Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Do what you love

Advertising 489, Advertising and Public Relations Campaigns, must be an incredibly fun course, taught by Stacy James at the University of Nebraska College of Journalism. It's a hands on senior-level course, where students create a marketing campaign during the semester for an actual client.

We were incredibly fortunate to be the client of this Spring's class. These students spent the semester creating police officer recruitment campaigns for us. In January, myself and several other staff members had a great meeting with the class at police headquarters. We had a far reaching conversation about who were trying to attract, what we have to offer, and what sets us apart. Although we have huge numbers of applicants, we were interested in recruiting more successful applicants--high quality men and women with solid educations looking for socially-significant work, and prepared for the complexity and challenge of policing.

The students took the seeds from their initial meeting with the client, formed into two teams, conducted their own market research (including focus groups of recently-employed LPD officers), and created two competing campaigns. Yesterday, they presented these campaigns to about a dozen LPD staff members and to members of the faculty at the J-College. They even had donuts for the clients.

It was unbelievable. The quality of the work, the enthusiasm of the students, their professionalism and delivery were just top notch. The results were advertising themes, printed materials, radio and TV spots, web sites, posters, brochures, cards, CDs, public relations events, and more. These are all concepts that we can implement, and the presentation included materials and price quotes we can run with when we find the cash.

The two teams, BallyHoo and Under the Radar, had quite different approaches, but also some similarities. They both honed in on the importance of using great electronic communication--especially dynamic web content--for this target audience. They have obviously crawled all over my blog, which explains the uptick in hits from the UNL domain.

I'm sticking up some of the printed display materials they prepared around the department for everyone to see, and we'll be trying our best to incorporate some of this great work in our future recruitment. Very well done, teams, it's clear you love what you do!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


It started with this email to the Mayor on Wednesday....

"Dear Mayor Beutler,

Times are tough and it's not getting better. I'm basically a slave to my home as I can't afford to go out just to survive tax life in Nebraska and the recession. Everything is going up but my salary. Spring has sprung, the young animals with the booming car stereos are out in full force. Lincoln has an ordinance against this that is not enforced by any means, it's an absolute free for all. I have usually 100"drive by's" if not more everyday, 24 hrs. a day.

Where are the police, why aren't the laws enforced? It's an absolute out of control situation. These disrespectful animals rule this city. It's time to get tough and reclaim our city. I'm sick of it. You can hear them coming from city blocks away.The next time a new tax is emposed, it should be towards high powered car stereos. How about, after 2 stiff fines, the 3rd offense, the violator's vehicle is taken and sold? After much research, many cities are getting tough on these animals, where is Lincoln? Mayor, it's time to get tough!!!!!!!!

I'm sorry, I hate this state, I hate this city. I can't even spend an enjoyable evening in my own home, trying to save money just to be poor. It's to bad the University doesn't feel the way I do about this, maybe some action would be taken. It's time to revamp the Noise ordinance. Make the penalties stiff, this could add more officers and vehicles to the payroll,it would pay for itself and bring the city back to what it used to be. It would be like a duck shoot in a barrel.

Mayor, if you have interest, go downtown and just stand on a any street corner on "O" street, and count the number of violators, you'd be amazed. I feel better for expressing myself but since it doesn't benefit a realtor, developer, or the University, I highly doubt anything will be done at all. If you actually read this, thank you for your time Sir."

....and was followed by this reply, copied to me, on Friday:

"Thank you for taking the time to write Mayor Beutler about your concerns regarding Lincoln Police Department's enforcement activities related to noisy car stereos and your suggestion that the ordinances for this type of violation be changed to include the confiscation of the offender's vehicle. I am the Ombudsman for the City. It is my job to see that you receive responsible, courteous service from all departments of City government.

Upon receiving your correspondence, I contacted the Lincoln Police Department and the City Attorney's Office and asked how they may address your questions and suggestions. I have directed someone from the departments to contact you on behalf of the Mayor's office regarding thespecific concerns you have raised about enforcement efforts and making the law for noise violations stricter.

