| NEWS of the Day - March 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 the Washington Times
Weak schools may be security threat
Report: System overhaul needed
by Daniel Jackson
The state of the nation's education system is becoming a national security issue and could leave the U.S. unprepared to respond to military threats and compete in a global economy, according to a new task force report from the Council on Foreign Relations.
"Though educational attainment has not changed significantly, demands on the workbox have increased, making success less attainable for many Americans," the task force, co-chaired by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Joel Klein, a former New York City school chancellor, concluded in their report released Tuesday.
Mr. Klein in a briefing with reporters noted that three-fourths of students are ineligible to serve in the military because they either have a criminal record or they do not have the education required for military tasks, such as cybersecurity jobs.
Both Mr. Klein and Ms. Rice said there are jobs the modern world needs that America cannot fill. Although the U.S. high-tech sector continues to lead the world in innovation, the rising generation needs more education in language, anthropology, civics, science and technology in order to keep up with the global market, they said.
Those who are semieducated are "punished" in a global market, said Ms. Rice, now a professor at Stanford.
"Across the board, it is human potential that makes a nation great today," she said. "It's not what you can dig out of the ground, as it was with the 19th century. It's not what you can manufacture along an assembly line as it was in the 20th century. It is human capital, and the key to human capital is education."
The report cited a 2009 global survey which placed the U.S. students 14th in the world for reading, 17th in science and 25th for math, well behind such countries as South Korea, Finland and Japan.
Part of the problem, Mr. Klein said, is most people do not focus on the larger issues of education, with parents concerned with their children's specific experiences and not with the problems of the national system.
The whole structure of American education must be overhauled, he said, because the current model was developed when children would divide their time between school and work on the family farm. The result: short school days that filled a shorter school year that worked around the growing season.
"We have got to think differently - not tinker around the edges - about the whole K-12 model," Mr. Klein said.
The report endorsed a "common core" curriculum, a state-initiated set of educational standards all students must meet, with higher standards for national-security-related subjects such as civics, language and science.
The report also encouraged "structural changes" that would give students more choices for where they could be educated, creating competition, as well as a "national security readiness audit" that would draw attention to the links between education and national security.
But not everyone on the task force endorsed all of its recommendations. Carole Artigiani, president of Global Kids Inc., dissented in the report, saying the competition that comes with school-choice programs can undermine the pursuit of the common good.
Who is Florida neighborhood crime watch volunteer George Zimmerman?
From Google News
by Jeff Weiner
ORLANDO, Fla. — George Zimmerman, the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who fired the shot that claimed the life of Trayvon Martin on a rainy night in Sanford, Fla., last month, has been painted as a racist, a vigilante and a murderer.
More than a half-million people have signed an online petition calling for his arrest. He is in hiding, driven from his home by threats.
Little is publicly known about the 28-year-old from Virginia who attended Seminole State College and aspired to become a law-enforcement officer.
But the Sentinel has unearthed new details about the life of the man at the center of this controversy, including an allegation of domestic violence in his past.
As thousands call for his arrest — some threatening vigilante justice of their own — few defenders have emerged for the embattled neighborhood watchman.
His father, Robert Zimmerman, told the Sentinel that George, the third of four children, is a former altar boy. And he insisted his son is not racist.
"Anybody who knows my son knows and routinely tells me that they don't believe one thing of what's reported in the media," his father said in an exclusive interview last week.
Zimmerman moved to Florida from Manassas, Va., about a decade ago with his parents, Robert and Gladys, according to records and interviews.
Former neighbors reached by the Sentinel said they remembered the family but didn't know George Zimmerman well.
"He seemed to be a good-enough kid," recalled Ron Whitis, who lived next door to the Zimmermans in Manassas, about 30 miles from Washington, D.C. "I really don't know a lot about him."
Whitis described the suburban Prince William County neighborhood as a place where people mostly keep to themselves. Another neighbor said about the same: She knew of Zimmerman but didn't know him personally.
When his parents bought a home in a Lake Mary, Fla., subdivision in 2002, Zimmerman was initially also listed on the deed to their home. Records indicate he lived there for several years.
In 2005, George Zimmerman was twice accused of either criminal misconduct or violence.
That July, Zimmerman — 21 at the time — was at a bar near the University of Central Florida when a friend was arrested by state alcohol agents on suspicion of serving underage drinkers, according to an arrest report.
Zimmerman was talking with his friend, became profane and pushed an agent who tried to escort him away, the report said. Authorities said he was arrested after a short struggle.
