Friday, March 28, 2008

Cold case

There is a nice article in this morning's Lincoln Journal Star about Dr. John Dietrich, who is retiring as Director of the Nebraska State Patrol Crime Laboratory. He's been a tremendous asset to our profession, and will be missed.

Crime scene investigation and forensics have come a long way, Dr. Dietrich notes. Tremendous advances such as DNA analysis and automated fingerprint identification systems have helped solve cases that were long dormant. Across the country, detectives have been dusting off old homicides for a fresh look with new eyes and new tools. I think I'll put this one from Capt. Ireland's blotter in our own cold case hopper:

Thursday May 30, 1889 9:15 AM

Officer Post and wagon returned and brought to station a box containing a human skeleton found in an out-house near the alley bet. 11th & 12th, N and O Sts. Box was taken to dumping ground and buried by special officer Crick, per order of Marshal Cooper.
I'm not sure where I heard or read this, but I think that the "dumping ground" around this time may have been around the place we all now know as the Sunken Gardens.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Exemplary planning and execution

Yesterday's series of search warrants and arrests to dismantle a drug trafficking organization in Lincoln was a work of art. So far, seven arrests have been made, and over a pound of methamphetamine and nearly a pound of cocaine seized. The counting was still going on when I left last night, but there is over $80,000 in cash.

It's an excellent bust, not because of the amount located, but because of the quantity of methamphetamine that this organization has been distributing in Lincoln and in other Nebraska cities. There will be another 2,100 drug arrests in Lincoln this year, but few will have as much impact on disrupting crime. This organization was involved in guns, drugs, stolen property, and child abuse.

The 0815 briefing in our assembly room Wednesday morning was something to see. Sgt. Donahue had the operations plan on the plasma monitors, while the Captain was reviewing assignments. The room was packed with officers in full gear. listening intently to their instructions. Nothing like a few decked-out SWAT teams to make a chief smile. We had personnel from LPD, the Lancaster County Sheriff's Office, the Nebraska State Patrol, the University of Nebraska Police, the FBI, the DEA, and the prosecutor's office gathered.

The operations plan was detailed and informative, including assignments, interpreters, mug shots, maps, floor plans, aerial photos, locations of medical standby units, notations of children at the target addresses, and much more. The level of preparation it reflected was exemplary. After the briefing, I had to dash over to show it off at the Mayor's office. Good planning like this protects everyone involved.

Congratulations to Capt. Brian Jackson and the rest of the Narcotics Unit for putting together a great case.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The answer to yesterday's question

Capt. David Beggs and Capt. Joy Citta were the only people to get the correct answer.

I had to dig to find some documentary evidence, but this photo from the Lincoln Evening Journal of November 8, 1975 seals the deal. Shelley Zalman was still attending the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center academy in Grand Island when this article was published.

LPD history buffs will note the style of Officer Rollie Weisser's badge and shoulder patch. For LPD readers of The Chief's Corner, I have the appropriate scrapbook in the display case in the Commons. There are some great articles about women at LPD on this date and continuing through January, 1976.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Recent history

During our trip to Atlanta to appear at our accreditation hearing, I noticed that several of the agencies applying for accreditation were headed by women. Our review committee, in fact, was headed by Elgin, Illinois Chief of Police Lisa Womack. Back in 1992, Austin's Elizabeth Watson was pretty much alone as a municipal police chief, but this has changed hugely in the past ten years, and today women are heading several of the largest police forces in the United States.

Like virtually all cities in the United States, Lincoln did not hire women as uniformed police officers until the mid-1970's. This is not to say there were no female police officers, but they had a separate job title--police woman--different qualifications, and limited duties. Some of Lincoln's police women went on to very successful careers in a number of fields, including Shari Farrar, who retired as Assistant Director of the FBI.

When the first female police officers donned the uniform and began regular patrol duties (in Lincoln, that was 1975), it was an exceptionally challenging path. Women dealt with overt discrimination and harassment that is unfathomable by today's standards. Those who overcame the obstacles are now seasoned police veterans, and it was inevitable that they would rise to command levels.

