NEWS of the Day - October 29, 2009
on some LACP issues of interest


NEWS of the Day - October 29, 2009
on some issues of interest to the community policing and neighborhood activist

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood activist public. It is by no means meant to cover every possible issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular point of view ...

We present this simply as a convenience to our readership ...


From the LA Times


Four charged in gang rape of 15-year-old Bay Area student

October 28, 2009 |  6:45 pm Rape and robbery charges were filed this afternoon against four suspects in the gang rape of a 15-year-old Bay Area student who struggled against her attackers as more than a dozen people passed by but did nothing.

The girl was repeatedly raped, beaten and eventually robbed Saturday night at Richmond High School after she left a homecoming dance, according to police. The crime has sparked outrage and focused national attention on Richmond, a city of 104,000 northeast of San Francisco.

Manuel Ortega, 19, was charged with assault by force likely to produce great bodily injury and rape while acting in concert, said Dara Cashman, Contra Costa County senior deputy district attorney.

She said three minors were also charged but declined to release their names. Two of them, 15 and 17, were charged with rape with a foreign object while acting in concert. A 16-year-old was charged with robbery and rape by a foreign object while acting in concert, Cashman said.

All four suspects were also charged with special enhancements that could result in life sentences if they are convicted, according to Cashman.

A fifth suspect, Salvador Rodriguez, 21, was arrested in connection with the crime but was not charged.

Cashman declined to discuss to discuss any pending charges, citing the ongoing investigation. 

Police said today that more suspects will be taken into custody.

"We still have more arrests to make and a lot of work to do," said Lt. Mark Gagan of the Richmond Police Department.

The department, he said, was pleased that prosecutors filed charges quickly.

"This woman's life is ruined by this unnecessary act," he said.

Police said that at least seven males took part in the rape, which began about 9:30 p.m. and lasted two to 2-1/2 hours. Some of the attackers allegedly laughed and took photos of the girl as she was being raped, according to police.

Authorities were finally alerted after a student overheard people talking about a girl being raped in a dark alley behind the campus. Cashman said bystanders who witnessed the attack could be prosecuted only if their actions aided the crime.

"Generally," she said, "just observing a crime is not an offense."


L.A. homeless population drops despite recession, county study finds [Updated]

October 28, 2009 |  2:42 pm

Los Angeles County's homeless population has dropped 38% since 2007, according to a survey conducted this year by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

The count, which was conducted over three days in January, pegs the region's homeless population at 42,694, down from 68,808 in 2007.

[Updated at 6 p.m.: “We know that things are changing,” said Michael Arnold, executive director of the authority. “We know, we can sense, we can feel that there's a change out there. These numbers provide us with some documentation, that things are really happening in Los Angeles.”

Arnold said the group needs to do further analysis to understand all the reasons behind the drop, which has been mirrored in other cities in the region.

The numbers are striking because they come during a major economic downturn. The recession fueled concerns that more people who lost their jobs would become homeless.

And although there has been an increase in people seeking aid from charity groups, the report says the recession has not translated into more people living on the streets. Arnold said one explanation for the drop in numbers may be that people have moved out of the region to more affordable areas. Los Angeles, he said, “is a hard place to be homeless.]

The homeless population is still centered in central and downtown Los Angeles, according to the survey, but the numbers there have dropped even more significantly. 

The "metro Los Angeles" reporting area, a swath of land including and immediately surrounding downtown L.A., reports a nearly 50% drop, from 22,030 homeless people counted in 2007 to 11,093 in 2009.

In a news release that accompanied the report, the authority's executive director said the drop in overall homeless numbers can be attributed to efforts by the city, county and local service providers to address poverty and homelessness. Those include L.A. County"s $100-million Homeless Prevention Initiative and the city's push for permanent supportive housing.

The report said the most important change is "a paradigm shift. ... Programs are centered on housing placement of homeless families and individuals and providing the tools and skills they need to stay  housed."

The Homeless Services Authority is a joint city-county agency that distributes federal funds to homeless providers. It released preliminary data from the census today.

A summary of the report is available here.


Three insiders being considered for LAPD chief

Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell, Deputy Chief Charlie Beck and Deputy Chief Michel Moore will be interviewed this week by the mayor. His selection must be approved by a City Council majority.

By Joel Rubin and Phil Willon

October 28, 2009

The Los Angeles Police Commission forwarded to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Tuesday the names of three finalists to become the next police chief -- a list that contained no women or minorities, but sparked little initial criticism.

Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell, Deputy Chief Charlie Beck and Deputy Chief Michel Moore will now compete to be chosen by the mayor to replace outgoing Chief William J. Bratton, who steps down Saturday after seven years at the head of the Los Angeles Police Department.

In the not-so-distant past, when tensions between the LAPD and minority communities in the city ran high, the selection of three white men as finalists would almost certainly have set off intense criticism. On Tuesday, however, news of the decision was met generally with praise as officials and outsiders said reforms made under Bratton had largely rendered racial and gender politics a moot point.

John Mack, the commission president and a prominent African American civil rights activist, said he was struck by how little attention was devoted to race and ethnicity when the panel held community meetings throughout the city seeking the public's guidance on a new chief, including in Watts, Crenshaw and the San Fernando Valley.

FOR THE RECORD: An earlier version of this article left out Deputy Chief Charlie Beck's name in a paragraph describing him as a 32-year veteran of the force and the son of a retired LAPD deputy chief. "Seven years ago, there's no question in my mind that race would have been a hot priority," he said. "I'm not naive -- we have not become a colorblind society yet. But I think this is an indication of the progress that's been made by this department.

"We can stand here and say in good conscience that clearly, our ultimate decision . . . really represents who we consider to be the three best candidates for the job."

Moore's father was Basque and Moore is identified in department rosters as Hispanic. His mother was white and his heritage has not played a significant role in defining him within the department.

At a news conference to announce the names, Villaraigosa said his choice looms as possibly "the single most important decision I will make" as mayor. He is scheduled to meet this afternoon with an advisory panel and then interview Beck at Getty House, the mayor's official residence. He'll meet with McDonnell on Thursday, Moore on Friday, and is expected to announce his choice Monday.

Moore , 49, is a 28-year veteran of the LAPD and is widely credited with helping to push down crime rates in the San Fernando Valley during his more than four years in charge of the bureau. As a captain in 2000, Moore was assigned the difficult task of helping to run the department's notorious Rampart Division in the wake of accusations of widespread corruption and abuses.

Beck , 56, is a 32-year veteran of the force and the son of a retired LAPD deputy chief. As commander of the Detective Bureau, he is a popular figure with the rank-and-file, who generally view him as a serious crime-fighter, and with the city's civil rights leaders, who hold him up as a progressive thinker on community relations and police conduct.

McDonnell , 50, has served in the department for 28 years and, in addition to Bratton, has been the public face of the LAPD for several years in his role as chief of staff. Widely respected in the department and beyond, he was a candidate for chief in 2002 and Bratton went on to use an extensive plan developed by McDonnell as a blueprint for reshaping the department. With Bratton's frequent trips out of town, McDonnell has often been called to stand in as chief.

