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.

33 comments:

ARRRRG!!!! said...

Too bad you can't handle trouble makers like the old days.

Anonymous said...

I may be dead wrong--it happens now and then--but it seems to me that UNL should be doing some of this patrolling.Or make consequences for these darlings that can't behave like adults. Somewhere these people should have to learn that they will pay, in the long run for their behavior. Too bad what was once a nice neighborhood has to go to hell because of UNL.

Anonymous said...

How about ticketing the landlords that rent to these college kids that have these parties?
How about enforcing the 'no parking in the front yard ordinance'. The more you cluster these people together the worse it will be.
The neighborhood association is strong in this area and they are making fists full of money from charging for parking, but then they complain about all the problems.

JIM J said...

UNL just treats it like it is your problem. Well it is all of ours problem. Once again my slogan is pasted to these mob drunks, "Instant idiot, just ad alcohol"
UNL should give some funding to the problem.
But then the coach would not get the millions he gets paid.
Thanks to all the college drunks who make many people stay at home. Behavior of a few really dictates the response of all of us. It all comes down to MONEY.

Don said...

Maybe keeping the bars open until 2:00 am will help. Uhm ... then they can drink "safely" at the bar instead of on public property. Thanks Legislature and City Council.

Anonymous said...

Chief-A few ideas you may find crazy but thought-provoking.

1. Pull officers off traffic duty everywhere except 9th and 10th street and let the public work it out. Redeploy some of those officers to trouble spots. Amazingly, when there is a power outage and the stoplights don't work, people get courteous and traffic flows.

2. Get a warning letter to all homeowners in the area that they will be cited for behavior that happens on their property, and then do it.

3. Charge the football program for overtime pay gap. Or, have them hire off-duty officers to assist them, as any other private business would have to do.

4.Send John Pitts to the area to chat with offenders.

5. Drive-bys in unmarked police cars lobbing a few M-16 rounds over their heads until they disperse.

Sorry, numbers 4 and 5 are merely fantasies, but you have to admit they would make for a good TV show on the FX network.

256

Anonymous said...

Chief you are in a difficult position. Expectations are high but the funding is not there.

Perhaps these people should be complaining to the Mayor or City Council for additional funding for more police officers. Politicians are always quick to mention the revenue that NU home games bring into the city, hope the drunks don't start driving the fans with money away.

Anonymous said...

Have volunteers do traffic control. Train some people, and give them an orange vest with an orange flashlight. That would allow your “actual” police force to do patrol work.

Steve said...

A few observations:

Your email sort of reminded me of the lady a few years ago who drove past a parked car near a school and thought she saw someone in it exposing himself and possibly masturbating. She was so offended she had to drive by two more times just to make sure. If you don't like the neighborhood, stay out of it. There are other places to park and other ways to get to the game. I walk the 6 miles from my house when I go.

If you live there, you might think about moving. That might be impractical, or you may feel you shouldn't have to move, and you're right. On the other hand, if the police can't eliminate the problem, you'll either have to live with it, or do something about it yourself. There are lots of legal things you could do. Find out who owns the offending properties and contact them with your concerns. Encourage your "good" neighbors to do the same. You don't have to be nasty or threatening, but be persistent. Maybe, if they get tired of all the calls, they'll do something about it. Keep calling the police even if they don't always respond in time or with enough manpower. At least some of these miscreants will take the hint after being fined or jailed or taken to detox. Call the mayor and your city council reps. If what one commenter says about the neighborhood association is true, join it and express your opinion that parking money is not worth the problems it brings. Again, get your "good" neighbors to do the same. Patrol your neighborhood and report any illegal behavior you see, not just on game days, but whenever you have time. Walking is good for you, and good for the neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Citations for maintaining a disorderly house would be good, but to make it as effective as possible, we need prosecutors that are willing to refuse any plea deals, and judges willing to actually sentence the problem landlords to JAIL time. I know that LCC isn't exactly the Los Angeles County Jail, but I think it'd still put a cramp on the style of most Lincoln landlords.

