Friday, January 10, 2014

Slice and dice

I came across this Wikipedia article yesterday, which provides a table of the data from the FBI's 2012 Uniform Crime Report data for cities with populations of more than 250,000. The data is accurate, and available on the FBI website. It is the most recent published data--the 2013 preliminary release will occur this summer, and the final release this fall. The value-added from this page is the simplicity of sorting the cities in rank order by simply clicking on the column headings for crime type.

You can have some fun with this, despite all the caveats, advisements, limitations, warnings, and so forth regarding comparing crime data. Let's face it though: lots of citizens, police, and elected officials are really curious about how our 'burg compares to their  'burg.

This table is for cities larger than 250,000.  Lincoln is one of the smaller ones in the group. When I do tables of this sort personally, I filter by population to select cities from 50,000 smaller to 50,000 greater, thus placing Lincoln in the middle by size. The results aren't that much different though.

Compared to other cities, Lincoln has a low violent crime rate--very low for robbery and murder, in particular; a moderate (but below average) rate for property crime; and a couple of crimes that are distinct outliers in these subgroups of violent and property crimes: high rapes and low auto thefts.

You can bank on that. It hasn't changed since I became police chief in 1994, and it won't change in my lifetime--or your's, since you are old enough to be reading the obscure blog of a middle American public safety director.


Anonymous said...

As a long term law enforcement person in our area, do you have an theories as to why the rape stat is higher for our size of 'burg?

Anonymous said...

Actual rates vs reported rates. Actual rates will almost always be higher than the reported rates for all crimes, with the exceptions of murder, business robbery, auto theft, and perhaps business burglary. You need a police report for insurance claims on three of the four, and the presence of a corpse will eventually attract the authorities, even if no one actually calls them.

Rarely does any public official state words to the effect that "crime rates here are such and such, but for most crimes, like assault, rape, street robbery, and so forth, the rates are actually higher than we say they are" - at least not in a public statement.

Steve said...

Interestingly enough, police are now searching for victims of two unreported robberies here in Lincoln. How they apprehended the perpetrator, and why the crimes were not reported remains a mystery.

I have a few guesses; maybe the director can shed some light on this for us. One reason the crimes may not have been reported is that part of the loot taken may have been illegal substances that the victim did not care to admit having. Another is perhaps the victims knew the perpetrator, or even if not, feared revenge if they called police. As to how the perp was collared without a report, my guess would be he was apprehended for some other reason and questioned about the property in his possession.

How'd I do, Tom?

Tom Casady said...


I don't know of a police chief anywhere that would argue at all with that, and we are all quite willing to acknowledge that a large percentage of many crime types are never reported to the police. The National Criminal Victimization Survey is the best source for estimates of crime victimization, as opposed to crimes reported to the police.


Hard to say, at this point. I think some people who are victims of "minor" robberies (is there such a thing?) just don't bother to report their victimization. In other cases, there may be specific reasons, such as those you describe.

Tom Casady said...


Well, I'm speculating, but I guess there aren't too many people who would be in a better position to do so.

First, we have a large University, with lots of undergraduate students. I think you'll find that cities like Madison, Austin, Boulder, and so forth typically have somewhat higher reported rapes than cities that lack large campus populations.

Second, we have a lot of high risk drinking by young people in snow belt cities. I see that we just made the list of the top 20 coldest major cities in the United States!

Third, rape is one of the most under-reported of all crime types. If you do a good job as a community supporting victims, you encourage reporting. Here in Lincoln, we have a particularly good community support system, that includes such things as a very active victim service agencies (Voices of Hope and the LPD Victim Witness Unit), a SANE program at our hospitals (specially-trained sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE), and--perhaps most importantly--a high level of collaboration between victim services, law enforcement, medical services, and prosecution.