Your proposal to fund additional law enforcement officers and vehicles through increased fines appears to be an easy fix, however, Nebraska state law requires that proceeds from fines must go back to the state for distribution to the public schools. No city or county can create a revenue stream for itself from the collection of fines.

The City of Lincoln faces many of the same financial challenges that we, asindividuals encounter when trying to make our limited dollars stretch to over the spiraling increases in fuel costs and other necessities of life. By law, the City must operate in the black, so there can be no deficits pending. Much like your budget at home, the City has a finite amount offunds to cover our expenses, so we share your pain.

I will be monitoring the progress of our departments' response to your inquiries. Please feel free to call on me should you have other comments, questions or concerns about city government. You may reach me at 441-7511. I appreciate the effort you made in bringing your concerns to the attention of the Mayor's office.


Office of the Mayor
City of Lincoln, Nebraska"

....and ended with a cut 'n paste response from the applicable portions of this. I'm open to suggestions. Hey, at least we made some progress on this major investigation!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Deeper details

Over the weekend, an intriguing series of feature articles ran in the Lincoln Journal Star. I have blogged about the burglary at Scheel's All Sports and the subsequent recovery of about half the stolen guns on several past occasions. But a Trail of Guns, by Cory Matteson, provides deeper details into the story of eight stolen guns from Lincoln showing up in the Phoenix area following our largest-ever gun burglary.

Mr. Matteson, who often covers the police beat on the swing shift, is a frequent visitor to the Duty Commander's office at Headquarters. I frequently see him checking in with Capt. David Beggs when I'm headed home or out to an evening meeting.

One day after a Scheel's gun was recovered in Phoenix, he remarked that it would be interesting to go to Arizona for some more in depth reporting. It was the dead of a cold Nebraska winter at the time, and we laughed about the prospects. I told him that I had just received a humorous email from Det. Sgt. Terri Hruza, volunteering that she, Investigator Greg Sims, and the entire Crime Analysis Unit were willing to spend a month with the local authorities in Phoenix on follow-up work. No doubt her golf clubs were included in the proposal.

Cory, to my surprise, actually talked the Journal Star into his plan. He got some excellent interviews, the front page of the Sunday edition, and three full pages in section A. The articles are interesting, the graphics and photos very nice, and the online version is another example from the Journal Star of notching up online newspaper publishing to an entirely new level.

It is unknown at this time whether Mr. Matteson dabbles in the ancient game, but the investigation continues.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Code three

Here are a couple masterful jobs on ridiculous police calls in the past couple weeks. I have made very minor changes to redact identifying personal information, but otherwise, these are straight from the police blotter (click to enlarge):

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mapping fear of crime

Last month, I posted a graph and a blog about perceptions of safety. It was 13 years data from surveys of people who had contact with the police after being involved in traffic crashes. As part of a large ongoing survey process, we ask a few thousand people every year "How safe and secure do you feel in the neighborhood where you live?"

I used the data on overall perceptions of safety across time as a benchmark of a desired outcome in our proposed outcome-based budget presented to Mayor Chris Beutler last week. He asked an interesting question: "Can you break this down by area?" The answer was "Yes, we have these data broken out by five police team areas."

Back at the office, though, his question got me thinking about doing something at a finer level or granularity. A conversation with Jon Carlson, the Stronger Safer Neighborhoods coordinator, and Clair Lindquist, our Information Technology manager cooked up the idea. The result is this map (click to enlarge):

These are census block groups, assigned their color based on the average score of all the respondents within each are to the "How safe?" question: darkest red is least safe, darkest blue is most safe. Although there are some methodological issues I could bore you with (chiefly, the survey isn't random), I nonetheless think this is a pretty good indicator of where people feel safest in the neighborhood, and where they feel less safe.

