Friday, January 15, 2010

Crime stats for 2009

We have wrapped up our crime statistics for the 2009 calendar year. The Mayor and I will be releasing these later this morning. These data will be the FBI Part 1 crimes:

  • Murder and non-negligent homicide
  • Forcible Rape
  • Aggravated Assault
  • Robbery
  • Burglary
  • Auto Theft
  • Larceny Theft

The first three are the violent Part 1 offenses, while the last three are the property Part 1 offenses. Since Larceny-Theft comprises almost 75% of the total, small changes in that crime's frequency can overwhelm large changes in the more uncommon offenses, such as murder or rape. When the total number of offenses is small, year-to-year fluctuations are accentuated even by small numerical differences. These data are only crimes reported to the police. Many crimes go unreported, so changes in reporting practices or habits can influence that data. I know of nothing during 2009 that would have been likely to cause any significant changes in reporting rates, however.

Overall, the trend of declining crime in Lincoln continued in 2009. I always think it is best to look at a decade or more, though, before drawing any conclusions about trends. Lincoln's crime rate peaked in 1991, so that makes a good watershed for examining the long-term patterns. I will be using a few slides to present the data at a 0900 news conference this morning. The embedded version below has some issues with fonts I can't quite figure out, but there is a good .pdf file available here.

The slides concerning individual crime types are all the actual number of offenses. The slide with the stacked bar for violent crime and property crime is crime rates: the number of crimes divided by the population. Since Lincoln's population has been growing rather steadily since 1991, while the number of crimes has fallen, the decline in the crime rate has been quite significant: 20% for violent Part 1 crimes, 46% for property Part 1 crimes, and 44% overall.

Although these data reflect a national trend of declining crime, Lincoln has fallen considerably further and more consistently than the United States as a whole. Everything I've said before about how our work contributes to this still stands. Follow the tags in my label cloud to Stats, Crime, Kudos, POP, Crime Analysis, or Crime Prevention and you will see plenty of examples of police work empowered by a great work ethic at LPD, a penchant for analysis and a focus on results.

Take a bow, LPD employees!


Anonymous said...

I took a bow and split my pants. After I did the bow, I have back pain now. Workpersons comp? Time for a diet and new uniforms.

Anonymous said...

Not to steal your thunder but.....

When you share these statistics, how reflective are they against actual reports?

I believe that many departments annually report their activities with the idea that if an incident does not generate a report, it never happened. How do you address this belief?

I would much rather see the number of reported classifications against a list which shows "unfounded", "HBO","closed" or "still open".

This would be hard to do with all the OMV or DUI reports against actual citations or arrests, but fixed location reports like theft from auto are sometimes cleared HBO if there was nothing taken.

Domestic cases are sometimes HBO as well. Does this then mean there was not a domestic to add to the annual stats?

How many calls for service did the department handle last year? From that number, a significant percentage should have a report of some kind attached since most calls are based on something happening.

Calls like "Johnny is acting up again and wont eat his spinach" could be classified with something indicating that LPD is again being a sociologist, psychologist, and/or social worker.

Tom Casady said...


Me too.


You'll find very little or no such hanky panky at LPD, and I think all of our officers know quite well what would happen if they were to can a domestic assault or a larceny from auto.

Your suspicions are not unfounded, because in a lot of places, the rules are loose and the checks-and-balances weak--but not here.

We maintain the original dispatch record on everything, so its awfully easy to spot any such shenanigans, were they to occur.

There are a small number of cases in which someone reported a crime, but upon investigation we discovered that there was no crime. The property was actually lost, not stolen, or what at first reported to be a burglary proved to be civil dispute between a couple who are separated, and so forth.

We handled 128,925 CFS last year, so Part 1 Crimes were only a small part of the total. We do a lot of things other than crime--in fact, it's a pretty small contributor to the overall workload. Crime pales in comparison to disturbances, and non-criminal cases like traffic crashes, parking complaints, missing persons, check welfares, special services, non-criminal child neglect, and mental health cases are all huge in both volume and time.

Anonymous said...

Can you think of any reason rape increased so much?

Tom Casady said...

11:34 -

No, but I think it's statistically risky to infer too much from such small numbers. As I mentioned in the post, this is particularly true with murder and rape, where a small numeric change translates into a big percentage change, and could be just normal fluctuation. The long term trend is slightly upward, but as you can see from that slide, it bounces around quite a bit. If you laid a trend line on that bar graph, it would be a gentler slope than population.

Anonymous said...

Chief, do you suppose the politicians will interpret this to mean that additional police resources are unnecessary?

Anonymous said...

Just inserting the usual reminder (which is always absent from all news media stories on crime rates) that other than murder, business robbery, and auto theft, there can be anywhere from a small to a significant difference in the reported crime rates and the reported crime rates. In other words, the higher your overall crime levels in the area, the less accurate the reported rates of most crimes are.

Tom Casady said...

12:09 -

Yes, as you know, people running for public office will sometimes use the same data to justify opposite objectives:

"We don't need more police, because crime is already falling."

"We need to increase police, because the city is growing and we don't want the gains in safety to be lost."

The health care debate has been an obvious case in point where the same points are spun in opposite directions.

The two things I try to emphasize are these:

1. The police are a significant part of the crime equation. If we let the ratio of police officers to citizens slide, the remaining officers become increasingly busy, and are less able to do the work that contribute to our relatively low crime rates and to these reductions. Preventative and proactive work such as POP projects and directed patrol goes by the wayside early on, and before long criminal investigations start to slip--particularly followup. After a while, the police are doing little more than running on 911 calls. Insert your favorite city that exemplifies this process in this space:______________.

2. Crime is only a small part of what the police do. We are relying on the police to provide all sorts of other services and functions--some quite necessary and important. If the number of police officers doesn't keep up with the demand for police services, something has to give. Even if all eight of the Part 1 Crimes completely stopped, we would still be quite busy with those missing persons, party complaints, parking problems unattended children, landlord-tenant disputes, hoarders, noise disturbances, traffic crashes, mental health crises, out of control 7 year olds in the Principal's office, aggressive panhandlers, changers of motor oil upon the street, waterers of sidewalks, pushers of snow onto the street, unlawful erectors of signs, persons incapacitated by alcohol, squatters in apartment building basements, unruly neighors blowing leaves upon their fellow citizens' lawns, sleepers in elevators, urinators in doorways, flashers in drive-through restaurants, senders of threatening text messages, shooters of BB guns, discarders of used tires in public rights of way, and so forth.

Anonymous said...


Was this the same victim as B0-003336? Also, I have to wonder why someone who lives in that building would keep that wad of cash around, in the middle of the month, instead of banking it. Was he planning on buying a used car from a private party over the weekend, or something like that?

I'm sure you know what I suspect...

(looks at Magic 8-Ball)

Tom Casady said...


Yes, same victim. Obviously, there's much more to the story.

Anonymous said...

flashers in drive-through restaurants???????

Can the city issue permits and tax this? We could rate them on the five star scale.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like someone is moving a lot of product at 24th & M, or else somebody found out where their dealer lives. I think there was also one of the usual "they robbed me of my TV and vid game system" incidents about a block east of there, not long ago (A9-127731). You'd think that area was zoned for dealers, but being so close to a drug-free school zone, they've got a lot of potential customers.

Anonymous said...


Do you have a graph of robberies, but with stacked colors representing business and non-business robberies, or better yet, business, residential, and street robberies? It would be interesting to see if all types of robberies follow the same reported rate trends, or not. I know the UCR doesn't split them up, but I think LPD does internally.