Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Happy anniversary

Last night, I gave a short speech at the 10-year anniversary report of Lincoln’s Community Justice Center, held in Lincoln’s most impressive room: the Grand Hall at Grand Manse, formerly the 1906 Federal District Courtroom.  The CJC is a private nonprofit organization that serves both criminal justice agencies, offenders, and crime victims.  It was launched a decade ago by James Jones, a man I first met 16 years ago. 

The CJC provides support services to offenders who are recently released, on probation, and on parole—both adults and juveniles.  It serves our courts and corrections agencies by providing day reporting, victim impact training, and other alternatives to incarceration, or enhancements to unsupervised release.

The data is impressive.  Whereas nationally about 50% of released prison inmates  are back in the slammer within three years, Nebraska fares better, with a three-year recidivism rate of around 26%.  Offenders who are served by the Community Justice Center, however, have a return rate of slightly less than 8%.  Yes, there may be some self-selection in those results, but nonetheless, that’s a huge difference, and I think it can be attributed to good programming offered by an agency that is headed by a talented man who not only talks the talk, but has walked the walk.

Jim has earned my trust.   I was somewhat cynical and just a little suspicious when this ex-offender came to my office in 1994, introduced himself and pitched his concept for restorative justice.  I was wrong.  He did exactly what he said he would do, and  the organization he has built in the ensuing years is definitely an asset to our criminal justice system.  I had the opportunity, last night, to point that out to a roomful of movers and shakers, and to his wife and son—not that they needed to hear it from me. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Busy week for TIU

TIU is the Technical Investigations Unit: the handful of Lincoln police officers who specialize in white collar crime, financial crime, fraud, and computer forensics.  Det. Sgt. Sandy Myers (one of our most senior and experienced detectives) supervises this unit.  She had a bulging accordion file on her desk Friday that will be expanding even further this morning. 

During the past week, over 300 credit card frauds have been reported.  On Saturday, we had to bring in extra staff to answer phones because the volume was so heavy.  The vast majority of these frauds emerge from two Lincoln businesses, whose credit card processing was somehow compromised over the past several months.  We are not sure how, yet.  It could be a virus, a hacker, or something else.  

While credit card fraud is not unusual, just to give you some sense of what is happening, we had 314 frauds reported in the past seven days, compared to 37 during the third week of September last year.  Although there is always a background level of fraud reported to LPD, the victims in these cases are overwhelmingly reporting that their credit or debit card numbers were fraudulently used, and they were recent patrons of one of these two businesses—as their banks have discovered, as well.

Apparently the criminals who snagged the card numbers and encoded these onto counterfeit cards really kicked into high gear last week as the cloned cards spread far and wide.  Consumers reported fraudulent charges made all over the United States, and in such far-flung parts of the world as Italy, the UK, Brazil, Taiwan, Peru, and Hong Kong. 

I am acquainted with many of the victims personally, and since I have been a customer of the grill at one of the impacted businesses several times this year, I cancelled both my American Express card and my bank debit card, as a precaution.  I suggest that anyone who has used a credit or debit card at these businesses since February do the same thing, or at the minimum watch your accounts and statements very closely.

This international crime spree is clearly the work of a sophisticated criminal enterprise.   Ultimately, credit card companies and banks who have issued these cards will, for the most part, be the ones who suffer the loss, as they stand behind their customers whose accounts were compromised through no fault of their own.  I am hopeful that this investigation can make some progress, but realistically I know at this point the best course of action is to try to limit the loss by ensuring that the vulnerable account holders are aware of the scam, and receive advice on how to minimize their future exposure.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Research coming

During the past two weeks, we have been notified about two Department of Justice grant projects that we will be part of in the coming year.  The first is a grant to support the Lincoln Sexual Assault Response Team, a consortium of agencies working to improve Lincoln’s response to the investigation of rape.  The funds will allow us to start implementing a series of recommendations from a year long audit of sexual assault investigations that was undertaken over the past two years.

The second grant goes to the University of Nebraska, but we are a partner in the research.  This grant will allow us to pursue a unique technology initiative that is intended to provide police officers with information in the field in a new and innovative interface.  It’s an idea that jumped into my head last November, and a group of UNL researchers turned it into a National Institute of Justice proposal to bring this concept to reality and to study its impact. 

