Thursday, December 30, 2010

Printer quality

You can buy an awfully nice printer at a pretty low price these days—sometimes for just a few dollars more a replacement ink cartridge.  When you consider the quality of the output compared to just a few years ago, this has got to be one of the consumer products with the most improved cost/quality ratio.

The proliferation of good inexpensive printers must be a nightmare for retailers and for the United States Secret Service.  Counterfeit currency has become much more common in recent years.  I started thinking about this after our most recent counterfeiting case.  Back in the days, counterfeiting was a rare but sophisticated operation.   In my rookie recollections, the appearance of a counterfeit bill in Lincoln resulted in a visit to LPD headquarters by men in dark suits.  Counterfeiters were portrayed in the movies as master artisans who labored over engraving plates wearing jeweler’s loupes and green eyeshades.

This all changed with the color photocopier, but has really taken off with the improvement in inkjet and color laser printers.  This week’s case is number 90 of 2010.  It has been slowly edging up beginning in the late 1990’s.  In researching the numbers this morning, I noted that we had a whopping two counterfeit cases in 1994--my first year as chief.  I also noticed that in the mid-1990’s we had quite a spurt in counterfeit traveler’s checks.  There’s a quaint financial device from a bygone era.  I wonder if there even is such a thing these days, and if so, would a clerk even know what to do if I presented one?

Interestingly, counterfeit bills turn up in Lincoln in virtually all denominations.  On December 17, we collected three $1.00 bills from a customer who used one to buy a drink at Sonic.  My favorite counterfeit bill case, however, dates from 2000 (case number A0-008940).  The suspect used counterfeit bills to post his bond at jail.

Monday, December 27, 2010


Every few years, local governmental agencies pool their resources to buy a new set of aerial orthophotos for Lincoln and Lancaster County.  These don’t come cheap, but by working together, we all get photos that none of us could afford individually.  You will be seeing the new photos in the public web mapping applications in coming weeks.

sowerThis year, Pictometry won the bid, and as part of the project we not only got the orthophotos, but oblique images as well.  Oblique images are shot at an angle.  You may have seen them in Bing Maps, where they are called “Bird’s Eye View.” Our images, however, are at a much finer resolution than the public stuff.  The image at the right is a good example: that’s the Sower atop the Nebraska State Capitol, with the Governor’s Mansion to the right. 

Take a look at this west-facing image of Memorial Stadium.  Note the reverse image in the lower left quadrant of the field: “WOODHOUSE”.  

Now find the plane pulling that banner.  If you’re wondering, this is the University of Nebraska spring game, a scrimmage on April 17, 2010 that drew a crowd of around 65,000.  Not bad for a practice. 

game day

The orthophotos and the oblique images are valuable to LPD in planning special events, dealing with critical incidents, and simply providing a visual of the scene of crimes and incidents we deal with on a daily basis.  These new images are astounding in their quality compared to what was available a few years ago, and it makes one wonder where the future will lead us.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Warm Christmas

If you recall last year, we had quite a blizzard on Christmas Day.  By comparison, it was downright balmy Saturday.  Not quite above freezing, though, as Officer John Winter can attest.  John took a nasty off-duty fall on the icy front steps of his home Christmas morning.  He suffered a head injury that has us all a little scared.  He spent the day in Emergency and ICU, and we are all pulling for him to make a speedy recovery. 

There were a number of contenders for the dumbest act that landed a criminal in jail on Christmas, but my personal nod goes to the arsonist who allegedly lit a rag in the gas filler and tried to blow up his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend’s Camaro shortly after midnight.  A witness saw him sleuthing around, vectored us in for the capture a few blocks away, and the jilted one spent Christmas warm and cozy in the County slammer.  Back when I had to work in the jail on occasion, Christmas dinner was likely to be something like a bologna sandwich with cottage cheese and canned fruit cocktail.  I wonder if the menu has been upgraded in the ensuring decades. The Camaro needs a new paint job, but will recover.  It’s not as easy as you might think to blow up a Chevrolet.

Finally, as in years past, I was the bag-man for some gifts given by a women’s group at a church and the employees of a small retail business.  These two groups sought my assistance in finding a good recipient.  Jody Brott in our Victim/Witness Unit had told me last week about the plight of a domestic violence victim and her teenaged kids.  From Jody’s description, I knew they could really use the help, so I decided this family would be a good match for the generosity of the anonymous donors.  I called the women on her cell phone in advance of the delivery, so no one would be surprised by the police chief banging on the door. She was working on Christmas, though, so I explained my mission.  She was in tears on the phone when I told her what I had in mind, and when I dropped the envelope off to her oldest daughter at the house, she told me that Mom was not only working the swing shift on Christmas, but had worked on Christmas Eve as well. 