That Beck and McDonnell made the cut came as little surprise to most LAPD observers, as both have been considered front-runners for the post since Bratton announced his decision to step down last month. The selection of Moore was more unexpected, because of his relatively low profile in the department compared to the other two finalists and because of the others who were passed over.

Left out of the finalist group was Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger, an influential commander who oversees the department's Office of Operations and was viewed as a strong contender for the job. Paysinger is also the LAPD's highest-ranking African American officer. Assistant Chief Sharon Papa, who oversees support services and is the department's highest-ranking female, was also thought to have a shot at making the final list.

Having worked with each of the finalists, Villaraigosa is familiar with them, but said he will try to extinguish any preconceived notions. Villaraigosa said the interviews will be critical to his deliberations because he will get a chance to "look them in the eyeball."

"One of the things I loved about Bill Bratton is that, when he told me something, I could take it to the bank," Villaraigosa said. "The next chief has got to be someone that I trust."

Bratton's shadow loomed large over Tuesday's announcement. Both Beck and Moore went out of their way to emphasize that, if chosen, they would work to build on the success Bratton had fighting crime while also pushing through reforms on police conduct and accountability. It is the type of progress that Villaraigosa, commission members and other officials have said they will demand of the next chief. McDonnell did not return calls seeking comment.

Under the terms of the City Charter, the commission ranked the finalists in order of preference. Mack and Villaraigosa declined to reveal the order of the rankings, and the mayor is not obligated to give any weight to the order. If he decides against all three -- something that is considered highly unlikely -- the commission will send him a second tier of names.

The City Council must ratify the mayor's choice. And with a gap of at least a week expected before the council votes, the commission Tuesday appointed Deputy Chief Michael Downing to serve as temporary chief. "I'm going to be put in the role of a shepherd," said Downing, who didn't apply to be chief.

City Council President Eric Garcetti praised the qualifications of each finalist, saying the three "reflect some of the most creative and innovative thinking in the department."

Garcetti added that the mayor's choice will have to prove to council members that he is not only serious about fighting crime but also has developed deep ties with L.A.'s diverse communities.

"It's going to be important for each one of these individuals to illustrate their cultural fluency," Garcetti said. "I'm sure there are those who will be disappointed that this was not a more racially or gender-wise more diverse group, and that's a fair criticism.",0,7475800,print.story


First trial is underway in raid of Texas polygamist compound

Raymond Merrill Jessop, 38, is charged with sexual assault of a minor, having allegedly fathered her child. Prosecutors argue Jessop's marriage to the girl is not legal in Texas.

By Nicholas Riccardi

October 29, 2009

Reporting from Eldorado, Texas

The first criminal prosecution stemming from a controversial raid on a polygamous sect's compound here began Wednesday with a state prosecutor telling jurors he would prove that a key member of the group illegally had sex with a 16-year-old girl.

Raymond Merrill Jessop, now 38, is charged with sexual assault on a minor, allegedly having fathered a child with the daughter of the sect's self-styled prophet, Warren Jeffs. The girl was one of Jessop's wives, but prosecutors argue that the marriage is not legal in Texas.

"We will ask you to conclude, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Raymond Merrill Jessop is guilty of sexual assault on a woman less than half his age," Deputy Atty. Gen. Eric Nichols told the jury of eight men and four women in a brief opening statement.

Under Texas law, someone can be convicted of sexual assault of a minor, even if the relationship was consensual, if the victim is younger than 17 and not lawfully married to the assailant.

Defense attorney Mark Stevens countered that the state did not have enough evidence to prove a crime had occurred.

"In this country, we don't try people based on their clothes or their hairstyles. And we don't try people on their beliefs or the churches they worship in," he said. "I believe if we stick to the facts and the evidence in this case, that Raymond will do just fine."

Neither side mentioned the explosive circumstances that brought Jessop -- whose father is a top leader of the sect -- to court.

In April 2008, Texas authorities launched a massive raid on the Yearning For Zion ranch, a compound that the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was building outside the small town of Eldorado. The FLDS, a breakaway sect not recognized by the Mormon Church, believes that polygamy brings glorification in heaven.

Officials said they were responding to a call for help from a girl who expected to become a child bride. They removed more than 400 children from the compound, saying it was for the youths' safety.

But the call turned out to be a hoax.

Appellate judges questioned whether Texas had a right to hold the children, and all eventually were returned to the FLDS. There was growing criticism of the operation from civil libertarians, religious freedom groups and officials in Utah who in 2007 had prosecuted Jeffs for overseeing the marriage of a 16-year girl to her older cousin. Jeffs is serving a life prison term for his conviction in Utah as an accomplice to rape.

Texas authorities countered that they were trying to stop the sect from taking root in Eldorado and acting to protect children. Authorities took DNA samples to prove that men in the sect were impregnating underage girls, and they charged 12 sect members with various crimes.

Prosecutors have said that blood tests prove Jessop is the father of the alleged victim's daughter and that she was conceived in November 2004, when her mother was 16 and Jessop was 33. Jessop, they said, has nine wives.

At the time of the raid, there was widespread local distrust of the FLDS. Selecting a jury in Schleicher County, which has about 2,800 residents, was difficult.

The process started Monday, when 153 prospective jurors, including 17 FLDS members, came to a community center that was converted into a courthouse for the trial. On Wednesday, after lawyers and Judge Barbara Walther laboriously interviewed 85 prospective jurors, a panel was seated. All the FLDS members were dismissed.

The trial is expected to take two weeks. Testimony is scheduled to begin today.

Walther, who is based in neighboring Tom Green County, acknowledged that it would be difficult for jurors to avoid hearing about the matter in such a tiny community. She admonished them against any conversations about the case or viewing coverage of it, and extended her warning to some newer forms of media.

"No blogging, no Twittering, no Facebooking," she said.,0,3738155,print.story


Jane Doe ID'd after 55 years

DNA test provides a name for the woman found nude, battered in Boulder. Now her killer's name is sought.

Associated Press

October 29, 2009


Police have identified a woman whose nude and battered body was found along a Boulder, Colo., creek 55 years ago, but the case isn't closed: They want to name her killer.

She was buried under a headstone that read "Jane Doe" and remained anonymous until a DNA test revealed that she was Dorothy Gay Howard of Phoenix, officials announced Wednesday . She had been reported missing in March 1954, when she was 18.

The ID was resolved by the Boulder County Sheriff's Office, Internet research and the persistence of local historian Silvia Pettem. Sheriff Joe Pelle, whose department renewed efforts five years ago to find out who the victim was, said a relative provided the genetic sample.

Sheriff's Cmdr. Rick Brough said it was gratifying to know who the woman was, but added that the department wants to find her killer.

"With her identification, a major piece of the puzzle has been added," said Detective Steve Ainsworth, the lead investigator.

Officials say serial killer Harvey Glatman , executed in 1959 in California, might have murdered Howard. Glatman, who confessed to killing three women, had served time in a Colorado prison for violent assaults on women.

"I'm confident now that we will be able to find the missing links that will tie this all together," Ainsworth said.

