Thursday, January 29, 2015

Turning the corner

There is a really nice in-depth reporting piece at that just came to my attention this week (tip 'o the hat to Deena Winter.) The subject is the changing Everett neighborhood immediately south of Lincoln's downtown.

The students did a great job on this project. The writing, research, and presentation is top-notch. One of the authors, Jacy Marmaduke, met with me a couple times last February and March as part of her research. It's fun to see the final product. Nice work by all!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Last lineup

Capt. David Beggs worked his final shift at the Lincoln Police Department last night, closing out a career of over 40 years. Dave began as a police cadet in the early 1970s, and was an experienced
street officer when I started, well-known for his growling voice and his uncanny ability to spot drunk drivers, stolen cars, and crimes in progress. He and I worked together in the Training Unit during the early 1980s: he was the Field Training Coordinator, I handled the Academy and in-service.

In the 1990s, Dave was the Captain commanding the  Southwest Team. His longest assignment, however, was as Duty Commander: the officer in charge f all police operations on a shift. One of the jobs of the Duty Commander is to conduct roll call (we call it "lineup" at LPD) for officers at the beginning of their shift, a process that takes place several times daily due to the variety of schedules and overlaps LPD employs.

Apparently a Cub Scout troop was at HQ for a tour last night, and when they arrived in the assembly room at about 7:25 PM, Capt. Beggs conducted lineup for them. Thus, Dave's last lineup was presented to Den 97, a nice little story that made it's way to me courtesy of Officer Cassi Nissen, who sent me these snapshots. She said the Cubs peppered Capt. Beggs with questions, and had a great time.

Dave is a law school graduate, and a black belt judo instructor. He scares the bejabbers out of new reporters and rookie cops, as he did my teenage daughter, when they met doing volunteer work years ago. Within two weeks, she had completely changed her tune. She learned, as most everyone eventually does, that Dave Beggs is a caring, committed man who anyone would be fortunate to call a friend. Congratulations on a great career, David, and best wishes in your next adventure.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Uniformed officers rock!

Reading reports this morning, I encountered case number B5-005807, a robbery at gunpoint of a pizza delivery driver last night around 10:00 PM. Officer Russell Schoenbeck was assigned, and enlisted a lot of assistance from his fellow officers on the late night shift. In short order, the officers had tracked back a telephone number, and obtained a suspicious vehicle description from a neighborhood canvas. It wasn't long before other officers spotted the vehicle on the move, swooped in for the stop, and located key evidence. The suspects were taken into custody. All in all, great work leading to a good arrest.

It's the second robbery of a pizza delivery driver this year, and may have prevented more of these. We had seven delivery drivers robbed last year. What makes me especially pleased about this case is the initiative shown by all involved. Trust me, in many police department's of this size around the country, the uniformed officer would have done a preliminary investigation, filed an Incident Report, and been done. A detective would be assigned to the case a day or three later, and by that time the followup trail would be cold.

Not so in Lincoln, where our uniformed street officers have the training, skill, and experience to initiate their own followup investigation immediately. It's expected by all, and practiced regularly. This is why LPD officers who relocate to other departments are typically tapped for criminal investigations assignments in short order: they've got plenty of experience interviewing, processing evidence, obtaining search warrants, and similar tasks that are not necessarily common for uniformed officers in other big cities where the street officers don't have the same experience in the details of criminal investigation.

It's also why a number of LPD officers over the years have been tapped by the DEA, ATF, FBI, Secret Service, and have hit the ground running. They've accumulated talents, skill, and practice that many city officers just don't get very much opportunity to develop.

It hasn't always been that way. When I first pinned on the badge, every uniformed officer's badge was embossed with "Traffic Division," and we weren't expected to be bright enough to actually conduct investigations. That was the realm of the detectives, who stepped in and took over anything much bigger than a drunk or a panhandler. It was the source of considerable frustration for many uniformed officers of my era, who yearned for more respect, greater responsibility, and job enrichment.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Suicide data part 5

This is the last post in this short series, consisting of 13 charts and two maps. I put all these data together last week for Lincoln's latest suicide prevention coalition, but thought it might be of interest to my blog readers. One of the benefits of posting projects like this on my blog is that it becomes a readily available reference later on. I can get to it quickly with a search, and if send others a hyperlink to the post if I get inquiries in the future, something that has proven quite useful to me over the years.

This final post is the only one that uses data for the past 10 years, rather than the past 20. I don't have geocoded Incident Reports until the late 1990s, so for these maps I used the past decade. The map of suicides simply shows that suicides occur in all parts of the city, with a concentration at the center in Lincoln's historic core.  This is also the area with some of Lincoln's highest population density, though.

The second map combines both suicide and attempted suicide. It also accounts for differences in population density by depicting the rate of these incidents, rather than the number.  Rate is calculated by counting the number of incidents within each of the 2010 census block groups, then dividing that by its population. The red CBGs in the center of Lincoln with high rates also have elevated rates for other kinds of social ills--violent crime, domestic violence, child abuse, drug offenses, registered sex offenders, and so forth. If you search my blog for the GIS tag in the label cloud, and scroll through eight years of posts, you will see many other maps that show a similar pattern.