You never know how good you have it, until you encounter someone who is struggling mightily against the slings and arrows of life.  I hope the kindness of strangers warms Christmas a little bit for this family.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Silver Bullet

This turned out to be way more fun than I anticipated.  The correct answer is more obvious from the photo below.  The silver object is one of two items in LPD lore known as "the silver bullet."  It is accompanied by the orange wand into which the flashlight fit for convenient carry on a belt ring, then deployed over the lens for traffic direction at night. How many officers inadvertently launched one of these friction-fit orange cones down the street while waving their flashlight a little too vigorously while directing traffic at a UNL football game, basketball games, or the Nebraska State Fair?  About the same number who rattled their teeth when their whistle chain caught on a ballpoint pen or badge.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Recognize this?

There will be a couple hundred people who instantly recognize the objects in this photo—part of my occasional series on identifying certain objects of interest.  It is remarkable that these two objects have survived.  One belongs to Assistant Chief Jim Peschong, the other to Information Systems Manager Clair Lindquist.  Keep in mind before you post that I moderate all comments.  Stay classy.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

When at Mom’s…

I woke up yesterday morning and checked the inbox, where I found a new comment, left last night on a blog post I wrote way back on April 11, 2007—my second day of blogging.  I figured the reader must have been looking at that post when he decided to ask a question. 

I responded, but he must have lost track of where he had left the comment, because he called me yesterday afternoon to ask the same question and seek my opinion.  Here’s the exchange we had online, which pretty much mirrors our telephone conversation.  Very nice young man, and I think he will follow my advice.  When at Mom’s is the same as When in Rome.
Anonymous said...

Hi Chief. I'm sorry if this is the wrong place to ask this, but I am an 18-year-old who moved to college recently. I am home over Christmas Break, and my mother is trying to enforce a 12:00 curfew on me. It's embarrassing and cuts off a lot of my ability to hang out with friends. I see your statistic about DWIs by hour, and although they peak closer to 2:00, if I am driving sober, would a 2:00 curfew involve enough more of a risk to me to warrant the 12:00 curfew?

Tom Casady said...
If you are 18 and no longer living at home, bedtime is your own business. However, as a basic matter of politeness, a guest in someone else's home should always endeavor to abide by the "house rules.". Your mother probably doesn't want to lay awake tossing and turning until she hears the door at 2:00 am. You should respect her wishes.
And yes, the risk is greater at 2:00 am then at midnight.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Big night

I mentioned a week ago that we had a pretty big night for DWI arrests on Friday, December 10th, with a total of 10 drunk driving arrests.  That’s a pretty productive night, but it can’t hold a candle to the day before yesterday. On Saturday, December 18, LPD officers arrested 17 drunk drivers.  That’s the biggest number of arrests on a single day in 2010.

As I have often told our officers, there is nothing a police officer does that has a more immediate impact on public safety than arresting a drunk driver.  Great job, night shift officers, on another weekend of life-saving work!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Time of the crime

I have been promising the news media that I would provide some data eventually on the impact of the change in the mandatory bar closing time in Lincoln from 1:00 AM to 2:00 AM.  This change became effective on Sept. 17, and more time will need to pass before we can draw any firm conclusion. 

Nonetheless, I took my first stab at analyzing data yesterday, by looking at the time profile of DWI cases before and after the change.  The first graph (blue) below presents the time distribution of DWI cases in the (not quite) three months since the change was made, the second (red) shows the distribution during the same period last year, and the third (orange) shows the three months in 2010 immediately prior to the change. 

I wouldn’t make much of the difference in the overall numbers, since DWI enforcement is heavily influenced by the available time of officers and by the weather.  I do, however, think the time profile is interesting.  In comparing the past three months with a 2:00 AM close to both the preceding three months, and to the same period last year, it is evident that the peak has moved to the hour-of-power: now 2:00 AM to 3:00 AM for drunk driving.  Moreover, this preliminary look at the data shows that the peak now stretches over a two hour period from 1:00 AM to 3:00 AM.  It will be interesting to see if this observation holds as more data is accumulated over time.

Anecdotally, officers tell me that the intensity of bar break seems to be a little less this year with the later closing time. This may mean that the exodus spreads over a longer time period. Mind you, 2:00 AM bar break downtown on weekends is still a sight to behold, but perhaps not quite as crazy as 1:00 AM bar break would have appeared in previous years.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Missing mailbox

I warned a couple of weeks ago that thefts of mail sometimes happen during the season when the daily delivery might contain a gift card or a five-spot from Granny.  But never did I dream that this one would occur:


Monday, December 13, 2010

The Sower

Atop Nebraska’s unique State Capital resides The Sower, a 19 foot tall statue of a pioneer flinging seed across the prairie.  A local philanthropic and fraternal organization, the Sowers, takes its name from this iconic statue.

Every year for at least the past 17 that I know of, the Sowers have included the Lincoln Police Department in their philanthropy.  I have had the honor of representing the many recipients of their donations with a few remarks at their annual dinner for many years. 

Friday night, I told the Sowers how important it is for women and men of our generation to pass on to those who follow us the great rewards in life they may otherwise miss: the taste of a thin-cut pork chop brown and crisp; the succulence of a slow-cooked, bone-in chuck roast; the dawn over the Platte River at the Overton exit in late March; and the feeling of giving—passing on to others a portion of the gifts we have received, sharing the bounty of life with others. 

