| NEWS of the Day - February 26, 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
Drinking test: Bill would require drinkers on Utah alcohol panel
A Utah lawmaker wants to ensure that the voices of drinkers will be heard in the state known for its strict regulation of alcohol.
His solution? A drinking test of sorts. But in this case, one has to drink to pass it.
A bill introduced by state Rep. Brian Doughty cleared a House of Representatives committee would require that at least two members of the state's five-member Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission be drinkers. Loosening liquor laws in the state has been one of Doughty's causes as a lawmaker.
The bill, HB 193, would require the governor to appoint two members to the commission only after signing an affidavit attesting to their drinking habits. The bill passed the committee on a 7-3 vote.
“At least two of the commissioners shall, for at least one year before being appointed and during their term, be consumers of an alcoholic product,” part of the bill reads.
An earlier version included a requirement that the appointed commissioners be “regular” drinkers, meaning having at least one alcoholic beverage a month.
Utah's restrictive liquor laws have long been in place. About 70% of state residents are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which teaches its members to abstain from drinking alcohol.
The strict laws have been criticized in the past by members of the Utah tourism industry, which argue they miss out on business because the laws drive away lucrative conventions to neighboring Colorado.
For such reasons, former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., himself a Mormon, successfully pushed for a loosening of the state's liquor regulations when he was in office. But state law still prohibits drinks from being mixed in front of restaurant patrons and does not allow drinkers to order a “double” at the bar.
Last year the state banned a mini-keg, dubbed the Chubby, which can hold as much beer as 14 12-ounce bottles. Regular beer kegs are already banned, except for authorized beer retailers.
Utah's current legislative session ends in less than two weeks.
From Google News
NYPD surveillance of students called 'disgusting'
NEW YORK — At Columbia University and elsewhere, the fear that the New York Police Department might secretly be infiltrating Muslim student's lives has spread beyond them to others who find the reported tactics "disgusting," as one teenager put it.
The NYPD surveillance of Muslims on a dozen college campuses in the Northeast is a surprising and disappointing violation, students said Saturday in reaction to Associated Press reports that revealed the intelligence-gathering at Columbia and elsewhere.
"If this is happening to innocent Muslim students, who's next?" asked freshman Dina Morris, 18, of Amherst, Mass. "I'm the child of an immigrant, and I was just blown away by the news; it's disgusting."
Documents obtained by the AP show that the NYPD used undercover officers and informants to infiltrate Muslim student groups. An officer even went whitewater rafting with students and reported on how many times they prayed and what they discussed. Police also trawled college websites and blogs, compiling daily reports on the activities of Muslim students and academics.
It was all part of the NYPD's efforts to keep tabs on Muslims throughout the region as part of the department's anti-terrorism efforts. Police built databases of where Muslims lived and worked, where they prayed, even where they watched sports.
In the past week, Muslims and non-Muslims alike held a town hall meeting on the Manhattan campus of the Ivy League college to discuss the police surveillance. Concerned members of many school groups attended.
On Friday, some of their counterparts at New York University choked up as they gathered to voice their outrage at the notion that even students' religious habits were being tracked by the NYPD.
"Why is the number of times that we pray per day — whether or not I come in this space and put my forehead on the floor in worship of my Lord — why does that have anything to do with somebody trying to keep this country safe?" said Elizabeth Dann, 29, an NYU law student.
At first, when it was revealed last weekend that Muslim students were targets of police surveillance, "people were distressed and frazzled," Mona Abdullah, a member of Columbia's Muslim Students Association, told the AP.
But by Saturday, she said, a different mood descended on the campus.
"We're now feeling a sense of unity, because this is not an issue that affects only Muslims," said Abdullah, 20, who is majoring in political science and Middle Eastern studies. "We're still worried, but there's also a sense of solidarity over an issue that has to be taken seriously by everyone."
Students are also feeling empathy for those outside the university community who are being subjected to the NYPD's "stop-and-frisk" policy targeting anyone who seems suspicious, mainly blacks and Hispanics.
"We're not the first and we're definitely not going to be the last," Abdullah said.
Police were interested in Muslim student groups because they attracted young men, a demographic that terrorist groups have tapped. The NYPD defended the effort, citing a dozen accused or convicted terrorists worldwide who had once been affiliated with Muslim student groups.
But students say that unfairly categorizes them all as potential terrorists.
The Muslim students "are just as American as anyone, and to make them feel unsafe and unwanted is really unfair!" said Morris, who attends Barnard College, which is affiliated with Columbia.
"There was a lot of police blowback after 9/11; they were not respecting civil liberties," said Leo Schwartz, 19, a political science major and columnist for Columbia's student newspaper, the Daily Spectator.
Anmol Gupta, 22, an engineering student, said that in a city like New York, which prides itself on ethnic diversity, "the idea of the surveillance of Muslims does surprise me, it's disturbing."
Sitting on a bench, he glanced across the university's quad at the students of many races and faiths who were walking around on a chilly winter day.
Gupta said he didn't feel students could do anything to stop the surveillance.