I am excited about both of these projects.  The first is going to help us do a better job on one of our most serious violent crime.  The second has the potential to make a groundbreaking contribution to the field of policing.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Flow chart

I admit that I am something of a data hound. I take a little good natured teasing about that from time to time.  Over the weekend a friend sent me an email filled with charts. When I read it on Saturday morning, I laughed so hard I woke Tonja up, spewed coffee, and almost--well, you know.  Come to think of it, there was a flow chart for that:

funny graphs - Where To Tinkle
see more Funny Graphs

Friday, September 17, 2010

Hybrid mileage

The Lincoln Police Department acquired our first hybrid in 2004, and over the past few years we have worked a handful into our fleet in parking enforcement and unmarked assignments.  This year, however, we are deploying our first hybrids as marked police patrol vehicles.


We aren't alone.  There is an emerging trend in U.S. police departments to mix in some hybrids.  For example, the New York City Police Department deployed some Nissan hybrids last year, and is adding more hybrids of various types this year.  If you Google hybrid police patrol, and click images, you’ll see lots of examples emerging.

We now have three marked Ford Escape hybrids out on the street sporting our new graphics design.  Here’s the early data:  Capt. Joe Wright’s assigned Escape has 699 miles, and is averaging 30.0 MPG.  Sgt. Danny Reitan reports that the Escape he drives has 365 miles, and is averaging 32.5 MPG.  Sgt. Don Arp sayss that the Escape he is assigned to drive has 456 miles on the odometer, with an average of 27.1 MPG.

Our overall fleet mileage has been inching up over the past several years.  For the fiscal year that just ended on August 31st was 12.7 MPG.  These hybrids are more than doubling that average.  When you drive 2.4 million miles per year, that will make you sit up and take notice!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bag limit

 I received this polite email last evening, from an unfortunate motorists who is displeased over receiving two speeding tickets on two consecutive days.  I don’t believe either of these tickets came from the Lincoln Police Department, but I must be reasonably accessible for someone who want to protest that the bag limit has been exceeded.

“To Whom It May Concern:
The purpose of this e-mail is to express my concern regarding a speeding ticket I received yesterday (Tuesday September 14, 2010) between 5:00-6:00 PM. The location was on I-80 going west bound. Normally the speed limit is 75 mph but was reduced to 65 mph. According to the officer it was a "construction zone" although there were no workers and no indication of construction. I informed the officer that this is my second speeding ticket in two days and I have no prior record of tickets. I've already signed up to take the STOP class in Sarpy County on Saturday September 25th which is $96.00 and I don't believe that I should pay the ticket from yesterday. I understand that the officer is doing his job however, this location should not have been 65 mph if there was no construction or indication of any construction on the west bound side. I've been to Lincoln many times and have never had this problem before.
Thank you for your consideration on this matter.”

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cookie thief

Back in the pre-Cambrian era, when I was an undergraduate with a sociology minor, I was introduced to labeling theory, by a graduate teaching assistant, Dr. Jay Corzine (who went on the bigger accomplishments in the field):  tell a kid he’s a delinquent, and delinquent he will be.  Since then, I have had a better understanding of the implications of a youngster’s first few brushes with the law.

Sgt. Danny Reitan handed me this Incident Report, shaking his head, as I was on my way out the door last night.  It has been lightly edited for length and to protect the identity of those involved:

Is it a good idea to call the police and enmesh a 14 year old middle school student in the machinations of the criminal justice process over a seventy-five cent cookie?  To be fair, this apparently isn’t his first cookie-lifting, and he was in trouble earlier this year for boosting some clothes at a department store.  Still, what ever happened to be held after dismissal for a study hall supervised by the Driver’s Ed teacher, or cleaning blackboards dry erase boards for an hour after school?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day and night

University of Nebraska home football games are pretty overwhelming events in Lincoln.  When a stadium fills with 85,000 fans downtown--with a huge but unknown number of other fans clogging parking lots and bars during the game--you better believe that the City is hopping for the police.  So, how do you think a night game versus a mid-day game would compare, in terms of the police workload?