Chief,

To your knowledge, has any Lincoln landlord ever been sentenced to jail time as a penalty for violating that ordinance?

TheBigBooHoo said...

"Keep in mind that I laid off 6 employees last month" Oh Tom, the persistent faux politician ... Are you referring to your overpriced PSOs? Still sore about that huh? As a clarifying question though (for the masses) could they (PSOs) write/issue tickets for a vast majority of the incidents that require elevated levels of attention?

Ben said...

Hey there chief! I'm not sure if this idea holds water, but here goes...

What about enlisting some volunteer support for the game? Does the person directing traffic have to be a police officer?

Also, is there something that the average citizen can do to help with places where people are drinking and causing a public scene? I'm sure there are plenty of religious folk who might like to evangelize these people. I'm also picturing a loud spoken, experienced mother, "Boy, you pick up that can right now, don't give me that look...", "Sonny, use a bathroom in that building over yonder or your picture will find its way on facebook..." :)

Anonymous said...

For the record, the North Bottoms Neighborhood Assn meets with the officers from the Northwest Team before each football season to discuss what their plans are for the area during football games. This year they told us they wanted to set the tone the first game to migrate problems. Last Saturday before the game at least four officers in either patrol cars or undercover worked the area issuing 40+ tickets in less than four hours. I applaud their efforts to help keep MY neighborhood a safe place to live. There are several of us homeowners who refuse “to let the neighborhood go to hell” because of out of control parties. The money the neighborhood assn makes parking cars on city lots goes to help enhance some of the city’s projects for the good of the neighborhood. For instance the countdown lights at 10th & Charleston were paid for by the association so that pedestrians could safely cross the streets. This neighborhood is home to more than just college students but people who have lived for decades in same house or young families who have found affordable housing options. Come down on a non game day and you will see a totally different environment.

Annette

Anonymous said...

I find it ironic that Lincoln views someone drinking on a public sidewalk a big crime. I agree that some of the underage drinking gets out of hand but when a person from out of town walking with their wife drinking a beer to go to the game gets stopped by an undercover officer and given a $100ticket, it sends a bad message. I also find it ironic that just two blocks away the rich UNL donors can park their $200,000 RV in the Haymarket parking lot and drink all they want when it is posted 'no alcohol' and that is ok.
There is no common sense to this. Crack down on the bad behavior and leave the people who are not making problems alone to enjoy themselves.
I once saw an adult college kid 2 years ago in the Bottoms with friends drinking on private property and didn't appear to be causing any problem. The kid put one foot(not exaggerated) on the public sidewalk and took a drink. An undercover came over and wrote him a ticket for drinking in public. That is just wrong in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Ever thought about creating a "Reserve" officer position? With the number of officers leaving due to retirement or moving to other jobs, there are might be a few who would be willing to keep their LEO certification active and volunteer to help with traffic at special events.

Grundle King said...

Anon 7:24,

I like the idea of going after the landlords, but with the loss of the PSO's, I would imagine that LPD's uniformed officers will have higher priorities than parking violations...which is how it should be.

Indeed, it seems to me that, with UNL's ever-increasing tuition, they could take a little bit of that money and help out with the problem that they help create. After all, by forcing all of the drinking OFF-campus, they're making a University of Nebraska problem into a City of Lincoln problem.

Grundle King said...

Don...what does bar close time have to do with this discussion? I pose the following question...which is worse?

1. Close the bars at 1 a.m., thereby sending the drunks home to their after-party that lasts 'til 4 a.m.

2. Close the bars at 2 a.m., thereby sending the drunks home to their after-party that lasts 'til 4 a.m.

Seems to me like the 2 a.m. closing-time buys the neighbors 1 more hour of peace and quiet.

Tom Casady said...

TheBigBooHoo-

Those PSOs directed a lot of traffic at spots that are now filled with police officers.

