NEWS of the Day - April 14, 2012
on some NAACC / LACP issues of interest

NEWS of the Day - April 14, 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

Sex assaults rise slightly in military

by Kristina Wong

Reports of sexual assaults in the military rose slightly in fiscal 2011, compared to the previous year, according to an annual Defense Department study.

A total of 3,192 reports of sexual assault involving service members as victims or perpetrators were filed in fiscal 2011, a 1 percent increase over the previous year, according to the study.

“Sexual assault has no place in this department,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a written statement. “It is an affront to the basic American values we defend, and to the good honor of our service members and their families.”

“Since taking this office, I've made it one of my top priorities to do everything we can to reduce and prevent sexual assault, to make victims of sexual assault feel secure enough to report this crime without fear of retribution or harm to their career, and to hold the perpetrators appropriately accountable,” he said.

His statement said next steps would be announced next week during consultations with Congress.

Mr. Panetta will meet Monday with members of the women in the military congressional caucus, led by Rep. Loretta Sanchez, California Democrat.



From Google News

Trayvon Martin's father says he warned son about stereotypes

by Yamiche Alcindor

Years before the killing of Trayvon Martin grabbed the nation's attention, the teen's father warned him that his race could make him a target of violence.

The advice Tracy Martin gave his black son, that people veiled by racism and prejudices might see him as suspicious or violent, is a common and continuous warning in many black families, parents and experts say. In the aftermath of Trayvon's death, more families are having "the talk," teaching sons to be aware of their race, avoid confrontations with authority figures, and to remain calm in situations even if their rights are violated.

"I've always let him know we as African Americans get stereotyped," Tracy Martin, Trayvon's father told USA TODAY three weeks after his son's death. "I told him that society is cruel."

Trayvon, 17, was shot and killed on Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla., as he was returning to a gated community after buying candy at a nearby store. The gunman, George Zimmerman, whose father is white and mother is Hispanic, now faces a charge of second-degree murder.

Trayvon was "profiled" by Zimmerman, who "falsely assumed (Trayvon) was going to commit a crime" as the teen was trying to get back to the home of his father's girlfriend, according to public filings by Florida special prosecutor Angela Corey. The documents portray Zimmerman as the aggressor throughout the incident, remarking to police at one point that people like Trayvon were "punks" causing trouble in his neighborhood.

After spotting Trayvon, Zimmerman called 911, got out of his vehicle, and followed the teen. Zimmerman then "disregarded the police dispatcher" and chased Trayvon as he was trying to return home, the records say.

Trayvon's family and their supporters maintain that Zimmerman deemed Trayvon "suspicious" because the teen was black and wearing a hoodie.

Zimmerman could face life in prison if convicted. He maintains he shot the youth in self-defense after he was attacked.

The killing sparked dozens of rallies across the country, largely fueled by the belief of many that the case is the tip of the iceberg of a glaring problem of racial injustice in the USA.

Reggie Bridges, a father of two young black boys, sees the Trayvon Martin case as an example of the type of racial profiling he has warned his sons about for years.

"You stand out from the norm," Bridges, of Silver Spring , Md., said he often tells his children. "I try to heighten their awareness of what's going on in the world."

Bridges, 44, an insurance agent, often stresses dressing nicely and speaking articulately to dissuade potential perceptions that his boys are thugs or gangsters, he said.

Similar lessons have been passed down since just after the Civil War to ward off danger in an America that has for centuries perceived black men as threats, said Mark Anthony Neal, an African and African-American studies professor at Duke University.

"This kind of parenting goes back to the black codes," he said. "It's no different to the talk black parents had with black children, particularly black boys, prior to the civil rights movement, where the threat of real racial violence and lynching was always present. … Ultimately, what you are trying to do is keep them alive."

Discussing racism with a child while not instilling fear or paranoia can be a delicate task. Those delivering the message — parents, extended family members, mentors or other older figures in communities — must be careful to also affirm blackness, experts say.

"Watch out should be accompanied with you're beautiful and here's why," said Howard Stevenson, a psychology and education professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

It's not enough to tell stories about Emmett Till or Rodney King to youngsters, said Stevenson, who has studied the racial awareness of children of color for several years. Kids must deal with their racial stress by understanding their feelings and practicing positive responses to potential racist situations, he said.

Dionne Bensonsmith, 40, of Claremont, Calif., started talking to her first son, Jonah, now 8, about race when he was 5 and 6. The youngster had already started saying "all police aren't your friends" and pointing out that officers stopped a lot of black people in their small Iowa city, she said.

"I had the talk of how police target people around race," said Bensonsmith, a professor at Scripps College. "I said if that ever happens to you, you have to remain respectful, you have to remain very calm."

She and many parents see "the talk" as evolving lessons on racial consciousness that will cover more topics as children grow. But there are challenges to teaching kids to live within racial injustices.

"It's really heartbreaking," said Bensonsmith, who also has another son, Akim Shklyaro, 2. "Sometimes I get really pissed off. Sometimes I don't want to do it. I feel like I'm crushing some sort of potential in him."

"The talk" is one of several tips parents of all races hope will prepare and protect their children from danger, according to Gerald Koocher, a psychology professor at Simmons College.

"The talk is probably going to be surprising to white Americans," he said. "The one that most closely aligns is don't take candy from a stranger or don't go anywhere with a stranger."