The map is based on 2,517 responses for 2007 that could be geocoded to a specific location. The average scores within each census block group ranged from a high of 5 ("always safe and secure") to a low of 2.67 (between "usually not" and "sometimes safe and secure"). The overall mean score is pretty high, at 4.08, and keep in mind that of the total 1118 of the respondents were victims of crime within the recent past. Here's the statistics on the distribution:

I'm not aware of anyone who has mapped "fear of crime" like this before, but there may be other examples I don't know about. It's an intriguing use of this unique data set we collect. In the broadest sense, the map shows the same pattern that most crime displays in Lincoln: the people who responded to the survey are accurately reflecting the relative risk of crime, with a few exceptions. The area where perception of safety is lowest essentially overlays the city limits of Lincoln as it existed 60 years ago, further emphasizing the importance of taking care of the core.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Spring has sprung

Last Saturday, spring finally arrived in Lincoln. It was one of those top ten days that come twice a year in the interval between the wind chill of -30 and the 106 heat. That's not a complaint, by the way--it keeps out the riffraff.

80,149 Nebraskans took advantage of the fine weather, and attended football practice at Memorial Coliseum. It was a full house, and traffic was just like a regular fall football game. In essence, we're having nine home games this year. One down, eight to go.

My compliments to everyone who worked the traffic and crowd control detail. With two of our critical roadways (8th Street and O Street) closed for the rebuilding of the Harris Overpass, and a sell-out crowd at Haymarket Park for baseball, the potential existed for some significant problems. Sgt. Shannon Karl did her usual great job putting the X's and O's together, and the game plan came off like clockwork.

One down, eight to go.

Top of the list

I reported in The Chief's Corner last Tuesday about the results of the deliberative discussions hosted by the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center on behalf of the City. The basic work of the Center, though, has been the scientific survey of 600 residents to gather information about City budget priorities.

The results are back, and as with the deliberative discussions, Safety & Security ranked as the most important outcome by a healthy margin. Within that category, fire and ambulance topped police as the most important service, but police topped fire as the top spending priority. When asked to allocate a hypothetical $100 across the City's eight budget outcomes, citizens allocated the largest amount ($21) to police services.

This finding really isn't much of a surprise. As Mayor Beutler has noted, safety & security is one of the fundamental reasons cities came into existence in the first place. Another historical reason-for-being is trade and commerce. Cities have always been hubs of economic activity, and Economic Opportunity was the second most important spending priority on the survey.

The Police Department has the largest tax funded budget in the Lincoln's general fund budget. Lest anyone think we are fat, look over my many previous posts on this issue, or just read this article from the Colorado Springs Gazette. Lincoln has 317 police officers, and had a population of 241,167 back at the time of the last Census Bureau estimate on July 1, 2006. Do your own math and figure out how many police officers Lincoln would need at the "saturation point" Colorado Springs finds itself with 1.7 officers per thousand.

Hint: (1.7 x 241.167) - 317

Friday, April 18, 2008

Pet peeve for many

This morning's Lincoln Journal Star article blowing the lid off tax evaders has been the water-cooler topic of the week around town. There were over 100 comments posted before noon. Something about a physician registering his Porsche illegally in South Dakota to avoid his Nebraska taxes that seems to get people fired up. But for the average Joe who cheats to avoid Nebraska's higher vehicle taxes, there's evidently some sympathy .

Not from me. I pay mine, and I expect others to do likewise. This is just plain, flat, illegal. I think there's a lot to be said for trying to avoid these neighboring State shenanigans by adjusting motor vehicle taxes and fees to take away the incentive. That seems to be more efficient then investigating these difficult-to-prove cases. But that would require the legislature jimmying around with Nebraska's current tax structure, and is no excuse for violating the law in the meantime.

The Department of Motor Vehicles and the State Patrol have exposed the tip of a much larger iceberg, in my opinion. My downtown parking enforcement staff alone issued about 12,000 tickets for expired, fictitious or missing plates last year. The department as a whole cracked 20,000 (we have a heart--5,102 were warning tickets.) Every one of those is either tax evaded or tax delayed, and money out of the pocket of law-abiding Nebraskans. I don't think we came anywhere close to ticketing every violator, which makes we wonder exactly what percentage of cars on the road are improperly registered at any given time. My guess? About one in ten. Some of these are obvious (an expired tag), some less so (a vehicle registered in another County or State, even though it is domiciled in Lincoln.)

