Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Missing person found

Sunday evening, a 17 year old boy with Down syndrome turned up missing, after he parted ways with his Mom at Sunday night Mass. He didn’t want to go, and while she was turned the other way in a conversation at the Church, he skipped out.

By late night, he still hadn’t surfaced, so we spent the rest of the night looking for him: searching the Church, a nearby hospital, searching his home, checking open businesses, and so forth. Since he has a developmental disability, we treated this as a child at greater risk, even though he was clearly voluntarily absent, and followed our usual practice in such cases.

At daybreak, we were putting out a full-scale alert to the media, and making outbound phone calls using achildismissing.org. A command post was established to coordinate a door-to-door search by a group of officers. The Church was searched again, his home was searched again, the hospital across the street was searched again.

Late morning, a caller contacted us and let us know that James was at the Burger King. I happened to be mobile at the time, so I stopped by. He was blithely chatting with Officer Stacey Fitch about the Iowa v. Penn State game, among other topics. He told her he had spent the night sleeping in a parked car. “Car or truck?” she asked. “A Cadillac,” he replied.

He was a gregarious, talkative youngster, lightly-dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. I’ll bet he got a little chilly overnight. He told me that he had a sausage biscuit at Burger King and a hamburger.

We’re glad this had a happy ending. So far this year, James is missing person number 1,604 for the Lincoln Police Department. Yes, you read right: that’s one thousand six hundred and four, with over three months to go in 2009.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Getting tougher

The two stories of failed crimes in my post yesterday are examples of why getting away with crime has gotten quite a bit tougher in the past few years, in my opinion. These pages contain many other examples (just click on the “candid camera” or “crimes” tag in my label cloud.

Yesterday, Officer David Koso cleared up a relatively minor crime, but one that is also a good example. Back on July 21st, he investigated a shoplifting case at a convenience store. A copy of Hot Rod magazine was allegedly taken by a man who was accompanied by a woman (she drove.) Cameras at the store caught her at the check stand, and the two of them beside her car in the parking lot.

We posted these photos on our Crimestoppers blog, and pretty quickly got a tip identifying the woman. Reading incoming tips at home that morning, I checked the woman’s mug shot, and low and behold—although the surveillance photo is a little fuzzy, it looked like a match. Then I clicked the link to her registered motor vehicles: only one, a 1994 red Chrysler LeBaron convertible. Bingo. The parking lot camera wasn't the best, but the vehicle was unmistakeable.

Sgt. Grant Richards in our Crime Analysis Unit also received an email from an FBI agent in another state. He’s a former LPD officer, and a regular visitor to our websites and reader of our blogs in his personal time. He, too, recognized the woman in the photo.

It’s taken a couple months to locate and cite the suspect, because both he and the woman have been in and out of separate jails in different counties, and we really needed to find her for an interview first. That was accomplished earlier this week, and Officer Koso ran him down yesterday, though, and provided him with a fresh court date to take back to his cell block.

The proliferation of cameras is just one of the reasons it’s gotten tougher to get away with crime. In policing, we are also getting better and collecting the digital crumbs suspects are leaving behind. Immersed in the information stream of our databases and information resources, and tapped into a growing social network you have some tools and sources today that would amaze the detectives I envied in 1974.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cripple Creek crime cleared

I blogged about these robberies on Monday, and later that same morning a reader of The Chief’s Corner sent me an off-blog email with some critical information. Detective Marty Fehringer and Officer Travis Amen followed up on that information, and yesterday morning Travis took the 14 year old alleged robber into custody for two counts. Law and order is restored along the banks of Cripple Creek.

Ah, the power of social media.

Speaking of the power of social media, a dastardly vandalism occurred at the Nebraska State Capitol overnight on Monday to Tuesday, when someone spray painted graffiti on the limestone blocks right beside the impressive front door.

Tuesday morning, several people were conversing (rather colorfully, be warned) about this crime in a local blogger’s message board: beerorkid. If you follow the thread, at 10:41 AM a participant with the screen name Fluxus notes that he saw a man carrying a sign downtown late last week with the same obscure message. A few minutes later at 11:22 AM, Fluxus (still online) sees the same guy entering the Bennett Martin Public Library downtown, posts his observation, and calls the State Patrol. This dispatch of Lincoln Police Officer Krissa Knopik results:

If you check out the times closely, you can see that either we are clairvoyant or beerorkid and the Emergency Communications Center need to get their clocks synchronized. Russell H. Lee was arrested on the spot. Note the inscription on the frieze above the Capitol’s front door, in beerorkid’s snapshot:

Nice catch, Fluxus. Applications will be open again in January!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Family found

A few months ago, I told the poignant story of Special Duty Patrolman Marion Francis Marshall here in the Chief's Corner. Unfortunately, we were unable to locate any family members to share this story with. Yesterday, I received an email from Marion Marshall's great grandson. He had found the post, and as you might imagine, was thrilled. He is the grandson of Marion Francis Marshall's youngest daughter, Marion Joyce Marshall.

