| NEWS of the Day - February 23, 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
Group takes flashlight walk against prostitution in Anaheim
Residents and supporters hope their presence sends the message that streetwalkers aren't welcome in a neighborhood that has seen a rise in the crime.
by Nicole Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times
February 23, 2012
Flashlights in hand, the crowd of about 50 assembled off Beach Boulevard. It was 6:30 p.m. Wednesday and the residents were on a mission: to rid the area of prostitutes.
Along with the Anaheim Police Department, they hoped their presence among the apartments and motels that line this stretch of road would send the message that the streetwalkers weren't welcome.
Though prostitution has long been an issue in the area, the neighborhood has recently seen a rise in the crime. The dark carports and parking lots make the area an easy target, police say, and residents have been working with the department since August to address the problems.
The flashlight walk is meant to signify that the neighborhood won't tolerate this activity anymore, said Susie Schmidt, a senior crime prevention specialist with the Police Department.
"If you see a potential girl, let one of the officers know," Schmidt told the residents, some of whom brought their sons and daughters.
Phyllis Greenberg has lived in the area since 1986. She said she knows all the signs that a crime is imminent. "It's obvious they're not tourists walking around in shorts," she said as she headed down the sidewalk. "It makes me very mad because I own a home here."
Gloria Falcon, 51, said she went on the walk because she's sick of finding condoms on the streets.
"We're tired of the hookers; we're tired of the riffraff," she said.
Others expressed concern because of the children in the area.
Veda Salazar, an assistant at a nearby school, said the sixth-grade boys are sometimes propositioned by the prostitutes. "It bothers me that I see the kids and the women," she said.
About 4 p.m. Wednesday, Salazar's daughter, Ashley, 16, was driving with her parents when a woman wearing a short skirt slowly followed a car into a motel parking lot.
Ashley said she couldn't believe that someone would go that far for sex. "It was so surreal," she said.
The police were also handing out fliers to motel managers. At the Sahara Motel, Investigator Jesse Romero slid a flier under the glass partition. "If you look out your window, you'll see your neighbors in the area," he told the attendant.
Romero said he had never seen such a crowd at a flashlight walk before.
"People here are fed up," he said.
Some of those on the walk don't live in the area but wanted to show support for the residents.
Steve Jankovich, 38, of Buena Park drives his daughter to tap class in the neighborhood each Friday.
"I see the girls walking the street, and some of them make eye contact with me," he said.
But his daughter has yet to notice.
"I try to keep her in good conversation," he said. "She's only 8."
Man convicted in terror case accused of ordering three beheadings
by David Zucchino
February 22, 2012
Reporting from Durham, N.C.— A North Carolina man convicted on terrorism charges last fall has been indicted in a case accusing him of hiring a hit man to behead three witnesses who had testified against him.
Hysen Sherifi, 27, a naturalized U.S. citizen who emigrated from Kosovo, was indicted Tuesday on nine counts of conspiring with his brother and a female friend to retaliate against the witnesses. Prosecutors have said Sherifi arranged for a $4,250 payment to a "hit man" who was actually an FBI informant.
Authorities said the alleged plot was hatched from prison by Sherifi, who is serving a 45-year sentence for taking part in a plot to attack the U.S. Marine Corps base at Quantico, Va., and targets overseas.
Sherifi's brother, Shkumbin Sherifi, 21, was given faked photographs by the informant. The images purportedly showed the bloodied corpse of one of the witnesses in a shallow grave, near what appeared to be a severed head, according to prosecutors.
After he was provided with the photos on Jan. 22, Shkumbin Sherifi visited his brother in prison in Wilmington, N.C., to show him the pictures. The younger brother was arrested as he left the prison with the photos.
Also arrested in January was Nevine Aly Elshiekh, 46, a special education teacher in Raleigh, N.C. Authorities accused her of providing a down payment of $750 for the killings while acting as a go-between for the Sherifi brothers.
Elshiekh and Shkumbin Sherifi face additional charges under the indictment.
Hysen Sherifi was convicted in October after a three-week trial that began just after the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Two other Muslim men, both U.S. citizens living in North Carolina, were convicted on terrorism charges in what prosecutors called a case of "homegrown terrorism."
From Google News
Congress members threatened with biological attack
Feb 22 2012
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Several members of the Congress received mail threatening a biological attack and containing a suspicious powder later found to be harmless as law enforcement officials warned on Wednesday that more letters could be on their way.