Today, one in five Lincoln police officers is female, women occupy many of our top command and supervisory positions, and command our SWAT Team and two of the five geographic Teams in the Operations Division. It is one of the most significant and important changes in policing that has occurred during my career.

Back in 1983, someone had the presence of mind to snap this remarkable photo in one of the Team offices. The second shift was reporting to duty, and on that day 25 years ago, the squad was composed of six women and one man.

From the left, that is Kim Cartwright, Jayme Reed, Joy Citta, Lauri Hanson, Ann Heermann, Sara Koziol, and Dan Dwyer.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Case number one

Dustin Lind is an intern working with us this semester. We use interns for many interesting assignments at the police department. Dustin's main focus is a long-term project to preserve some of our historical photographs and documents. He's been scanning, organizing, and most recently exploring. The exploration recently took him to the Nebraska Historical Society, where he scored a small collection of long-forgotten records. They are incredibly intriguing.

Here's one of the gems he found. It's case number one (click to enlarge):

Lincoln was incorporated in 1869, but it wasn't until 1870-71 that things got organized to create a board, city officers, and ordinances. Mr. Wallace, it appears, violated City Ordinance Number 8. It may be a little difficult to read, so here's my re-typed copy:

The fine of $5 and court costs of $3.35 would equal $135.37 today, according to my trusty inflation calculator. By comparison, the last time this guy was convicted of a similar offense (consuming alcohol in public)--136 years after Mr. Wallace--his fine and court costs totaled $144. If you sit that out in jail, you'll be cooling your heels for the weekend, cowboy.

Nicely done

Captain Jon Sundermeier heads the Lincoln Police Department's Criminal Investigations Team. He supervises a group of 37 detectives, investigators, and civilian staff members who are responsible for coordinating major crime investigations and specialized investigations such as child sexual assault, financial crimes, and computer crime. It's a big job.

In his spare time, though, Jon pursues several other activities. He is an accomplished painter, for example, and the lead singer in a popular local band, Bob Who. I didn't know much about his musical talents until lately, but I've always known about his writing talent. This was evident in his police reports, correspondence, and memoranda. He was an English major, and it was clear to me that he was passionate about the written word.

He used that talent recently to pen an excellent article that is published in this month's issue of The Police Chief, the flagship publication of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. It is quite a feather in his cap to be published in the most widely-read professional journal in our field. The article is an interesting report of a research project Jon took on in his prior assignment commanding the department's Northwest Team. I have no doubt that this research will be of considerable interest for many years to other departments contemplating new work schedules.

Congratulations, Jon. Nicely done. Add "published author" to the list that now includes accomplished artist, musician, writer, and police officer.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Another way of looking at it

One of the reasons I started writing this blog in the first place was to build a little more understanding in the community of the issues the police deal with and the difficulties we face. Chief among those is the challenge of providing quality police services with an unusually small force. The comparative size of the Lincoln Police Department is a topic that weaves through many of my posts on The Chief's Corner, as is the topic of citizen expectations.

One way of comparing departments is to look at the number of police officers in relation to the population. By downloading data on crime and police employment in the FBI's annual compilation, Crime in the United States, you can create many views of the spreadsheets. I can massage the raw data by building formulae, creating pivot tables and charts, performing various column sorts, and applying filters.

The metric I normally use for comparisons is the number of police officers per 1,000 population. While this is a commonly-used comparative statistic, many others could be calculated. One that I also produce is a column that simply divides the number of FBI Part I Crimes by the number of police officers. By using filters on the population and State columns, I can then quickly produce comparisons to nearby cities, cities within certain size ranges, or both. Here's what it looks like for all the cities in Nebraska and its surrounding states with populations of 200,000 or better (click to enlarge):

The FBI Part I Crimes are Murder and non-negligent homicide, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, auto theft, and larceny theft. The first four are the violent crimes, the others are the property crimes. The weakness of crimes per officer as a measure of comparison is this: crime isn't all we do, by a long shot. In terms of volume, it's not even the most common thing we do. Those Part I Crimes only constitute about 10% of the incidents we handle. You could even make an argument that some of our other responsibilities are at least as important to public safety.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A hole in his bucket

Last May, I posted the story Gary got his gun permit, detailing the circumstances that resulted in a guy with a rather incredible past receiving a Nebraska concealed handgun permit. Gary is not his real name, because the law in Nebraska prohibits me from revealing the identity of a concealed carry permit holder.