Charged with resisting arrest without violence, he avoided conviction by entering a pretrial-diversion program, something common for first-time offenders.
A month later, court records show, a woman filed a petition for an injunction against Zimmerman, citing domestic violence. It's unclear what led to the petition, but Zimmerman responded by filing a petition of his own the following day.
Records show injunctions were later issued in both cases. Reached by e-mail, the woman would not comment on her past with Zimmerman or his current situation.
Zimmerman married Shellie Nicole Dean, a licensed cosmetologist, in late 2007. The next year, he resurfaced in court documents as a credit-card company pursued him for unpaid debts.
Capital One accused Zimmerman of failing to pay more than $1,000. He settled with the company for $2,135.82, records show, to cover his debts with interest, as well as attorney and court costs. However, the credit-card company soon reported that Zimmerman wasn't making the payments he had agreed to.
Zimmerman's employer at the time, CarMax, agreed to garnish his wages. That arrangement was canceled in late 2008 because Zimmerman was no longer employed by CarMax.
It's unclear how Zimmerman was employed when he encountered Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, but he took his role as a Neighborhood Watch volunteer very seriously. Police say Zimmerman had called to report suspicious people on multiple occasions, just as he did when he saw Trayvon. In the past 15 months, he made 46 calls to Sanford police, according to records.
Teontae Ami, who also lives in the Retreat at Twin Lakes community, said very few black teens like himself live in the neighborhood.
Teontae, 17, said he and a close friend who is black would sit at the end of a driveway in the evening and felt uncomfortable when Zimmerman would pass them on a neighborhood patrol. They used to greet him, but he never responded, Teontae said.
"I think he took his job too seriously," Teontae said, referring to Zimmerman's watch patrols. A student, Teontae said his friend was once confronted by Zimmerman, who accused him of stealing a bike.
"I don't want to call it a black thing, but it sure seemed like it," said Teontae, who said the bike was never stolen.
Another neighbor, 55-year-old Frank Taaffe, defended Zimmerman as "not a racist."
Taaffe, a marketing specialist who had been a watch captain with Zimmerman until December, said he may have been "overzealous, maybe," but "his main concern is the safety and welfare of the community."
He said Zimmerman had been doing watch patrols for about a year and was a stand-up guy who was diligent but did not have a fanatical demeanor. Records show Zimmerman is not the owner of the town home where he lives in the gated Sanford community.
Zimmerman expressed an interest in law enforcement when he applied to the Seminole County Sheriff's Office citizens' law-enforcement academy in 2008, and has demonstrated that, although he's not a cop, he is willing to take action that resembles policing.
In 2003, records show, he pursued a 24-year-old Lake Mary man he had seen shoplift a 24-inch TV from an Albertsons supermarket, following the suspect's car until a deputy arrived. The next year, he followed a man who he claimed had spit at him while driving.
Robert Zimmerman, when speaking with the Sentinel last week, was emotional and clearly devastated. He said his family has received death threats. And on the claims that son George tracked and killed an innocent 17-year-old black teen, the elder Zimmerman was blunt: "They're lies."
"George is going to suffer for years and years," he said.
Leading online dating websites to check U.S. sex offender registries
SAN FRANCISCO, California (BNO NEWS) – Leading online dating companies Match.com, eHarmony and the operator of the websites ChristianMingle and JDate have signed an agreement to check its subscribers against the U.S. sex offender registries, the companies announced on late Tuesday.
The three-page agreement between California Attorney General Kamala Harris and the three companies states that the providers will attempt to identify sexual predators, including through the use of sex offender registries when they have the information required to conduct such checks.
The agreement recognizes that such screening tools have limitations which impact their efficacy, and the websites will therefore also use other tools and technologies to protect its members and identify fake profiles. "When identified, [the providers will] remove registered sexual predators from participating in fee-based services on their websites," the agreement said.
Harris welcomed the agreement, which also calls for the websites to provide its members with safety tips and a rapid abuse reporting system through which members can notify the provider and investigators of potential physical safety issues, fraud, or other suspected criminal activity.
"Consumers should be able to use websites without the fear of being scammed or targeted," said Harris, whose office established an eCrime Unit last year to prosecute crimes involving the use of technology. "In the interest of protecting and educating users, I strongly encourage all online dating companies to adopt the same principles as these industry leaders."
It is estimated that, last year, approximately 40 million Americans used an online dating service and spent more than $1 billion on online dating website memberships. Of couples married in the last three years, one in six met through an online dating service and one in five people have dated someone they met through an online dating site.