A number of media organizations and TV shows, including the New York Times and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, received mail postmarked Oregon warning that letters had been sent to the Washington or local offices of all 100 U.S. senators and that 10 contained a deadly pathogen, a law enforcement source said.
House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in Congress, received a letter containing a powdery substance at one of his offices in his home state of Ohio, a Republican aide said, adding that the powder was harmless.
Letters containing powder were also received at the home-state office of two senators, according to Senate Sergeant at Arms Terrance Gainer, the chamber's chief law enforcement officer. Tests found the powder was harmless, Gainer said in a statement. He did not identify the senators.
In a notice to Senate staffers titled "Urgent: Suspicious Mail Alert," Gainer warned that the sender of the letters had "indicated that additional letters containing a powdery substance will be arriving at more Senate offices and that some of these letters may contain actual harmful material."
He warned that special attention should be paid to letters sent from Portland, Oregon.
"The FBI is aware of this situation and is responding accordingly. So far, none of the letters have contained a hazardous substance," said FBI spokesman Chris Allen in Washington. Allen said the FBI was working with other law enforcement agencies to determine if the mailings were related.
The New York Police Department was made aware of the letters received by some media outlets on Tuesday night and alerted the FBI and the U.S. Capitol Police, a law enforcement source said.
The letters to the news organizations did not contain any suspicious substances. They demanded an end to corporate money and lobbying in U.S. politics, an end to corporate personhood, and called for a new constitutional convention, the source said. The letters were signed "the MIB."
Other media that received the letters were The Colbert Report, Washington Post, USA Today, NPR, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, This Week with Christiane Amanpour, Countdown with Keith Olbermann and Fox News.
Civil rights group proposes crime-stopper tips
February 23, 2012
"The people that tell you not to snitch are the ones who are doing the crime. When you start pointing the finger and say, 'Look, that is not the type of behavior we want,' then you start to resolve some of the issues," said Montclair Civil Rights Commissioner Maurice Brown.
Brown and his fellow commissioners support better street lighting, community policing, community center programs, job counseling and placement assistance, neighborhood crime watch committees, and gun buyback programs supervised by the Montclair Police Department.
Underlying all of their suggestions is the fatal shooting of Ibn Futrell, 29, who was slain Feb. 7 on Mission Street.
"We're taking this extremely seriously," said 4th Ward Township Councilwoman Renée Baskerville, the commission's liaison with the Montclair Township Council. "We're giving it our priorities and following up on all of the suggestions."
During the commission's meeting last Thursday, Feb. 16, Baskerville told the members that PSE&G has "already gone down and done an assessment of the lighting" and that the council is in the processing of determining "what dollar amount the council might be interested in providing for community policing."
The council may support youth-oriented programs in the Essex County Wally Choice Community Center, located in Glenfield Park off Maple Avenue. "The site is there. We can utilize that for after-school programs," Baskerville said. "It sits there empty for most of the winter months and school months."
According to Baskerville, the council is in "communication with" two members of the board of Bright Hope Youth and Multi-Purpose Center, 140-42 Bloomfield Ave. She described the center's location as "ideal," noting it is only one block away from Mission Street.
Commissioner James Harris sought to ensure there is a "mechanism" for reaching people who are being left out.
Harris is president of the New Jersey State Conference of the NAACP, and associate dean of students and ombudsman at Montclair State University. He also serves on the university's Bias Response Task Force.
Harris said he is concerned whenever "folks who are not directly affected try to come up with solutions for people who are, and very often we miss the boat … In terms of the way I see our community interacting is that folks with degrees think they have all the answers…"
Baskerville assured Harris that the people she has heard from "have a very good understanding of the community … Many of them live on Mission Street or have lived on Mission Street, and many of them just understand through life's experiences."
The commission is a citizen's advisory group that consults with the Township Council.
Brown, who said he's resided in Montclair for more than 30 years, expressed skepticism that community centers will reduce crime.
"Are they [young people] going to come to a community center?" said Brown. "Who will they bring into the community center? Are these people from Montclair ?
"We had these community centers. A lot of them stopped because we lost funding. So in the economic situation that we are in now, is it reality to really think that we're going to maintain these same community centers that we couldn't maintain before?"
Baskerville acknowledged Brown's point.
"I don't think they [20-30 year-olds] are going to say, 'Oh goody, a community center,'" said Baskerville. "The community centers already exist … and the suggestion is that they are staffed by people who will actually make a commitment.