He went almost a year before his bucket sprang a leak.

Dressed in his camouflage T-shirt, Gary decided to take a little outdoor shooting practice Saturday. He set up a white plastic bucket in the backyard, and began firing. This caused something of a stir in the neighborhood, and 911 was ringing with reports of gunfire. Multiple officers responded, and a perimeter was established. The police response was complicated by misinformation Gary provided upon our initial contact. There had been no mysterious drive by shooter, also wearing camo, as he had claimed. Further investigation revealed the true story. After officers located the shiny shell casings and the perforated bucket in the back yard, the truth emerged and Gary fessed up. He was cited for discharging a firearm within the city limits.

Lest you think he lives in a secluded spot, here's the aerial photo of his neighborhood.

Gary got his gun permit, but we now have his gun. His Colt Defender .45 ACP semi-auto pistol was seized as evidence. Hopefully, if he's convicted, the State will see fit to revoke his concealed carry permit. Oh, by the way--we found several spent shell casings, but only one hole in his bucket.

Omaha's great, too

Last week at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon, I got myself involved in a little dust-up by being a bit over-the-top in trying to make my point. My references to a couple of Omaha World Herald news articles from December, 2006 and August, 2007 got reported in the Lincoln Journal Star, and put my Omaha counterpart in the uncomfortable position of having to get a little prickly. Sorry, Eric.

Chief Buske is right, of course, Omaha is indeed a comparatively safe city for it's size. It's all relative. I was reminded of that fact by a news story last week. I am a member of the Police Executive Research Forum. A few years ago PERF started sending out a daily email with a few interesting news links from around the country. Last Thursday this article from the Philadelphia Inquirer was among PERF's clips. This article from the Inquirer was originally published on Tuesday, March 11th--the same day I was blathering about Omaha, Lincoln, bras, and t-shirts to the Chamber of Commerce.

Camden's population is 77,904. If I read this article correctly, on March 11, they were already investigating their 16th homicide of the year. Lincoln more than triples Camden's population, and we've had 15 homicides total in the past three years.

I'm still wondering about The Chief's Corner curse I wrote about the day after Christmas. There have been three homicides in Omaha since my Chamber of Commerce luncheon faux pas last Tuesday. Maybe I should blog about losing the lottery or something.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Accreditation awarded

Friday evening, I flew to Atlanta to join a few other staff members at the meeting of the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. We were there to appear before the Commission regarding on our application for a three year reaccreditation.

The trip was rather interesting. I arrived Friday night, and caught the subway into the City. Hoofing it from Peachtree Center, I arrived at the Hotel just after 9:00 P.M., and minutes later downtown Atlanta was struck by a tornado. The estimated $130 million in damage was centered at Centennial Olympic Park, and began on the west side of Peachtree Steet just two blocks west of our Hotel on Courtland at Harris Street.

Our meeting with the committee began at 7:30 A.M. on Saturday, went smoothly, and left us with some time before the formal presentation ceremonies, so mid-morning we walked over for a first hand look. It was surreal. The displaced guests of many damaged hotels were carting their belongings along the streets. The huge tower of the Westin Hotel had many of it's exterior glass panels and windows blown out, and drapes fluttered out of windows well above the 30th floor. It was the same at the Equitable Building, Georgia Pacific, and the entire north face of the Omni and CNN Center. Several of Centennial Olympic Park's columns were laying on the ground reminiscent of the ruins of the Roman Forum, and the tree limbs were spiked with pink and yellow insulation.

The SEC Conference Tournament was going on at the Georgia Dome when the tornado hit, with a capacity crowd. The damage to the Dome displaced the tournament for the remainder of the weekend. Several cars were crushed by falling billboards, and several buildings had some serious structural damage. The huge amount of glass that littered the area within a hundred yards of each of the most seriously damaged buildings made us wonder how no one was killed in the shower of shards from the upper floors of some of these skyscrapers.

