Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Nice job Mom and Dad

Monday, July 29, 2013

The grass is always greener...

...on the other side of the fence. Well, not really.  I had a visit recently from Chip Cooper, who writes an occasional column for the Columbia (Missouri) Tribune. His observations about the trials and tribulations of his local police department are contrasted with Lincoln, in this article which ran over the weekend.

I can't imagine a place where it would be better to be the public safety director than here. Good employees, good community support, good civic culture, all combine to make Lincoln a pretty nice place if you are a firefighter, police officer, dispatcher, or a member of the support staff at our public safety agencies. Sometimes we don't stop to think about how good we actually have it.  

I've always said that a city gets the kind of municipal services it deserves: if you expect excellence, and do the kinds of things necessary to achieve it, that's exactly what you end up with. If the expectations and the support are mediocre, you shouldn't be surprised with the results. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Longtime readers of the Director's Desk have been bored stiff from time to time with my ruminations about such topics as evidenced-based policing, situational crime prevention, and the like. Of particular interest to me is a phenomenon that is at the heart of a lot of good police work: digging into crime where it actually occurs--particularly impacted neighborhoods, blocks with pernicious problems, specific addresses with repeat offenses, even an individual apartment.You will find lots of examples here in my blog about problem-oriented policing strategies that are targeted at these micro-places.

A friend is the co-investigator on several research projects that have involved crime hot spots.  One of these that caught my attention last year was a study of juvenile crime in Seattle. The reserarchers, Drs. David Weisburd, Elizabeth Groff, and Nancy Morris, found that a huge percentage of juvenile crime occurs on a very small percentage of the block faces in Seattle (a block face is both side of one street, between the two adjacent intersections--like the 1500 block of S. 9th Street.)

I've been meaning to look at this in Lincoln for some time, and I got motivated yesterday to do so, a job that took about 15 minutes to set in motion, and ran on my computer while I was away at lunch.  Here's my method:  I took all the crimes reported to LPD in 2012 (21,153 total), and joined those points to the nearest street segment.  Street segments in our geographic information system are essentially the equivalent of the block faces studied by Dr. Weisburd, et al. in Seattle. I then summarized the crimes by street segment, and joined the results back into the streets layer. My result was a GIS layer of streets, where each segment also has a COUNT field that is the sum of the 2012 crimes along that segment.  Here are the results:

There were 13,771 total street segments in the City of Lincoln.  Of those, 7,481 (54%) had no crime at all in 2012. Moreover, 81% of all the crime (14,149 offenses) occurred on only 5% of the street segments (689 segments). The top 1% of the street segments (138 segments) accounted for 7,148 crimes--41% of the total.

These data are consistent with other studies, and demonstrate something very clear: crime is intensely concentrated at these very local micro-places. Police efforts focused on intervening in the conditions and preventing crime at individual premises on those blocks where crime is concentrated are far more likely to be effective than driving around aimlessly burning fossil fuel (or as we call it in policing, "routine patrol").

Here's a snapshot of the 5% of the street segments in Lincoln where 81% of the crimes occurred in 2012.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Rock lifted

I subscribe to Crime Alerts, part of the Omega Group's public crime mapping application,   Everyone who lives, works, or has an immediate family member in a City that contributes its data to should do likewise.  For example, I subscribe to my daughter's address in Omaha, and my son's address across town in Lincoln.

I subscribe to Crime Alerts even though I have full access to the immense information resources at the Lincoln Police Department.  Its just a very easy way to keep informed about petty crime in my own neighborhood that I might miss due to the sheer volume of activity in the City otherwise. Sign up for a crime alert, and when a police incident report on most common kinds of crimes (like theft, burglary, vandalism, assault) hits the database, you'll get an automatic email with a short blurb about the case. Last time I checked, we had around 12,000 people subscribed to Crime Alerts in Lincoln.

In selecting the area for which you wish to receive alerts, you can pick from several distances ranging from two miles to 500 feet. I picked a distance of half a mile from my residence. This gives me the information I want, but prevents my email from getting flooded with alerts about crimes at businesses on the arterial streets bordering my subdivision. The choice of distance is really determined on what's in the neighborhood, and how many alerts you are willing to tolerate. I probably average 2-3 per month. If I was closer to a busy retail area, or in a more densely populated neighborhood, I would throttle the distance back to two-tenths of a mile or even 500 ft., which is about a block and a half.

A Crime Alert concerning a larceny was in my inbox yesterday morning. The blurb in the email, reporting the theft of a rock, was enough to pique my curiosity and look for more details in the police records.

Well, that explains it.  This is no ordinary rock, it's one of those laser-engraved monuments to Nebraska Football. I'll be on the lookout for the rock lifted from my own neighborhood. Don't think they come with a serial number, though.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Bad day for traffic safety

Two serious crashes yesterday morning punctuated a bad day for traffic safety in Lincoln. The first was near SW 40th and O Streets shortly after 2:00 AM, when an eastbound motorist collided with a bicyclist who was also eastbound, critically injuring the rider.

The second occurred at about 4:50 AM, when a southbound vehicle on S. 70th Street lost control, smashed into a utility pole and burst into flames, killing the driver.

I was headed out for my morning bike ride at about the same time the second crash on occurred, around a mile from my home. I heard the sirens, but had no idea what had happened.