Not so fast.  Nebraska's home opener against Western Kentucky on September 4 was at 6:00 PM.  We dispatched 482 events that day.  Last weekend's game against Idaho was at 11:30 AM.  We dispatched 517 events on that day.  The reason may revolve around the kickoff effect:  during the evening and nighttime hours when police work starts to peak, people are either in the stadium or stationary somewhere watching the game.  The game-time lull on Saturday night is more significant than the game-time lull in the middle of the day, which is pretty mild on any normal Saturday anyway. 

Another possibility is that the hard-partying crowd is worn out to some extent by the end of a night game, whereas with an early game there is plenty of time to rally for round two before the bell tolls.  If this post looks vaguely familiar to you, I looked at the same phenomenon last year in a post titled Night and Day.  The key difference in the opposite result in 2009 was a night game win compared to a day game loss.  I'm guessing that the downtown bars have a strong financial interest in a Husker victory, 

Friday, September 10, 2010

and finally…

You need a thick skin to be a police officer, because there are an awful lot of critics out there who think they can do it better than you. This is the email this week that really caused me to grit my teeth—sent to the Mayor and the entire City Council.  Since it is now splayed out for the entire world to see online in the City Council’s correspondence, I have decided that I might as well do the same with my response—protecting the identities of those involved. :
Chief Casady:
I am writing to you today with,  extreme frustration and disappointment in the inability of your officers to handle and place in custody an assault suspect.
Last Saturday morning, 9/4/10, around 1 am, I was providing a ride for my son, daughter-in-law, and their friends, near the 16th & Centennial Mall area, when I noticed two black men and a white female following my family and friends obviously looking for a confrontation.  I got out of the car to help my family get in and control the situation when one of the black men starting saying words to me which I just ignored.  He then took a swing at me which struck my face.  I turned to him and told him to just leave and proceeded to assist my family in the car.
While helping my family in the car, with my back turned away, he then proceeded to sucker punch me in the back of the head sending me to the ground seeing stars.  One of your bicycle officers was the first to respond to the scene and proceeded to arrest the suspect and in trying to place him in custody, the suspect escaped from the officer and began to run.  The officer gave chase but was unable to catch him (ironically he said that he had lost his shoe while running).  On a positive note, [the second officer] was very helpful making sure I was OK but could not believe [the officer] let the suspect escape.
I was just physically assaulted and your officer was unable to place the suspect in custody.  How frustrating to know that I was doing the right thing by ignoring this man and avoiding a confrontation and still get physically assaulted and your officer can not do his job properly. It appeared to me that [the officer] had no idea what he was doing and lacked critical training in police procedures.  This does not instill much confidence in me on the level of safety your officers are providing within our community and themselves.  And now, to make matters worse, we have worry about the level of safety within our city given the bars are allowed to stay open an hour later. 
I would appreciate an explanation on the arresting protocol and how you are planning to address the lack of training that I personally witnessed. “

I read the reports, exchanged a few emails with both the officer and the complainant, and it was obvious to me that there was nothing wrong with how the officer responded, and that it was simply a broken play, just like in football.  Being more fleet of mouth than of foot, I've been there on many occasions myself.  There isn't anyone who feels worse about an arrestee getting away than the officer who momentarily had him in his grasp.  My reply:

I am sorry the bad guy got away. It looks easy on TV. In the real world, however, suspects often have no respect for an officer’s authority or commands, are often slippery (quite literally), always have an instant to pre-plan their next move, have an automatic jump on an officer’s reaction time, are often amped up on drugs and jacked up by a jolt of adrenaline that accompanies the body’s fight-or-flight response, and they are not weighted down by several pounds of police equipment and body armor.  You can’t very effectively sprint flat out at the same time your digging for your radio, nor can you both chase a fleeing suspect and detain his companions at the same time. Help was on the way, and arrived quite quickly, but these events occurred in just a matter of moments, as you know.

I am certain no one is more disappointed at this subject’s escape than the officer, who is fit, well-trained, and who makes scores of arrests in one of the busiest assignments in the City, including nine on the same night as this case."