Atlanta police had blocked entry into the downtown area, so the spectators taking cell-phone-camera photos were mostly the occupants of all the downtown hotels, mostly wearing Tennessee orange and Kentucky blue. I had a nice chat with a retired 32-year Atlanta police officer directing traffic at one of the blocked intersections who had just been mobilized as a reserve for a 12-hour shift. I jokingly told him that we were sort of enjoying our unfamiliar role as gawkers being part of the problem.

Net result of the trip: LPD was awarded our sixth accreditation, and a meritorious recognition as one of a handful of agencies to be accredited for more than 15 years (our first one was in 1989.) I appreciate very much the work of our personnel, particularly Capt. Joy Citta, Sgt. Don Scheinost, Officer Katie Flood, and former Officer Kacky Finnell, who played especially important roles in preparing us for an exemplary reaccreditation.

We have several staff members who play a significant role in our accreditation, but no one does so full-time. We estimate that the management of the accreditation process amounts to about one full-time equivalent position. Some people doubt the value of accreditation. They need to spend some time with me in interviews with the companies bidding on our insurance business, or with the lawyers preparing our defense against lawsuits.

Accreditation has had some serious financial benefits by helping us keep our huge insurance costs in check, our losses low, helping our defense in lawsuits, and avoiding vulnerabilities that would increase our risks. There are 67 pretty good examples of this posted on this page. Most of the costs of accreditation have nothing to do with accreditation, rather they are the price of good policing. As I told the Commissioners, the real benefit of accreditation is that it requires us to adopt strong operational and managerial practices and to constantly reevaluate these against the best-practices standards. This would and should be done whether we sought accreditation or not, and it serves both the members of the department and the citizens well.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Mixed reviews

I had a speaking engagement yesterday at Face the Chamber, the weekly Chamber of Commerce luncheon. It was a big crowd, and I talked about the same things I've mentioned repeatedly in The Chief's Corner. The difference is that a very short synopsis of some of my remarks appeared in a Lincoln Journal Star article, which provoked a decidedly mixed bag of reactions in the comments.

The article mentioned nothing about my response to the question posed by an audience member concerning the recent theft of 60 bras from Victoria's Secret ("Wouldn't be news if it had been 60 neckties, would it?"). Oh well.

I intentionally started provocatively by repeating a theme I often hear in conversations outside the police department: Omaha is great, Lincoln sucks. That's not a quote, but lots of people in Lincoln seem pretty envious of our Big Brother to the northeast and that's certainly the subtext in such conversations about that spanking new Dodge Street, World Market, the Qwest Center, and so forth. I like Omaha just fine, but I reminded everyone that from a violent crime standpoint, we're rolling in the clover by comparison. We ought to thank our lucky stars (not to mention my officers), and do all we can to keep it that way by getting behind the Stronger, Safer Neighborhoods initiative.

I think this is a particularly important message for the well-dressed crowd in the ballroom of the Lincoln Country Club. These are not folks who see the same things my officers do, or that the residents on Southwest A Beat observe. Out of sight, out of mind. All manner of commentators are imbuing ulterior motives to my highly-abridged message as summarized by the Journal Star, but I assure you, all I want is to encourage some thought by the opinion leaders in this community about what should be our mutual concern and common effort.

Looks like I ruffled some feathers. Guess I should have paid more attention to the digital recorder that was laying on the podium. Personally, I thought the quotable quip at Chamber luncheon concerned the recent boosting of 180 T-shirts from Abercrombie & Fitch--valued at $1.23 million. ;-) .

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Perceptions of safety

Back in 1994, the Lincoln Police Department launched the Quality Service Audit. The QSA is a survey of people who have recently interacted with the department, to find out how we did. We survey three categories of people, all by phone: people who have received citations (anything from speeding to felony crimes), victims and crime, and drivers in traffic crashes. There are a handful of core questions for everyone, and a few that are specific to the type of contact.

