weather, you say? There it is, always updated, and in far more detail, no waiting till the next broadcast.

World, national, and regional news? We can get that online, from the same places the local media gets it, and without waiting 1 or 2 days for a belated version of it.

Local news? We can get that, and in more detail, from the scanner, this blog, public record, and get it hours or days earlier, without politically-correct redactions of suspect descriptions.

If LPD and LFR end-ran the media, and released the same info they get, but directly to the public via the web, the public would be far better off.

Their laughable editorial content? We won't even go there.

They'd still have their monopolistic ad rates, but with a lot of classifieds now going to sites like Cragslist, and with more and more people able to see real estate and car dealers classifieds (the local media cash cows) online, as well as online viewing of the Sunday and Wednesday ads, the LJS will go the way of the dodo bird before long, and good riddance.

I would like to point out that LPD seems to be making inroads on the city's only murder of 2009. It's probably too much to hope that it'll be the only murder of 2009, but at least it's one of what will surely be very, very few.

Tom Casady said...


Sorry, I didn't get around to your data request yesterday. Okay, retail business robbery, 2009 year-to-date compared to same period in prior years:

2009 19
2008 9
2007 11
2006 12
2005 9
2004 11
2003 21
2002 10
2001 14
2000 9

That certainly a crime we'll be watching and working on.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, kind sir! I'll be very surprised if the robber isn't a recent parolee, or else someone that relocated from Omaha a few months ago, maybe recently of the DC jail.

that's what she said...

Like I said, amazing what one motivated meth head can do to a crime rate.

Anonymous said...

As a counselor of survivors of rape and domestic violence, I can tell you that the media doesn't even come close to reality. Chief Casady can attest to that, I'm sure. In addition, many of those crimes do not even get reported. This is nothing new. The media just likes to have a field day with big stories.

BTW...I want to thank the LPD for coming by my business today to check out our hours and to help remind us to be careful and not be alone in the business early in the morning or late at night. I appreciate the proactive approach of the department.