Sheriff's officials have credited historian Pettem with encouraging them to renew efforts to identify the woman buried in a Boulder cemetery with a gravestone that reads "Jane Doe -- April 1954 -- Age About 20 Years."

Pettem became interested in the woman and her story after visiting the cemetery in the 1990s.

She wrote the book "Someone's Daughter, In Search of Justice for Jane Doe."

"After 55 years, we can put her name on the grave," Pettem said, but the tragedy remains. "I have almost been grieving for her."

The mystery was renewed in 2004 after investigators exhumed the body to extract DNA. A sculpture of her head was made using her reconstructed skull.

Pettem said Howard's great-niece had been following the story on Pettem's website and contacted her, saying the mystery woman might be a relative.

"There was something about this young woman; she just sounded right," Pettem said. "I urged her to contact the sheriff's office."

Howard's younger sister provided DNA, which was a match with Jane Doe. Police said the relatives don't want their names or location released and want Howard to remain buried in Boulder.

Pettem hopes they don't change their minds.

"She's a part of Boulder," Pettem said. "I feel like she belongs.",0,1072951,print.story


From the Daily News


Fond fairwell for Chief Bratton

By Rick Orlov and Troy Anderson, Staff Writers

Updated: 10/28/2009 08:23:24 PM PDT

Police Chief William J. Bratton bid farewell Wednesday to the city and the members of the LAPD, saying he had "saved my best for last" as he prepares to end his 39-year police career.

Officers lined the hallways of the new Police Administration Building, standing at attention to honor Bratton for his accomplishments during seven years at the helm of a once-troubled agency.

"When I came here, the motto was `too few, for too long asked to do too much with too little,"' Bratton said during an hour-long ceremony before the Los Angeles City Council.

"The department sought to keep itself separate from civilian control from the Police Commission and the political influences of the mayor and City Council. And it didn't work."

Hired in 2002, Bratton worked to change that attitude, and today's Los Angeles Police Department - with support from officials and the public - is now one of the more respected law enforcement agencies in the country.

Law enforcement officials from around the world come to the LAPD to learn about its best practices and see its programs in operation, Bratton said.

During his tenure, the LAPD has grown from about 9,400 officers to 10,000, while more than $1 billion has been spent on new buildings. The most notable is the Police Administration Building which officially opened last Saturday, but the figure includes two stations in the San Fernando Valley, an Emergency Operations Center and improvements to other facilities.

"We owe thanks to the taxpayers who have chosen to invest in this department," Bratton said. "And I owe thanks to the extraordinary men and women of the department."

Bratton gave the same message at his final monthly media briefing and in his final message to sworn officers.

Bratton's last official day is Saturday, when he will turn in his badge and gun and turn over control of the department to interim Chief Michael Downing.

In leaving, Bratton said he believed the department will continue the reforms under whichever of the three finalists for chief is chosen to succeed him - Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell, Deputy Chief Charles Beck or Deputy Chief Michel Moore. The three candidates were by Bratton's side at the news conference, but avoided direct questions about what they will say to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in their interviews for the job.

Villaraigosa began the interviews on Wednesday with Beck and will interview McDonnell today and Moore on Friday. Villaraigosa said he hopes to announce his choice by Monday.

But Wednesday belonged to Bratton.

"Today, we are paying tribute to an extraordinary Angeleno," City Council President Eric Garcetti said. "He might have lived here only seven years, but he will always be a citizen of Los Angeles.

"I've learned a lot from him. There is a tendency in public life to set the bar too low and then be surprised when we surpass it by a point or two. I've learned from him that you have to set the bar high."

Bratton also used the media event to display a prototype of what he called the police car of the future.

With reports that Ford will stop manufacturing the Crown Victoria used by police agencies across the country, Bratton had the LAPD working with the Austrialian National Defense Foundation to develop the new car, using a Pontiac G8 frame and developed to accomodate police officers, with their needs to carry guns and wear bulletproof vests.

Bratton said it is hoped the car, with its built-in computers and cameras, will be manufactured by an American car firm.

Bratton said he appreciated the accolades, but then quoted a poet: "There are no great men or women, only men who respond to extraordinary challenges to do great things."

In looking back over his career - and the abrupt departures he has faced in other police chief jobs - Bratton said Los Angeles stands out over his career.

"Those of us who chose this career, who work here, what it is about is having a career of impact," Bratton said. "I think I saved the best for last."

Later in the afternoon, Bratton was surprised with an emotional "end-of-watch" ceremony, in which hundreds of officers and civilian employees lined up outside the LAPD headquarters to bid farewell.

Emerging from the building to applause, the smiling Bratton shook the officers' hands and gave them hugs.

Taking a microphone, the LAPD's 54th chief - initially choking up and at a loss for words - told the department the last seven years were the most exciting and satisfying time of his professional life.

"Together, we've done so much and together we've had the opportunity to take this department to new levels," Bratton said. "I hope you feel as I do that it was time well spent. I don't think anybody knows as well as I do how hard you have all worked to achieve these goals."

Afterward, Bratton walked to a waiting vehicle and drove down 1st Street, waving to motorcycle officers as an LAPD helicopter performed a flyover.

"He came in and was a breath of fresh air for the department," said LAPD Lt.Phillip Smith. "He came in during some troubling times and added some stability, and I think seven years later we're a better department."

Jaime Ramirez, an LAPD senior clerk typist, said Bratton was a very successful chief.

"I think he will be missed because he was one of the most aggressive chiefs toward crime, especially gang crime," Ramirez said. "He's been very tough on gang crime compared to other chiefs, and he will be greatly missed."


From the Washington Times


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Deaths of homeless inspire soul-searching


EDMOND, Okla. | Sunlight through a tall stained-glass window reflects off a donated casket as 350 people came to pay tribute to Dwite Morgan's 54 years on earth.

To hear First Christian Church senior pastor Chris Shorow tell it, Mr. Morgan was a fixture in this affluent Oklahoma City suburb -- a man with a life worth celebrating ... even if he was homeless and frequented the church's free-breakfast program.

Better known in this community of 80,000 as "Bicycle Bob," Mr. Morgan spent much of the last 25 years sleeping under the stars -- the same place where police found him stabbed and beaten to death Oct. 18.

Across the nation, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of homeless people whose faces and names are well-known to church leaders -- yet those people, like Mr. Morgan, remain on the streets.

"The church is like a billboard, advertising compassion and loving service. So often, they are the ones whose doorbells ring for help," said Charles Strobel, founding director of Room in the Inn, a Nashville, Tenn., program that feeds and houses the homeless in churches and synagogues during the winter.

"Most of the time, if help is given, it's direct emergency services of food, clothing, perhaps shelter and some transportation," said Mr. Strobel, a former Catholic priest.

However, many churches and religious groups seem less eager to confront the more difficult challenge, he said: Social action to bring about real changes and create affordable housing for the poor.

"Until those changes occur," Mr. Strobel said, "people remain on the streets, even to the point of becoming a familiar part of the church family."

A similar situation confronted Jeannette Smith, 66, a homeless woman who slept outside an Atlanta church for more than a year -- the same place where police found her fatally shot Oct. 12.