We developed the QSA in conjunction with the Gallup organization, whose longtime chairman, the late Donald O. Clifton, was a great friend of the Lincoln Police Department. He and his wife, Shirley, often attended police academy graduations. Interns and police trainees in our academy conduct the survey. Aside from the value of the data, the process of future police officers listening to citizens describe their experience with the department is very informative and valuable to recruits. It is also good practice for a critical police skill: talking to strangers.

Among the core questions we ask everyone is this:

"Now I would like to ask how safe and secure you feel in the neighborhood where you live. Do you feel:
(1) Always unsafe and insecure
(2) Usually unsafe and insecure
(3) Safe and secure sometimes
(4) Safe and secure most of time
(5) Always safe and secure "
Over the past 13 years, we have completed surveys with 51,241 people. That is a huge number of responses. I had the sudden idea late last week that the QSA responses concerning perceptions of safety and security would be interesting to look at over time. I thought that the recent experiences of crime victims and those cited or arrested would significantly influence their perceptions, but that drivers in traffic crashes would be a fairly representative cross-section of the community whose fender bender would be rather unrelated to their feeling of safety in the neighborhood where they live. So I decided to look at the data for drivers exclusively. We have 14,760 completed QSA surveys with drivers in traffic collisions.

Before I gathered the data together, I suspected that people were probably increasingly concerned about safety and security in their own neighborhood, in part due to the huge growth of news sources. My premise was that people are bombarded with 24 hour a day news that is often dominated by crime, and that as a result, we would see a steady increase in fear of crime.

I was wrong. The overall perception of safety and security (as gauged by the two positive responses: 5. always safe and secure, or 4. safe and secure most of the time) has remained remarkably stable. There has been a slight but steady increase in the percentage of respondents who always feel safe and secure in the neighborhood where they live. Click the graph to enlarge.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Spell check got me

Today, it's The Chief's Corner lite. Last week, I got an email from Google. I almost hit the delete key, but then I realized that it was either a very clever use of content-mining to insert personalized content automatically, or a real human being had actually sent it. I think it's the former, but here's how it started:

"Hello Chief Casady,

We here at Google News noticed that you were in the news recently, in some articles about the recent study from the Urban Institute suggesting a new wave of crime related to iPods and similar devices. We would like to invite you to participate in a feature we created, Comments By People In The News, that allows you and other people in the news to post unedited statements on Google News alongside the articles in which you appear."
I checked out Google News, and noticed that all sorts of people mentioned in news stories--including many public officials--were posting invited comments, so I figured what the heck, I'd try it out by just summarizing my earlier blog post on the same topic, and sending it in as a comment.

I heeded the warning contained in the email:

"...we do not edit comments in any way, even for grammar, spelling, etc. So please send us your comment exactly as you want it published."
After carefully composing, I mashed the send button, and Outlook immediately recognized every occurrence of "iPod" as a spelling error, suggesting alternatives. I quickly clicked through the message hitting "ignore", but the very last one got me, and I inadvertently clicked "change". The result is in the next to the last sentence.

Clearly, crime waves are not caused by iPods, nor by bipods, rather by bipeds.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Follow up from visits

Last September, we had a visit from the Council Bluffs, Iowa Police Department. They were here to have a look at our use of computer monitors to improve our information flow during our roll call (we call it lineup). Council Bluffs Police Capt. Terry LeMaster emailed me last week with an update. They have installed equipment and changed their roll calls to incorporate computer and video content. He sent a photo:

We also had a November visit from a Topeka Police Department delegation that even brought along a news crew. I got a follow-up email from Capt. Ron Brown last week, too:
"Hi Chief! I have included some stats to show how our initiative is going. Crime is going the right direction as you can see. We have started a Chief’s Youth Advisory Council modeled after yours and it is VERY successful. Thanks for the idea. The young folks are very engaged and providing valuable insight. Capt. Stanley has taken on your roll call room as a model and is working on flat screen TVs and computer link ups for our roll call room. Thanks again for the great information and assistance; it did not fall on deaf ears!"
In January, we hosted another visit from the Tulsa Police Department. Officer Will Dalsing, Capt. Travis Yates, and Major Daryl Webster were in Lincoln as part of a project to visit several cities to get a feel for how they use data, information, and crime analysis. Their trip to Lincoln was to observe one of our ACUDAT meetings.

