Monday, June 15, 2009

Eleventh of 10

On my way to work I often listen to Lincoln’s KLIN or KFOR radio. I normally flip back and forth, to catch the news. The morning drive-time hosts on KLIN are Jack Mitchell and John Bishop. Unlike Bob & Tom, I can listen to them without spewing my coffee or being forced to pull over to regain my composure.

Friday morning, Jack Mitchell noted that City Council chairman Doug Emery had recently remarked about Lincoln’s lack of a municipal sports/concert arena. He had apparently said something like, “Name me another city of a quarter million without an arena.” Mitchell decided to do a little research of his own, and proceeded to explain his methodology for finding 10 cities like Lincoln. He initially looked at cities of about Lincoln’s size, using data from the Census Bureau’s population estimates. He decided, though, that almost all of the cities in Lincoln’s population bracket are part of much larger metropolitan areas. Plano, for example, is in Dallas/Ft. Worth; St. Petersburg in Tampa bay; Scottsdale in Phoenix; and so forth.

As an alternative, he created his own array, using not just city population, but also metropolitan area population as criteria. He wanted to exclude much larger metro areas, but he also wanted to avoid comparing similarly-sized metro areas that didn’t contain a significant major city. As an example, he pointed out that Green Bay is in a similarly-sized metro area to Lincoln, but the City itself barely cracks 100,000.

I liked his thought process. This is exactly the kind of comparison I would be teasing out of the census data and the FBI Uniform Crime Report data myself. In fact, I did just that, and 20 minutes later, emailed this spreadsheet to Jack & John, using the ten cities he had selected for his arena comparison:


Anonymous said...

You could add a "murder rate" column, or even replace the "violent crime" rate with the murder rate, which would eliminate the under-reporting of assaults, rapes, and non-business robberies in cities with higher murder rates. I really think it's a more trustworthy indicator.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Lincoln should invest their arena money into more cops; you look a little short handed.

Tom Casady said...

7:18 -

Okay, I'll do that. Scroll out to the right.

Dave said...

Chief, I look at those numbers and thinkg how grateful I am to live in Lincoln.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! See, we've got the lowest murder rate of the 11. Hilariously (or not, depending on where one lives), Mobile, which has 5x our murder rate, supposedly has a lower rate of overall violent crime than does Lincoln. I'll buy that for a dollar! I'm sure those running for re-election in Mobile would trumpet that as a fact, but we both know it's a flat-out lie, and the vast proportion of violent crime in Mobile goes unreported.

Tom Casady said...

8:38 -

Mobile has an incredibly low number of rapes (23), but what's really driving their low violent crime rate is aggravated assaults--only a third of Lincoln's. Something is obviously amiss about this, and I suspect that it's a failure to accurately apply the definition in the UCR handbook of an aggravated assault:

"An unlawful attack by one person upon another for the purpose of inflicting severe or aggravated bodily injury. This type of assault usually is accompanied by the use of a weapon or by means likely to produce death or great bodily harm."

It matters not whether severe bodily injury actually occurs; only whether this was the purpose of the attack.

Come to think of it, this was the topic of my very first post when I became a blogger!

Anonymous said...

Do you think climate has any effect on the murder rates. Other than Anchorage, Fort Wayne and Lincoln the other cities are in the south with either no winter or very mild winter. I'm sure a lot of these murders are gang related drive by's. Anchorage kind of throws my theory out the window but the other states compared to our city would show a possible relation to climate.
It's probably hard to find a drive by target in zero degree temps.

Steve said...


The data tells a good story for you and the department (if not Lincoln citizens, as well). It supports my opinion that Lincoln police do a pretty good job, too. Congratulations. However, it doesn't do much to promote your desire for more officers. (I was going to say "incessant desire" but that sounded a bit harsh.)

If the City Council looks at this, they're liable to decide we don't need any more police if we can already do better than any other city our size. In fact, they may deduce that the smaller the force, the better we can do. Can you block them from reading the Chief's Corner?

Tom Casady said...


I have a little faith that the City Council understands the importance of the police force in keeping it this way. Remember, though, crime is just a small part of what we do: last year, we handled more missing persons, more child abuse and neglect cases, and more mental health investigations than all the violent Part 1 crimes combined; not to mention 20,000 disturbances and 7,500 traffic crashes--to name but a few.

Anonymous said...


I'm not holding my breath and waiting for Mobile Mayor Samuel Jones to direct the MPD to correct their classification of aggravated assaults. He was elected on a platform that stressed public safety, so if they clean up their stats, it'd make him look real, real bad.

Steve said...

Okay, okay, Chief. I get the point. You don't have to tell me three times! Just kidding (I assume there was some glitch that caused your reply to show up multiple times.)

Seriously, you make a good point about all the other things the police do, and I hope you're right about the council understanding that.

Taylor said...

Hey Chief,

This is off topic but I saw a Lpd Dodge charger. I didn't think those were part of the fleet?

Tom Casady said...

Steve: Sorry, sticky key?

9:32 -

As you point out, there is a strong disincentive for fixing it. Omaha, however, did just that a few years ago. I think they put an asterisk by their UCR data for a couple of years to explain that they had re-evaluated their coding of aggravated assaults, warning that the apparent large increase was a phenomenon of that coding, not a drastic change in the number of actual crimes.


You'll see a couple of Impalas this year, too. First time in many, many years we've bought anything but Crown Victorias.

Anonymous said...

Now just need a couple of Camaro SS's to patrol Pine Lake 40 to 70 and Fletcher East of 27. Sick of the Crotch Rockets...

Anonymous said...

It would be nice to work a Saturday night with more than 2 officers on a beat.

It wouldn't help with officer numbers, but have you ever thought about doing away with a and b beats and have just the team areas?

Tom Casady said...

9:10 -

Didn't mean to ignore your question, just got a little busy. The climate question is interesting. I suspect that in the United States, it would prove out. My recollection is that gun homicide rates are highest in southern cities. But is this climate or culture, and if the later, what's the relationship between culture and climate? Are we still feeling the reverberations of the Civil War--the arming of America, the exposure to violence(especially in the Southern States)--150 years later? Is the climate hypothesis confirmed with a global analysis? All good questions. PhD candidates?

Anonymous said...

Here's a similar, and highly suspicious, under-classification shell game from across the pond. The related stories are interesting as well.

Tom Casady said...

7:19 -

That's a fascinating link. It appears the UK has exactly the same problem with "Grievous Bodily Harm with intent" as the US does with "aggravated assault." The definitions are the same: it's not the actual injury that matters, but the intent to cause serious bodily injury.

If the UK is struggling with getting their 43 forces to correctly apply the definition, how do you suppose that goes in the US, with something like 17,000 police agencies contributing their data to the FBI's Uniform Crime Report?

The story one-click deeper on the BBC site is an even more thorough analysis of the problem, and I believe it is precisely what occurs in many US cities when classifying aggravated assault.