The West End Church of Christ in Atlanta helped organize a funeral service and offered a $1,000 reward for information about Ms. Smith's death.

"She didn't bother anybody, just kept to herself," church secretary Gayron Johnson said of Ms. Smith, who went from church to church for more than four years and kept her blankets and sparse belongings in a buggy the size of a grocery cart. "What I saw in her was a meek and quiet spirit."

Members at the West End church frequently gave Ms. Smith food and money and encouraged her to go to a shelter, but she wouldn't do it, Mrs. Johnson said. Ms. Smith preferred to sleep on her own. She told members that people were mean to her at the shelter.

"We all wanted to see her off the street and somewhere warm and inside," Mrs. Johnson said. "But she'd be right there the next morning when I came to the church."

But advocates for the homeless say no one really chooses to live on the streets.

Typically, those homeless for more than a year suffer from an untreated mental illness, a substance-abuse problem or a combination of the two, said Neil Donovan, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless in Washington.

A homeless man who "chooses" to live on the street may really be saying that he's addicted to drinking and can't accept another living arrangement if he can't have his booze, Mr. Donovan said. Or a homeless woman who refuses to go to a shelter may be saying that she got robbed, raped or assaulted there and is afraid to go back.

In a number of cities, a "housing first" approach to caring for the homeless has seen positive results in recent years, Mr. Donovan said.

Rather than ask a homeless person to get clean and sober -- or receive mental health treatment -- before receiving a permanent home, this approach offers housing first and deals with the underlying personal issues later.

"What we have found is, if you're interested in getting someone to leave homelessness, then you have to do it on their terms," said Sam Tsemberis, founder of Pathways to Housing, which has helped find homes for more than 1,000 chronically homeless people in New York, Philadelphia and Washington.

"It's a slow road to recovery, but it's a quick road to ending homelessness," Mr. Tsemberis said of finding homes first and dealing with the mental health and substance-abuse issues afterward.

Earlier this month, a study released by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles indicated that the city could save $20,000 a year per homeless person by placing those on the streets into permanent supportive housing.

University of Southern California researchers studied the costs of caring for four Los Angeles men before and after they got homes. Expenses calculated included emergency-room visits, jail time, alcohol- and drug-abuse services and mental health treatment.

Here in Edmond, at Mr. Morgan's funeral, a well-dressed congregation -- most of whom did not know the real name of "Bicycle Bob" -- sang "Amazing Grace." Women dabbed their eyes with tissues. A few autumn-colored floral arrangements and a battered, beige bicycle painted a picture few had studied for long until this day.

In the days since Mr. Morgan's death, his life circumstances and violent death have prompted a mix of sadness and self-awareness in a suburban community known for its super-sized churches, grocery stores and youth sports complexes.

Church and community leaders paint a portrait of a friendly, mentally ill man who liked riding his bike all over town and sleeping outdoors -- from a chicken coop at his late grandmother's house to an alley behind a feed and garden store where his body was found.

"I bought him a meal or two, a few cups of coffee. I like to think I did my part," said David Hartman, one of hundreds of residents who helped Mr. Morgan in one way or another.

"And yet at the end of Dwite's day, he still died a homeless, familyless man," Mr. Hartman added. "Lots of people did something. No one did enough."


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Body count rises in Brazil's drug war



While U.S. attention has focused on the raging drug war just south of the border in Mexico, the battle to control drugs in Brazil is taking more lives.

Since Mexican President Felipe Calderon declared war on the drug cartels three years ago, 9,500 people have died in drug-related violence, including 5,300 killed last year, according to the Mexican government .

In Brazil, 35,000 people were fatally shot in 2007, and most of the deaths were drug-related. According to the government's public safety secretariat, there are nearly 23,000 drug-related homicides a year.

The drug war in Brazil is centered in its best-known city, Rio de Janeiro, and its slums, known as favelas, where police sometimes fear to tread, as well as in poor neighborhoods of Sao Paulo, Porto Alegre, Recife, Salvador, Curitiba and Belo Horizonte. Gun battles rage between rival gangs that seek to control the lucrative trade, particularly in cocaine, whose use has doubled in recent years in Brazil, according to the United Nations.

The drug war burst into international headlines earlier this month when traffickers in Rio shot down a police helicopter. The crash and an ensuing battle between the traffickers and police and between rival drug gangs killed 39 persons.

Other such crimes have terrified the country in recent years. Drug traffickers kidnapped and murdered a local television reporter, Tim Lopes, in 2002, and a 6-year-old boy died in a car robbery after being dragged outside the car for several miles in another drug-related crime in 2007.

The crime wave is particularly unsettling as Rio prepares to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics two years later.

Police have tremendous difficulty apprehending the criminals in the favelas, where residents, fearing for their lives, will not divulge information. The cartels in those areas also bolster popular collaboration by providing food, medicine and other necessities to the desperately poor.

The weapons used by the traffickers are often unregistered; some are stolen from the police and the Brazilian army, according to the British magazine the Economist.

Luis Villamarin, a retired colonel in the Colombian army and author of many books about drug trafficking and counterterrorism, said the cocaine sold in Brazil comes largely from the Colombian Marxist guerrilla group FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

"The capture of Fernando Beira-Mar in 2002 was the first proof," he said, referring to the then-drug-kingpin in Brazil whose dealings with FARC were confirmed by Brazilian and Colombian authorities.

Mr. Villamarin also accused some Brazilian government employees of complicity with the Colombian guerrillas. In July 2008, the magazine Cambio asserted that the laptop of the former FARC leader Raul Reyes included messages from top advisers to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. The press office of Brazil's presidency as well as the Justice Ministry have refused to comment on the allegations.

Brazilians turn to drugs for the same reasons that people do elsewhere. A recent survey by the Brazilian Institute for Statistics and Opinion found that 35 percent use drugs to escape from family problems, 15 percent to win acceptance from friends and 9 percent to experience something new.

Another study, by UNICEF, suggested that wealthier Brazilians, not the poor, were the main drug users and noted that 27.8 percent of Brazilian students have reported using drugs.

"A crisis in values is leading people to drugs," said Gilberto Velho, an anthropologist and professor at the federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

Human rights activists say that the use of force against the traffickers treats the symptoms, not the underlying disease. Marcos Rolim, a consultant to UNICEF, says it is better to legalize drugs than fight against them. "Policies of the type 'war on drugs' [have] just produced human deaths," he said. "The legalization of drugs should be considered and tested in Brazil."

Former Rio police chief Rui Machado disagreed.

"What makes Brazil so violent is the destruction of institutions such as family and authorities like police in our society, creating a lack of punishment," he said.

He attributed the inefficiency of the police to the failure of the government in the broader sense.

In the U.S. and Britain, "citizens have a lot of responsibilities; in Brazil, the citizens have just rights," he said.

Mr. Machado, a retired colonel, added that "while the drug traffickers have 21st-century technology to get information, safety authorities have none. It is impossible to make good decisions without information."

Officials are also asking for more help from the federal government.