Match.com, one of the best known dating websites, already announced in April 2011 that it would begin checking its existing and new subscribers against sex offender registries. It followed a civil lawsuit filed by a California woman who claimed that she was sexually assaulted by one of its members.
In the lawsuit, the unidentified woman alleged that sex offender Alan Paul Wurtzel, who has a history of sexual battery, forced her to have oral sex at her home. The alleged sexual assault happened on their second date, and the woman was apparently not aware of his past until she searched the internet for his name after the incident.
Match.com President Mandy Ginsberg and eHarmony CEO Jeremy Verba both said their companies are proud to work with Harris and the other dating providers to set an example for the online dating industry. "eHarmony has the greatest concern for the safety and security of our members," Verba said.
Greg Liberman, President and CEO of Spark Networks which operates websites such as JDate, ChristianMingle, BlackSingles and SilverSingles, also encouraged others in the industry to join the agreement. "The safety of our members and integrity of our sites is of fundamental importance to us, and we have always taken a multi-faceted approach to creating and maintaining safe online communities like JDate and ChristianMingle," he said.
Time to Reset Police-Muslim Relations
by David Schanzer -- Associate Professor, Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, Director, Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security
The cornerstone of the Obama administration's strategy for addressing homegrown terrorism is the development of trusted relationships between law enforcement and communities targeted by al Qaeda and other radical groups. Since the policy was rolled out last summer, a series of episodes has undercut this effort. Media reports uncovered FBI training materials identifying Islam as an inherently violent religion, New York Police Department commissioner Ray Kelly appeared in an inflammatory film decried by Muslim leaders and allegations have arisen that a NYPD counterterrorism unit has been spying and keeping files on individual Muslims without any evidence of criminal wrongdoing. We need to hit the reset button quickly and establish a partnership between law enforcement and Muslim Americans that can provide a foundation for an effective national counterterrorism policy.
There are three key sources of tension that all need to be addressed: government-funded training that casts Islam as encouraging violence, surveillance of individuals and communities without a criminal predicate and the use of informants to goad individuals into criminal activities.
The FBI has acted aggressively to deal with the training controversy by setting up a task force to review 150,000 pages of training materials and remove inaccurate, offensive content. Similar action needs to be undertaken by other counterterrorism agencies. State and local authorities that receive federal funds should also be required to use only the screened, approved training materials.
While these actions are warranted, any effort to strip counterterrorism training of any reference to Islam would be misguided and counterproductive. Anyone involved in counterterrorism needs to understand the powerful ideology motivating violent extremism and how it draws on Islamic sources to attract (mostly) young Muslim men to its cause. Good training can and should explain the distinction between radicalism and Islam.
On the question of surveillance, police will collect far more useful information if they apply community policing tactics to counterterrorism instead of secretly snooping around mosques and halal restaurants. Community policing has resulted in dramatic reductions in crime over the past 20 years by getting police into the communities and interacting with shopkeepers, community leaders, religious authorities, teachers and children. Building trust with the community will eventually lead to a channel for the exchange of helpful information. Communities that believe they are under the constant threat of surveillance, however, will simply shut down to outsiders.
Surveillance of open source materials on the internet is a thornier problem. Police surveillance of a group's online activities, based exclusively on an ethnic or religious affiliation, is wrong and will damage the trust we need to successfully prevent homegrown violent extremism. However, if we want to preempt acts of terrorism before they occur, we cannot unduly tie the hands of our counterterrorism officials. Indeed, most would be outraged if a successful terrorist attack occurred and it were later revealed that the bomber had revealed his violent ideology in an internet chat room, but the police were barred from monitoring such sites.
I suggest that law enforcement be permitted to conduct surveillance of open source communications if officials can articulate a reasonable suspicion that members of the group have or may be planning to engage in criminal activity. This is the same standard that applies when a police officer stops a person on the street for questioning and a pat down. Such a standard must apply to open source surveillance of all groups -- not just Muslim Americans.
Give and take on both sides is required to relieve tension over the use of confidential informants in many recent terrorism cases. It is unfortunate that following the arrests of many terrorism suspects, the initial response of some Muslims has been to question the use of informants rather than criticize the conduct of the perpetrators. For example, after a suspect was arrested for plotting to detonate a suicide bomb inside the U.S. Capitol, a lawyer commented that: "It's controlled from the beginning to the end by the FBI... Had the FBI not been involved, through their manipulation or informants, would the same thing have happened?" Instead of challenging the use of informants, Muslim American critics of law enforcement might instead ask themselves what the impact would have been on the Muslim American community if this individual had not been investigated by the FBI and went on to commit the first suicide bombing inside the United States.
