Thursday, July 9, 2009

Forty cent theft

When you compare Lincoln’s crime data with other cities of around our size, you find some interesting details. Compared to most, Lincoln has a very low rate of murder, robbery and auto theft—yet a rather high rate of aggravated assault and larceny-theft. In order to accept these data, you have to believe that:

  1. People in Lincoln are quite prone to seriously assault one another, but strangely unable to inflict deadly injuries.
  2. People in Lincoln have a unusually strong penchant for theft, but they are comparatively unlikely to steal by employing violence or threatened violence, and they don’t steal many cars.

Neither of these propositions makes much sense. I have opined about this before, but it is my belief that reporting practices at LPD account for seemingly high rates of larceny-theft and aggravated assault.

Over the weekend, we investigated this FBI Part 1 Crime: a larceny-theft by UCR guidelines. It counts one—the same as a murder.



I wonder how many police departments in cities of a quarter million would produce an incident report on this offense. I also wonder how many police officers would use the phrase “neighborhood miscreants.” Nicely done.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

Also a nice touch calling the neighbor a "kind soul" Ofc. Knopik is a wordsmith.

JIM J said...

The world is NUTS!

Anonymous said...

What's NUTS is that we had to take this report.

Grundle King said...

What is more nuts is that someone calls the police for a stolen newspaper.

Yes it's a crime, and yes criminals need to be punished...but seriously? 40 cents? I mean...come on!!! It cost the city taxpayers a whole lot more than 40 cents to handle the entire incident. Perhaps a little more common sense could have been employed. In the time it took her to call LPD, wait for them to respond, and give the details of the theft, the victim could have purchased another paper at a gas station and saved a lot of headaches.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of shifty reporting practices, I'm sure that you've seen this already.

Anonymous said...

It ticks me off to know that resources are being wasted on these calls.
She got a replacement paper so she has no loss! How can she be sure there was even a paper there in the morning?
Can't you weed out these kind of calls?
While you're at it, can't you weed out the "I can't parent, send an officer" calls?

Tom Casady said...

10:33-

Wow. No, I hadn't seen that. I shook my head earlier this year when the LA Times discovered that all the unmatched addresses were being default mapped to police HQ, though.

I don't think this is shifty, it's just inadvertant geocoding errors that nobody at the PD seems to have recognized, or take the necessary steps to correct. If they were being shifty, these crimes would be ommited from the official stats--which they are not, accorinding to the article.

I can understand a little bit of this (I am as familiar as anyone in the country on the trials and tribulations of geocoding crime data), but it's hard to imagine that an agency of this size and sophistication could be unaware that 40% of the crimes that are supposed to be appearing in their public maps are missing from their application. You'd think somebody would catch that way before the LA Times.

Crime Analyst Char Estes and I are normally scratching our heads immediately when we discover that a single robbery or burglary failed to geocode properly. It's not that we don't have any errors, but we sure jump on them right away when we spot them, then try to figure out the precise cause, so it doesn't reoccur.

Hope they get it fixed, and don't get piled on by conspiracy theorists. Stuff happens.

Anonymous said...

The person that would steal a $.40 newspaper would probably steal a $50,000.00 automobile. It is the mindset of a thief.

I stole a candy bar and several comic books when I was about seven years old. I got caught. The humiliation of having to take those comic books back and promising to pay for that nickel candy bar deterred me from ever stealing anything again.

Luckily I got caught. If I would have gotten away with those small petty thefts I might have escalated the level of thefts and who knows where it would have ended up.

Several years later I was the victim of a bicycle theft. Losing that bicycle to a thief really instilled in my mind just how despicable a thief is.

Gun Nut

Trevor Brass said...

The criminals are of an aptitude to attempt the anti-social behaviour, but not competent enough or believe that the risk to "reward" ration tips enough in their favor to go "the extra mile" in such incidents if you get my angle here.

Anonymous said...

A9-065811 Owner of vehicle pumped 29 cents of gas and went across the street to a different gas station with out paying for the 29 cents of pumped gas. Clerk calls LPD to report the theft of 29 CENTS of gas. Are you freaking kidding me. Chief why on God's green earth are your officers being dispatched to stuff like this?

Anonymous said...

$.40 for theft. Yep not a big deal. But, look at the big picture. If the person is stealing an newspaper worth $.40, what else of "actual" value is being stolen?

-OR-

What if this person stole $.40 from each person in the city of Lincoln? 250,000 people, times $.40 = $100,000

That's a felony! You all would be hooting and hollering to "lock up the person and throw away the key" and "not fit for society".

Tom Casady said...

10:53 and 12:37-

Well, that sounds good in theory, but...

1. You used to have a seasoned, experienced police desk sergeant who handled a lot of these calls with tact, diplomacy, and when necessary "tough love." He had good sense about when the police were needed and when they weren't. He was willing and able to say "no," make it stick, and take responsibility for the consequences. Today, these calls are often received by people who simply do not have that background, that fortitude, and don't view it as their responsibility (although I think you'd be surprised how many do, and how many bogus dispatches are avoided by call-takers). You can't hardly have a debate over the radio with a dispatcher.