He added a few interesting but tragic details to the story. Marion's wife, Eva Marshall, fell ill shortly after his death, and died in her 30's. She must be the Eva I. Marshall who is also buried in Wyuka Cemetery. The three children were placed in an orphanage. Both of the girls, Lynelle and Marion Joyce, are still living. They have stayed in touch, but have lost contact with their brother, Charles Clyde "Buddy" Marshall. He was born on July 16, 1925, so he would be 84 if he is still alive.

His grand-nephew was seeking any help I might be able to provide, as he would love to reconnect him with his sisters. I did what I could with local records here in Lincoln at the time I originally stumbled upon the story, but I'm no geneologist.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Cripple Creek crime

I live in a quiet subdivision named Cripple Creek. The typical local crime involves the egging of a car, or a bag set aflame on a porch. When the occasional residential burglary occurs through an open garage door, I sit up and take notice.

The inbox was brimming this morning with three Crime Alerts over the weekend. In the early hours on Saturday morning, $1,000 damage was done by keying the finish of a Mustang parked on the street a block away from my home. More serious, though, were two alerts concerning robberies three blocks away at Cripple Creek Park.

The park is adjacent to Humann Elementary School. On Saturday, the parents of an 11 year old reported an incident the happened on the prior Monday, September 14. The victim and his 9 year old sister were riding their bike on the school playground at around 7:30 to 8:00 PM when the suspect rode up on a bike. He is white, and about 13-15 years old. His face was covered with a red bandanna, and he was wearing torn jeans, a black shirt, a black ball cap. He demanded money (they had none), then started chasing the 11 year old. The children were both scared by this.

While investigating this case, Officer Travis Amen learned of a second incident, nearly identical, which occurred at the park on Thursday evening at about the same time of day. In this robbery, two 11 year old victims were riding their bikes on the soccer field in the park when a suspect with the same description approached, and made the same demand as on Monday. The victims tried to ride away, but the suspect kicked one of the bike wheels, and then said, "You have ten %&$#@* seconds to get out your money or I'll pull out my pistol on you." The total take was one dollar. The description was basically the same, except for the hat: a red one with a white S. The bike is a BMX with pegs, predominantly black with some kind of "little green globs."

When my daughter-in-law took the grandkids down to Cripple Creek Park in the afternoon, I had her keep her eye peeled for our suspect. I'll be checking it out from time to time this week. I'm sure Officer Amen will be looking over the bike rack at the Middle School. I would really like to nab this potty-mouthed suspect.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sun and fun

Even though it's still summer for a few days, some gorgeous fall weather has settled over Lincoln this week. Fall is one of the best things about Nebraska. We may have to endure a little Houston summer and a bit of Minnesota winter, the extremes don't last long, and in between there will be a lot of perfect sun-drenched days--like yesterday.

About 9:00 AM, most of the management staff of the police department was standing on the rim of Nine Mile Prairie, an expanse of native tall grass prairie Northwest of the city. We were up on a tall hill, on the adjacent parcel where the University of Nebraska Campus Recreation Department operates it's Challenge Course. We slathered on the sun screen, then two young course leaders from UNL took us through a morning-long series of outdoor problem-solving and team building tasks.

It was a great time. We learned a little about one another; mainly about teamwork, planning, and situational leadership. My chief take away: get all the alternatives and ideas out on the table, reach a consensus about which course of action is the most likely to succeed, commit to that, take advantage of the individual skills of team members, and work together to get it done. If it doesn't succeed, regroup and try a new strategy.

Sounds a lot like certain aspects of police work.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

On camera again

It got pretty exciting around LPD yesterday morning. Things started warming up at 1:41 AM, when a robbery took place at Roc’s Stop & Shop, a convenience store at 27th and South Streets. By about 9:30 AM, the Community Services group had obtained some frame shots from the video, and had those posted on our Crimestoppers blog. The images weren’t bad, and showed the unusual pockets on the suspect’s trousers.

At 10:13 AM, another holdup was reported at the Roc’s Stop & Shop at 56th and Holdrege: same description, same pants. Just 14 minutes later, at 10:27 AM, a third convenience store robbery was reported at the Kwik Shop at 40th and A Streets. Once again, the description matched and this time we got a license plate number from the getaway vehicle.