"The township is not sitting on a pot of money just to do these things, so I'm definitely not saying, 'Take the money,'" said Baskerville. "All of this is pretty much on a volunteer basis…"
Earlier this month, the Township Council voted 5 to 2 to authorize the township to sell 2.2 acres of undeveloped land it owns on Wildwood Avenue in the 1st Ward. The land will be the site of new home developments, with two of the four lots designated for low- and moderate-income housing.
Commission Chairman Stephen Knox, who resides on Park Street, had lived on Wildwood Avenue for 19 years. Knox said he thought it's ironic that some people worry about the loss of open space in the Wildwood Avenue neighborhood because there are plenty of trees and wildlife habitat in the adjacent Brookdale Park.
"It's time for us to really think about having affordable housing in other areas of town than just in the 4th Ward … It's been long overdue," said Knox.
Baskerville remarked: "The [Montclair] Housing Commission seems to be showing a lot of interest in providing workforce housing, so that people who provide services for our community can [afford to] live in our community."
She said offering affordable housing will promote community policing because "police will be ingrained in our community."
Other commissioners who attended the meeting were Edwin Carine, Margot Cochran, John Albanese, Barbara Milton, Kenneth Shapiro, Kellia Sweatt and Mimi Weaver.
Katherine Dougher Berning, the municipal government's director of human resources and the commission's liaison with the Township Manager's Office, and Sgt. Tyrone Williams Jr., the liaison with the Montclair Police Department, also participated in the meeting.
The commission's next meeting will be on Thursday, March 22, at 7:30 p.m. in the Municipal Building, 205 Claremont Ave.
Josh Powell's in-laws traveling to Olympia to discuss changes in child protection system
OLYMPIA, Wash. — Josh Powell's in-laws are traveling to Olympia to discuss changes in how the state handles child protection.
Chuck and Judy Cox plan to join Republican Sen. Pam Roach at a news conference Thursday. The Cox family had cared for Powell's two young boys until he killed the children and himself in a fire earlier this month.
Roach is introducing a measure that would prohibit a child custody award to a murder suspect.
Powell's wife, Susan, has been missing since 2009 but Utah authorities never publicly labeled her disappearance as a murder. Investigators also never called Powell a suspect.
Woman who compared animal-welfare work to liberation of concentration camps planned murder-for-hire of random fur-wearer, authorities say
Meredith Lowell, 27, to be held by U.S. Marshals Service pending hearing next week
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
COLUMBUS, Ohio - An Ohio woman who compared animal-welfare work to the liberation of World War II concentration camps has been charged with soliciting a hit man to fatally shoot or slit the throat of a random fur-wearer, federal authorities said.
Meredith Lowell, 27, of Cleveland Heights, appeared Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, where a magistrate judge ordered her held by the U.S. Marshals Service pending a hearing next week, court records show. One of her defense attorneys, Walter Lucas, declined comment when reached by phone after the court appearance.
Investigators say the FBI was notified in November of a Facebook page Lowell created under the alias Anne Lowery offering $830 to $850 for the hit and saying the ideal candidate would live in northeast Ohio, according to an FBI affidavit filed with the court on Friday.
The affidavit says an FBI employee posing as a possible hit man later began email correspondence with Lowell, and she offered him $730 in jewelry or cash for the killing of a victim of at least 12 years but "preferably 14 years old or older" outside a library near a playground in her hometown.
"You need to bring a gun that has a silencer on it and that can be easily concealed in your pants pocket or coat. ... If you do not want to risk the possibility of getting caught with a gun before the job, bring a sharp knife that is (at least) 4 inches long, it should be sharp enough to stab someone and/or slit their throat to kill them. I want the person to be dead in less than 2 minutes," says an email reprinted in the affidavit.
She told the undercover employee she wanted to be on site when the slaying took place so she could distribute "papers" afterward, the affidavit says. She hoped to be arrested so she could call attention to her beliefs and to get out of the home she shared with her parents and brothers who eat meat and eggs and use fur, leather and wool, investigators said.
Reprinted emails also say Lowell wrote that she sees nothing wrong with "liberating" animals from fur factory farms and laboratories since "soldiers liberated people from Nazi camps in World War 2."
She also criticized a new aquarium in Cleveland - saying "it is wrong for animals to be taken against their will and put into their (equivalent) of a bathtub" - and research by the Cleveland Clinic, where she said animals should be "liberated and put somewhere where they are not tortured."
Lowell faces a hearing next Tuesday to determine whether she will be given the opportunity to post bail or be detained without bond pending resolution of the case.
Quan's Anti-Violence Plan May Undermine Community Policing
Oakland problem-solving officers have been reassigned to 100-block initiative
by Shoshana Walter
Mayor Jean Quan's plan to reduce crime in Oakland's most violent neighborhoods may undermine a voter-mandated community policing program.