Reserves have little potential. Too much liability and too few hours that can be worked beyond mandatory training. See the State Statutes. I would be very apprehensive about volunteers directing traffic on the street. My experience is you need a definate command presence. We do use some volunteers for pedestrian locations, though.

Retirees is not a bad idea. Not sure we'd have any takers for free. Anyone who thinks 3 hours of herding cats is fun needs to show up at 10th and Q Saturday and introduce themselves to Officer Pat Knopik.

256,

With the exception of the M-16s, that's pretty much what we've done. We cover 9th, 10th, and a little bit of 8th to get the one-way flow going post game. P-man finally retired from the football detail after 35 years, and I'm not sure who has taken over Ray Kansier's role since his retirement. For those of you who are not aware, Officer Pitts nailed down 10the and O for 35 years after playing on the National Championship Cornhusker football team. Officer Kansier was primarily responsible for ensuring that no one committed suicide by dashing across 7 lanes of outbound 10th/I-180.

Landlords: we work with them, write them, and occasionally threaten them. On game days, to make a prosecutable case, you would have to show that the landlord was somehow resonsible for the illegal behavior, or that he or she was aware of it and allowed it to proceed. This generally requires notice of the specific violation by the police, and inaction after a sufficient period of time by the landlord. Places with chronic wild party disturbances are usually where this approach is effective (see many other past blog posts on this topic, by clicking the "Party On" tag in my label cloud. For the impromptu kegger on a game day, it would be difficult to make a chargeable case on the landlord, and it would require even more officers in undercover and uniformed roles. That's the problem: I can't figure out how to come up with the bodies to do more, without spending even more of your tax dollars on overtime, and my budget will not support that, even if you would personally.

UNL should pay.
Amen. When I am Chancellor, I'll make sure that happens. In the meantime, no one is anxious to play hardball, or cook the Goose that Lays the Golden Egg.

UNL PD should help.
They're in the same boat as me: few officers, tons of other work to do on game day. We have a great relationship, and the UNL PD officers are very helpful when they are available, but this is their D-Day at Memorial Stadium and on campus.

6:02-

You want my opinion, it's an even nicer neighborhood today than it was when I worked that area in the 1980's, in most respects. You have to live with the fact that there is a fairly high percentage of rentals, and that college aged young people are on a different time schedule than codgers like me, but on balance, it's a nice liveable neighborhood. When you are in the shadow of Memorial Stadium, you're going to have a few days of chaos to cope with, but there are some great amenities, too--like proximity to downtown and campus, baseball and Haymarket, affordable homes and rents. I know several folks who live or have lived there very well, and they understood that there's good and bad things in most every neighborhood.

Tom Casady said...

TheBigBooHoo-

Those PSOs directed a lot of traffic at spots that are now filled with police officers.

Reserves have little potential. Too much liability and too few hours that can be worked beyond mandatory training. See the State Statutes. I would be very apprehensive about volunteers directing traffic on the street. My experience is you need a definate command presence. We do use some volunteers for pedestrian locations, though.

Retirees is not a bad idea. Not sure we'd have any takers for free. Anyone who thinks 3 hours of herding cats is fun needs to show up at 10th and Q Saturday and introduce themselves to Officer Pat Knopik.

256,

With the exception of the M-16s, that's pretty much what we've done. We cover 9th, 10th, and a little bit of 8th to get the one-way flow going post game. P-man finally retired from the football detail after 35 years, and I'm not sure who has taken over Ray Kansier's role since his retirement. For those of you who are not aware, Officer Pitts nailed down 10the and O for 35 years after playing on the National Championship Cornhusker football team. Officer Kansier was primarily responsible for ensuring that no one committed suicide by dashing across 7 lanes of outbound 10th/I-180.