All over the city, available officers were checking the convenience stores on their beat. At 10:55 AM, Officer Rob Brenner spotted the suspects at the Git-n-Split at 345 W. O Street. He effected the gunpoint arrests.

The alleged wheel man was just reported as an escapee from the State Department of Corrections on Monday—he absconded on his first day of work release. He is serving 10 to 20 for four counts of Robbery and one count of burglary from Douglas County. The alleged gunman hasn’t had a good month: he was just identified a couple of weeks ago in a theft at a grocery store where he grabbed cash from an open register door and dashed. A citizen spotted him on our Crimestoppers blog from that case and gave us the tip.

It was a bad morning for our violent Part 1 crime rate, but a good one for our clearance rate. This is the kind of arrest you dream about: great police work by Officer Brenner, supported by his colleagues who arrived to assist, Mike Muff and Ben Kopsa.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Location of knife assaults

I was doing some impromptu research this morning on the number of knife assaults in Lincoln when I noticed an ususual phenomenon. This map shows the location of the 91 assaults with cutting instruments this year.

The yellow line is the approximate location of Van Dorn Street. There are two knife assaults south of Van Dorn. This area has a population of around 70,000: about 28% of the population, but only 2.2% of this type of assault. Although this part of Lincoln is generally low crime, it had 11% of the assaults overall.

Monday, September 14, 2009


The 10-story Terminal Building is a Lincoln landmark in the heart of downtown at 10th & O Streets. Built in 1916, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was the scene, Saturday evening, of a rather unusual police call for service.

Passers by noticed a man climbing on the radio tower on the roof. Witnesses told the officers that the subject had shinnied up an electrical conduit until he reached the fire escape on the south side of the building. He climbed to the roof, where he scaled the rather impressive guyed radio tower. By the time the officers arrived on the roof, the defendant had descended from the tower. He told the officers that he had watched the sunset from his perch, and that it “looked cool up there.”

The 19 year-old sophomore business major with more courage than sense had been enjoying himself quite a bit on this home football game Saturday. He tested .179%, and was jailed for both trespassing and minor in possession of alcohol.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Alerted and forewarned

Crime Alerts fired up twice this week in my neighborhood. I am subscribed to incidents within a quarter mile of my home. Whenever a crime report hits the police department’s records system and is within that buffer, I get an email with the details.

The two I received this week were both residential burglaries in the wee hours of the morning through unlocked (and in one case, open) garage doors. In both cases the burglar stepped into the house through the also-unlocked connecting door, and took items within immediate reach—including purses. Since these two crimes happened in the same area with the same M.O. three days apart, I suspect they may be related, and there may be someone prowling the neighborhood. In one case, noise pinpointed the time at 4:54 AM.

I probably would not have known about these crimes right here in Cripple Creek had it not been for the Crime Alerts. I’m double checking my garage, and when I get up at around 5:00 AM to write my blog and read police reports, I’m spending a few minutes in the dark of the living room, watching for movement outside.

I would like more people in Lincoln to be similarly informed, which is why I’ve tried to promote Crime Alerts at every opportunity. We have 1,497 people subscribed right now. That’s almost triple the next-closest city, but still a very small number in my mind. It’s free, easy, and won’t deluge you with unwanted email, unless you pick a buffer that’s too big. I suggest a half mile, quarter mile or 500 ft. (about a block and a half.)

The Omega Group has signed up several more cities for the crimemapping.com service lately, including a nice application in Omaha, so if you’re an Omaha resident, you can get Crime Alerts, too. I’ve also signed up there, for a half mile buffer around my daughter’s home.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Consequences just right

Capt. Jim Thoms sent me case number A9-089844 yesterday afternoon to look over. Three 9 year old boys used a marker to tag the boys room at an elementary school with grafitti--the initials of their gang. No one has heard of the "gang" before--something they apparently made up. Capt. Thoms knew I'd like reading this report, because the consequences for this little act of vandalism were eminently appropriate. Officer Cass Briggs Incident Report states that the boys are suspended for two days, and on the third day they will be required to work with the custodian to clean the school.

Common sense, folks, has not entirely disappeared.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Season opener

Saturday night was the University of Nebraska's first game of the 2009 football season. It was also the peak of the 10-day run of the Nebraska State Fair, just a few blocks from Memorial Stadium. The Nebraska v. Florida Atlantic game put 85,719 in the stands at Memorial Stadium. Saturday attendance at the State Fair was 44,566. Predictably, it was also one of our busiest single days of 2009, with 512 dispatches. July 5 edged it out by a nose, at 515.

