Just a few things I found interesting from the second half of the week. Wednesday afternoon, Assistant Chief Normal Seals of Dallas Fire & Rescue was gracious enough to spend about an hour with us. While teaching in Dallas on Monday, an assistant city attorney in the class, Maureen Milligan, told me about DF&R's Mobile Community Healthcare Program--a type of community paramedicine program that we have been discussing a little in Lincoln for a year of so. Ms. Milligan arranged an introduction, Chief Seals suggested a phone call, so LF&R and DF&R got together on a conference call. Chief Huff, Division Chief Bonin, Battalion Chief Linke and I participated. It was quite informative, and Chief Seals enthusiasm for this was infectious.
Yesterday morning, the inbox had two lengthy complaints sent to the Mayor and copied to me and the police chief about topics that have dogged us for years: fireworks and panhandlers. Chief Jim Peschong and I divided up the responses: he got fireworks, I took panhandling. These are very frustrating issues, without easy solutions. Anyone who thinks we could simply start ticketing everyone for littering who is discharging fireworks in the street at the end of the driveway fails to comprehend how we would be savaged for this after the fact. Past efforts to crack down have been less-than-effective. And anyone who thinks the solution is to bring the Wrath of Khan upon 13 year-old kids with bottle rockets fails to understand the workings of the juvenile justice system.
Panhandling, like it or not, is not only legal, it is protected by the First Amendment. So sayeth the Supremes. The primary reason we seem to have so much of it in Lincoln these days is because people continue to drop money on the panhandlers, rather than better alternative of contributing to the non-profits in Lincoln that serve the homeless, poor mentally ill, and addicted. While we can arrest people for the illegal forms of panhandling, it's not as easy as it sounds (they straighten up when and cops are in view) and this doesn't necessarily solve the problem. I cited an example in my response of a man we have lodged in jail 238 times for such offenses, including six so far this month. An empty or nearly-empty cup would be far more effective than fueling his addiction with cash.
Yesterday afternoon I participated in a webinar concerning the New York City Fire Department's use of GIS technology for planning and managing events in the city surrounding the Super Bowl. It was quite informative, and much of what the largest city in the United States is doing in this regard is quite similar to what we have been doing for some time here in little ol' Lincoln. Seeing their operation made me feel pretty good about how we've leveraged GIS for public safety out here in flyover country.