Landlords: we work with them, write them, and occasionally threaten them. On game days, to make a prosecutable case, you would have to show that the landlord was somehow resonsible for the illegal behavior, or that he or she was aware of it and allowed it to proceed. This generally requires notice of the specific violation by the police, and inaction after a sufficient period of time by the landlord. Places with chronic wild party disturbances are usually where this approach is effective (see many other past blog posts on this topic, by clicking the "Party On" tag in my label cloud. For the impromptu kegger on a game day, it would be difficult to make a chargeable case on the landlord, and it would require even more officers in undercover and uniformed roles. That's the problem: I can't figure out how to come up with the bodies to do more, without spending even more of your tax dollars on overtime, and my budget will not support that, even if you would personally.

UNL should pay.
Amen. When I am Chancellor, I'll make sure that happens. In the meantime, no one is anxious to play hardball, or cook the Goose that Lays the Golden Egg.

UNL PD should help.
They're in the same boat as me: few officers, tons of other work to do on game day. We have a great relationship, and the UNL PD officers are very helpful when they are available, but this is their D-Day at Memorial Stadium and on campus.

6:02-

You want my opinion, it's an even nicer neighborhood today than it was when I worked that area in the 1980's, in most respects. You have to live with the fact that there is a fairly high percentage of rentals, and that college aged young people are on a different time schedule than codgers like me, but on balance, it's a nice liveable neighborhood. When you are in the shadow of Memorial Stadium, you're going to have a few days of chaos to cope with, but there are some great amenities, too--like proximity to downtown and campus, baseball and Haymarket, affordable homes and rents. I know several folks who live or have lived there very well, and they understood that there's good and bad things in most every neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Chief-I've actually given this some thought since my last post.

The football crowd at UNL is actually quite spoiled by LPD in my estimation. If you spend $40,000 on overtime, and are potentially understaffed in other areas, just so the fans can cut a few minutes off wait/drive time, you need to recheck priorities.

If I'm with three thirteen year old girls as a Father (as per your original email) and they are accosted, I would probably question why there are 35 guys directing traffic, and not enough knocking heads in the North Bottoms. And, that would be a legitimate question.

What would happen if you quit directing traffic in some areas? I doubt the number of accidents would increase. Potential gridlock might cause people to relax in the lots for a few extra minutes. So what?

I'm writing this as a Nebraska Alum, Husker fan, and past LPD traffic guy. I'm proud of what you guys accomplish. Here's some food for thought however. University of Iowa-75000 seats. Iowa City PD, 75 Officers. Big House-109000 seats, Ann Arbor PD 124 officers. Somehow they survive. Husker fans don't know how good they have it. I think you can legitimately redeploy a few folks away from standing in traffic.

Just my thoughts.

256

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't the City Council throw around the idea of privatizing the whole fire department. Omaha is throwing this idea around and I believe they said it would save teh city something like 6 million dollars. Right there is your added patrol money.

Anonymous said...

Chief,

Look like you got a little 'finger happy' on the mouse with the last few comments...

:)

Anonymous said...

I'm going back to before the 80's when talking about the neighborhood. I grew up with family in that part of town and we always loved to visit--go to the neighborhood store for some of that delicious German sausage, etc. I can even remember when my grandparents kept a pair of goats in their back yard. Alas, those days are gone just about everywhere.

Anonymous said...

There you go again, you big whiner.
This football crap only lasts a couple more months and then you can go back on pause for 9 months, Tom.

Tom Casady said...

4:12-

I beleive that grocery was Reifscheider's, no?

256-

As usual, you're right. I suspect, though, that when you had 17th and Holdrege, there were more like 75 officers on traffic. We really are down to 35-ish, and pretty much on 9th & 10th. I've got to wonder how much support Ann Arbor PD gets from the State Police. That's a lot of people.... I had the Riley County Police at LPD yesterday (Manhattan, K-State). I should have asked how they handle it, because they're pretty small too.

Anonymous said...

I think the solution to a lot of problems would be applying common sense and common courtesy to ALL situations. The problem is these traits are not that common any longer.

Gun Nut

Steve said...