An outlier, the triangular red area in south Lincoln just south of Highway 2, is a census block group that includes a concentration of moderate income apartments. The two larger orange block groups in northwest and northeast Lincoln are CBGs with comparatively small population denominators, so it doesn't take many incidents to impact the rate. You'll notice lots of yellow down in south Lincoln. Maybe there's something to this.  Click each map for a larger view.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Suicide data part 4

This next-to-the last installment of the series concerns the race of suicide victims, method of suicide, and month of year. The race breakdown is for all ages, but is mirrored when you look at youth 10-24 separately. The most notable thing about race is the over-representation of white victims: 92% vs. 86% of the population. Black victims are under-represented (2% vs. 5.3%), as are Hispanic victims (3% vs. 6.3%) and Asian victims (1% vs. 3.8%). The numbers are small, however, so these differences may not have much statistical power.

In the charts showing method, you will note that firearms are the leading method for all suicides, but for youth age 10-24, hanging is the most common method. There are big differences by gender, overdose being most common for women, and firearms for men. I'm slightly surprised that only 5% of the youth suicides were by overdose, compared to the overall suicides, where overdose is the third most common method at 20% of the total. Jumping seems to have been in the news often lately, but is actually one of the least common methods of suicide.

I don't see anything particularly noteworthy in the month of year charts, except for this: The peak months for youth 1-24 are all during the school year. The number are small, but when you do the same thing for attempted suicide--a much larger quantity--the same is true: all the peak months are in the school year. Perhaps this would point to the value of awareness by school personnel and peers, as they may be in a good position to intervene when a student or classmate is evidencing signs of suicidal ideation or heightend risk. Click each chart for a larger view.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Anniversary of a memorable case

I interrupt my current blog series on suicide data for a moment, to reminisce about one of the most memorable days in a few 40 year careers policing Lincoln. Ten years ago today, on the morning of January 14, 2005, Officer Scott Arnold and Sgt. Ken Koziol nabbed a serial bank robber culminating a rather incredible (but very short) special project. I was in my office glued to the police radio that morning, having a hard time believing what I was hearing--and then smiling from ear to ear.

This was without doubt one of the most noteworthy cases during my tenure as police chief. Intuition, initiative, good planning, and determination were all involved, along with some top-notch crime analysis, and a healthy dose of just plain good luck. If you are a crime analyst, a detective, a street cop, or a even a deskbound chief, it just doesn't get much better than this.

Here is the contemporary Lincoln Journal Star news story by Margaret Reist from the day of the arrest. A more detailed account, including a description of the analysis that supported "Rolling the Dice," appears in Crime Mapping Case Studies: Practice and Research, 2008, edited by Spencer Chainey and Lisa Thompson.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Sucide data part 3

The next data in this short series depicts the age groups and gender breakdown for suicide and suicide attempted reported to the Lincoln police over the past 20 years. It might be good to consider that suicide is probably much more consistently identified and reported to the police than attempted suicide, which may or may not come to the attention of the police. Most notable to me is the difference in the gender of suicide compared to attempted suicide. Click each chart for a larger view.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Suicide data part 2

I spent a few hours last week compiling some data on suicide and attempted suicide, and published the first few charts on my blog Friday. This is the next installment in this short series. Friday's data concerned the number of suicides and attempts. Today's charts concern the rate: the number of suicides and attempts divided by the population. These charts express the rate as the number of incidents per 100,000 population. Lincoln has grown by more than 60,000 over the 20 years covered by these data. The rate calculation allows a comparison over time that takes into account that population growth. Click each chart for a larger view.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Suicide data part 1

I blogged a few weeks ago about the newest suicide prevention coalition in Lincoln, of which I am a member. The second meeting is coming up, and I volunteered to assemble some data. My IT staff extracted .csv files from the police records management system for me. I dropped these into an Excel workbook and attacked the data with pivot tables and filters, creating several charts, and a couple maps with ArcGIS for the coalition. I've invested about four hours in this project.

There weren't any big surprises for me, but it is rather interesting to examine this over such a long period, and may be informative to the other coalition members. The four charts below show the year-by-year trend over the past two decades for completed and attempted suicides. These data show that attempts are relatively flat despite a population increase of over 60,000, while completed suicides and trending up.

The group is focusing on young people in the age range of 10 through 24. As a result, I have broken out charts specifically for that age group in addition to the overall data. I'll publish a few more next week, so this will be a series of about four posts. If you click on each graph, you will get a larger version that is easier to read.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Student visitors

Monday, assistant police chief Brian Jackson and I hosted a group of four visiting students from Zhejiang Police College, in Hangzhou, China. The students are spending a year studying abroad, with Sam Houston State University as their base in the United States.