Some of the city's problem-solving officers, a fleet of 57 officers assigned to work with residents on neighborhood beats, have been reassigned to work on Quan's 100-block initiative, according to problem-solving officers and other members of the force.
Quan's plan focuses law enforcement activity in the city's most violent neighborhoods. But with a shrinking patrol staff already struggling to respond quickly to emergency calls, the department has elected to "borrow" from the department's problem-solving roster, leaving the popular community policing program unmanned in some neighborhoods.
The department did not respond to repeated requests for comment and information, including exactly how many problem-solving officers are being used to staff the 100-block plan, how many have been moved from their beats and how long their assignments will last.
The staffing shift has raised questions among community policing advocates, who worry that diverting the officers is leaving some neighborhoods behind.
Neither of the committees charged with overseeing the community policing program was fully briefed on the plan, according to several members interviewed by The Bay Citizen. Although many committee members said they support the idea of the 100-block plan, some said they believe the use of problem-solving officers to staff it is illegal.
“It makes sense to focus your resources where you have 90 percent of the murders, but it does not jive with the mandate,” said Jose Dorado, the chairman of the Measure Y Oversight Committee, who was appointed by then-council member Quan. “If in fact the PSOs are being used in the 100-block area, we understand the logic, but that's not what the voters passed.”
But Sue Piper, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said that the Measure Y legislation, which created the community policing program, allows for problem-solving officers to be used in special operations in their neighborhoods.
"The use of them to resolve issues is an appropriate use of the funding," she said. "That's how PSOs are used all over the city."
The legislation allows the city "some flexibility," according to Mark Morodomi, a supervising attorney in the Oakland City Attorney's Office.
Measure Y, a property tax passed by voters in 2004, funds the officer positions and many of the city's violence-prevention programs. Each of the 57 officers is assigned to a different police beat in the city, and works with residents in each neighborhood to identify and solve problems, from blight to drug dealing. The officers provide residents with a friendly face amid a police force that, besieged by high-priority calls, rarely has time to walk neighborhoods or even respond to home burglaries.
In 2010, the problem-solving positions were completely cut when the department's total number of officers dropped below the minimum required by Measure Y. After voters passed Measure BB in November 2010, effectively removing the staffing requirement, the city reinstated the problem-solving officers, but reduced the number of beats and widened the officers' responsibilities. Now, instead of one problem-solving officer per beat, some problem-solving officers are responsible for multiple neighborhoods.
Members of the Community Policing Advisory Board , which oversees the problem-solving officers and Neighborhood Crime Prevention Councils, said using the problem-solving officers for the 100-block plan will make their jobs even more difficult.
“That means that if anything is going on — they have a sting to do or there's some activity elsewhere — they're pulled from their duties as a PSO to go and work exclusively in that area,” said Nancy Sidebotham, a CPAB member who is also running one of the recall efforts against Quan.
During press conferences, Quan and police Chief Howard Jordan have said that a pilot version of the program in certain parts of the 100 blocks shows it is working, but declined to provide details.
Oakland police Sgt. Chris Bolton told The Bay Citizen that violence-reduction teams that include problem-solving officers "have been responsible for multiple arrests and the seizure of firearms this year — arrests and seizures that would be difficult to make under any other scenario.”
The mayor has released a map showing the approximate locations of the blocks but has denied a public records request seeking a list of boundary lines, citing an exemption in the state's open-records law for “law enforcement intelligence.”
According to members of the Measure Y Oversight Committee, the 100-block plan is not the first time problem-solving officers have performed other roles. Over the years, problem-solving officers have been deployed on special investigations and, more recently, to respond to Occupy Oakland protests. Marlene Sacks, a local attorney, has filed two lawsuits against the city alleging misuse of Measure Y money. One judge eventually ruled that the city should have significant flexibility over the funds.
Although the Measure Y Oversight Committee was set up to monitor spending and execution of Measure Y programs, committee members have no decision-making power and can only issue recommendations to the mayor and City Council. Some members of both the Measure Y Committee and CPAB complain that they have become little more than a rubber stamp for city policies.
“We have no authority over the police department,” Dorado said. “Our role is to raise those kind of issues that we think do not jive with the legislation and its intent. We can't make them do anything.”
Dorado and others on the two committees said they support the mayor's 100-block plan, leaving the future of Oakland's problem-solving officer program uncertain.