The cyclist that was severely injured yesterday had been wearing a helmet, and using lights (although I don't know what type). Nothing works 100 percent of the time, but helmets really do save lives, and good lights are also critical safety equipment.

My prayers are with the families and friends of these victims

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Street View updated

I noticed that Google has updated the Street View imagery available in Google Maps for Lincoln.  It must be a fairly recent update, because I only noticed it in the past couple of weeks.  Although the update is fresh, the images themselves appear to date from last Spring.  The foliage in my yard suggests that my area of town was driven in April, 2012.

The imagery is not only more recent, but it is also at a greater resolution.  Here's a screen capture looking east from 14th and R.  Note the shadow of the vehicle and camera in the foreground.

And here's a view looking south down 14th Street from R, that emphasizes the high resolution of the images compared to the earlier version, and also proves that a bicycle has actually used that 14th Street bike lane on at least one occasion.

If you look at the shadows thrown by the buildings, trees, and vehicles in these two images, you'll notice that even though they are both taken from approximately 14th and R Street, the view to the east was shot in the late afternoon, and the view to the south was shot early in the morning--though not on the same day.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Window peekers nabbed

Shortly after midnight yesterday morning, Lincoln police officers were summoned to an apartment building in the 800 block of S. 18th Street, where a resident had made a disturbing observation.  She saw a man standing outside below her window with his genitals exposed, engaging in some extrapanticular activity.

Upon arrival, the officers spotted the suspect and the foot pursuit was on, down the street, between the houses, through the alley.  Eventually the officers caught up to the suspect, who put up a bit of a  a struggle that required some force to bring him into custody.  He was jailed for indecent exposure, trespassing, failure to comply, resisting arrest, and disturbing the peace.

A little later, way across town in the Williamsburg neighborhood the story repeated itself. A women saw the same type of activity underway outside of her apartment, and called 911. The only difference is that this guy was shod only in a pair of shoes. When the first officer arrived, he took off across the lawn, jumped the creek, and was ultimately taken into custody on the nearby Tierra-Williamsburg trail, where he was attempting to retrieve the remainder of his wardrobe.

Although it is unusual to have two cases so similar unfold in such quick succession during the wee hours Monday morning, window peekers like these are more common than people realize. Nor are these incidents necessarily a one-time thing: many peekers and exposers are doing this regularly, although neither of these defendants had been caught doing so previously in Lincoln.  They are not all harmless, either. I have plenty of anecdotal evidence from specific cases, and I'm even a published author on the issue.

Nice work by the fleet-footed officers who won the night at the races. Oh, and I refuse to refer to window peekers as "peeping Toms".

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Safety is paramount

Last weekend's tragic death of a team of firefighters battling an Arizona wildfire put a lump in my throat. That 19 young firefighters on an elite team with a high degree of training, experience, and skill could be taken is the harshest reminder that risk is ever present, and that there are some factors we can control, and others that we cannot.

A firefighter or police officer can control his or her fitness, attitude, and attention to the practices he or she has learned.  A department can control the training, equipment, policy guidance, and supervision provided. But no one can control the homicidal intentions of another, or the sheer brutality of Mother Nature.

Here, however, is something especially important that we can each control: our own safe driving. While the leading cause of the 82 firefighter deaths in the United States last year was overexertion and stress, the second leading cause was traffic crashes. Of the 120 police officers killed in the line of duty during 2012, the leading cause of death was gunfire, but the second leading cause was vehicular collisions.  All told, 19 firefighters were killed in traffic collisions last year, and 43 police officers. Every day, I walk by the photos of Lincoln police officers and firefighters who died in the line of duty, and most of those fatalities were traffic crashes.

Wear your seat belt religiously. Slow down. Fast driving does not get you to the scene much faster at all, and dramatically increases risk. Avoid the temptation to tap the MDC keyboard or pick up the cell phone while driving; the radio microphone is distracting enough, and the call or query can wait for a stopping place. Take a deep breath when you drive code 3, and practice maintaining a calm focus on the task at hand--getting there safely.  When code driving, always come to a complete stop at red traffic signals, and thoroughly check all lanes--twice--before proceeding. Use your siren continuously on all emergency runs, and do not turn it off until and unless it is absolutely necessary. Wear your high-visibility gear whenever working in or adjacent to the roadway.

These are things we can control personally and individually.  They do not require additional expenditures, they do not depend on others, and they are things we have all been trained to do. They simply require self-discipline.

Have a safe Independence Day.

Firefighter Line of Duty Fatalities, 2012
Source: U.S. Fire Administration

Police Officer Line of Duty Fatalities, 2012

Source: Officer Down Memorial Page

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Paul Shively family

I'm hoping today's post gets picked up by someone in the family of Capt. Paul Shively, who served the Lincoln Police Department from 1923 to 1955.  A comment was left a few weeks ago on another post from someone who said he was Capt. Shively's grandson, so maybe he has a Google Alert set on the name.

I would like to find Paul's family because the owner of this remarkable firearm has contacted me. He is going to auction this rare revolver, but would prefer to see it go to a family member. I have checked this person out, and I am convinced he is legitimate.

It would certainly be nice to see Capt. Shively's custom Colt (ordered from Lawlor's Sporting Goods, no less) in a shadow box on his grandson's mantle. If there is anything to do to facilitate putting these two in touch, I would love to do so.