Game day went great. Sgt. Shannon Karl’s detailed game plan for traffic control was carried out by a group of hot, tired police officers who got everyone to the stadium for kickoff, and headed home in good shape afterwards. I am amazed at how effectively we clear out those intersections post-game. We are able to finish up the traffic detail about an hour after the end of the game. If you’ve ever been to Boulder, Ames, or Columbia, you know that it isn’t the case in all Big 12 cities.

Despite what I perceive as a great job on game days, I got a sarcastic email Sunday that started like this:

“After living in Lincoln for 35 years, I have never been impressed with the police department's ability to conduct traffic control. Last night (Sept. 5, 2009) showed giving a badge to someone does not increase their intelligence. It only gives them the feeling they are God.”

and ended with

“Seems to me the Lincoln police officers should learn traffic control in the big city before attempting to try it in Lincoln. All officers also need to be reminded the badge does not make them all-knowing. It only allows them to screw things up legally.”

His chief complaint was the five minute wait to cross N. 14th Street as a pedestrian at the peak of State Fair traffic. Loved his suggestion that we learn about traffic control in the big city. I’ve spent the better part of a day trying to get out of Arrowhead before.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Crown Vic to bow out?

The pending demise of the Ford Crown Victoria is the subject of a detailed article in the Detroit News a week ago Friday. The rumor has been persistent for several years, but it looks like Ford is drawing its line in the sand. Too bad—it’s been a workhorse. I can’t imagine fleet managers warming up quickly to the Taurus. The cool roll-over in the on-line article pretty much explains why the Crown Vic has been so popular as a police patrol car.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Fight crime: invest in kids

Yesterday’s case, last month’s case, and a lifetime of experience like this has convinced me that helping children, new parents, and young families is our best chance of preventing outcomes like this. Quality child care, afterschool programs, early childhood education, parenting education, mentoring, visiting home nurses, are not a panacea. Nothing can take the place of a loving, caring parent or two to whom you are bonded like glue from birth. But they all help.

These supports are especially important to kids who have special challenges to overcome—poverty, for example; or no parents, bad parents, and parents who are dealing with their own demons.

I’m not alone in feeling this way. There are around 5,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, and prosecutors who believe in this strongly enough that they, too, have joined this non-partisan nonprofit organization, which seeks to add the voice of law enforcement experience to the call to help kids grow and prosper by investing in prevention. It was my pleasure to host their news conference here in Lincoln this week.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Should have been doing his homework

It was a typical crime around 8:30 on Tuesday night--ill-conceived and poorly executed. The victim made it easy, leaving his car unlocked with the keys in it as he went into the convenience store at 1st Street and Cornhusker Highway. The criminal jumped in, stole the car, and drove away. Winding through the neighborhoods for several minutes, his driving skills left a little to be desired. He hit a fence, then few blocks later a stop sign. Several citizens called 911 to report the erratic driving and the hit and runs, and the police were dispatched.

His escape came to an end on W. Saunders Street, where he plowed into the back of a parked pickup truck, disabling the 1988 Honda Accord he had stolen. He wasn't quite finished though: he took off running on foot. Fortunately, a resident of the block who saw the crash chased him down, tackled him, and held on to him until officers arrived a few moments later. He was drunk, of course--testing .14% at t he detox center. The charges were leaving the scene of an accident, driving while intoxicated, and auto theft.

Oh, did I mention that the defendant is twelve years old?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Taken during the service

…on Sunday morning at Indian Hills Community Church, from a Honda Civic parked in the lot, with the windows open slightly for ventilation—no sign of forced entry: one .223 caliber Panther Arms DPMS rifle, collapsible stock, 30-round magazine and one Blackberry. Same model as the rifle stolen along with this pickup a few months ago, and the rifles stolen in the burglary at Scheel’s a couple of years ago. I hate it when good weapons like this fall into criminals’ hands.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Not as it appeared

Officer Todd Groves emailed me last night, after reading yesterday’s post concerning the young woman in emotional distress. He’s the officer who investigated the crash. Todd tells me that the woman sobbing under the tree was not the driver who struck the pedestrian. She was apparently a witness who saw the crash and stopped at the scene.

He also said he spoke to her about what she has seen, talked to her several additional times, and even offered to arrange for a ride or call over a chaplain because she was so upset. Todd said that after he received an update from the hospital, he went over and told her that the runner was going to be OK, which made her feel much better. She left shortly thereafter.

Just goes to show you that things are not always as they appear.