Wednesday, October 2, 2013

May not match the perception

There has been a lot of talk around Lincoln lately about crime, much of it concerning the perception that crime is on the upswing. At the risk of contradicting the conventional wisdom, I think it would still be best if the facts were clearly stated. Regular readers of my blog know that I generally have the data in order. Here you are (click to enlarge):

I picked 1991 as the starting point, because that was the peak year for crime in Lincoln. If you'd like to see the source data from which this graph is derived, I am happy to share my spreadsheet, which will save you the trouble of digging through a couple decades of Annual Reports, or compiling your own stats from our online statistical summary generator.

I realize these data may not match the perception, a phenomenon I tried to explain towards the end of this lengthy post a few years ago, which was a follow-on to this one from the day before.

Crime is but a small part of what the police do. The Lincoln Police Department provides many services and fulfills many duties that are very important in the community, but have little or nothing to do with crime. Every years we're going to handle thousands of non-criminal child abuse/neglect investigations, thousands of missing persons investigations, thousands of motor vehicle crashes, thousands upon thousands of disturbances, deal with boatloads of traffic problems, mental health crises, alarms, alcohol and drug issues, suspicious persons and vehicles, and on and on and on, ad infinitum. You need exactly enough police officers to provide the services your citizens expect, in the manner they wish to have those services delivered.


Steve said...

This may be a perception problem, too; but, haven't there been increases recently in the number of certain crimes, such as robberies? At least, it seems there have been a lot more stories of gas stations and such being robbed as well as citizens being robbed while walking down the street.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget that as crime increases, it's less likely to be reported, unless there is a corpse involved, emergency med treatment needed, or a police report required for an insurance claim. The more crime there is, the more resigned the average person in a high-crime area is to accepting it as part or regular life.

Also, if the victim has warrants out or just doesn't want to contact police for some other reason, the crime still happened, it just didn't make the stats.

Anonymous said...

I would like to see the population rates for each year that are behind your numbers. As your population is increasing than of course your numbers will get smaller. Also, how about number of overall calls for service since this shows a perception that crime is lower and the need for police is less.

Tom Casady said...


That's my point: there is a lot of media coverage for robberies today that would not have existed 22 years ago in the pre-Internet days when there was one TV station in Lincoln, no news talk radio, and little competition for viewers, readers, and listeners.


The spreadsheet linked in the main post contains the population data for each year. Here is the CFS data, with 1991 at the top, and 2012 at the bottom. This, too, will not match the perception.


Anonymous said...

Your calls for service have gone down because many are not taken anymore. Less police translates to just eliminating what is responded to. I would like see how safe the public feels each of those years.

Tom Casady said...


You are correct, that is exactly how we have dealt with the declining size of the police force relative to the population: cutting the least essential services. As for citizen's perception of safety, that is one of our key performance indicators which you will find at the bottom of this page .