"There is a national responsibility; it is not just local authorities," said Gilmar Mendes, the minister in charge of the Brazilian Supreme Court, to TV Globo last week. The secretary for public safety in Rio, Jose Beltrame, also asked for more assistance. "The state police are doing the job of federal police," he said. He called the shooting down of the police helicopter Brazil's "9/11."

Brazilian Minister of Justice Tarso Genro denied the criticisms and said the federal government is providing intelligence to local authorities to improve public safety. "There is not a lack of action," he said. "We have a partnership between Ministry of Justice and government of the state of Rio de Janeiro."


From the White House


"This Is About Whether We Value One Another"

Posted by Jesse Lee on October 28, 2009 at 08:23 PM EDT

Today the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act became law, and the President hosted a reception to celebrate a victory decades in the making and steeped in blood and pain. Amongst those attending were the families of the victims for which the law was named, as well as civil rights community leaders. Below are the President's remarks in full.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much, everybody. Thank you so much, and welcome to the White House. There are several people here that I want to just make mention of because they helped to make today possible. We've got Attorney General Eric Holder. (Applause.) A champion of this legislation, and a great Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. (Applause.) My dear friend, senior Senator from the great state of Illinois, Dick Durbin. (Applause.) The outstanding Chairman of Armed Services, Carl Levin. (Applause.) Senator Arlen Specter. (Applause.) Chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the House, Representative John Conyers. (Applause.) Representative Barney Frank. (Applause.) Representative Tammy Baldwin. (Applause.) Representative Jerry Nadler. (Applause.) Representative Jared Polis. (Applause.) All the members of Congress who are here today, we thank you.

Mr. David Bohnett and Mr. Tom Gregory and the David Bohnett Foundation -- they are partners for this reception. Thank you so much, guys, for helping to host this. (Applause.)

And finally, and most importantly, because these were really the spearheads of this effort -- Denis, Judy, and Logan Shepard. (Applause.) As well as Betty Byrd Boatner and Louvon Harris -- sisters of James Byrd, Jr. (Applause.)

To all the activists, all the organizers, all the people who helped make this day happen, thank you for your years of advocacy and activism, pushing and protesting that made this victory possible. You know, as a nation we've come far on the journey towards a more perfect union. And today, we've taken another step forward. This afternoon, I signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. (Applause.)

This is the culmination of a struggle that has lasted more than a decade. Time and again, we faced opposition. Time and again, the measure was defeated or delayed. Time and again we've been reminded of the difficulty of building a nation in which we're all free to live and love as we see fit. But the cause endured and the struggle continued, waged by the family of Matthew Shepard, by the family of James Byrd, by folks who held vigils and led marches, by those who rallied and organized and refused to give up, by the late Senator Ted Kennedy who fought so hard for this legislation -- (applause) -- and all who toiled for years to reach this day.

You understood that we must stand against crimes that are meant not only to break bones, but to break spirits -- not only to inflict harm, but to instill fear. You understand that the rights afforded every citizen under our Constitution mean nothing if we do not protect those rights -- both from unjust laws and violent acts. And you understand how necessary this law continues to be.

In the most recent year for which we have data, the FBI reported roughly 7,600 hate crimes in this country. Over the past 10 years, there were more than 12,000 reported hate crimes based on sexual orientation alone. And we will never know how many incidents were never reported at all.

And that's why, through this law, we will strengthen the protections against crimes based on the color of your skin, the faith in your heart, or the place of your birth. We will finally add federal protections against crimes based on gender, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation. (Applause.) And prosecutors will have new tools to work with states in order to prosecute to the fullest those who would perpetrate such crimes. Because no one in America should ever be afraid to walk down the street holding the hands of the person they love. No one in America should be forced to look over their shoulder because of who they are or because they live with a disability.

At root, this isn't just about our laws; this is about who we are as a people. This is about whether we value one another -- whether we embrace our differences, rather than allowing them to become a source of animus. It's hard for any of us to imagine the mind-set of someone who would kidnap a young man and beat him to within an inch of his life, tie him to a fence, and leave him for dead. It's hard for any of us to imagine the twisted mentality of those who'd offer a neighbor a ride home, attack him, chain him to the back of a truck, and drag him for miles until he finally died.

But we sense where such cruelty begins: the moment we fail to see in another our common humanity -- the very moment when we fail to recognize in a person the same fears and hopes, the same passions and imperfections, the same dreams that we all share.

We have for centuries strived to live up to our founding ideal, of a nation where all are free and equal and able to pursue their own version of happiness. Through conflict and tumult, through the morass of hatred and prejudice, through periods of division and discord we have endured and grown stronger and fairer and freer. And at every turn, we've made progress not only by changing laws but by changing hearts, by our willingness to walk in another's shoes, by our capacity to love and accept even in the face of rage and bigotry. In April of 1968, just one week after the assassination of Martin Luther King, as our nation mourned in grief and shuddered in anger, President Lyndon Johnson signed landmark civil rights legislation. This was the first time we enshrined into law federal protections against crimes motivated by religious or racial hatred -- the law on which we build today.

As he signed his name, at a difficult moment for our country, President Johnson said that through this law "the bells of freedom ring out a little louder." That is the promise of America. Over the sounds of hatred and chaos, over the din of grief and anger, we can still hear those ideals -- even when they are faint, even when some would try to drown them out. At our best we seek to make sure those ideals can be heard and felt by Americans everywhere. And that work did not end in 1968. It certainly does not end today. But because of the efforts of the folks in this room -- particularly those family members who are standing behind me -- we can be proud that that bell rings even louder now and each day grows louder still. So thank you very much. God bless you and God bless the United States of America.


October 28, 2009

Remarks by the President at the Signing of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010

East Room

2:42 P.M. EDT

    THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Please, everybody be seated.

     Good afternoon.  I have often said that meeting our greatest challenges would require not only changing policies in Washington but changing the way business is done in Washington; that it would require a government that's more efficient and effective and less influenced by lobbyists and parochial politics.  And I'm pleased to say that when it comes to the defense bill I'm about to sign into law, we've taken some important steps towards that goal.

     I want to acknowledge my outstanding Vice President, Joe Biden.  (Applause.)  Attorney General Eric Holder is here.  (Applause.)  And all members of Congress who are joining us here today, thank you very much for your outstanding work.  You can give members of Congress a round of applause.  (Applause.)

     As Commander-in-Chief, I will always do whatever it takes to keep the American people safe, to defend this nation.  And that's why this bill provides for the best military in the history of the world.  It reaffirms our commitment to our brave men and women in uniform and our wounded warriors.  It expands family leave rights for the family members of our troops and veterans.  And it makes investments in the capabilities necessary to meet 21st century challenges.

     But I have always rejected the notion that we have to waste billions of dollars of taxpayer money to keep this nation secure.  In fact, I think that wasting these dollars makes us less secure.  And that's why we have passed a defense bill that eliminates some of the waste and inefficiency in our defense process -- reforms that will better protect our nation, better protect our troops, and save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars.

     Now, at the outset, let me just say that this effort would not have been possible without an extraordinary Secretary of Defense.  And so I want to thank publicly Bob Gates for his service to our nation.  (Applause.)

