Today's LACP news:
July 30, 2014
George Zimmerman resurfaces in Florida, again in ‘security' mode
by Lindsey Bever
George Zimmerman is back in the news, once again in his role as a wannabe security officer.
Zimmerman, the ex-neighborhood watch volunteer acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, was spotted by police just after midnight Monday sitting in his pickup with his dog behind a motorcycle and gun shop, Pompano Pat's, in DeLand, Fla., according to news reports.
Zimmerman told police, who questioned him, that he had permission from the owner, Pat Johnson, to work night security following a recent burglary, the Associated Press reported. But Tuesday, store manager Sam Porter said he had not been hired to do anything of the kind.
Johnson is running for mayor of DeLand. A spokesman for the shop claimed the Zimmerman story was “nothing more than a negative political campaign stunt” designed to smear the candidate's campaign.
“ANY and ALL reports made to the media or other agencies that Pompano Pat's or its Corporate President Pat Johnson hired George Zimmerman as a ‘Security Guard or Night Watchman' are 100% false. Our company and its founders learned of his recent sighting from mass media reports,” Pompano Pat's spokesman Tim Franklin said in a statement sent to the Daytona Beach News-Journal. “Our company and its founders were appalled and disgusted to learn a politician would use the death of a 17-year-old to further their political career. This stunt establishes an all new low in Florida Politics.”
That was a reference to Mayor Bob Apgar, Johnson's challenger. Apgar told the News-Journal that police video footage, which is public, documents Zimmerman telling police officers he was there with the owner's okay.
“Mr. Zimmerman made statements to police that would indicate he was there with my opponent's knowledge,” he told the newspaper. “I am just perplexed, that with such a video out there, that someone can think someone can fabricate something relative to this encounter with Mr. Zimmerman by police who were on patrol.”
In addition, DeLand police Deputy Chief Randel Henderson sent out a statement Tuesday saying: “Every indication illustrates that Mr. Zimmerman was at the store with the knowledge of the owner.”
Police did not issue Zimmerman any citations Monday because there “was no evidence to support that a crime had occurred or was about to occur.”
Johnson confirmed he knows Zimmerman but told WKMG-TV he did not hire him to handle security.
“I didn't okay it. I didn't know about it. I didn't authorize it. I didn't pay for it,” he said. “He had just watched Facebook and the news and just took it upon himself to come up here and sit.”
“I sent him a text message telling him not to come back to the store anymore,” he added.
To fight crime, police need to be closer to the residents they protect
It doesn't take much imagination to understand how community policing can make residents feel safer. Rather than only responding to calls or riding around in a patrol car, officers become a welcome fixture in the neighborhood. It's an old-school idea, really – the beat cop, a healthy cross between law enforcer and friendly confidant.
Walking or riding a bicycle makes it much easier for a police officer to meet the people he or she is assigned to protect, to win their trust and to be able to spot when something isn't quite right.
Wilmington has tried versions of community policing several times before. But it takes a consistent, ongoing commitment to make it work. It isn't enough to respond to cries for better protection in high-crime areas with a promise to assign officers to work more closely with residents. It has to become part of the police department's culture.
Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous points to the success of the department's increased focus on downtown crime as evidence of what community policing can do. The downtown effort included a number of facets, including increased patrols when the bars close and surveillance cameras. Violent and serious crimes have decreased.
A similar effort has targeted crime in public housing, and the chief wants to try the same approach in other parts of town where crime is highest. But it costs money. An officer in a patrol car can cover a lot more ground than one on foot, but it also creates an air of inaccessibility. In some neighborhoods, the only time residents see an officer is when there's trouble.
Done correctly, community policing can make residents more comfortable talking with the police and offering tips about possible criminal activity. Likewise, children in those neighborhoods grow up with a view of the police officer as a helper, a friend, a protector, as opposed to a badge and a gun.
The Wilmington City Council has agreed to allow the department to apply for a grant through the federal COPS grant that would pay part of the cost of hiring eight officers for areas where gunfire has become all too common. The grant would fund the officers for three years; after that the city would assume the entire expense.
But Evangelous wants more officers to target other problem areas. In all, his wish list would cost city taxpayers the equivalent of 2 to 3 cents on the property tax rate. Given other financial constraints – including the Honorables' action eliminating the privilege tax, which will cost Wilmington $1.7 million annually – it remains to be seen whether taxpayers are willing to take on that added expense.
The city council knows that the crime rate also comes with significant costs, and those costs should be part of any discussion. If spending some money now can translate into safer communities and lives saved, all city residents will benefit.
For his part, the chief also can lay out plans to do more “community policing” with the force he has. After all, that's really how policing should be done.
Texas Department Of Public Safety: ‘It's Not Rocket Science' To Secure Border
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Democratic state lawmakers questioned Tuesday what Texas will gain by committing more than $4 million a week to pump up border security amid a surge of immigrant children illegally crossing into the U.S., since all sides agree the minors pose little criminal or national security threat.
Republican Gov. Rick Perry has announced the deployment of 1,000 National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border at a cost of around $3 million a week, saying that federal authorities have been overwhelmed and crime has spiked. He and other top Republicans, meanwhile, have also since last month authorized spending $1.3 million more weekly on increasing police presence on the border.