The Sowers, apart from supporting dozens of other organizations with millions of dollars over the decades, bestowed a gift of $1,000 Friday night to one of my favorite charities, Santa Cop.  In addition, the members festooned a Christmas Tree in the banquet hall with cash (who says money doesn’t grow on trees?) to the tune of an additional $1,200.

Social, fraternal, and philanthropic clubs have fallen on hard times in an age of air conditioning, 24-hour television, and the Internet.  The Sowers, however, buck the trend, and continue to be a vibrant force for good in Lincoln, connecting members one-and-one, and making a difference in our world.  Thanks you, Sowers, for your contribution!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Ten last night

Ten drunk drivers arrested Thursday night/Friday morning. That's a big number for a weekday--or for any day at all, for that matter. December is the month that leads the year, mainly due to the extra focus we give DWI during this season. Be careful out there....

Thursday, December 9, 2010

How about this one?

Since everyone enjoyed the 1975 pre-test so much on Tuesday, let's try this object:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

He has seniority

Reading reports yesterday morning, I came across a disturbance arrest by Officer Jake Dilsaver. I chuckled over this excerpt from the report, in which the defendant asserts his seniority:
"At detox he was uncooperative with myself and staff, and insulting
toward everyone. The defendant tested .245 BAC, substantiating my concern
for his level of intoxication. The defendant was sure he would be getting
his citation dismissed since he had been a criminal far longer than I had
been a police officer."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Identify this

Monday, December 6, 2010

Seems to be working

Lincoln's City Council passed a new alarm ordinance that became effective on July 1.  The ordinance establishes an enhanced fee structure for repeat false alarms during a two year period.  The intent of the ordinance was to reduce false alarms.  Through the end of November in 2010, our officers have responded to 2,583 false alarms.  During the same period in 2009, we responded to 2,917 false alarms a reduction of 11%, and its picked up steam since the ordinance went into effect.

The decrease is being driven by repeat false alarms.  In 2009, there were 281 premises with three or more false alarms in the first 11 months, and they accounted for 1,301 of the false alarms.  In 2010 that number has fallen to 218 premises, accounting for 985 alarms.  This is exactly what the ordinance sought to accomplish, and I suspect the results will improve even further with time.

The alarm trend has been good since our peak year of 2002.  During the first 11 months of 2002, we responded to 4,354 false alarms--almost 1,800 more than we have rolled on from January through November this year  When you consider that each of those false alarms requires at least two units, that's a huge impact over time.  During the first 11 months of that peak year of 2002, we had 483 premises with three or more false alarms, accounting for 2,771 of the total false alarms.  So the repeat false alarms in 2010 are well under half the 2002 level.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Weapon identification

One of our officers made an interesting concealed weapons arrest this week involving an unusual weapon which was found on the person of the defendant. The story  piqued the interest of the reporters later at the daily media briefing, and resulted in a few stories. During lineup on Tuesday morning Capt. Jim Davidsaver briefed officers on this case and described the man has been armed with this mace. As lineup concluded, I asked him this question: "What is the difference between a mace and a flail?" It was a rhetorical question. I already knew the answer.

The distinction between the two is this: a mace is a fixed club with some kind of striking head, often with flanges, knobs, spikes or protrusions of some sort.    The spiked variety may also be correctly referred to as a morning star.  A flail, on the other hand, combines a handle and a striker by means of a flexible connection such as a hinge or chain. The object above is a flail, not a mace. The object on the right is an example of a mace.

You know how gun aficionados cringe when someone refers to a semi-automatic rifle as an automatic weapon? This is the same kind of error in medieval weaponry. I hate to be a stickler, but by pointing this out the, perhaps I can prevent someone in the future confusing a catapult with a trebuchet.

Here endeth the lesson.  I shall now remove my tongue from my cheek.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Second wind

I've had the opportunity to work with an lot of great colleagues during my carer, one of whom was Officer John Winkler. John was a member of my unit when I was a young lieutenant commanding the department's juvenile unit. He had a terrific ability to relate to kids, and I depended on to investigate the most serious crimes against children, and to guide hundreds, perhaps thousands, of youngsters who ran afoul of the law. John left LPD in 1991 to pursue business ventures, after 21 years on the force.

John was a good-looking guy and incredibly fit. When we worked together he must have been one of Lincoln's most eligible bachelors. But I remember how star-struck he was when he met his future wife, Debbie, and how excited he was when he became a dad a few years later. During the 1980's he and I were members of the same running and cycling group that trained together. We spent a lot of hours on the trail and in the saddle. Not that I was in his league, though. Apart from his several marathons, John completed one of the early Ironman Triathlons. That's not just a triathlon, mind you, it is The Ironman: a 2.4 mile open water ocean swim, followed by a 112 mile bike race across the black lava of Oahu, followed by a full length marathon--26.2 miles ending in Honolulu.

John passed away yesterday, far to young. Those of us who knew him will miss his wit and his friendship. My heart goes out to Debbie and to John's family, and I hope they are comforted by the knowledge that he had such a positive impact on so many kids whose lives he touched, something I had the privilege to witness on many occasions. God's speed, John, as you pass one finish line, grab your second wind, and head for the next event.