They certainly shouldn't do anything to change how they live from day to day — even if they're afraid they're being watched, Abdullah said. "We're saying, 'Don't change the way you act, don't change anything you do, because we're not doing anything wrong.'"
Still, many on the campus of more than 25,000 students craved reassurance.
University President Lee Bollinger plans to host a fireside chat on Monday evening to discuss the secret monitoring.
He said in a statement Friday: "We should all be able to appreciate the deeply personal concerns of the Muslim members of our community in learning that their activities were being monitored — and the chilling effect such governmental efforts have on any of us in a university devoted to the foundational values of free speech and association."
On Saturday, the unanswered question among Columbia students remained: Is the NYPD still conducting surveillance on students?
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Friday: "We're going to continue to do what we have to do to protect the city."
He did not elaborate.
And Mayor Michael Bloomberg said his police department's monitoring of Muslims — even outside the city at colleges in Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and upstate New York — was "legal," ''appropriate" and "constitutional."
Authorities left open what students most wanted answered — "if and when the surveillance ended," Abdullah said.
"I don't think it has ended."
Violent crime drops in Rock Hill
On average, there was a 42 percent decrease in violent crimes for the 2001-11 period
by Nicole E. Smith -- The Herald
Violent crime in Rock Hill decreased 27 percent in 2011, marking a steady downward trend in those crimes over a 10-year period, according to new police statistics.
There were 394 reported violent crimes in 2011, compared with 543 in 2010. Violent crimes include rape, homicide, aggravated assault and burglary. On average, there was a 42 percent decrease in violent crimes for the 2001-2011 period.
Although property crimes dropped in 2010, they picked up in 2011 by 13.9 percent. There were 2,785 incidents reported in 2010 compared to 3,173 in 2011.
However, the numbers were down 2.8 percent compared to the 10-year average.
"The numbers were still very, very good," Police Chief John Gregory said.
Gregory said the decrease in violent crimes is because of proactive community policing strategies and the use of the Compstat program, a computer program he said is the "nuts and bolts" of the reductions.
Rock Hill police began using Compstat five years ago to track statistics and show crime trends as they develop in real-time. Police meet twice a month to discuss trends and focus resources on problem areas. Officers can access the data from their patrol cars.
"We're not only looking at numbers," Gregory said. "We're looking at what's going on, who's potentially doing it, what resources we have and what's the best way to approach it.
"We work very hard to not let patterns materialize and grow," he said.
The department has fostered relationships with other agencies, as well as prosecutors, to focus on chronic offenders, particularly violent ones.
Chronic offenders influence other people's behavior, Gregory said. "If you target the leaders, the ones causing the problems, you can cool the temperature in the streets and make the streets safer.
Also a key part in crime reduction was the Weed & Seed Initiative, implemented five years ago and funded through a U.S. Department of Justice grant. Policetargeted the Hagins/Fewell, Sunset Park, South Central, North Crawford Road and Flint Hill neighborhoods. Twenty-seven percent of the violent crime in the city happens those neighborhoods.
City departments increased services and and programs in those neighborhoods, to assist residents. Efforts included CRAVE summer camp, a mentoring program known as BROTHERS; Shift, Change and Believe, a group dedicated to combating gang involvement; and Taking the City Ministry, which offers services including counseling, child care and transportation.
Another police effort was continuing to attend neighborhood meetings, giving crime information to apartment managers and reaching out to residences or businesses that receive three or more calls in reference to certain issues.
In the Hagins/Fewell community, police saw a 50 percent reduction in total crime since 2006.
Even though the grant funding has ended, Gregory said officers will continue their community policing efforts.
"For us now, funding is overtime for officers to be strategically placed in areas and neighborhoods where they can do specific duties that will help curtail and prevent crime," he said.
Violent and property crimes are still more evident in older neighborhoods in the south parts of Rock Hill. South Central and Sunset Park had 24 and 13 incidents each. Heather Heights was at the top of apartment complex list with eight incidents.
One of the factors for the increase in property crime was the copper thefts from vacant or foreclosed houses. Gregory said the police are working with scrap metal dealers to curb this crime.
There was also a rash of automobile break-ins last year, a 20.2 percent increase.
Gregory said one thing that hurt the crime rate were people who targeted vehicles left unlocked in middle-class neighborhoods and heavily traveled shopping areas throughout the city. Some admitted to breaking into 30 to 40 vehicles.
Burglaries jumped slightly from 507 in 2010 to 572 in 2011, but robberies were at a decade-low, hitting below the 100 mark.
The majority of crimes saw a decrease when compared to the 10-year average.
Police have plans to increase patrol zones from six to eight and to watch the Newport Walmart and Riverwalk areas.
Gregory added that they want to get the community involved more than ever, calling it "the most important resource."
"The greatest impact we can have is when the public is engaged with us and understands what the problems are, understand working with us," he said. "We've proven that we can assist and reduce crime. ...We are not working in a vacuum. We have to have everybody all in."
It's all about keeping the lines of communication open, he said.
"We don't have all the resources or all the answers," he said. "But we can use what we have in the best way we can for the best outcomes."