The law in Nebraska requires the vehicle to be registered within 30 days, and to be registered in the place where it is domiciled. It makes no difference if your family owns all of Custer County, if the vehicle spends more than half it's time living here in Lincoln, this is where it must be registered. This is widely violated by people who think because they still own grandma's lot in Loomis, they can avoid Lincoln's $49 wheel tax.

Here's the most succinct analyses of Nebraska's tax situation I've ever seen, from the LJS comments:

Why our taxes are high wrote on April 16, 2008 11:03 pm:
" Nebraska is 17th in land area and 37th in population of the 50 states. We lack natural resources and visitation dollars of states like Wyoming. Therefore, we have fewer people to pay for infrastructure (highways, etc) of a large land area. So, taxes are higher per capita. Don't like it? Move to a more populated state. I suppose I could move to Denver and have my taxes go down, but instead I accept it as the price I pay to live the good life."
And here's another one that caught my eye, regarding a legal loophole I am familiar with:

Outside City Limits wrote on April 16, 2008 12:56 pm:
" Check businesses whose owners live outside city limits as well. Used to work for a company that was located inside city limits but the owner himself lived outside of the limits. He had ALL company vehicles licensed at his home address to keep from paying the city sales tax along with wheel tax."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Priority one

Last summer, readers of my then-new blog followed the trials and tribulations of the budget season. I've been through many of these, and it's never a walk in the park. Last year, though, was something quite different: the City's revenue was obviously not keeping up with expenses, and serious cuts were pending. At the eleventh hour, the police department escaped the long knives. This wasn't the case with other departments, though, and some serious pain was experienced.

I realized last year that the 2008-2009 budget would be more of the same, and perhaps worse--since the City took advantage of some one-time only money to balance the current budget. Think about it: if you house payment with your tax rebate this year, what will you do next year, when there is no rebate? So, the budget season is now upon us, and my presentation of our proposed police department budget to the Mayor is scheduled for tomorrow.

Mayor Beutler has a firm grasp on the City's predicament, and for this reason he has been engaged in a strategy to force citizens (and City Council members) to face the music. The City's revenue simply isn't keeping up with the cost of delivering our services. In the coming 2008-2009 fiscal year, the cost of delivering exactly the same services will exceed the City's projected revenue by $5.9 million. Something has to give. We've got to decide exactly what we want from City government, and exactly what we are willing to pay.

This past weekend was a step in that direction. Following up on the scientific survey of 600 Lincoln residents commissioned by the City and conducted by the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center, a meeting with about 51 of the 600 participants took place on Saturday. The participants were drawn from those who participated in the random survey. They received a sobering briefing on the City's financial situation. Following this, they participated in a day of "deliberative discussions." This is a process the Public Policy Center has employed to put some more meat on the bones of the survey process. The City is also hosting an on-line survey and town hall meetings, although these are not scientifically controlled.

At the end of the day, the participants ranked the City's seven outcomes in order of priority. Safety and Security was ranked first by each of the six break-out groups. Since the mission of the Lincoln Police Department is to provide quality police services that promote a safe and secure community, our purpose for existing is pretty much at the heart of what citizens ranked as their top priority in a time of declining resources. Our challenge is to be good stewards of the funds entrusted to us, to deliver our services efficiently, and to continue to earn the respect of citizens who support our mission as their top priority.

Monday, April 14, 2008

First anniversary

I just passed one year of blogging . I have made 203 posts, filling about 296 pages of text (not counting the comments) and there have been 125,489 visits to The Chief's Corner. I think I'll take the day off the blog.

Actually, Internet Explorer has frozen on my computer, and I'm devoting the morning to either getting it cleared up, or switching to Firefox. Wish me luck.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Not an urban legend

I can always tell when some technophobe has recently discovered the existence of email: they forward a message to me that starts something like this:
"Please accept graciously my sorrow for troubling you, and allow me introducing to say I am the receiver of estate of the Deputy Director of Oil Resources...."
The newbie wants me to know that suspicious dealing of some sort is going on that he or she feels the police chief should be aware of. (Sigh.) I have bookmarked, and when I receive the latest scam or urban legend, I usually just fire the appropriate link back to the sender.

