LIBA urges city officials to prioritize adding police officers in biennial budget proposal.

After reviewing recent city-wide crime statistics, the Lincoln Independent Business Association (LIBA) is calling on Mayor Beutler and the City Council to incorporate the addition of police officers into the City’s biennial budget to be released this summer.

LIBA members recently raised alarm at the realization that if a business owner in Lincoln is burglarized there is an 89% likelihood that the burglar is not caught. As an organization comprised of more than 1,300 members of the Lincoln business community, the clearance rates for commercial burglary of 11.1% are unacceptably low.

On the whole, crime across the city is up. According to the Lincoln Police Department’s 2015 Annual Statistics Report, there were an additional 88 crimes committed in 2015 as compared to the previous year. Along with this increase in crimes committed, the rate of clearances for crimes decreased from 25.8% in 2014 to 25.1% in 2015. While some may dismiss a .9% increase in crime and a .7% decrease in the clearance rate as being statistically small, the fact of the matter is that more crimes are happening and fewer are being solved.

What may be more concerning, however, is the fact that violent crimes have increased somewhat significantly. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) identifies violent crimes as crimes of murder and non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Considering this definition, a review of the Lincoln Police Department’s 2015 Annual Crime Statistics Report indicates there were an additional 105 violent crimes committed in 2015, amounting to a concerning 11.4% increase over the previous year.

As Lincoln’s Director of Public Safety, Tom Casady, explained in 2010: “If we let the ratio of police officers to citizens slide, the remaining officers become increasingly busy, and are less able to do the work that contribute to our relatively low crime rates and to these reductions… Preventative and proactive work such as POP projects and directed patrol goes by the wayside early on, and before long criminal investigations start to slip — particularly follow-up. After a while, the police are doing little more than running on 911 calls.” The addition of police officers would go a long way toward protecting Lincoln citizens and easing concerns.

According to Director Casady, the City of Lincoln employed 325 police officers in 2015. Using a reasonable estimate of 1.4% population growth for 2015, Lincoln only employed 1.17 police officers per 1,000 people in 2015. Although the city added officers between 2014 and 2015, the ratio of police per thousand citizens remains stagnant. For perspective, that 1.17 officers per thousand number lags well behind the national average for similarly sized cities of 1.6 per thousand, and behind the ratios of Ogallala, Omaha, Grand Island, Hastings, Columbus, and Beatrice. At the same time, though, calls for service in Lincoln have increased by 1.6%.

Make no mistake, the Lincoln Police Department has done an extraordinary job given fairly static resources. But to borrow words from the Executive Board of the Lincoln Police Union in early 2015, these statistics demonstrate that, “[t]he city is suffering.” Our police force is spread thin. Lincolnites need leadership committed to investing in public safety to protect our children, our homes, our businesses, and our future. LIBA believes new officers can be financed through a combination of growth in the city’s tax base and by reevaluating how we prioritize the city’s needs. Lincoln continues to attract and retain families and young professionals due to its safe neighborhoods and strong community. But Lincoln cannot afford to miss the opportunity in this biennial budget to provide LPD with the resources necessary to meet the needs of this growing community for our future. LIBA urges Mayor Beutler to address this important priority as the city develops the upcoming biennial budget.

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