I've always had questions about police directing traffic at intersections that have traffic controls (or pretty much anywhere). Sure, there are people who are stupid enough, or arrogant enough, to block the intersection to cross traffic when there's no place for them to go because they're too important to wait their turn with the light, or to take turns at a stop sign intersection. However, as someone else mentioned, it seems when the going gets tough (such as when lights aren't working) most people tend to become more courteous than normal. At least that's been my experience. I have a hard time believing that cops at the intersections actually speed the traffic flow (unless it is in one direction only, thereby screwing people going the other way). Might be worth a try sometime to simply leave the traffic to flow as the right of way laws and traffic signals dictate. Or, rather than actually directing traffic, just have some officers there to issue tickets to people who fail to obey the lights or right of way rules. It might be difficult to pull a car over and issue a ticket in this scenario, but why can't they get the plate number and mail them a citation? If they can do it with cameras, why not with actual eye-witness police officers?

Finally, as said earlier, if people don't like the traffic down there (with or without police), let them park further away and walk.

JIM J said...

Anyone who thinks 3 hours of herding cats is fun needs to show up at 10th and Q Saturday and introduce themselves to Officer Pat Knopik.

Do they eat cat food? My Uncle John will help out I am sure.

tspuckhead said...

Okay...I have no clue how traffic control works. But how complicated is it to re-time the lights? Would it be possible to somehow re-time the lights on game days so all lights going one direction stay green for a set (longer)amount of time...thus getting the mass amounts of traffic going in one direction moved through quicker? Is it possible to do more traffic control through the technology we already have? Thus freeing up officers for other duties on game days?

Tom Casady said...

tspuckhead-

Oh, if only it were that simple. The lights are not the problem. It's the pedestrians, who simply floe like water and completely ignore the signalsnunless a stern-faced officer with an Acme Thunderer is there to make them obey the signals. While the issue of cars getting gridlocked in the intersections would also be problematic without an officer, it's really the pedestrians who require the police. What always has struck me as strange about this is that before the game, almost all of those pedestrians were just recently motorists who frustrated by the jaywalking pedestrians; and after the game, all those pedestrians who are jaywalking and clogging the intersections will all sono be motorists!

PDL said...

I don't think the "tail gating" and partying are the big issue, it's the behavior that follows the consumption of alcohol. Propositioning passerbys? Since this is a University function I think the University Police should handle traffic around the stadium and since it's their customers these people are harassing maybe they should get involved on brainstorming the solution. We all know Lincoln benefits greatly by these events, people in the vicinity benefit from these events.
I'm sure even the property owners of the party places benefit in some way as well. Maybe city counsel can pass another ordinance and issue "party permits" for groups over 10 or something. If there is trouble and things get out of control, no permit, stiff penalty, banning for repeat offenders? Personally I have never been to a Husker game, been downtown during them but never to a game. Maybe you just have to take the good with the bad and deal with it.

Anonymous said...

Easy Solution to all concerned. If you want to park at Devaney and avoid all of these "darlings" that can't behave like adults. Walk up Military to to 10th and take a left. problem solved

Also, Has nobody noticed the out of control alcohol consumption and behavior at the hundreds of other tailgates in the hugely overcrowded streets in the downtown Lincoln area? How about alcohol consumption clearly being allowed on UNL's dry campus during gamedays by those very Police Officers? Maybe people should reconsider their priorities when voicing such strong opinions.

Brandon said...

Mr. Casady, yes slow pedestrians are definitely in the top 5 driving pet peeves! I of course have no problem if said persons are elderly, handicapped, etc.

But more often than not, it's able bodied people taking their sweet time across the crosswalk, like they are sight-seeing at Disneyworld!

If anything it's also a safety issue. I always cross streets briskly even if there's no immediate traffic waiting on me. You just never know what might be coming down the road.

I also agree that the North Bottoms is a pretty good neighborhood. I grew up there as a kid, and later rented a house as an adult. Hopefully a strong police presence early in the football season will deter a lot of the would be house parties.