Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Two new chiefs

I'm happy to welcome Jeff Bliemeister and Micheal Despain to the City of Lincoln. Jeff has been appointed chief of police, and Mike will begin serving as our new fire chief later this summer. Both were selected after a nationwide search and extensive screening to narrow an excellent pool of candidates.

Not only is it unusual to have new chiefs in both public safety agencies, but it is also unusual to have two chiefs who come from outside the departments. There haven't been many of those in the past fifty  years. Former fire chief Niles Ford (who is now the chief of the Baltimore Fire Department) comes to mind, as does George Hansen, who served a few years as Lincoln's police chief in the 1970's. LPD has only had 6 chiefs in the past 75 years!

One of the good things about chiefs with experience elsewhere it that they bring a new perspective. Sometimes we all get into our groove, and miss things that are in plain sight to a fresh set of eyes. I'm looking forward to working with both of our chiefs, and wish them well as they embark on this new phase of their careers.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Peak erodes to mound

One morning last summer I was looking at the overnight police activity (as usual), and noticed what appeared to be an unusual day, in that police dispatches had been low during the wee hours of the  morning when I would have expected to see a spike. There's always been a peak around the time bars are closing and people who have been drinking are heading out. It's not much of a peak anymore: it's eroded to a mere mound.

The smoothing of the curve I noticed in August is not an anomaly: there has been a change, and a big one. The following two charts demonstrate the change. These temporal heat charts, organized by day of week in the columns and hour of day in the rows, show the relative volume of police dispatches during the 168 one hour weekly time slots. Colors are assigned by standard deviation breaks. Dark red means a very high peak compared to the mean, deep blue means a very low hour. The top chart is for the year ending March 31, 2016. the bottom one covers calendar year 2007, the year my blog started.

The change evident from these charts is striking. The row totals reveal the significance of the change, particularly if you consider that Lincoln's population (of both people and liquor licenses) has increased significantly in the past nine years. Bar break just isn't quite what it used to be, and that's a good thing.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Problem Resolution Team app

Back in the mid-1990s, the Lincoln Police Department was diving into problem-oriented policing, which at the time was still a fairly new concept: instead of responding over and over again the the same place or problem, try to identify the underlying issues and work to resolve those. Several examples of such work can be found on my blog, by following the POP tag in the label cloud. Another great source for information is The Center for Problem Oriented policing,

One of the early practitioners of problem-oriented policing in Lincoln was Capt. Jon Briggs, who commanded the Northeast Team at the time. Some of the problems his officers were working on required the assistance of other agencies, such as the Health Department, Aging Services, the Building & Safety Department, Animal Control, and the Law Department. Jon saw a real need to coordinate and collaborate across agency boundaries.

This need became a concept paper, which we presented Mayor Mike Johanns, and Lincoln's Problem Resolution Team was born--with Capt. Briggs as it's chair. In the ensuing 20 years, the PRT has become institutionalized in Lincoln, and several LPD managers have served as the chair. LPD Crime Analyst Char Estes provides the technical support, among her other duties. The team has experienced many successes in resolving chronic issues at problem properties, and today many other cities have similar inter-disciplinary teams of this type.

Longtime readers of this blog know that I am something of a minor league GIS geek. Every now and then I'll dive into a GIS project, which is an opportunity to work on something that requires an entirely different skill set than my normal job duties. This week, I spent several evenings working on a project for the PRT. With a little help from Jeff McReynolds, Lincoln's GIS program manager, I was off to the races in an effort to create a mapping application for tracking current PRT properties.

I used ArcGis Online to build a web mapping application that displays the location of these properties. A click on the icon brings up the details, including the most recent photo from the Lancaster County Assessor's Office, and a link to more detailed information about the property. I think it will be a nice tool for the PRT, and it's certainly a good example of the utility of ArcGIS online if even a GIS hobbyist like me can do it.

Many crime analysts read the Director's Desk, and most of those are involved in GIS work as part of their duties. If you have yet to explore creating web mapping applications, I suggest you do so. This is only one of many we use for a variety of purposes in public safety: CCTV cameras, parcel lookups, street finder, fire hydrant locations, fire pre-plans, P3i, stream gauges, and much more. Web mapping applications are ideal when you need a simple, single purpose application quickly.

A good starting point (other than visiting would be to look around the GIS community in your own jurisdiction: the county assessor, public works department, parks & recreation, building inspections agency, and so forth. You may find that other municipal GIS technicians are already deploying web mapping applications, and can offer you some assistance in getting started.