| NEWS of the Day - January 27, 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
Think kidnapping is bad in Somalia? It's worse in Mexico
Somalia is a hot spot for kidnapping, as the rescue Wednesday of two hostages by U.S. Navy SEALs has spotlighted. But Mexico, Afghanistan and Venezuela are even worse, according to a company that tracks threats across the world.
Somalia and Kenya together ranked ninth in the world for kidnapping foreigners from October to December of last year, with two kidnappings a month, the Britain-based company AKE found. (Somali waters, where piracy has been a persistent problem, ranked fifth, with 13 crew members taken a month.)
It may seem surprising that a private company is gathering these statistics. Taryn Evans, an analyst at AKE, said that governments do release data on kidnapping, but they are often skewed for political reasons. Even if governments don't fudge the numbers, many kidnappings are never reported.
The results from official sources aren't so believable: Canada had the highest kidnapping rate in the world as of 2009, according to the most recent United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime data. So to get better information, the British company uses on-the-ground experts to track kidnappings.
Here are its most recent rankings for the worst kidnapping spots in the world:
- Somali waters
- Gulf of Guinea waters
- Sahel region
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Sudan/South Sudan
Gang violence is less related to drugs than thought, CDC says
Gang homicides are less likely to be drug-related than many people think -- and more likely to be the result of factors such as retaliation to ongoing gang violence, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday. The report is from the first such study based on the agency's National Violent Death Reporting System.
Using data from 2003 through 2008, the analysis looked at gang-related killings and other homicides in large cities in 17 states and found the highest level of gang homicides in five cities. Three were in California -- Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland; the other two were Oklahoma City, Okla., and Newark, N.J.
The finding that drugs played less of a role than previously thought by the public could be important for policymakers, because it could shift the focus in how society attempts to prevent gang deaths.
“Violence -- including gang homicides -- is a significant public health problem,” Linda C. Degutis, director of the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, said in a prepared statement. “Investing in early prevention pays off in the long run. It helps youth learn how to resolve conflicts without resorting to violence and keeps them connected to their families, schools and communities, and from joining gangs in the first place.”
The report, published in the CDC's current Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, is based on the National Violent Death Reporting System. The state-based surveillance system collects violent death data from multiple sources, such as death certificates, coroner and medical examiner records, and various law enforcement reports.
The data focused on five cities that met the criteria of having a high prevalence of gang homicides. According to the report, the cities had 856 gang-related homicides and 2,077 non-gang homicides.
“This report highlights the importance of a system like NVDRS,” Howard Spivak, director of the CDC's Division of Violence Prevention, stated. “The system's unique ability to provide a comprehensive picture of the circumstances surrounding violent death can help identify prevention opportunities and approaches for populations and communities most at risk.”
According to the report, drugs play a relatively minor role in homicides. In Los Angeles and Long Beach, less than 5% of all homicides were associated with known drug trade or use. In Oakland, 12.5% of gang homicides, compared with 16.5% of non-gang homicides, involved drug trade or use. In Oklahoma City, 25.4% of gang homicides, compared with 22.8% of non-gang homicides, involved drugs. Newark was the only city with a significantly higher proportion of drug involvement in gang homicides, at 20% compared with non-gang homicides at 6%.
Comparing gang-related homicides to homicides outside of gangs showed that gang homicide victims were younger than non-gang homicide victims. Gang victims ranged from 15 to 19 years old. Approximately 80% of all homicide victims were male, but Los Angeles, Newark and Oklahoma City reported significantly higher proportions of male victims in gang homicides than in non-gang incidents.
Firearms were the weapons of choice in gang-related homicides. Between 92% to 96% of gang homicide incidents involved a firearm, compared with 57% to 86% in non-gang related homicides. Drive-by shootings were more likely to contribute to gang homicides than other types of homicide in Los Angeles and Oklahoma City; about a quarter of gang homicides in each city were from drive-by shootings, according to the report.
Less than 6% of the victims of all homicides were bystanders.