     Having served under eight Presidents of both parties, this is a man who understands that our defense budget isn't about politics, it's about the security of our country, and who knows that every dollar wasted is a dollar we can't spend to care for our troops or protect the homeland.

     And over the last several months, he took that fight to Congress.  He challenged conventional thinking, and he emerged with several critical victories.  So on behalf of the American people, I want to thank you, Bob, for your extraordinary efforts.  (Applause.)

     Now, Bob couldn't have been successful had it not been for the next person I want to introduce -- Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  He provided wise counsel and stood with us in our efforts to initiate reform, even though it probably occasionally caused some heartburn inside of the Pentagon as well, because change is hard.  And so I'm very grateful for his leadership and excellent work.  Please give -- (applause.)

     And finally, I want to thank the members of Congress, particularly Senators Carl Levin and John McCain, and Congressmen Ike Skelton and Buck McKeon.  As the chairmen and ranking members of their respective committees, they did an outstanding job.

     Now, this bill isn't perfect.  This bill is an important step forward, but it's just a first step.  There's still more waste we need to cut.  There are still more fights that we need to win.  Changing the culture in Washington will take time and sustained effort.  And that's why Secretary Gates and I will continue waging these battles in the months and years ahead.

     But I will say that when Secretary Gates and I first proposed going after some of these wasteful projects, there were a lot of people in this town who didn't think it was possible, who were certain we were going to lose, who were certain that we would get steamrolled, who argued that the special interests were too entrenched, and that Washington was simply too set in its ways.

     And so I think it's important to note today we have proven them wrong.  Today we're putting an end to some wasteful projects that lawmakers have tried to kill for years.  And we're doing this because Secretary Gates and I both know that we can't build the 21st century military we need unless we fundamentally reform the way our defense establishment does business.  The Government Accountability Office, the GAO, has looked into 96 major defense projects from the last year, and found cost overruns that totaled $296 billion, an amount of money that would have paid our troops' salaries and provided benefits for their families for more than a year. 

     And we all know where this kind of waste comes from -- indefensible, no-bid contracts that cost taxpayers billions and make contractors rich; special interests and their exotic projects that are years behind schedule and billions over budget; entrenched lobbyists pushing weapons that even our military says it doesn't want and doesn't need -- the impulse in Washington to win political points back home by building things that we don't need at costs we can't afford.  This waste would be unacceptable at any time, but at a time when we're fighting two wars and facing a serious deficit, it's inexcusable.  It's unconscionable.  It's an affront to the American people and to our troops, and it has to stop. 

     And already I've put an end to unnecessary no-bid contracts.  I signed bipartisan legislation to reform defense procurement so weapons systems don't spin out of control.  And even as we made critical investments in the equipment and weapons our troops do need, we're eliminating tens of billions of dollars in waste we don't need.  So no longer will we be spending nearly $2 billion to buy more F-22 fighter jets that the Pentagon says they don't need.  This bill also terminates troubled and massively over budget programs such as the Future Combat Systems, the Airborne Lasers, the Combat Search and Rescue helicopter, and a new presidential helicopter that costs nearly as much as Air Force One.  I won't be flying on that.

     At the same time, we accelerated or increased weapons programs needed to confront real and growing threats -- the Joint Strike Fighter, the Littoral Combat Ship, and more helicopters and reconnaissance support for our troops at the front. 

     And this bill also reduces waste and fraud in our contracting system, as well as our reliance on private contractors for jobs that federal employees have the expertise and the training to do.

     So today I'm pleased to say that we have proved that change is possible.  It may not come quickly, or all at once, but if you push hard enough, it does come eventually.

     Now, speaking of that, there is one more long-awaited change contained within this legislation that I'll be talking about a little more later today.  After more than a decade of opposition and delay, we've passed inclusive hate crimes legislation to help protect our citizens from violence based on what they look like, who they love, how they pray, or who they are.  (Applause.)

     I promised Judy Shepard, when she saw me in the Oval Office, that this day would come, and I'm glad that she and her husband Dennis could join us for this event.  I'm also honored to have the family of the late Senator Ted Kennedy, who fought so hard for this legislation.  And Vicki and Patrick, Kara, everybody who's here, I just want you all to know how proud we are of the work that Ted did to help this day -- make this day possible.  So -- and thank you for joining us here today.  (Applause.)

     So, with that, I'm going to sign this piece of legislation.  Thank you all for doing a great job.  All right.

     (The Act is signed.)  (Applause.)


From the Department of Homeland Security


HUD and DHS Launch to Solicit Public Comments

Release Date: October 28, 2009

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010
HUD: 202-708-0685

Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan and Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano today announced the launch of —a new interagency website that will allow federal disaster recovery officials to solicit public comments from state, local and tribal partners and the public.

The new website will be used by the federal government's newly-formed Long Term Disaster Recovery Working Group—co-chaired by Secretary Donovan and Secretary Napolitano—to allow stakeholders to submit ideas for disaster recovery; articulate objectives for recovery assistance going forward; identify examples of best practices; raise challenges and obstacles to success; and share thoughts, experiences and lessons learned.

“It is vital to our success that disaster recovery professionals and stakeholders provide their input as we move forward to improve disaster recovery efforts across the country,” said Secretary Donovan. “This new website will give everyone involved in disaster recovery a voice in shaping how we respond, and then rebuild and revitalize communities in the wake of disaster.”

“Successful recovery relies on effective collaboration with partners from state, local and tribal governments and the private sector,” said Secretary Napolitano. “This new website will support the federal government's efforts to enhance our nation's resiliency in the face of emergencies by engaging directly with our stakeholders.”

Last month, President Obama asked Secretaries Napolitano and Donovan to co-chair the Long Term Disaster Recovery Working Group, comprised of more than 20 federal departments, agencies and offices, to ensure that individuals, communities and the nation's economy can withstand and rapidly recover from disasters. In order to develop a better national strategy for an effective approach to long-term disaster recovery, the Working Group will:

  • Provide operational guidance for Federal, State, Tribal and local authorities to provide for effective and unified disaster recovery. This includes defining roles and responsibilities, detailing recovery management and operational coordination, articulating communications strategies and establishing measurements for success;
  • Review disaster recovery programs and the framework of disaster recovery, and identify gaps as well as overlapping and/or conflicting sources of authority for disaster recovery efforts;
  • Examine areas for improved interagency planning and collaboration among federal agencies;
  • Examine methods to build capacity within State, local and tribal governments as well as within the nonprofit, faith-based, and private sectors; both in recovery operations and in pre-disaster recovery planning; and
  • Examine successful practices and lessons learned during previous disaster recovery efforts, with particular attention to catastrophic disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita

In addition, Secretaries Donovan and Napolitano will provide the President with recommendations to improve long-term catastrophic disaster recovery and help develop a National Disaster Recovery Framework that will provide detailed operational guidance to recovery organizations under existing authorities.


