| NEWS of the Day - January 21, 2012
|on some issues of interest to the community policing and neighborhood activist across the country
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 Los Angeles Times
N.C. tour turns poverty's 'bloodless statistics' into reality
The poverty statistics from northeastern North Carolina are stark:
In six poor rural counties the rates range from 21% to 26%. Among blacks, poverty rates approach 40% in parts of those counties. Statewide, the poverty rate is 17. 4%, the nation's 12th highest.
The state's NAACP, seeking to put a human face on what it calls "bloodless statistics," mounted a Truth and Hope Tour of Poverty through the six counties Thursday and Friday. More than 60 volunteers from the civil rights group and several other nonprofits piled onto a bus to hear local residents describe what poverty looks like and feels like.
"It's no sin to be poor," the Rev. William Barber told residents of tiny Roper, N.C. "But it is a sin to allow entrenched and systemic poverty in the richest nation on Earth."
For two days, residents stood up in churches, town halls and community centers in the six counties to lay out the full dimensions of lives circumscribed by poverty.
In Beaufort County, Charlette Blackwell Clark told of trying and failing to raise enough cash to remove a tree that had collapsed on her mobile home, crushing the roof. She's a member of what demographers call the working poor. She cleans neighbors' homes for cash; her husband, Noah, is a trash collector. Between them, they barely earn enough to survive day to day -- they can't pay $2,000 to remove a tree.
In Roper, town clerk Dorenda Gatling told of reluctantly cutting off town water service to friends and neighbors unable to pay their bills -- most of them low-wage workers or elderly people on fixed incomes. It pains her, Gatling said, because she has endured unemployment and hand-to-mouth living herself. But because the town itself is strapped for cash, she said, she had no choice but to "aggressively collect."
In Elizabeth City, the Rev. Tony Rice welcomed the tour to the cramped homeless shelter he runs. It's the only men's shelter within 100 miles, he said. It can accommodate just seven men a night. With the county's homeless rate rising along with the poverty rate (23%), there are more than a thousand homeless people seeking shelter in the city every night.
Gene Nichol, director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina, listened to dozens of people pour out their life stories. Poverty is far more than cold statistics, he told one gathering, "it lives in wounds to the human heart," he said.
And federal poverty statistics tell only part of the story, tour leaders insisted. The federal poverty earnings threshold of $22,113 per year for a family of four is too low; families earning more than that amount also live in poverty, they said.
In Halifax County in northeastern North Carolina, for instance, the federal poverty rate is 26.2%. But a working family of four actually needs $46,120 a year to afford basic living expenses in the county, according to the N.C. Justice Center, a nonprofit advocacy group.
In Scotland Neck, a poverty-stricken northeastern North Carolina town that is 70% black, James Mills took the tour on a walk through the black part of a town he says is largely segregated by race.
Mills served two terms as the town's first black mayor. He was voted out of office last fall.
Mills pointed out ramshackle homes and trailers occupied by blacks, and the ruins of abandoned houses along potholed streets. Then he suggested that tour members drive through the predominantly white side of town, where he said roads are well paved and public services are far better.
As Mills spoke, a backhoe raised a racket while removing a large tree that had fallen onto a small house last summer. Mills said he had tried for months as mayor to get the city to remove the tree but was told that no facilities were available.
"Today, with y'all due to show up on your tour," the deposed mayor told the poverty tour, "it looks like the city decided it could find the energy and the facilities to clear out that tree."
From Google News
Adult in Ohio Craigslist case charged with murder
A self-styled chaplain suspected in a deadly scheme to rob people who replied to a Craigslist job ad has been charged with multiple counts of aggravated murder, kidnapping and robbery and could face the death penalty if convicted, according to an indictment announced Friday.
The charges against Richard Beasley accuse him of killing three men and wounding a fourth in August, October and November.
Beasley, 52, of Akron, who has been jailed in Akron on unrelated prostitution and drug charges, has denied involvement in the Craigslist slayings. He was arrested in November after authorities linked him to the alleged plot.
Prosecutors would not speculate on a motive but Attorney General Mike DeWine, who joined in announcing the charges, said investigators are looking at "serial killings."
"Are there more bodies? We frankly do not know," DeWine said, appealing to people with any information about missing persons to come forward.
Also Friday, a judge determined that the case of a juvenile suspect mentored by Beasley will be moved out of the county where two slaying victims were found and another was shot but survived.
The decision to transfer the case of Brogan Rafferty to Summit County came after a hearing Friday afternoon, said Tonda Brown, Noble County Court Assignment Commissioner. She said the gag order in the case has also been lifted.
Messages were left with the Noble County prosecutor and Rafferty's attorney in Noble County. The Summit County Prosecutor's Office could not immediately comment, said spokeswoman April Wiesner.
Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh said the case of Beasley, with the nature of the crimes and the multitude of charges, was made for the death penalty.
"This case we view as to be one of the worst of the worst when it comes to horrible murder cases," Walsh said.
The 28-count indictment against Beasley also included theft, weapons and identity theft charges. Beasley received the indictment Friday, and a decision will be made next week about his representation, said Rhonda Kotnik, an attorney who has been representing Beasley on the non-Craigslist charges.
