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An unusually low number of shootings in 2017 contributed to a year in which Lincoln recorded no homicides, a first in 26 years that followed a record year for murders in 2016.

“We are a community of almost 300,000 people that had no homicides on record for 2017, and only five shootings with injury,” Police Chief Jeff Bliemeister said in an interview Wednesday.

“I believe that that is a testament to the expectations of those that live here, and the fact that so many take a vested ownership in the quality of life in Lincoln, Nebraska.”

Lincoln police investigated 259 deaths in 2017, according to spokeswoman Officer Angela Sands. Of those, investigators looked into 47 cases in which the cause and manner of death were not immediately apparent.

Though many of those have since been cleared based on the results of additional investigation, several high-profile deaths that could be classified as homicides remain active:

* The department has not determined how exactly the Aug. 14 house explosion that would claim the life of Jeanne Jasa originated, and investigators haven't been able to speak with the only other person who was inside the home, her husband, Jim Jasa.

Jim Jasa was also injured in the blast. The family has hired an attorney to represent him, according to police.

* The suspicious July 11 death of 4-year-old Brooklyn Maxwell remains under investigation, Bliemeister said.

* A multi-agency investigation into the suspicious death of 24-year-old Sydney Loofe appears not to be a Lincoln homicide, since she was last seen at a Wilber home. But that investigation continues, the chief said Wednesday.

* Investigators still haven't determined how exactly Amanda Nielsen sustained the blunt force head trauma and lacerated liver that caused her death Jan. 2 of last year.

The investigation into some of these cases, such as Jasa's death, requires outside expert analysis.

In the case of an infant's death from December 2016, investigators are still awaiting further analysis, Bliemeister said.

"Those types of investigations can easily transcend a calendar year, because we’re relying on outside experts,” the chief said.

The last year the city recorded no murders was 1991, according to department statistics. Just two years ago, the city had one.

Then came 2016, a year Bliemeister and Lincoln Public Safety Director Tom Casady refer to as an anomaly.

The city experienced a record murder toll with 11 homicides, eclipsing a mark that stood 30 years.

In 2016, four women were murdered in what police determined were murder-suicide cases. Three people died in drug-related shootings, two died in random shootings, one was killed by his roommate and a convenience store clerk was killed during a robbery.

All but one died from gunshot wounds.

Overall, there were 31 criminal shootings reported in 2016, the chief said.

Both Bliemeister and Casady attribute the lack of homicides in 2017, in part, to the reduction in shootings.

Incidents where someone intentionally shot another person could be counted on one hand in Lincoln last year.

They included an argument over the Bible between neighbors that ended with one man shooting the other in the shoulder and hip in November. A September shooting over a woman left a man with a gunshot wound to his abdomen.

"(2017 is) low even by Lincoln standards,” Casady said.

In 2013, 17 people were shot, Casady said. A dozen people were shot in 2010, and six people were shot in 2007.

"The amount of gunplay here, for a city of this size, is relatively small,” Casady said.

In Omaha, police experienced a dip in shootings (118) in 2017, though the number of homicides (30) remained about the same as the prior year, according to the Omaha World-Herald.

Kansas City police investigated 149 killings in 2017, the city's highest total since a record 153 in 1993, according to the Kansas City Star.

The number of shootings in America's large cities aren't tracked by the FBI, and the number of murders in cities of similar size to Lincoln won't be available until later this year.

But in all of 2016, only one city similar in size to Lincoln reported zero homicides — the Bay Area suburb of Fremont, California.

Homicide rates can also be attributed to the quality of emergency care in a community, said Casady, who believes Lincoln's consistently low rate signals good medical care here.

Violent crime statistics for Lincoln won't be available until later this month, but Bliemeister said he expects a slight uptick as the city completes its first full year with a new rape classification adopted nationwide that broadens sexual assaults that are counted.

"Violent crime is outside the expectations, and people here take steps to make sure that this isn’t part of their daily life,” the chief said.

Both he and Casady believe the homicide rate is not the best metric for a global view of the city's safety level.

Eleven killings in 2016 was an anomaly, Casady said. 

"So is zero.”

Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or rjohnson@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.

Reporter

Riley Johnson reports on breaking news and public safety issues in Lincoln and southeast Nebraska.

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