Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Alerts to schools and parks

One of the more interesting bits of technology we have availed ourselves of in recent years has been the Threshold Alert, a feature of CrimeView, our geographic crime analysis software from the Omega Group. I’ve described Threshold Alerts and how we use them in previous posts. This spring, while I was attending the Omega Group’s annual users’ conference, an idea suddenly struck me. The company’s software and services target three industries: fire departments (FireView), police departments (CrimeView) and school districts (School Planner.) All three domains were represented at the conference, and I was rubbing shoulders with some of the school district participants when it hit me.

Here was the thought: why not send a Threshold Alert to school district personnel? When I got back to Lincoln, I emailed the head of security at the Lincoln Public Schools, sent him a sample, and asked him if there might be any interest in receiving this on a regular basis. He was in my office a couple of days later, and since that time I have been sending a daily report to him and to Student Services with the details on each Lincoln Police Incident Report concerning incidents that occurred at public schools on the previous day.

I had a similar thought a couple weeks later. Mayor Beutler had asked me about the police calls at a specific City park. I provided the information about police incidents at that park, and I also looked at a few similar parks for comparison purposes. It struck me that the Parks & Recreation Department Director might be interested in a weekly Threshold Alert, just so he didn’t miss any of these. I created two for him: all police dispatches to parks, and police Incident Reports of incidents occurring at parks. I am running these on a weekly, rather than daily basis, so he gets the snapshot on Mondays.

I think both Lincoln Public Schools and the Parks & Recreation Department were probably already aware of most of the events documented in these reports. Nonetheless, it’s a nice double-check, and with the automated process it really doesn’t require any significant effort to deliver this nice daily or weekly summary to their inbox. It would, of course, be a pretty simple matter for an individual principal, park superintendant, business owner, landlord, or resident to create their own version of this using Crime Alerts—another tool from the Omega Group that is part of the crimemapping.com website—just by selecting the address of interest and the smallest possible buffer, 500 feet. In Lincoln, that would give you the significant crimes within a radius of about a block and a half.


Anonymous said...

How about a Wal-Mart alert? They are unaware of half the stuff that goes on on their property. :)

Anonymous said...

Do you think making incidents at school reported to police so easily viewed will make principals less likely to report crimes such as fights at school for fear their school will be viewed as a (bad school)?

Tom Casady said...


I worry about that, yes. I'd like to think that principals would not hesitate to call the police based on a concern that people will find out that something happened. These days, if a fight happens at school, everyone knows about it anyway. A zillion phone calls and text messages will inevitably occur.

Steve said...


I see, on average, two incidents per day at SuperSaver on 48th and O St. for shoplifting through Crime Alerts sent to me. At least, it seems like that many. Having been on a ride-along, via the Citizens' Academy I went through, I know these can take a fair amount of time for the responding officer. If all of the large stores (or small ones) around town have similar rates of shop lifters, this seems as if it would be a huge burden, time-wise, on the force.

I'm curious if you have any figures on how many of these incidents are from repeat offenders and what penalty if any they get for their "petty" crimes. Also, I wonder if the number actually caught is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Any estimates on what percentage of shoplifters are caught?

Tom Casady said...


SuperSaver at 48th & O is number two in shoplifting cases this year. I think it has a lot to do with how assertive management is at a particular store. Some places don't even want to confront shoplifters, and just ignore it for the most part.

It may be different for amateurs and kids, but for people like this, I think they've shoplifted thousands of dollars in merchandise for every case where they get caught.

We have plenty of professional shoplifters in Lincoln, and always have. This young lady is a typical example. Rarely do these crimes get enhanced to a felony, and rarely do chronic shoplifters receive serious jail time. We just don't seem to have the stomach for putting non-violent criminals in the slammer these days.

Steve said...


Your answer was pretty much what I expected, and makes my point in earlier comments that we (as a society) need to grow some bells (mispelled on purpose) and start throwing away the key on people like the "young lady" you mentioned. I'd be surprised if the cost of keeping her in jail was more than the total costs incurred by society, or the potential costs, of letting her roam free. How many people like her end up getting high, fleeing the police to avoid jail, and killing or injuring someone in a traffic accident? How much do our grocery bills go up because of her shoplifting? How much does it cost us to keep arresting, jailing, prosecuting, etc.?

To me, this is where common sense says enough is enough.

Anonymous said...

Fighting in school. This is one of my pet peeves. Young men are going to fight. If they are not allowed to, the pressure will build until the lid blows and you have incidents like Columbine, Von Maur etc.

I was blessed with wise teachers and principals when I was a kid. Our fifth grade math teacher started a tradition in our school system that continued for the next twenty years or more.

Anytime two kids showed signs of fisticuffs he made them put on a pair of 32 ounce gloves. All the kids on the playground formed a circle around the belligerents and at the whistle they started wailing on each other. The rule was when one of the fighters yelled "UNCLE" the fight stopped or when recess whistle blew. These fights very seldom lasted more than five minutes. Do you have any idea how heavy yet soft a 32 ounce boxing glove is? Believe me after flailing your arms around with those big pillows on your hands you are so pooped within a few minutes you want to say UNCLE. Getting hit with them doesn't hurt either. In fact one notoriously weak kid in my class would just cover up and let the other kids beat on him until they were exhausted. He was the undefeated champ on the playground in 1957 LOL.

Gun Nut

Anonymous said...

People can say what they want about Lincoln, but at least we are a long long way from this.

ARRRRG!!!! said...

Back in those days Gun Nut the teacher was allowed to paddle unruly students too. Not nearly as much disrespect for the elders.

That was much better than how we had to settle our disputes.

Anonymous said...

I'd blame the reckless prescribing of SSRI "anti-depressant" drugs for Columbine, rather than not letting kids duke it out at school. The Columbine shooters were so prescribed, as was Hawkins (and Cho, et al.). The suicidal and homicidal ideation side-effect of those little murder pills is the culprit in most mass shootings.