I started receiving several nearly-identical emails last night, forwarded from a variety of people. As of right now, nine different people have forwarded it to me asking if it is true. Here is the gist, which I have abridged somewhat due to its length:
"I just wanted to warn all of you about the recent assault that took place here in Lincoln....24 yr old female left her friends house and was involved in a car accident/assault. The car in front of her slammed on their brakes, causing her to hit that car and then the car behind hit her...The victim thought something was up and realized that she was blocked in...Somehow she got her car out and the other cars involved followed her recklessly. She called the friend...and said that someone was after her. She drove back to her friends house and the other cars followed her and pulled her out of the car. They started beating her on the driveway, when her friends came out of the house to help her...these women pulled guns on the friend ...they left with her purse. This victim was taken to the hospital and had emergency plastic surgery on her face...Her body is bruised and sore....the women were on line within an hour using her credit cards and bought a laptop and some items from foot locker...This isn't a hoax--this victim works for a friend of mine. Please be careful and send this on to others that you care about."
You will recognize some of the common signs of an urban legend: the unspecified location and date; the scary story of an attack by strangers; the statement, "This isn't a hoax"; and the victim identified as a friend of an acquaintance. Here's the problem: it's not an urban legend. The circulating email is actually a fairly accurate account of a Sunday morning robbery-assault that has been widely reported. It's a horrible crime--one of thousands of horrible crimes that occur in our City every year. This one was particularly heinous and will probably rank in the top 100 most despicable violent crimes of the year in my informal one-person poll.

What I found remarkable is that so many people who have received and forwarded the email are seemingly oblivious to two things: first, the news; second, the fact that even in Lincoln lots of horrid crime is committed by evil people.

Here is the response I am sending to everyone who forwards this story to me:

"Basically true--with perhaps a slight embellishment in that we do not know whether these women intentionally struck the victim's car as part of a planned robbery scheme, or whether they were involved in a "road rage" incident and just went berserk. Believe it or not, the suspects are not exactly being helpful in the investigation. We also cannot say that these women are members of an organized gang. None of them have prior gang intelligence information, and several are relatives. You can compare the email account you received with the various news stories:

Tom Casady
Chief of Police"

Establishing a baseline

We are in the opening stages of the Stronger Safer Neighborhoods Initiative--Mayor Chris Beutler's focus on protecting fragile neighborhoods from reaching a crime tipping point. The Administrative Assistant to the Mayor hired to coordinate the City's activities in this effort, Jon Carlson, is working here at the police department, as a member of the Southwest Team. The area we will be focusing on is 42 square blocks in Lincoln's core, between A and G Streets, 9th and 17th Streets.

One of the first things we need to get in order is the establishment of some baseline data that we can use as the benchmark for progress. Tracking our progress is critical for determining whether these efforts are having an impact, and alerting us if adjustments are needed. Police data can be an important source of such information, and readers of The Chief's Corner will realize that we have some excellent capabilities to collect, analyze, and disseminate information about police incidents.

Figuring out what to measure, however, requires some thought. An obvious approach might be to measure police dispatches. If, however, the initiative results in more police presence and greater outreach to citizens in the area of focus, the net effect could be to increase, rather than decrease, police incidents.

In order to avoid a reporting phenomenon that is misleading, we intend to collect baseline data of three separate types: overall police incident reports, dispatches to disturbances, and a subset of crime reports composed of the following offenses: burglaries, narcotics cases, larcenies from auto, and assaults. These four "indicator crimes" occur in large enough numbers that changes can be detected over time, and they are crimes for which levels of reporting have not been influenced by recent changes in reporting practices. We will be looking at these indicators on a quarterly basis, comparing the trend to the previous quarter, and to the same period in the prior year. Here's the baseline for this subset of incidents:

Police incidents can provide some of the data to track neighborhood conditions, but we will also need to locate and track other kinds of data, particularly those related to housing, the physical environment, and residents' perceptions of safety and well being. In coming weeks, we will be working to cultivate sources of information for this purpose. We will be turning to other partners, such as NeighborWorks, Free to Grow, and the Everett and Near South Neighborhood Associations to help collect these data.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Sharing an idea

This post is for those interested in crime analysis, GIS, and Internet technology.