I had a hard time writing a response, frankly.  I had to have a few people look at it before I sent it out.  Teddy Roosevelt expressed my feelings in a much more eloquent and tactful manner than I could muster:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Two more emails

 These two were received yesterday, on the same topic:

“This past weekend I took my 13 year old daughter and 2 of her friends to the Husker game. We always park in the pubic parking lot South of the Bob Devaney and just West at the train tracks. We then walk 2 blocks west to the pedestrian overpass just North of the stadium to get to the game going through the North Bottoms Neighborhood. The college age kids drinking in this area has become a problem. On the way back to the car after the game my 13 year old daughter was called a "hooker" and 2 of her friends were propositioned for sex. Not exactly behavior any father wants to expose his 13 year daughter to! I am a 10 year season ticket holder and have parked in this location for several years. Over the past few years, the public intoxication and vulgarity has gotten out of hand especially at night games. I hope the Lincoln Police Department is able to start sending officers through the area on foot after the next night game to see for yourself. It is like Mardi Gras! Anyway, I know you are out there, but this North Bottoms neighborhood is getting bad!!! Not something the Huskers nor the city of Lincoln want to be known for, nor is it something Husker fans should have to endure.”

“First off, I would like to say that I appreciate all you and the LPD do for Lincoln. I have been reading your 'blog' for the past couple of months and I enjoy seeing the point of view from the police side. My son has recently moved into some apartments in the north bottoms. We have been there several times in the past month and we went down on Saturday to go to the football game with him. As we were walking to Husker Nation pavilion, we passed by multiple houses with tons of people outside, which my son told me were 'frat tailgates'. There was beer cans all over their lawn, as well as red cups. There was also loud music blaring and a lot of kids coming and going constantly around a makeshift fence of chicken wire and metal rods. We walked past their neighbors and they did not seem too pleased. I was wondering what your personnel do on days before Husker football games to control these types of parties, and I was also wondering why they have a makeshift fence up. Is it there as a barrier? These are just questions from a mother concerned for her son and for her son's safety. Thank you for your time,”

My reply:

“I was in the North Bottoms personally during the pre-game period, and the problems were, as always, predictable.  I was in plain clothes with my 26 year old daughter just to survey the scene—we were not going to the game.  I can attest to the somewhat more sober version of what you encountered post-game.

This year, we had a special project underway to try to minimize this kind of behavior in the North Bottoms, utilizing three officers on foot.  The officers issued scores of tickets for consuming alcohol on public property, minor in possession, urinating in public and similar offenses. I think the problem is twofold:  people are ruder than ever, and we are simply not able to commit enough resources to effectively combat the widespread vulgarity you encountered—especially when 85,000 people expect us to get them through traffic in the post-game crush. 

I don’t know what to do about the incredible lack of civility that seems to attend our culture these days.  Forty criminal citations in a short time within a small area is a lot, but it is a drop in the bucket compared to the number of people who were acting caddishly.  Don’t think for a moment, though, that we intend to ignore it.  We will do what we can with the resources that we have available.” 

Since three separate people this week have contacted me personally, I think we can safely conclude that the alcohol-soaked street scene in some parts of the North Bottoms neighborhood is a problem, and that our efforts to curb it are not totally effective.  Sort of like bailing the boat with a teacup, I think, despite excellent effort by the officers on this detail, who netted the equivalent of about two full days of reports, not to mention the future court appearances.  If anyone has a practical idea that doesn’t require the two things I don’t have (a boatload of money, and a bunch of police officers), I’m all ears.  Keep in mind that I laid off 6 employees last month, lead the smallest police force per capita in Nebraska (and one of the smallest in the region and nation), grew the population equivalent of Auburn, NE last year, and have a huge traffic control issue to attend to on game days which requires about 35 officers and $40,000 of overtime pay--not to mention all the other stuff going on in the City that requires police attention on a game day.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I’ll pay your fine

My second favorite email from the weekend came from a man who received a $10 parking ticket in a no parking zone in Lincoln’s North Bottoms neighborhood on game day.  Apparently he thought that a spot four blocks from the stadium had been overlooked by 84,999 other fans, and was just waiting for his arrival.  The majority of his car, after all, fit into the legal parking zone behind the no parking sign.  He appealed directly to the Chief,  asking for a break, especially in light of his 23 years of military service.  My response:
Sounds to me like you got a great parking spot, four blocks from the stadium, for the cost of a $10 parking ticket.  I saw private parking in the same vicinity being hawked for $25.  I'll tell you what I can do:  I can't dismiss parking tickets (and wouldn't do so for a legitimate violation anyway, even if I could), but in light of your 23 years of military service, I'll gladly pay your parking ticket myself.  Either send me you ticket pronto, or just give me your mailing address and I'll send you a ten spot.  Maybe you'd do the same for me, in light of my 36 years of police service.
Best regards,
       Tom Casady