Defusing tensions over this issue will require the FBI to provide Muslim American leaders insight into their investigative policies and procedures and assurances that these tactics are being used appropriately and on a non-discriminatory basis. Trust can be established in the other direction if community leaders refrained from reflexively denouncing terrorism arrests based on the activities of confidential informants before the totality of the evidence surrounding a case has been presented and the full context of the perpetrator's actions can be understood.
Homegrown, al Qaeda-inspired terrorism is not widespread, but it is still a serious threat. The best way to combat it is to build trust between law enforcement and Muslim Americans. To do this, we have to confront the tensions in this relationship head on.
Study says Saginaw crime down in past four years thanks in part to community policing
by Brad Devereaux
SAGINAW — Police working closely with citizens of Saginaw is making a positive difference in the crime rate in several neighborhoods, a study reported to the Saginaw City Council Monday shows.
The Citistat team, which explores Saginaw issues and works with various city departments to form solutions to problems, reported that crime has dropped the most in the areas where a community police officer is present.
There are currently nine districts in Saginaw that have a community police officer assigned to them, said CitiStat analyst Yolanda Jones.
Examining data from 2007 to 2011, several crime categories decreased in nearly every part of the city, though a slightly more dramatic decrease was seen in areas with community police officers, members of the group said.
Part One Crimes
• Aggravated assault • Forcible rape • Murder • Arson • Burglary • Larceny-theft • Motor vehicle theft
Over the four years examined, CPO areas experienced a 38.6 percent decrease in so-called "part one crime" overall, Bernice Butler said. The sharpest decrease was near Saginaw High School, with a 54 percent drop.
Old Town was the one CPO area that saw an increase of 4.3 percent over the four years, she said.
Another area that saw increased part one crime is in the area of Throop and Mason, sandwiched between two CPO district areas but lacking its own officer, said CPO coordinator Terry Carpenter.
In CPO areas, 2,261 part one crimes were reported in 2007, compared to 1,388 in 2011, a reduction of 873 reports (38.6 percent).
In non-CPO areas, 1,917 part one crimes were recorded in 2007, compared to 1,193 in 2011, a drop of 724 reports (37.7 percent).
From 2000 to 2010, the city's population dropped 16.7 percent from 61,800 to 51,500, U.S. Census data states.
The CitiStat team also provides analysis to determine what makes the program successful. After speaking with members of the Saginaw Police Department about specifics of the CPO program, they determined factors such as working closely with schools and other organizations to engage the community helped.
Communities that had built a relationship with an officer and had cell phone contact with the officer tended to find success, the group reported.
“The collaboration and trust level is the highest when the officer has been there a little longer,” Carpenter said. “The value is that (citizens) can give information and not have it come back on them. A lot don't want to be seen by police. With CPOs, they can give the information directly and let us do our jobs.”
He said a CPO received 23 calls with information this weekend after a double shooting at Celebration Hall.
Looking forward, the CitiStat group and police department agreed that a strategy is needed to address crime in transient parts of the city where neighborhood associations are not well-rooted.
Phil Ludos said the CPO program is an example of the "broken window theory" in action.
"Monitoring and maintaining urban environments in a well-ordered condition may stop further vandalism and escalation into more serious crime," Ludos said, "and that is what has happened in the CPO districts.
"The efforts of the CPOs in addressing crime in their specifically assigned neighborhoods and the spirit of the residents in being active participants is evidence of what working together can accomplish."
Ludos said the program is effective for the Saginaw Police Department, and said it is unfortunate that they may not be able to be sustained or expanded because of the need to cut costs within public safety and other city operations.
International partnerships are key to fighting transnational crime
When you sit down with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Deputy Director Kumar Kibble, he'll tell you "bad guys don't respect our borders, and we need international partnerships to keep up with them."
He makes this statement on the heels of a recent trip to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, where he was joined by his chief of staff, Homeland Security Investigations' (HSI) executive associate director and HSI's deputy director of the Office of International Affairs.
The foursome spent a significant amount of time with Israeli and Palestinian law enforcement officials, all of whom are strong HSI partners. They also visited HSI offices in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. These offices are heavily involved in supporting HSI's investigative portfolio, which covers everything from human trafficking to cybercrime.
As part of their duties overseas, HSI special agents often examine visa applications for fraud, initiate investigations, coordinate with law enforcement partners and provide training and advice to Department of State consular officers. The work performed by these special agents is vital to protecting the United States against terrorist and criminal organizations.
