Thursday, October 15, 2009

Seasonal crime

Regular readers of the Chief’s Corner are aware that I fancy myself something of a crime analyst. I take a lot of grief (mostly good natured, I think) for my tendency to collect, assess, and analyze data. The following crime problem landed in my inbox yesterday morning, from a Lincoln citizen victimized by several recent offenses:
“I don't know if this is a serious enough thing to get the police department in on, but 2 of my pumpkins where stolen last night, and I found them smashed on the street not far from my house, this is 3 missing pumpkins off my front porch within 2 weeks….I don't really know what I can do about it…I didn't know if someone had any suggestions on what I could do to have them stop stealing my pumpkins, can I not leave them on my front porch? Thank you for your time.”

My first order of business was to examine the data for any apparent trends or patterns. To do so, I extracted two years of vandalism and theft cases containing the key word “pumpkin.” In 2007 and 2008, pumpkins figured in 126 crimes.: 13 thefts, 112 vandalisms, and one unlawful detonation of fireworks. There was a very strong seasonal pattern to these misdeeds:

It is probably too early to draw any conclusions about the trend in 2009, but further exploration of the 2007-08 data set also revealed a rather prominent geographic pattern. As you can see for the following map, it appears that pumpkins near the southern and eastern portions of Lincoln were at considerably more risk than those in other areas of the city during this two year period.


The analysis also revealed that in many cases, pumpkins were used as projectiles in other types of vandalism. There were 77 mailboxes damaged by pumpkins, and 27 motor vehicles. The total loss and damage was $13,914.

Based on this analysis, I recommend precautions for pumpkin owners during the months of October and November, and especially for those owners whose pumpkins are located in the southeast portions of Lincoln. Such precautions might include removing pumpkins from porches and stoops during the hours of darkness, to temporary storage in a secure area such as a garage or foyer. I realize this is somewhat labor-intensive, but it appears to be the most practical means of preventing the theft or destruction of large orange gourds.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Any of those crime alerts in your neighborhood this year, chief?

Anonymous said...

OK pumpkin thievery is a crime - but Chief - sometimes you crack me up!

Anonymous said...

How does this person know it was his pumpkins that were smashed in the street? Is he just assuming they were his? I would also suggest that people put their name on their pumpkin with a sharpie. That way when they are stolen we can return them to their rightful owner when found and they won't end up on the city auction.

Cluny Clark, Chief of Clan Chattan said...

Chief ... this is, by far, my favorite post, of the entire year

Anonymous said...

Nice post Chief. Serious yet somewhat humorous.

By the way, how many of these seemingly insignificant requests for advice do you get from the public and how many of those requests to do you respond to?

Anonymous said...

I think you should establish an undercover project to nab the pumpkin killers. This crime should use as much resources as possible as everyone knows that murders start their criminal life off with Pumpkin killing first. If they'll kill a pumpkin they'll kill anything.

Tom Casady said...

6:38-

None within the immediate vicinity yet, but my lovely wife just deployed the ammo on our own front stoop Monday night, so we shall see.

8:53-

Oh, I suppose on average about 3 per day from citizens seeking my personal advice on something or another. This one came into the department's generic email account. I respond to all of them, when time allows. I work a lot of email before I come into the office, around 5-7 AM, so sometimes the contents of the inbox comes in handy when I've got writer's block and I'm trying to figure out something to blog about.

9:42-

Yes, quite true. Many mass murderers smashed pumpkins as teenagers.

Anonymous said...

It's all giggles until a hard-frozen pumpkin smashes through your windshield.

Charity said...

Great post! I just hope my trip to Vala's this weekend doesn't result in my considering the destructive quality of each pumpkin we consider.....

Anonymous said...

Chief, I like the related information to what damage can be & has been done w/ the pumpkins themselves.

What really upsets me about this and other "destructive" behaviors is the disprespect shown to others' property.

Some might say it's just a 6 dollar pumpkin but I'd like to hear the offender explain to my child why they felt the need to destroy something that wasn't theirs that someone else paid for & spent time carving.

/end rant.
Thank you for the blog!

Anonymous said...

lol

ARRRRG!!!! said...

No one messes with my pumpkin.

Anonymous said...

What? No Pirate pumpkins yet?
Is Arrrg on vacation?

Tom Casady said...

12:02, ARRRRG!!!!-

Sorry, I hadn't moderated in a while. Your comments passed in the mail.

Trevor Brass said...

How interesting, the crime's center of gravity is much southwards compared to the general bulk of incidnets.

I have the solution ... bait pumpkins with GPS!

Jason said...

Ok, this one cracked me up...

Anonymous said...

The pumpkin thefts areas directly correlate to areas with higher disposable income... interesting. Speaking of interesting, and funny graphs, I came across this graph which relates to ARRRRG!!!

Tom Casady said...

9:01 -

"Those who forget history are destined to repeat it." Please review the Chief's Corner, September, 2008.

Anonymous said...

Chief, I should have known I would be beaten to that gem. But, has anyone posted this wonderful
chart

- That's right, everyone knows that he WON'T do that!

Jared said...

I wonder what this would look like for fireworks calls on the 4th of July? I noticed in the daily incidents more fireworks calls of all 12 months of 2008 then any other year before.

David Bratzer said...

I would like to see a Bait Pumpkin, similar to the bait car project. Studies show that most of the pumpkin smashers are prolific in their pumpkin smashing, and yet only a small percentage of young people actually smash pumpkins. Therefore a few Bait Pumpkins along with a well publicized media campaign could significantly reduce pumpkin crime in Lincoln.

Anonymous said...

Pumpkin-as-a-projectile vandalism - A9-103244 - I wonder if that vehicle was parked on the street, or in the driveway?

North Homeowner said...

They must not think it is a crime worth reporting in my north neighborhood. We bring our pumpkins inside for the night or they will be something to clean off the street the next day.

Tom Casady said...

2:50-

That one hit close to home! (mine, that is.) The car was parked on the street. The pumpkin was probably lauched from a moving vehicle--yet another reason to park in the drive if at all possible: potential protection from pumpkin projectiles in addition to partial prevention of pilfering.

Charity said...

" potential protection from pumpkin projectiles in addition to partial prevention of pilfering."

Very nice alliteration!

Anonymous said...

One effective way to prevent pumpkin theft or destruction is to take a pumpkin-sized rock and paint it like a jack-o-lantern. Leave that on your porch and run a remote camera for added, er, security.