I participate in one and only one listserv, the CRIMEMAP group, at the Department of Justice, Mapping and Analysis for Public Safety program. I don't have much time to read lists, but I continue to subscribe to this one because the traffic is fairly light and I can occasionally contribute something worthwhile.

A total stranger posted this question to the list last week:

> I have a hyper linking question...
> I have a theme of Department of Corrections releases that I have
> hyperlinked their subject lookups from the DOC website into the URL.
> It works on my map, but when I export the data out to share w/ the
> others in my agency the hyperlinks are no longer there. Does anyone
> know how they can be saved in a theme that can be shared w/ others?
> Certified Law Enforcement Analyst
> Hernando County Sheriff's Office

The analyst who posted this question was trying to build web links to the public site of the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) into her mapping application. She wanted to distribute this to others with links in this electronic map, so her colleagues could click and get more detailed information about recently-released inmates. We've been building links like these into our map applications for years, and I recognized her problem as a field length issue. I gave her some ideas for troubleshooting and asked her to send me the geographic layer itself. After I received it, I emailed something back to her in about 10 minutes that I thought might be even easier than her approach. Her response:

>OH WOW - That is AWESOME.....!!!

Here is the file that caused her to type in caps. It's a .kml file--keyhole markup language--the format Google Earth uses. If you have Google Earth installed, it will launch when you click this link. If you don't have Google Earth installed, you can click here to open it in Google Maps, instead. This is all public record information from the Florida Department of Corrections public web site.

Her next email jokingly (I think) offered me a trip to Florida. It was just what she wanted--the ability to easily distribute these data to colleagues without any GIS background, and I could quickly explain the process to her. It's phenomenal what can be easily accomplished with free applications and tools today, compared to just two or three years ago.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The power of parents

Email sent to our generic Lincoln Police address from our public web site is reviewed by Clair Lindquist, our Information Technology Unit manager. He responds to those that he can, and forwards others to an appropriate recipient. He forwarded this one to me recently:

"I would like to file a complaint for littering. On March 12, 2008, a blue Chevy Cavalier, NE license #_____ was traveling east at app. 61st and A Street. The time was app. 5 pm. There were two occupants in the car. The passenger who had curly hair age around 17 tossed a soda can in front of my vehicle. I was driving in the curb lane and the other car was in the inside lane."
I removed the license number from this post, to protect the innocent. I ran the plate, looked up the registered owner, and gave her a telephone call at about 8:00 AM. As I had expected, I was speaking to the mother of a high school student. After introductions, I simply read her the email, and asked her if she could help me by making sure the driver of the car was aware that other people are watching.

We had a nice conversation, and she was very happy to take care of the matter. I imagine that later that afternoon a couple of teenagers were probably surprised to find out that the chief of police had called. I learned a long time ago that the power of mothers and fathers is considerably greater than that of the police.

Friday, April 4, 2008

...and darned if you don't

The Lincoln Journal Star allows readers to post comments on certain articles. I do not delude myself into believing that posted comments are representative of the citizens of Lincoln overall. Nonetheless, I like to read them at times, because there are occasional nuggets of wisdom that inform, or humor that entertains.