Curbing Section 8 harassment
The L.A. County Board of Supervisors has approved measures designed to thwart alleged harassment of blacks and Latinos who hold Section 8 vouchers in those cities.
January 27, 2012
Officials in the Antelope Valley cities of Lancaster and Palmdale have been under fire for months for allegedly harassing minority residents who receive public housing assistance. A civil rights lawsuit filed last June accused authorities of trying to drive blacks and Latinos who hold Section 8 vouchers out of the area through overzealous inspections of homes by housing officials and sheriff's deputies. In many cases, according to the plaintiffs' lawyers, inspectors would search for violations of Section 8 rules or criminal activity even though no complaint had been made.
Now, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has approved measures designed to thwart any such harassment. In a closed session Tuesday night, the board agreed to stop funding extra housing investigators for the two cities; critics had argued that the investigators' main role was to target minority Section 8 residents and terminate their housing privileges. Investigators will no longer be able to take armed sheriff's deputies with them on compliance checks unless there is a documented threat to the investigator's safety. And the county housing authority will no longer routinely provide names and addresses of Section 8 residents and their landlords to municipal and law enforcement agencies simply because they ask for them.
The measures still must be approved by a court. Whatever the outcome of the lawsuit against the two cities, these are smart and serious steps to combat what appeared to be troubling practices.
Lancaster and Palmdale, with a surplus of affordable housing, have drawn more Section 8 residents than any other community under county housing control. Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris, who has argued that the influx of residents on housing assistance has burdened city services — a problem he would have no matter how fully those residents complied with Section 8 rules — strongly denounced the new measures, saying the move sends the message "that committing housing fraud is acceptable."
Of course, fraud in the Section 8 voucher program should not be tolerated. And in fact, most of the terminations of vouchers in the Antelope Valley for violations of the regulations have been upheld. But Section 8 regulations are extremely strict and easily violated. Allowing a visitor to stay one day longer than permitted is a violation, for example.
We are not suggesting that Section 8 voucher holders be allowed to ignore even the most innocuous of rules. But we do support the new guidelines aimed at preventing intimidating inspections in Lancaster and Palmdale that surpass the level of scrutiny elsewhere in the county.
From Google News
Pentagon shooter pleads guilty, agrees to 25 years
A Marine veteran from Virginia pleaded guilty Thursday and has agreed to serve a 25-year prison sentence on charges that he fired a series of overnight pot shots in 2010 at the Pentagon, the Marine Corps museum in Quantico and other military targets as part of what prosecutors called a campaign to strike fear throughout the region.
Prosecutors also revealed Thursday new details about Yonathan Melaku's intended next target: Arlington National Cemetery, where he was arrested before he was able to carry out a plan to deface gravestones there.
As part of Thursday's plea deal, Melaku, 24, of Alexandria, pleaded guilty to destruction of U.S. property, use of a firearm in an act of violence and intention to injure a veterans' memorial, namely the cemetery. Prosecutors and Melaku's lawyer agreed to a 25-year sentence as part of the deal, and U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee said he would agree to the sentence as well.
Formal sentencing was delayed until April so a pre-sentence report can be prepared and Melaku's lawyer can request a mental-health evaluation for his client.
Prosecutors also released a video, made by Melaku, that was part of the evidence in the case, in which Melaku is seen firing shots at the National Museum of the Marine Corps as he drives by from I-95, where the museum is easily visible. In the video, Melaku shouts "God is Great!" in Arabic and talks about targeting the museum and "turning it off permanently."
The overnight shootings in October and November of 2010 twice targeted the Marine Corps museum and once each targeted the Pentagon and military recruiting stations in Woodbridge and Chantilly.
The shootings raised a high level of concerns, prompting authorities to suspect they were related and conducted by an individual with a grievance against the military in general or the Marines specifically.
But the shootings went unsolved until this summer, when Melaku -- a naturalized U.S. citizen from Ethiopia -- was spotted by police on Fort Myer and ran off, leaving a backpack behind. He was later caught and arrested at Arlington National Cemetery. The incident prompted a massive security scare in and around the Pentagon.