U.S. Fire Administration Kicks off Public Fire Safety Campaign
on Home Smoke Alarms and Residential Fire Sprinklers

Most Home Fire Deaths Linked to Lack of Working Smoke Alarms


USFA Press Office: (301) 447-1853

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) today launched an effort to encourage everyone to install and maintain home smoke alarms and, if possible, sprinklers. More than 3,000 people die in home fires each year, and the majority of them have no working smoke alarm. To prevent these deaths, the USFA, a division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is sponsoring the nationwide Install. Inspect. Protect. Campaign, which emphasizes that “Smoke Alarms Save Lives.”


“The U.S. Fire Administration tracks fatal home fires every day, and it is tragic to see how many deaths are linked to homes without working smoke alarms,” said Kelvin J. Cochran, U.S. Fire Administrator. “The USFA is committed to preventing the loss of life and we want residents and fire fighters to be safe.” He added, “Smoke alarms are inexpensive, easy to install, and easy to maintain. We are asking everyone to make sure they have working smoke alarms in their homes, and if possible, sprinklers.”

When both smoke alarms and fire sprinklers are present in a home, the risk of dying in a fire is reduced by 82 percent, when compared to a residence without either. According to the National Fire Protection Association, between 2003-2006, almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with either no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.

Cochran also emphasized that firefighters often die in the line of duty trying to rescue people who did not get out at the first sign of a fire. He added, “Smoke alarms and sprinklers give you and your family more time to get out, before firefighters have to come in to rescue you.”

The Install. Inspect. Protect. Campaign is promoting fire safety through a free Campaign Toolkit DVD; featuring English and Spanish educational materials; print, radio and television PSAs; children's materials, a video demonstration of how quickly a home fire spreads, and on the USFA's consumer-friendly Web site at .

The USFA has always promoted fire safety and the use of smoke alarms through materials and in campaigns, such as “Tribute to Heroes” and “Prepare. Practice. Prevent the Unthinkable: A Parents' Guide to Fire Safety for Babies and Toddlers,” to name a few. Now, emphasizing the importance of both smoke alarms and sprinklers, our PSAs --“My Dad” and “My Mom” – focus on the viewpoint of the child of a firefighter. The campaign materials include real stories of people whose lives have been saved, because they had a working smoke alarm.

The USFA offers a few helpful tips on smoke alarms and sprinklers:

  • Place properly installed and maintained smoke alarms both inside and outside of sleeping areas and on every level of your home.
  • Interconnected smoke alarms are best, because if one sounds, they all sound.
  • The U.S. Fire Administration recommends that every residence and place where people sleep be equipped with both ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms or dual sensor smoke alarms, which contain both ionization and photoelectric smoke sensors.
  • Test smoke alarms monthly and change alkaline batteries at least once every year, or as instructed by the manufacturer. You can use a date you already know, like your birthday or when you change your clocks as a reminder.
  • If possible, install residential fire sprinklers in your home.
  • Avoid painting or covering the fire sprinkler, because that will affect the sensitivity to heat.

Organizations in partnership with the U.S. Fire Administration's Install. Inspect. Protect. Campaign include the American Fire Sprinkler Association, Burn Institute, Everyone Goes Home, Fire and Emergency Manufacturers and Services Association, Fire Department Safety Officers Association, Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, Home Safety Council, International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters, International Association of Fire Chiefs, International Association of Women in Fire & Emergency Services, National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) , NASFM Fire Research and Education Foundation, National Association of Hispanic Firefighters, National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, National Fire Protection Association, National Fire Sprinkler Association, National Volunteer Fire Council, and Safe Kids Worldwide.

Materials can be downloaded at (English) or (Spanish). The Campaign Toolkit disc with all campaign materials is available from the USFA Publications Center at or by calling (800) 561-3356.

The United States Fire Administration recommends everyone should have a comprehensive fire protection plan that includes smoke alarms, residential sprinklers, and practicing a home fire escape plan.


From the Department of Justice


The Violence Against Women Act: Commemorating 15 Years of Working Together to End Violence  

Download Logo

From OVW Acting Director Catherine Pierce

As we commemorate the 15th Anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, there is no better time to renew our commitment to ending gender-based violence right here in the United States and there is no better time to strengthen our partnerships.

Without a doubt, VAWA would never have happened without the steadfast commitment and work of the countless advocates, coalitions and community partners who worked tirelessly for federal legislation to mark the importance of the issue and provide vital resources. In the past 15 years, countless lives have been saved, the voices of survivors have been heard, families have been protected, and the criminal justice community has been trained on the complex responses to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking.

Please join the Department of Justice and the Office on Violence Against Women in commemorating 15 years of working together to end violence.


About the Violence Against Women Act  

In 1994, the U.S. Congress enacted the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a comprehensive legislative package focused on violence against women. VAWA recognized the devastating consequences that violence has on women, families, and society as a whole. VAWA also acknowledged that violence against women requires specialized responses to address unique barriers that prevent victims from seeking assistance from the justice system.

The Violence Against Women Act of 2000 (VAWA 2000), enacted on October 28, 2000, improved legal tools and programs addressing domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. VAWA 2000 reauthorized critical grant programs created by the original VAWA and subsequent legislation, established new programs, and strengthened federal laws. Among other changes and improvements, VAWA 2000 emphasized assisting immigrant victims, elderly victims, victims with disabilities, and victims of dating violence.

The Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005 (VAWA 2005), enacted on January 5, 2006, further improved legal tools and grant programs addressing domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. VAWA 2005 reauthorized critical grant programs created by the original VAWA and subsequent legislation, established new programs, and strengthened federal laws. Of particular note, the statute directed new resources to help victims of sexual assault, Indian women and youth victims.

For full versions of the Violence Against Women Act, please visit OVW's page on federal legislation and resources:


Celebrating Safe Communities

October 28th, 2009

Posted by Tracy Russo

The following post appears courtesy of the Office of Justice Programs.

In recognition of October as National Crime Prevention Month, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority partnered with the National Crime Prevention Council and the Department of Justice to host an event Celebrating Safe Communities.

The early morning event, held last Wednesday, October 21, at the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro Station, was one of many events taking place in October to enhance public awareness of crime prevention and safety messages, and recruit year-round support for ongoing prevention activities that help keep neighborhoods safe from crime.

Office of Justice Programs' Acting Assistant Attorney General, Mary Lou Leary, joined representatives from the National Crime Prevention Council, the U.S. Attorney's Office, the D.C. government and the National Sheriffs' Association to address community efforts to promote public safety. McGruff the Crime Dog was also there! In her remarks to the assembled audience of metro riders, commuters, and the general public, Acting Assistant Attorney General Leary emphasized the communal responsibility to foster safe and healthy communities: “And I encourage you all to get involved…because crime prevention is vital to building a better community.”

The Celebrate Safe Communities initiative is designed to showcase successful neighborhood crime prevention efforts implemented on a daily basis by individuals, families and local businesses. The objective of this initiative is to help communities organize safety-focused events and to rally public support for crime prevention programs. It is imperative for Americans of all ages to recognize that a safer community is no accident and that crime prevention is everyone's business every day of the year.