I have noticed that there is a sub-set of LJS commentators who regularly bust my chops about the fact that among many, many other things, the police department engages in efforts to reduce the impact of high-risk drinking parties on neighborhoods and on the community. Here's some typical examples of the critique:

Kurt wrote on January 27, 2008 3:22 pm: "...maybe it would have never gotten this bad if the police weren't so worried about our small keg parties and instead busted the crack heads... "

Shelly wrote on January 28, 2008 6:13 pm: " ...there's always five to seven cop cars downtown...what about cops that bust college parties?"

mike wrote on March 22, 2008 2:42 am: " ...I do not know what we pay our police chief for. He attacks bars, bar owners, people of legal age who party...get a life and go stop some real crime."
It was strangely gratifying to open Wednesday's Lincoln Journal Star and see an article about the North Bottoms neighborhood containing just the opposite criticism:

"...Caudill lives in Omaha, but spent 21 years in the North Bottoms and keeps a place at the Hayward Place Condos, a complex he manages. He left more than a year ago, driven out in part by his frustrations over late-night parties and what he believes was inadequate police enforcement...."
I'm used to catching it from both directions at the same time.

I empathize with Mr. Caudill. When you have a job, kids, and responsibilities, it's not much fun living next door to some hard-partying 20-somethings who regale you with their exploits in the wee hours. There is a legitimate police role in trying to control illegal behavior that makes it difficult for other residents to enjoy their own home. You should expect the police to do so, but you should realize that it is only one of many competing demands upon their resources.

I think the key is to try to maintain balance: don't become so focused on one or a few issues that other important issues are neglected, and don't ignore the small stuff lest it becomes big stuff. You can read all about our efforts to reduce the impact of large drinking parties, the rationale behind those efforts, and the results.

Jean Ortiz, the author the North Bottoms article, wanted me to comment about Ed Caudill's criticism. I told her that we have focused a lot of effort on the North Bottoms, but that ultimately the police were not responsible for the economic and social trends that have caused this neighborhood to go from an area of families and owner-occupied houses to an area primarily of rental houses attractive to single young people. We didn't close Hayward Elementary School, cause Reifschneider's Grocery to be replaced by a mini mart, build Interstate 180 or move the University of Nebraska to the doorstep.

I also told her that my perception was that the conditions in the neighborhood have noticeably improved in the past decade or so. I was thinking about things like the replacement of the rickety 10th Street overpass, the demolition of a group of seriously-dilapidated houses, and the new streetscape features recently installed. But I was also thinking about the police incidents occurring in the neighborhood. I told her that if I could have a couple of hours, I would bring some data to bear on that, and see if my perception holds any water. She was near her 4:00 P.M. deadline, and declined. My own curiosity had been piqued, though, so I produced this spreadsheet:

Column B is wild party complaints, column C is total police dispatches, and column D is dispatches to disturbances of all types. I made another chart looking at bell-weather crimes: burglary, larceny from auto, drug offenses, and assaults. It showed the same pattern. Looks like my perception was pretty accurate.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Beer burglars return

Ah, spring: the daffodils, the pansies, and the burglars. As the weather warms, the thieves awake from their winter hibernation. Thirstier than ever, they prowl the 'burbs looking for the lucrative target: an open garage equpped with a fridge.

We had two "beer burglaries" over the weekend. I'm not sure if the bottle of Woodbridge chardonnay counts. Needless to say, that one was at the far southern edge of the city. The Rockets do not drink chardonnay.

Beer burglaries, of course, are vastly under-reported. Victims either don't bother to call the police, or in some cases don't realize exactly why the inventory has been shrinking. These cases normally occur in the evening, prior to ma and pa's bedtime. Too many people leave the garage door open until the lights are shut off for the night:

Although it is likely reported at a low rate in relation to the actual incidence, the crime shows a distinctivepattern that is rather obvious to Lincoln residents:

The clusters on this map simply depict the parts of Lincoln where you are likely to find garages with spare refrigerators therein. The tilt towards the southeast is apparent with a healthy dose of the Highlands in the northwest, and Regent Heights in the northeast.

Beer isn't the only target of garage shopping, though. Golf clubs, for example, were taken in 22 residential burglaries last year. Think about it: a thousand dollars worth of thunder sticks in a tidy package with a convenient carrying handle. Tools and bicycles are also particularly vulnerable to this type of open garage door theft.

Last May, I reported on an elegantly simple project the Southeast Team was engaged in to reduce these burglaries. They finished the year with 83 open garage burglaries, 43 fewer than their average in the preceeding three years--a reduction of 34%. Not bad at all.