2. Where do you draw the line? A dollar? Five bucks? Fifty? One man's junk is another man's treaure. I see tons of incident reports where items valued at a buck are stolen. What if someone stole a treasured baseball, used by your grandfather when he was in a semi-pro league in the 1930's? It probably has a monetary value of zilch, but it's incredibly valuable to you. What if your ex-boyfriend is taking your newspapers, letting half the air out of your tires, and smashing the ripe tomatoes in your garden--just as a way of annoying you and exerting power? You're financial loss is next-to-nothing, but something much more devious underlies what appears on the surface to be trivial. What if that 29 cent drive off turns out to be a guy casing the place for the robbery? Whose fault will that be when the clerk says "I called the police, but they told me they don't come out on trivial matters."

3. I can just imagine the phone call to the city council member or mayor by the business owner or manager whose buck worth of stolen grapes does not entitle him to the police services for which he pays taxes.

Steve said...

I may be missing something here, and I agree that a forty-cent newspaper or a twenty-nine-cent gas theft are not priority calls; however, I don't understand the logic of complaining that responding to calls like this costs the city (taxpayers) extra money. I could be wrong, and I don't know how "overtime" is authorized or accounted for by the department; but, I doubt if it made any difference to the budget to send an officer to a call like this. The officer is being paid no matter what he/she is doing during the shift. If they are not driving to a complaint like this, they are probably driving somewhere else, or just cruising their beat, so gas is probably not an issue.
Granted, there may be more important calls, and I would think the newspaper theft would have to wait until those were handled. Still, if the office ends up going out two hours, or two days, after the complaint was called in, so be it.
Am I wrong, chief?

ARRRRG!!!! said...

I'm sorry, but I needed that newspaper.

Anonymous said...

This call never made it to the desk, where a seasoned police services professional would never have entered it to be handled by a police officer.

Tom Casady said...

3:19 -

That's my assumption, too, though I don't know (and it really doesn't matter) who fielded the call or exactly what information they were given by the victim. My point is that the ability to talk people through these things without dispatching an officer is a highly individual skill. Sgt. John Hewitt was an artist. It generally takes a while for the new trainee to get a feel for it.

I'm pretty confident, though, that if this call came into the Service Desk, there would be a very strong likelihood that the report would have been taken over the phone if the PSS realized the thing stolen was a single forty cent newspaper. The Service Desk staff handled 1,025 Incident Reports in the first five months of 2009, despite being short staffed. Last year, the Desk handled 9% of the total Incident Reports.

Cash said...

Am I the only one who thinks ARRRRG!! is a genius. He has a pirate related pic for everything. I found today's installment especially hilarious. But I feel the need to challenge him. You get two things to use: moose & canoe. Ready, GO!

Anonymous said...

Tell the truth, ARRRRG!!!!, you really used it to line the parrot cage.....

Anonymous said...

so evidently, the complaint doesnt realize how much it costs the tax payers for legal process... .40 cents???

I will give them 2.00 if the promise not to call the cops next time... and save us all about 2K in legal expenses for a .40 cent charge...

and its a silly "babysitting" ticket..

Tom Casady said...

Cash-

Read more about where ARRRRG!!!! came from here.

Anonymous said...

I always appreciate Arrrrg's comments. Maybe the LJS can give him a panel next to Neal Obermeyers cartoons.

Gun Nut

Anonymous said...

Next to? How about instead of Obermeyer's crude cartoons. I always figured he must be related to someone on the board.

Grundle King said...

I guess what I meant with my 'cost to the taxpayers' comment is that the police resources that were invested in this response could have been used elsewhere to much greater effect.

I guess it is tough to decide where to draw the line. To me, it just comes down to common sense on behalf of the individual. If someone steals the paper off my walk, I'm not going to cry to the police about it, I'm going to take care of the problem myself, because it's not worth involving the police. However, if someone enters my house and steals something, even as trivial as a candy bar, I will call the police because my privacy has been invaded, and this purp has gained access to my home by illegal means. I would also call in the chief's case of the smashed tomatoes...as there would appear to be an overt threat of violence in perpetrating such an act.

In the case of the stolen newspaper, there was no threat of violence, and no breaking and entering. I wouldn't draw the line on a monetary basis, but on how serious the crime is, in its totality.

And if someone has the time and wherewithal to steal 250,000 newspapers, then kudos to them. I wish them luck in trying to profit off of it. Seems like it would be pretty easy to catch a guy, who is unaffiliated with the newspaper, trying to unload 250,000 copies of that day's print edition.

ARRRRG!!!! said...

Cash,

moose, canoe, moose in a canoe.

Spay and neuter your pets.

Cash said...

ARRRRG!!,

I salute you and your remarkable talent

Anonymous said...

For God sakes people!

Perspective is the word. Several times I have not had a newspaper where it was supposed to be or not delivered. Should I file a report EVERY time this happens to me too?

When I was younger living at home we were training our dog to retrieve things... Need I say more one day the dog was gone longer than usuall and returned with a news paper and it was NOT ours we had already picked it up off the porch! Where does this person live ?

Anonymous said...

Check E-bay mayne there a black market for newspapers. I hear there all about to go broke!

Anonymous said...

I couldn't be sure, but I believe the same report was filed again this weekend.

Tom Casady said...

8:26-

Yep, same victim who likes to see the police.