"What would you rather do, be burglarized or be shot?" Dorado said. "It makes sense to focus your resources where they're really needed."
CPAB member Marcus Johnson agreed, saying, “We have a shortage of police officers, so I understand the need.”
“Who else is going to do it?” he said.
From the FBI
On Guard Against WMD
Inside the Biological Countermeasures Unit, Part 1
In 2006, to counter the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the FBI established the WMD Directorate. The directorate combines law enforcement investigative authorities, intelligence analysis capabilities, and technical subject matter expertise in a coordinated approach to deal with incidents involving nuclear, radiological, biological, or chemical weapons. The organization places substantial emphasis on preventing such incidents.
FBI.gov recently spoke with Special Agent Edward You in the directorate's Biological Countermeasures Unit (BCU).
Q: What is your unit's primary mission?
Mr. You: Just like our partner units who also work in countermeasures dealing with chemicals, radiological and nuclear material and infrastructure protection, our goal is to prevent acts of terrorism. In our case, that means bio-terrorism. But we must do that in a way that strikes a balance between security and supporting advances in scientific research and protecting public safety. Bio-security, from our standpoint, is preventing the illicit acquisition or misuse of the technologies, practices, and materials associated with biological sciences. We are also charged with protecting scientists and the institutions where they work.
Q: What are the primary biological WMD risks?
Mr. You: Laboratory techniques for biological materials are publicly available in scientific journals and elsewhere, which represent a ready source of knowledge for creating and manipulating these materials. Biological agents such as viruses, bacteria, and toxins are also widely available and used in companies, universities, and other institutions. These include materials that could have devastating effects on the public if released, such as avian influenza or Bacillus anthracis spores (anthrax). These things are also naturally occurring in the environment. Both the methods and the materials are critical for scientific research and the development of beneficial products. But we also recognize that the materials could be exploited or subverted for terrorist or criminal acts. We conduct outreach to try to make people aware of these risks.
Q: How important are partnerships between law enforcement and the medical and scientific community?
Mr. You: They are essential. We have a joint criminal-epidemiological investigation model, which is how law enforcement works together with public health entities to quickly assess an unusual disease outbreak to determine if it is naturally occurring or was started intentionally. The partnership is critical to ensure rapid sharing of information to guide the appropriate investigative steps and responses. All these efforts address the shared goal of protecting public health and safety—again, without hindering scientific progress.
Q: What is your primary means of conducting outreach?
Mr. You: We provide opportunities for the scientific community to meet directly with our law enforcement representatives—our WMD coordinators. These are the FBI's subject matter experts, local points of contact, and really the keystone of the entire program. Each of our 56 field offices nationwide has at least one of these special agent coordinators trained in the various WMD modalities. They are the focal point for state and local law enforcement and public health officials. Coordinators conduct outreach and liaison development with academia, institutions, industry contacts, and other organizations. Our unit at FBI Headquarters manages the outreach program at the national level. We facilitate meetings between our coordinators and members of the biological sciences community, provide a mutual understanding of bio-security from a law enforcement perspective, and foster partnerships nationwide. We are also branching out internationally, with WMD personnel in Eastern Europe, Singapore, and at Interpol in France.
From the Department of Homeland Security
Securing our Southwest Border
by Secretary Napolitano
Earlier this week, I traveled to Arizona and Texas with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Acting Commissioner David Aguilar to see DHS operations at the Southwest Border.
We visited the Port of Hidalgo, Pharr Bridge, CBP's Air and Marine Branch, and the Border Patrol Forward Operating Base near Falcon Heights where we saw firsthand some of CBP's capabilities along the Southwest border and recent investments in personnel, technology, and infrastructure. I had the privilege of hearing from and personally thanking some of the dedicated men and women on the front lines. They work hard every day, at great personal risk, to keep the communities along the border and our entire nation safe.
Protecting communities along on our borders is vital to our homeland security, as well as to our economic prosperity. Over the past three years, the Obama Administration has deployed significant resources and worked closely with partners at all levels—including other federal agencies, state, local, tribal and territorial law enforcement, the private sector and the government of Mexico- to secure our border.
This work is making a real difference. Nationwide, illegal immigration attempts, as measured by Border Patrol apprehensions, have decreased 53 percent in the past three years, and are less than 20 percent of what they were at their peak. Seizures of illegal drugs, currency, and weapons are all up, while violent crime in some of our largest border cities and communities has remained flat or fallen over the past decade.
As we move forward, we'll continue to work to ensure our borders are safe and secure, while facilitating the legitimate trade and travel that is so essential to our economy.