We always benefit from these site visits. It's a great opportunity to share ideas, learn what others are doing, and in some ways to compare yourself to the field and gauge how you're doing. This week, three members of my staff will be in Atlanta at the meeting of the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Core value

Back in November, I wrote a series of posts about the challenges facing one of Lincoln's fragile neighborhoods. The posts ended with Outside the bubble on November 16. It was a plea for help. There simply is no way, given the economic and social problems this area confronts, that the police acting alone can restore its health and well-being. In January, the Lincoln Journal Star published an insightful week-long special report, The Core on this same issue.

Help is on the way. Mayor Chris Beutler, flanked by the heads of a bevy of public and private organizations, announced yesterday at a morning press conference that the City is launching “Stronger Safer Neighborhoods”, an initiative aimed at attacking these issues in a more holistic manner. Former planning commission chairman Jon Carlson has been hired as a mayoral aide to coordinate the diverse activities, and he will be assigned to the police department, which will direct the project.

We will continue to devote some major police effort to this area, but the approach includes other elements, such as codes enforcement, social services, and economic development. It's going to be a block-by-block, alley-by-alley, and even building-by-building effort to identify problems, and figure out what resources can be brought to bear to improve those conditions. This could be making life miserable for a resident crack dealer, getting outpatient mental health care for a problematic tenant, training a landlord on how to do a decent background check, forcing an owner to bring a deteriorated building up to code, getting a graffiti-covered dumpster replaced, or finding a low interest loan for a resident who needs help rehabilitating a house.

Although his job title is administrative assistant to the mayor, Mr. Carlson is being assigned to the police department. We've cleared out a vacant office right down the hall from mine for his command post, and he'll be ready to hit the ground running on day one, next Thursday. He will be assigned as a member of the Southwest Police Team, because that's the place we intend to start this initiative. We've done similar work before, including Free to Grow in the Center Team Area, and the work we've been doing in the Southwest Team Area with Project Safe Neighborhoods. But this is clearly something more comprehensive than our usual problem-oriented policing projects.

Law enforcement has a clear role to play, but you might think that it's not exactly the bailiwick of the police to manage a project of this scope where social services and economic development are major thrusts. I think the Mayor asked us to take on the coordination of his initiative simply because he trusts us the most to make it happen. His faith is well placed.

Job one will be to lay out the baseline data that will be the indicators of success, and I am confident we can make a huge difference in the core with the collaboration of others, and the infusion of human and financial capital. We look forward to the challenge.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Testing the iCrime theory

In the past week, both the Omaha World Herald and the Lincoln Journal Star have contacted me about the involvement of iPods in violent crime. Apparently the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C. think tank, recently released a paper by John Roman and Aaron Chalfin entitled Is there an iCrime Wave?

These authors contend that the increase in violent crime over the past two years in the United States is the result of the proliferation of iPods. The theory is that a small, high value, and ubiquitous item essentially increases the number of vulnerable targets for robbery--one of the most common of all violent crimes, and the offense that has driven the overall increase in violent crime in the U.S. during the past two years. The iCrime theory has been getting a lot of ink this week.

Both newspaper reporters wanted my take on the theory. Cory Matteson, the Lincoln Journal Star reporter, sent me an email inquiry last Thursday. Mr. Matteson, it turns out, was himself the victim of a lost-or-stolen iPod recently. He phrased his request like this:

"Did Lincoln see an upswing in robberies during that time? Did enough of the victims report their iPods taken to back what this policy center thinks is happening? I don't know if it's possible to run such a search over the last couple years, but if that report interests you enough to do it, I'd like to hear the results."
You'll notice he didn't really seriously question whether we would have the data, only if I'd be interested enough to search it out. I think he was not surprised when I emailed the results back to him in short order:

"Cory: Get a Shuffle with a big clip. Data on 2007 iPod's attached. Looks like the simple answer is 'No.' "
The Omaha World Herald reporter, Maggie O'Brien ,called late yesterday afternoon. She assumed that I would not have any data at all, and was quite surprised that I could immediately provide her the stats on iPod thefts by crime type back to January 1, 2007. Like any good reporter, she continued to mine that vein, upping the ante by asking me for the 2006 data. That took me a couple minutes, because I had just closed CrimeView and shut down my computer. Is it just me, or does that always seem to happen?