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hectic weekend

Nebraska’s first home game always makes for a hectic weekend, and despite the absence of the State Fair from Labor Day weekend for the first time in a century, the police activity did not disappoint.  On Friday, we responded to 447 incidents, on Saturday it was 482, and on Sunday 411.  Our average daily total this year has been 354.  Notably, there were 68  assaults over those three days while our average daily number of assaults this year has been 13.  Most of those weekend assaults, no doubt, were alcohol related

Here’s my favorite weekend phone message for the Chief forwarded from the Police Service Desk. :


No kidding. 

On the subject, we will now get a chance to see how the adoption of a 2:00 AM closing time for bars impacts police incidents.  The closing time change enacted by the City Council becomes effective on September 17.  Just as a short and informal test, we could compare the last two weeks of 1:00 AM with the first two weeks of 2:00 AM—if someone reminds me to do so. 

Friday, September 3, 2010

Not just patrol

My theme this week has been patrol, and although I’ve been diverted a little, the basic points have been these: 

  • Patrol isn’t cheap: it cost a lot in personnel and fuel. Going about it without a purpose or plan is a poor investment.
  • The research evidence suggests that random patrol neither impacts crime nor makes people feel safer.
  • There is no such thing as “routine patrol.”
  • Good patrol is focused on the places and at the times crime and disorder is most likely to be encountered and prevented or interrupted.

Patrol is only one option as a way for officers to productively use the time that is not committed to responding to calls for service.  Great examples of the alternatives can be found by following the link in my label cloud to “POP” or “Crime Prevention.” I am pleased at LPD’s tendency to avoid “routine patrol” and to make good use of focused patrol, POP projects, and other better alternatives.

Second, if the risk of non-directed, patrol is that the police will just be driving around aimlessly burning fossil fuel, then the second half—burning fossil fuel—is another point to consider.  A lot of good police work is accomplished when the keys are in the pocket.  And there are alternatives to motorized patrol:  parking and going for a short neighborhood walk, taking a bike from the rack for a while, visiting parks, trails, businesses and schools, and so forth.  As long as you are within striking distance of the chariot in an emergency, the car does not need to be king. 

Even if you are motorized, the quantity of fuel burned can be dramatically impacted by the drivers’ style.  Easy on the gas pedal, easy on the brakes, and you’d be amazed at the difference in MPG.  With the engine off, the computer lid half closed, and the windows down, you can see and hear a lot of stuff you would miss at 35 miles per hour, or even with the engine idling.  More on miles per gallon next week….

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Just checking

I got a snarly email yesterday from a man who delivers newspapers.  Apparently one of our officers saw him slowly backing down a street in south Lincoln early Wednesday morning, and stopped  to check him out.  The writer was particularly annoyed that the officer told him he had stopped him because he saw him making a “strange maneuver.”

While he was at it, he threw in the story of the time a police car passed him in excess of the speed limit without the emergency lights and siren on, and the time he called in and reported a theft in progress—and never even got a thank you. 

I explained to him that backing more than 1.5 car lengths really is a violation, but when the officer figured out that he was delivering papers, rather than window peeking, burglarizing, breaking into cars, or something else illegal, he probably just went on his way after checking him out. 

Like Bob Smith, this officer was doing some good patrol work.  The time and place where this contact took place are both hotspots for larcenies from auto.  Our newspaper delivery person ought to appreciate the fact that a police officer was scoping out potential criminal activity during the wee hours of the morning.  I gave him the belated thanks for reporting the same kind of suspicious activity to us on the prior occasion he was chapped about. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Job well done

Today is the last day at LPD for five Public Service Officers who are being laid off as the City privatizes downtown parking enforcement.  These employees have served the City faithfully for many years in a job that is often unappreciated by the general public.  I am thankful that most have found other employment, and I wish them all well in their new careers and their future endeavors.

The Urban Development Department assumes the responsibility for downtown parking enforcement tomorrow, and has retained a private contractor to perform the job. They have been very busy nailing down the details, which are far more diverse and complicated than most people realize.  Saturday is Nebraska’s first home football game, and they'll have their hands full.