Prioritization of Officers and Safety
Every day the local media reports another armed robbery[i], fatal beating[ii], or hit and run.[iii] Lincoln’s citizens are assured the situation is not dire; however, Lincoln is a growing community, and crime is growing with its population. For this reason the Lincoln Independent Business Association (LIBA) calls on city hall and the citizens of Lincoln to begin a community dialogue about the prioritization of tax dollars toward additional officers to Lincoln’s police force.
During tight financial times the City of Lincoln asked the Lincoln Police Department (LPD) to tighten its belt and LPD rose to the challenge. However, while resources remained static Lincoln has grown, adding almost 30,000 people and 11 square miles in the past ten years[iv]. Consequently, LPD’s relative strength dwindled from its peak ratio of 1.39 officers per thousand citizens in 1998 to 1.22 today.[v] This ratio is among the lowest in the entire United States.[vi]
2.10 – Alliance Nebraska
2.09 – Ogallala Nebraska
1.96 – National average for cities the size of Lincoln
1.94 – Bellevue Nebraska
1.89 – Omaha Nebraska
1.80 – Average of cities in Nebraska
1.67 – Beatrice Nebraska
1.61 – Columbus Nebraska
1.57 – Grand Island Nebraska
1.22 – Lincoln Nebraska[vii]
To return to its 1998 peak strength ratio of 1.39 LPD would need to hire at least 44 additional officers.[viii]
As a result of its low strength ratio, LPD has been forced to prioritize calls and drop programs. Among other things, LPD no longer provides elementary school resource officers and it dropped its Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program.[ix] LPD may be forced to reprioritize again in the coming months as eighteen bars and restaurants open in Nebraska’s first entertainment district.[x]
Further, LPD is already shifting resources to address Lincoln’s recent increase in gang violence.[xi] In 2012 gang related assaults rose 30% over the previous year while gang related assaults involving guns jumped 280%.[xii] Due to this increase LPD shifted four officers to the gang investigations unit from other areas.
LPD is performing commendably. In tough times LPD has worked to maintain services with static resources. Lincoln continues to attract and retain families and young professionals due to its safe neighborhoods and strong community. Now it is time to provide LPD with the resources necessary to meet the needs of this growing community. To maintain Lincoln’s high quality of life the community must invest in maintaining its police force.
LIBA is not advocating that the City of Lincoln raise taxes to support additional officers. The organization believes a combination of growth in Lincoln’s tax base and prioritization of needs can finance additional officer positions. Lincoln maintains a biannual budget cycle therefore a new budget will not be proposed for another year. The next twelve months should be spent in community dialogue on prioritization of LPD, and the optimal strength ratio for the City of Lincoln.
It has been said before that the best offense is a good defense. Though Lincoln’s crime increase and event centered offences may not constitute a crime wave, unless LPD has the officers to diffuse our growing gang problem it has the potential to escalate. It is time for Lincoln to prioritize our police force and allow these men and women to continue their work to keep Lincoln a strong and safe community.