So, here's the data on stolen iPods in Lincoln since January 1, 2006:

Robbery 1
Auto theft 4
Burglary 36
Larceny from auto 184
Other larceny 210

Our data fails to confirm Roman and Chalfin's hypothesis. Only one iPod was reported stolen in a robbery during the past 26 months, a time period during which 388 total robberies were reported to the Lincoln Police Department. That lone case was an April 28, 2007 carjacking in which the victim, sitting outside a bar at 1:10 A.M., was approached by three suspects who pulled him out of the vehicle, roughed him up, took his car then crashed it a couple blocks away. His iPod and cell phone were missing when the car was recovered. Since the offense involved a theft of property by violence, it meets the definition of a robbery.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Incident listing explained

It is apparent from some of the comments posted on The Chief's Corner that many readers are checking in on the Lincoln Police Department's daily call summary posted on our public web site. I received on off-blog email this morning from a citizen with a question:

"Chief Casady:

When looking at the daily call summary online, it is always a 'Selected Listing of Recent Incidents.' What criteria does a call need to meet to be selected, or is it simply an officer discretion kind of thing?"
Upon reflection, I think this might be slightly confusing to others, so here's the detailed description that I emailed back in response. This might help people understand in more detail exactly what you are looking at.

"The table of dispatched events is complete: that is everything we sent police officers to on the day in question. These data come from the Dispatch Records created at the Emergency Communications Center whenever an officer is assigned to a event. These records are uploaded to our Records Management System every minute, and the table is created from there. The listing of selected Incident Reports comes from our Records Management System. Essentially, an Incident Report is the original one-page summary report of a crime.

Incident Reports are prepared by the assigned officer on all crimes, and a few non-criminal events--such as missing persons and certain disturbances. Since it is created after the fact, the Incident Report can be delayed--sometimes (with a supervisor's approval) even a day or more beyond the officer's tour of duty. Conversely, the dispatch record is near real-time, with just a delay of a couple of minutes as the data transfers. Note, however, that for the current day, we post a fresh html table of dispatches on the hour.

Only about one dispatch in three results in an Incident Report. Many cases are resolved on the spot without any reports required, others result in Accident Reports, Information Reports, or Additional Case Investigation Reports.

I believe that Forgery and sexual assault are the only ones held back entirely from the selected incident report listing (the former because of volume, the later to help protect the victim's privacy.) There are a few incident types for which we are not posting the summary comments field: missing persons, sex offense-other, and child abuse. In looking over comments, I felt that there was some highly personal material in the summary comments of both missing persons and child abuse incident reports. For the sex offense-other cases, there was often some pretty strong language that concerned me a little. While this isn't always the case, this listing has to be automated, and there wasn't any way to make these decisions on a case-by-case basis, so we just strip off the cases using the incident code.


Tom Casady"

Monday, March 3, 2008

Prelude to spring

Global warming or not, it's been a rather cold winter in Lincoln. Records are available for 120 years, and as of now, the winter of 2007-2008 ranks as the 21st coldest, with a mean temperature of 23.2F.

I've described how police work is weather sensitive in previous posts, and this past weekend was a pretty good example. We hit 50 on Friday, and 67 on Saturday--22 degrees above the normal high of 45 on March 1st. It was the warmest weekend of the winter (despite that chilly rain on Sunday afternoon). Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, we dispatched police officers to a total of 1,107 incidents. Here are a few examples:

Assault 33
Child Abuse 21
Burglary 9
Narcotics 20
Disturbance 210

By comparison, on the weekend of January 18, 19, and 20th we handled 842 dispatched incidents--30% fewer. The temperature dipped below zero all three days that weekend. which tends to put a damper on the festivities.

This past weekend's 1,107 incidents may have been a prelude to spring, but it's nothing compared to a really busy summer weekend, like this one, with 1,544 dispatches.