An acquaintance of Beasley, 16-year-old Brogan Rafferty, of nearby of Stow, could face similar charges after being transferred to adult court late last year. His case is pending in Noble County where two of the slayings happened.
Authorities say the scheme targeted older and single out-of-work men with backgrounds that made it unlikely their disappearances would be noted right away.
The first victim, Ralph Geiger, 55, of Akron, was killed Aug. 9, the day after he left a homeless shelter saying he was taking a farm job. His body wasn't found until Nov. 25.
Geiger's brother, Mark Geiger, said Friday he's happy with the way prosecutors are handling the case. He said he's long wondered about other victims. He said he's not a death penalty advocate but wouldn't oppose it, although life in prison for Beasley would also satisfy him.
"As long as Beasley never has the opportunity to interact with the outside world again, that's what I feel would be appropriate," said Geiger, a telecommunications executive in Atlanta.
The plot's second victim, David Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Va., came to Ohio in mid-October after answering the Craigslist ad. A friend has said Pauley was desperate for work and eager to return to Ohio.
Police say he was killed Oct. 23, and his body was found Nov. 15. Family members had contacted police concerned they hadn't heard from him.
The third victim, Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon, whose body was buried near an Akron shopping mall, answered the ad and was last seen Nov. 13, authorities said. His body was also found Nov. 25. Kern told his family he was taking the job to help support his three sons.
A surviving victim, Scott Davis, 48, of South Carolina, also answered the ad and was shot Nov. 6 before escaping, police say.
Beasley was a Texas parolee when he returned to Ohio in 2004 after serving several years in prison on a burglary conviction. He was released from an Akron jail July 12 after a judge mistakenly allowed him to post bond on a drug-trafficking charge.
He was arrested two days later following a traffic stop but again mistakenly released. An investigation by Ohio's prisons system found that Beasley should not have been released on bond but said confusion over interstate prisoner-transfer rules and "ambiguity" in messages from Texas to Akron jail officials contributed to the error.
In a four-page handwritten letter to the Akron Beacon Journal, Beasley has said he has been miscast as a con man when he really helped feed, house and counsel scores of needy families, alcoholics, drug addicts, the mentally ill and crime suspects for years.
"To call me a con man when I sacrificed for others is wrong," wrote Beasley, who didn't mention the Craigslist investigation or Rafferty. "To turn their back on me is not following Christ's example. I gave three full years of my life to that ministry and what I got out of it was the satisfaction of doing the right thing. There was no 'con' to it."
Fighting crime, one abandoned shopping cart at a time
by Amy M.E. Fischer
Parked in alleys and capsized on roadsides, the stray shopping carts caught Longview police Office Scott McDaniel's eye.
The 22-year department veteran, assigned a couple months ago to patrol the Highlands neighborhood for the first time in years, was startled by how many abandoned carts he saw. Residents who don't have cars often push the carts home from grocery stores and then, unwilling or unable to return them to the store, will ditch them wherever convenient.
First the carts were a pet peeve for McDaniel. Not only did the carts pose a hazard to vehicles, he said, they also were a blight on the neighborhood, which the city has made a goal to revitalize.
Then McDaniel, 46, decided to act.
Last week, he borrowed the police department's pickup truck. With the help of Sgt. Dixie Wells, lead officer of the Highlands community services unit, McDaniel rounded up 20 shopping carts. The officers quietly returned the carts to Walmart, Safeway and Winco, not bothering to notify store management.
"It's not what I would call sexy police work. It's not chasing the guy down the alley," said McDaniel, 46. "It's really not a big deal. I just thought it would help out."
He doesn't know of a long-term solution to the stray cart problem. And so, Friday, he and Wells collected another 20 carts from the Arkansas Street area in a steady, cold rain.
"It's not your traditional law enforcement role," said McDaniel, who worked for U.N. peace-keeping forces in the Balkans in 1999 and is probably best known for securing the confessions of local child-killer Joseph Kondro that same year.
"On the other hand, it's community policing," he said. "It feeds into the ‘broken windows theory.'"
The broken window theory, a strategy applied by police since the 1980s, centers upon the idea that stopping big crimes begins with stopping small ones, such as graffiti, litter and vandalism, which indicate urban decay.
Proposed in 1982 by criminologists George Kelling and James Q. Wilson, the theory suggests that a broken window left unrepaired is a signal no one cares. Therefore, why not break a few more windows? Whether a neighborhood is nice or run down, disorder leads to more disorder. According to the theory, that's because the communal controls that keep people acting civilized begin to break down when they see actions that indicate indifference.
The resulting disorder gives the impression that crime is on the rise, leading residents to modify their behavior by, for instance, avoiding the streets and treating others with suspicion. Such an environment is vulnerable to criminal invasion because social controls are now weakened, according to Kelling and Wilson said.
The broken windows theory works, McDaniel said.
But big picture aside, residents are glad to bid the stray carts goodbye.
"We had a lot of people come out and say 'thank you,'" he said.