Suggestions for how individuals can become active in their own neighborhoods include:

  • Getting to know the local law enforcement through community events and activities;
  • Offering to volunteer for community events or local neighborhood watch functions;
  • Getting to know your neighbors and talking about the problems you see on your street, and what to do about them;
  • Watching out and helping out in the neighborhood.   Reporting suspicious activities to law enforcement or sheriff's department immediately.

Volunteering is another direct way of becoming involved:

  • Volunteers can assist the police by staffing community policing substations includes many other suggestions and tools to prevent crime in your community, and more information about National Crime Prevention Month.
  • Volunteers can assist the police by participating in search-and-rescue activities.
  • Volunteers can provide traffic or crowd control.

 Interested communities can mobilize volunteers and businesses to paint over walls covered by graffiti and replace them with murals about the neighborhood, its people, and their culture and work with the local library or recreation center to host an information fair for parents and families on Internet safety and other child safety tips.

The National Crime Prevention website at includes many other suggestions and tools to prevent crime in your community, and more information about National Crime Prevention Month.


From the FBI


October 28, 2009
United States Attorney's Office
Eastern District of Michigan
Contact: (313) 226-9100

Eleven Members/Associates of Ummah Charged with Federal Violations
One Subject Fatally Shot During Arrest

United States Attorney Terrence Berg, Eastern District of Michigan, Andrew G. Arena, Special Agent in Charge (SAC), Federal Bureau of Investigation, (FBI), Detroit, Michigan, and Police Chief Warren Evans, Detroit Police Department (DPD), Detroit, Michigan announced a federal complaint was unsealed today charging Luqman Ameen Abdullah, a.k.a.Christopher Thomas, and 10 others with conspiracy to commit several federal crimes, including theft from interstate shipments, mail fraud to obtain the proceeds of arson, illegal possession and sale of firearms, and tampering with motor vehicle identification numbers. The eleven defendants are members of a group that is alleged to have engaged in violent activity over a period of many years, and known to be armed.

In light of the information that the charged individuals were believed to be armed and dangerous, special safeguards were employed by law enforcement to secure the arrests without confrontation. During the arrests today, the suspects were ordered to surrender. At one location, four suspects surrendered and were arrested without incident. Luqman Ameen Abdullah did not surrender and fired his weapon. An exchange of gun fire followed and Abdullah was killed. An FBI canine was also killed during the exchange.

Abdullah was the leader of part of a group which calls themselves Ummah (“the brotherhood”), a group of mostly African-American converts to Islam, which seeks to establish a separate Sharia-law governed state within the United States. The Ummah is ruled by Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, formerly known as H. Rapp Brown, who is serving a state sentence in USP Florence, CO, ADMAX, for the murder of two police officers in Georgia. As detailed in the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint that was unsealed today, Abdullah has espoused the use of violence against law enforcement, and has trained members of his group in use of firearms and martial arts in anticipation of some type of action against the government. Abdullah and other members of this group were known to carry firearms and other weapons.

The 11 individuals charged include:

Luqman Abdullah (aka Christopher Thomas), age 53, of Detroit, Michigan. Abdullah is charged with:

  • 18 U.S.C. 371 Conspiracy to Commit Federal Crimes,
  • 18 U.S.C. Sale or Receipt of Stolen Goods Transported in Interstate Commerce,
  • 18 U.S.C. 922(d) Providing Firearms or Ammunition to a Person Known to be a Convicted Felon,
  • 18 U.S.C. 931 Possession of Body Armor by a Person Convicted of a Violent Felony,
  • 18 U.S.C. 551 altering or Removing Motor Vehicle Identification Numbers.

Mohammad Abdul Salaam (aka Gregory Stone), age 45, of Detroit, Michigan. Salaam is charged with:

  • 18 U.S.C. 371 Conspiracy to Commit Federal Crimes,
  • 18 U.S.C. Sale or Receipt of Stolen Goods Transported in Interstate Commerce.

Abdullah Beard (aka Detric Lamont Driver), age 37, of Detroit, Michigan. Beard is charged with:

  • 18 U.S.C. 371 Conspiracy to Commit Federal Crimes.

Abdul Saboor (aka Dwayne Edward Davis), age 37, of Detroit, Michigan. Saboor is charged with:

  • 18 U.S.C. 371 Conspiracy to Commit Federal Crimes.

Mujahid Carswell (aka Mujahid Abdullah), age 30, of Detroit, Michigan and Ontario, Canada. Carswell is charged with:

  • 18 U.S.C. 371 Conspiracy to Commit Federal Crimes.

Adam Ibraheem, age 38, of Detroit, Michigan. Ibraheem is charged with:

  • 18 U.S.C. 371 Conspiracy to Commit Federal Crimes.

Gary Laverne Porter (aka Mujahid LNU), age 59 of Detroit, Michigan. Porter is charged with:

  • 18 U.S.C. 371 Conspiracy to Commit Federal Crimes,
  • 18 U.S.C. 922(g) Possession of Firearms or Ammunition by a Convicted Felon.

Ali Abdul Raqib, age 57, of Detroit, Michigan. Raqib is charged with:

  • 18 U.S.C. 371 Conspiracy to Commit Federal Crimes.

Mohammad Alsahi (aka Mohammad Palestine), age 33, of Ontario, Canada. Alsahi is charged with:

  • 18 U.S.C. 371 Conspiracy to Commit Federal Crimes.

Yassir Ali Khan, age 30, of Ontario, Canada and Warren, Michigan. Khan is charged with:

  • 18 U.S.C. 371 Conspiracy to Commit Federal Crimes.

Mohammad Abdul Bassir (aka Frankin D. Roosevelt Williams, age 50 , of Ojibway Correctional Facility. Bassir is charged with:

  • 18 U.S.C. 371 Conspiracy to Commit Federal Crimes,
  • 18 U.S.C. Sale or Receipt of Stolen Goods Transported in Interstate Commerce,
  • 18 U.S.C. 1341 Mail Fraud
  • 18 U.S.C. 922(d) Providing Firearms or Ammunition to a Person Known to be a Convicted Felon,
  • 18 U.S.C. 922(g) Possession of Firearms or Ammunition by a Convicted Felon.
  • 18 U.S.C. 551 Altering or Removing Motor Vehicle Identification Numbers.

Additionally, two federal search warrants were executed at 4467 Tireman Avenue, Detroit Michigan, and 9278 Genessee Street, Detroit, Michigan. The affidavits for these search warrants are sealed.

This case was jointly worked by the FBI, DPD, JTTF, and the United States Attorney's Office – Eastern District of Michigan. We would like to express our appreciation to the Detroit Public Schools, Dearborn Police Department, Madison Heights Police and Fire Departments, and the members of JTTF for their assistance in this matter.

At the time of this release, Mujahid Carswell, Mohammad Alsahi and Yassir Ali Khan were still at large. Anyone with information regarding the location of these individuals should contact the FBI at (313) 965-2323.

A complaint is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A trial cannot be held on felony charges in a complaint. When the investigation is completed a determination will be made whether to seek a felony indictment.


The Kids Page

The Kids' Page is designed for children and their parents to learn more about the FBI through age-appropriate games, tips, stories and interactives. We also introduce you to our working dogs and show how FBI special agents and analysts investigate cases.