Our HSI employees must "operate in a challenging environment — one that has political challenges and security challenges. Those are austere conditions," said Kibble.
HSI, nonetheless, has been able to help deter threat financing and drug smuggling, provide expertise in areas such as intellectual property rights and customs procedures, and reduce illegal employment and immigration to the United States.
"We've been able to make a lot of headway," said HSI Executive Associate Director James Dinkins. "We have become a one-stop shop. They [law enforcement] can come to us with any transnational crime."
The highest priority of any law enforcement agency is to protect the communities it serves. When it comes to enforcing our nation's immigration laws, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) focuses its limited resources on those who have been arrested for breaking criminal laws.
ICE prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens, those who pose a threat to public safety, and repeat immigration violators.
Secure Communities is a simple and common sense way to carry out ICE's priorities. It uses an already-existing federal information-sharing partnership between ICE and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that helps to identify criminal aliens without imposing new or additional requirements on state and local law enforcement. For decades, local jurisdictions have shared the fingerprints of individuals who are booked into jails with the FBI to see if they have a criminal record. Under Secure Communities, the FBI automatically sends the fingerprints to ICE to check against its immigration databases. If these checks reveal that an individual is unlawfully present in the United States or otherwise removable due to a criminal conviction, ICE takes enforcement action – prioritizing the removal of individuals who present the most significant threats to public safety as determined by the severity of their crime, their criminal history, and other factors – as well as those who have repeatedly violated immigration laws.
Secure Communities imposes no new or additional requirements on state and local law enforcement, and the federal government, not the state or local law enforcement agency, determines what immigration enforcement action, if any, is appropriate.
Only federal DHS officers make immigration enforcement decisions, and they do so only after an individual is arrested for a criminal violation of state law, separate and apart from any violations of immigration law.
From the FBI
Help Us Find Remaining Operation Backfire Fugitives
After he was indicted in 2006 for firebombing a University of Washington research facility, Justin Solondz became an international fugitive, beginning an odyssey that would land him in a Chinese jail—and finally before a federal judge in Seattle, who sentenced him last week to seven years in prison.
Solondz, 32, was a member of an eco-terrorist cell known as “The Family,” which committed an estimated $48 million worth of arson and vandalism across the Pacific Northwest and western U.S. between 1996 and 2001 under the names of the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front.
Three members of The Family are still on the run, and there is a reward for information leading to their arrest.
The cell's most notorious crime was the 1998 arson of a Vail, Colorado ski resort that caused $26 million in damages and drew international attention to eco-terrorists—those who break the law in misguided and malicious attempts to protect the environment and animal rights. We took the lead in the Vail investigation, working closely with our local, state, and federal law enforcement counterparts. In 2004, multiple eco-terror investigations were condensed into Operation Backfire.
We need your help to bring the three remaining fugitives from The Family to justice. A reward of up to $50,000 each is being offered for information leading to the arrest of Joseph Dibee, Josephine Overaker, and Rebecca Rubin, all believed to be living abroad.
Here is what we know about the trio:
- Dibee was indicted in 2006 on charges of arson, conspiracy, and animal enterprise terrorism. He is believed to be living in Syria with family members.
- Overaker was indicted in 2004 and 2006 for her involvement with the 1998 Vail arson and other crimes. She is believed to have spent time in Germany and may have settled in Spain. She speaks fluent Spanish.
- Rubin was indicted in 2006 for the Vail arson and other acts of domestic terrorism. A Canadian citizen, she has strong family ties to Canada and may be living there.
Investigators identified Solondz as a member of The Family in the spring of 2006, said Special Agent Ted Halla in our Seattle office. “He was traveling overseas, and we started tracking him through Europe to Russia, Mongolia, and then China. He realized we were after him,” Halla said. “He liquidated his bank accounts and tried to hide his tracks online. By the summer of 2006, he disappeared in China.”
Working through our legal attaché office in Beijing, we learned that Solondz had been arrested in China for manufacturing drugs and sentenced to prison. He served nearly three years before the Chinese released him to our custody.
As part of his plea, Solondz admitted building the firebomb that was planted in the office of a University of Washington horticultural researcher. He and The Family mistakenly believed the researcher was genetically altering trees. The fire ruined the researcher's work along with the work of dozens of other students and researchers.
“The Solondz case has been a long process,” Halla said. “When you are after someone for that many years, it's a big relief to see the individual finally brought to justice.”