In the backpack police found spent shell casings; five pounds of ammonium nitrate, a common material in homemade explosives; two cans of spray paint; and a notebook in Arabic that contained references to Osama bin Laden, the Taliban and the "path to jihad."
Melaku eventually admitted to authorities that he planned to desecrate grave markers in the cemetery by spraying Arabic graffiti on them, and to deliberately leave the ammonium nitrate behind.
Nobody was hurt in any of the incidents, but Melaku has been ordered to make $111,000 in restitution for the damage he caused to the buildings, including the Pentagon.
Though no one was hurt, FBI spokeswoman Jacqueline Maguire called the case serious, and credited investigators for arresting Melaku before he did worse. She noted that a search of Melaku's home produced evidence that Melaku was looking to build a homemade timer.
The defense lawyer, Gregory English, said he has no doubt that his client is legally sane, but said a proper mental-health diagnosis may help his client become a better person while he serves his sentence.
English, himself a former Marine, said after the hearing that his personal experience suggests it's possible that some sort of post-traumatic stress or dispute with the Marines may have triggered Melaku's actions rather than any desire to support al-Qaida or the Taliban.
"The facts of the case and what his parents are saying to me about the young man suggests these actions are totally out of character," English said.
Dana Boente, the top assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, which prosecuted the case, said authorities have no evidence that Melaku suffers from any serious mental-health disorders or that his years in the Marine reserves provided a motive for the crime. He said Melaku never served overseas.
Boente called the crimes "a campaign of calculated and sustained attacks against military installations and memorials in northern Virginia."
Melaku did not speak during the hearing, except to answer a series of questions from the judge with a soft-spoken, "Yes, sir" and a final "guilty, sir" to formally enter his plea.
Troubled veterans pose special risk for US police
by Kevin Johnson
Dealing with "disturbed indivduals who are highly trained" goes beyond the experience of SWAT teams ... executive director of the Upper Midwest Community Policing Institute, Dennis Cusick.
WASHINGTON: The US government is funding an unusual national training program to help police deal with the increasing number of volatile confrontations involving highly trained and often heavily armed combat veterans.
The Department of Justice, which is developing the program, said there was an ''urgent need'' to defuse crises in which police faced tactical disadvantages against mentally ill suspects who were trained in modern warfare.
''We just can't use the blazing-guns approach any more when dealing with disturbed individuals who are highly trained in all kinds of tactical operations, including guerrilla warfare,'' said Dennis Cusick, the executive director of the Upper Midwest Community Policing Institute.
''That goes beyond the experience of SWAT teams.''
Mr Cusick, who is developing the program along with the institute training director William Micklus, said authorities had a better chance of defusing confrontations by engaging suspects in discussions about their military experience, not with force. The aim was to try to reconnect them with ''a sense of integrity'' amid their emotional distress.
''You can't win by trying to out-combat them,'' Mr Cusick said. ''You emphasise what it means to be a marine, a soldier to people who now feel out of control.''
There is no data that specifically tracks police confrontations with suspects now or formerly associated with the military. But an army report issued this year found that violent offences in the service were up 1 per cent while non-violent offences increased 11 per cent between 2010 and last year.
However, during that time crime in much of the US declined. ''What we're seeing is that the volume [of violent incidents involving military personnel off base] has ratcheted up to a level we have never seen before,'' Mr Cusick said.
Much of the anecdotal evidence reads like the report of the January 13 stand-off between Army Staff Sergeant Joshua Eisenhauer, 30, a veteran of multiple combat tours, and police and firefighters in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Eisenhauer, who was wounded in the stand-off along with two police officers, is charged with 30 criminal counts, including 15 counts of attempted murder.
According to Fort Bragg records, Eisenhauer had been assigned to the post's Warrior Transition Battalion, a unit for soldiers who have been wounded or suffered other illnesses as a result of their deployment.
Eisenhauer was not specifically identified as a soldier in an emergency call to
police, with the apartment manager telling a police dispatcher that the suspect was ''under psychiatric care''.