2022 Innovative LE Leaders: Nebraska Chief Meets Challenges with Technology

Chief Phillip Lukens of the Alliance Police Department is using a major grant to provide his city with crime-fighting and traffic-control technology. He is also big on community relations, rewarding kids with coupons for treats at local businesses.

David Griffith 2017 Headshot

Grant money is helping Chief Phillip Lukens implement solutions to help his officers reduce crime and build better community relations. (Photo: Alliance PD)Grant money is helping Chief Phillip Lukens implement solutions to help his officers reduce crime and build better community relations. (Photo: Alliance PD)

“Initially, when I took the job of chief, it was because I loved the area. My family wanted to move to the area,” Chief Phillip Lukens says. 

The “area” is the northwestern part of Nebraska called the panhandle and the town is Alliance. It was only after accepting the job and moving to Alliance in 2020 that Lukens learned how big a challenge he faced.

Lukens quickly realized that the Alliance PD didn’t have the monetary or personnel resources he needed to do the job in the way he wanted to do it. So he threw a Hail Mary pass for more funding.

Hoping to get high-tech resources that would maximize his officers’ productivity,  in 2021, Lukens applied for a grant from the state of Nebraska. And he got $500,000. “I was the only one that applied,” he says, adding that the state wasn’t exactly keen on giving that much money to his agency. “They wouldn’t approve it until like the last day the grant was available. Then I had to scramble and get everything purchased in six weeks.”

Because of the grant Alliance now has mobile and stationary license plate recognition systems, motion-operated surveillance cameras in areas like parks, new software, and other tools.

Alliance was not a hotbed of crime before Lukens won the grant. But it did have some problems he used the technology to address. The seat of Box Butte County, Alliance is a banking and business center for the area’s smaller communities. Lukens says when he first became chief, the city had a higher crime rate than a community of its population size is expected to have. “Our property crime is now down 38% and our crimes against persons rate has dropped 5%.”

And technology is being used for more than just crime prevention in Alliance. Lukens says Alliance PD has implemented technology that’s designed to both enhance community safety and improve community

Lukens contacted Trusted Driver www.mytrusteddriver.com about using their software, which was designed to let officers cite motorists without contact. But Lukens wanted it for rewarding good drivers not punishing bad ones. He says the company put a lot of effort into modifying its solution to make that happen. “They spent far more money deploying this program in our city than we paid them.”

Using Trusted Driver, Alliance officers can now notify motorists that they are driving safely and reward them with food coupons and grocery gift cards. “The whole goal of this was to get drivers, especially the teenagers, to calm down.”

“We’re working so hard,” Lukens says of his agency. “We love this city, and we want people to think of it as one of the best cities in Nebraska.”

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