They spent four hours touring police headquarters, discussing police work, and hearing about some of the things we are doing in Lincoln. I sensed they were particularly interested in the concept of problem-oriented policing, and in some of the things we're doing with information technology, such as CrimeView Dashboard and HunchLab.

The most fascinating part of the day for me was a discussion in the last hour, when the students were telling us about policing in their home province. Except for a high degree of specialization and a rather intense emphasis on criminal investigations, it all sounded quite familiar.

The fundamentals of policing--talking to people in all walks of life and all kinds of situations, empathizing with others, treating people the same way you would want to be treated, and so forth, are the same worldwide across all cultures. I also told them that they could probably start working as police officers in Lincoln tomorrow and do quite well. This was a very bright group of cadets with great language skills. They'd need to get used to some strange American idioms, though. How do you explain something like, "You can't squeeze blood from a turnip?"

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Item identification

I had some fun a couple years ago with a series of posts about unusual artifacts around the police department. Monday night during the Nebraska- Iowa basketball game, I used this tool at home to accomplish a vital task, and it struck me that it was probably the oldest utensil Tonja and I own. I think this vintage Vaughn TapBoy has been in the kitchen drawer since we acquired our first apartment in 1973--maybe even a bit longer. I found an identical example on eBay for $19.99. Mine still works just fine, though. If you want to have a laugh, show this photo to your family and friends under the age of about 35, and see how many can correctly describe the purpose of the pointy end.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Price of pot

Interesting column in the Lincoln Journal Star this morning by Cindy Lange-Kubick, advocating that Nebraska follow our neighbor to the west, Colorado, in completely legalizing the possession of marijuana for personal use, and it's sale.

One of the arguments often put forth for such proposals is to reduce the impact of arrests for small amounts on pot on criminal justice resources: police, prosecutors, courts, and corrections. The columnist actually contacted me and asked for my estimate of what those costs are in Lincoln. I suppose I'm qualified as anyone to proffer such a guess, and I estimated about $150,000 per year for the roughly 1,500 tickets LPD issues for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana--$100 per case.

My estimate was based on the time involved, which I pegged at about 20 minutes. That may not sound like much, but the vast majority of marijuana tickets are secondary to some other charge. You arrest a speeder who has an outstanding warrant from a prior traffic ticket, and find a doobie in his jacket, or a shoplifter with a stash in her purse, or a drunk driver with a baggie in his pants pocket. As a result, the additional time involved is short. Very few of these cases go to trial a fact I confirmed with a call to our chief City prosecutor.

The reason the price of pot enforcement in Lincoln is low is simply this: Nebraska decriminalized the possession of small amounts of pot fully 35 years ago, turning the offense into a civil infraction. In our State, a first offense for possession of less than an ounce is an infraction punishable only by a fine, not to exceed $300. That's less serious than many traffic tickets. It may be hard for people to believe, but up until legalization in Colorado, Nebraska had the most liberal law in the land for the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

You can make all sorts of arguments for legalization of small amounts of pot for personal use, but in Nebraska, I don't think you can make a convincing argument that it will significantly reduce law enforcement expenditures. In fact, I worry that the opposite is true. If you drop infraction-level offense entirely, and make the sale of marijuana legal, I suspect that we will see a whole slew of new laws to regulate the enterprise.

It will continue to be illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana, and we'll add such things as procuring pot for minors, smoking pot in parks, selling pot without a license, selling pot without remitting the requisite taxes, smoking pot indoors other than private residences, minor in possession of pot, furnishing pot to an intoxicated person, offering for sale brownies in excess of the allowable level of THC, selling pot within the R1 zoning districts, and so forth--the same kinds of laws that exist today to regulate alcohol and cigarettes. We will then expect the constables to enforce this forest of regulations--just as we do with alcohol and tobacco.

Do what you will, but don't bank on saving the time and effort of law enforcement officers as the rationale, if the proposition is to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. We already did that during the era of cassette tapes and polyester leisure suits.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

iPhone found

I'm not really sure how often this happens, but it comes to my attention from time to time when I am reading police reports early in the morning. I spotted this one today. The victim was out and about downtown celebrating the New Year, and lost track her cell phone. Fortunately, she must have had a good strong charge on her battery, because when she got up the next morning, she tracked it with Find My iPhone to the area of 12th & K Street. She had no recollection of being in that vicinity, and she filed an online report of its loss on the police department's web site. I wish she had just called, but the good news is that the duty commander, Capt. Bob Farber spotted the report in his queue:

On 1-2-15, I reviewed the Incident Report on this case and called the contact number for the victim. While on the phone with the victim's father I had the father take a screen shot showing the location where his daughter's missing iPhone was and then asked him to text me the screen shot so that I could see where exactly the app was showing their daughters lost or stolen iPhone was. The screen shot was texted to the LPD Duty Command Cell phone.  
The screen shot showed the phone was in the middle of the parking lot located at 1234 K St. While talking on the phone Sgt Kocian went to the parking lot and found the victim's missing iPhone. The following items belonging to the victim were recovered.  
White Apple iPhone
Blue Targus iPhone case