But some members of a state House committee studying the budgetary impact of border security questioned the wisdom of the law enforcement surge if the focus wasn't on children.
“Since we're going to pay for it, and we've got to decide where it's coming from … what are we purchasing?” asked Rep. Sylvester Turner, a Houston Democrat. “And tell me, when will I know that this has been successful, when it has been worth the money that's been spent?”
More than 57,000 unaccompanied children have poured into the U.S. illegally since October, most in Texas' Rio Grande Valley.
Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said federal authorities have been too distracted to cope with other types of crime — and that all forms of immigrants sneaking into the U.S. benefit dangerous smuggling gangs.
“Kids aren't criminals, but they're being moved across by criminals — and those criminals are the cartels,” McCraw told the committee, saying smugglers collect at least between $1,000 and $2,000 per child they help reach U.S. soil.
Since June 18, McCraw's agency has launched an “operational surge,” meaning more helicopters, armed boats and police on the border. Citing security reasons, he wouldn't disclose how many troopers were involved but said that it had so far cost more than $5.8 million, including $4.4 million in trooper overtime pay.
McCraw said that during the surge, the number of detained immigrants of all ages crossing into the Rio Grande Valley had declined 45 percent. The current surge is scheduled at least until January, but McCraw said he'd hope to continue it until it's impossible to sneak across the U.S. border between established border crossings.
“Can the border be secured? Absolutely,” he said. “It's not rocket science; it's math. … You can secure it with sufficient numbers.”
Still, Democratic Rep. Donna Howard of Austin said she was “a little confused about how we're going to be determining success” if Texas was trying to slow all illegal border crossings and other criminal activity — rather than focus on the current spike in children.
“The children are really not a factor at all?” she asked. McCraw responded: “It brought focus to how many children can come so easily across.”
The committee's chairman, Arlington Republican Rep. Dennis Bonnen, countered that there's been “way too much focus on the children” and that other criminal activities on the border have been overlooked.
Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. John Nichols of the Texas National Guard said his forces would focus on deterring illegal border crossings and other crimes — and wouldn't be “dealing with the children at all” except to turn any they encounter over to Border Patrol.
Perry repeatedly asked President Barack Obama to deploy the National Guard to the Texas-Mexico border before issuing the order unilaterally, meaning Texas will have to cover the costs. The state, though, hopes Washington will eventually reimburse it.
Nichols said that though his forces have no indication of how long they will be deployed, they've planned to be on the border a year.
On a conference call with New Hampshire reporters Tuesday, Perry was asked how long he'd be willing to keep National Guard troops on the border even if the federal government never picks up the tab.
“That's a question . of when you want to leave the battlefield,” the governor said. “We're going to spend whatever we need in the state of Texas to protect our citizens. That's what we expect, and that's what we will do.”
Concerned that refugee children will compromise public safety, Pa. lawmakers ask Washington counterparts for help
by Ivey DeJesus
Nearly two dozen state legislators on Tuesday expressed concerns about public safety to Pennsylvania Congressional members over the hundreds of unaccompanied refugee children from Central America who have been given shelter - or are about to be - across the state.
In a letter signed by 19 other Republican lawmakers, Representatives Tim Krieger (R-Delmont) and Rob Kauffman (R-Chambersburg) urged members of Congress from Pennsylvania to take action to protect public safety from any potential dangers stemming from the approximately 500 unaccompanied minors who have been given temporary shelter in Pennsylvania.
The lawmakers wrote that they are concerned that some of the children could be affiliated with criminal gangs.
"We are writing today to ask that you give serious consideration to this potential safety concern and that you take action to protect the citizens of the Commonwealth," the letter says.
Since October 2013, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has taken into custody more than 57,000 unaccompanied children who crossed into Texas, fleeing extreme violence in their countries. The majority of the children are from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The children will be processed in the immigration system; some of them will qualify for refugee protection, others will be sent back to their countries.
The state lawmakers asked their Washington counterparts provide information to officials, law enforcement and residents of communities housing the children so that "preparations can be made for any potential public safety threats."
"On behalf of our constituents, we also ask that you report back to us regarding processes and penalties that will apply to unaccompanied minors who leave the custody of their family, facility, shelter or home without permission. What steps will be taken to retrieve these individuals and to ensure that they do not escape again?" they write.
Several residential organizations have in recent weeks announced they had either accepted or were preparing to accept the children and provide them with temporary shelter while they await their immigration hearings. Among the groups are the Bethany Children's Home in Berks County and the United Methodist Home for Children in Mechanicsburg.
Two weeks ago, Gov. Tom Corbett also expressed concerns that the influx of immigrant minors could pose a health hazard to state residents.
"That they've had all their immunizations and so forth because we have a strong concern on that," Corbett said. "From a humanitarian standpoint you want to make sure these kids get taken care of but they need to be returned to their country of origin."
U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta (R-11th Congressional District) has for months been critical of the Obama Administration's handling of the border crisis.
Meanwhile, the head of the United Methodist Church in the Harrisburg region, Bishop Jeremiah Park, of the Susquehanna Conference of The United Methodist Church, has urged Christians to put politics aside and show compassion toward the children.