When Steve Baker, who is white, decided to talk to his two half-black sons, now 25 and 20, he admits he struggled to understand their place in society. He relied on his black wife, Pamela, and friends he made through an interracial family group to learn about what his sons may encounter.

"There are certainly instances where they were identified by simply what they look like and perceived as a threat and ran into negative behavior based on that," said Baker, a university administrator who lives in Minneapolis. "There's real danger for young men of color in our society. … As a white person, I didn't grow up having to think about that."

Others also struggled. Trayvon's case led Melinda Anderson to talk to her son Colin, 11. Both are black.

Anderson had focused on making sure her son was successful in school and exposed to various cultures. Race wasn't at the forefront of her mind until Trayvon's case made her see her son as a potential victim. She took Colin to a Trayvon rally in Washington, D.C., and explained how she believes race played a part in Trayvon being deemed "suspicious."

But, she's not teaching him to fear the police or expect racism at every step in his life, said Anderson, 48, a writer who lives in Silver Spring, Md.

"I don't want to raise him to feel like he has to get out his 20 item checklist on how to be a black teenager," she said. "That's not the way I want him to live."

Still, she said, there is a sense of hopelessness as she learns more about Trayvon's death.

"I don't think I could prevent him from being another Trayvon Martin," she said.

Tracy Martin, who maintains that his son was targeted because of his race, said he told the teen prejudices could lead to danger.

"He knew that this type of thing did happen," Martin said of his son. "He knew to be aware of this type of atmosphere and that this atmosphere did exist."



New Jersey

Summit Police Department adds a Neighborhood Watch program

by Barbara Rybolt

SUMMIT -- The enthusiasm in Sgt. Ron Martin's voice when he talks about the Summit Police Department's Community Policing unit is infectious, especially when he talks about the department's brand new Neighborhood Watch Program.

Still in its infancy, the program's first meeting will take place at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 25 at City Hall, in the Council Chambers. Everyone in the community who is interested in finding out about what Neighborhood Watch is -- and what it isn't -- is welcome to attend the meeting.

Retired New Jersey State Police Capt. Howie Butt, the coordinator of Neighborhood Watch/New Jersey, will be the keynote speaker. Martin said, "He has a wealth of knowledge about what burglars look for" and how to "target harden homes," making them less desirable to burglars. Butt will talk about personal safety, safety in the community and at home, identity theft and crime prevention.

The idea for the program came from Police Chief Bob Weck, Martin said. "He has a true passion to bring the community members and members of our Police Department into a relationship with one another -- it's time for us all to start working together."

When Weck became chief, he reorganized the department and created the Community Policing Unit, which is overseeing the Neighborhood Watch program. Martin and officers Kathleen Maggiulli and Ryan Stanek make up the specialized unit that is directly involved in DARE, Neighborhood Watch, Crime Prevention, National Night Out and Adopt-a-cop programs as well as others. These officers wear a special department patch and are fixtures at city events, department functions and in the downtown.

Summit Police Sgt. Ron Martin was on hand to keep an eye on the prizes at the Summit PAL Easter Egg Hunt earlier this month.

As of Wednesday, the unit's efforts to sign up people for the Neighborhood Watch programs in Summit produced eight new groups.

"All of Fernwood Road. In East Summit, Middle Avenue, parts of Springfield Avenue, Chapel Street and parts of Broad Street. Also, Stockdon Road, Ascot Way and Malvern Drive, off of Baltusrol Road, and the length of Prospect Street, on both sides, is on board" he said, naming some of the groups.

There is also strong interest in forming a group on Whittridge, Lennox and Essex roads, he said. His dream is to have a watch group covering each street, but it isn't going to be easy, because people aren't sure what it means to them, personally, or their family and friends.

For those who don't know, Neighborhood Watch is a group of people who live in the same area who want to work together, with local police, to make their neighborhood safer. "They become the extra eyes and ears of the department," Martin said.

"Neighborhood Watch is not about carrying a gun," said Martin. Nor is it typically about forming patrols and it is definitely not about "community members taking the law into their own hands," he said.

Mayor Ellen Dickson said she is curious to see how it works out because, "things do happen." She said a friend with a larger car was helping her remove furniture crushed by falling tree limbs from her back yard and, while they were in the yard, "someone stole a brand new tire" her friend had taken out of the car to make more room.

In another incident in town, a neighbor noticed a front door was ajar and knew the residents were away. The police came and the house had been burglarized, she said.

"As neighbors, we should be looking out for each other," she said. And today, when many people don't even have landlines, only cell phones, "We need to be able to figure out how to get in touch with each other." It's important to her that the program "be as effective and unobtrusive as possible," she said.

What the department wants is for those who join a Neighborhood Watch group, and even those who don't, to learn to "Call right away, without delay," said Martin, who pointed out that this is the Summit group's motto.

Martin said many times people notice a car that seems to be driving by too frequently or something or someone that "their gut tells them is wrong" and they wonder if they should call the police. Even if they decide they should, they sometimes forget to make the call because their cell phone rings or a child needs help or they are bringing in their groceries. It's only after they learn about a burglary in the neighborhood or other incident that they remember they saw something and didn't call ... hence the "without delay," Martin said.

People should "never feel silly" about calling the police, he said. That's why the police are there, to make the residents feel safe and comfortable and "the police in Summit are genuinely concerned with their welfare," he concluded. The police can be reached at 908-273-0051. For information on the community policing unit, call 908-598-2171.



North Carolina

Citizens need to step up


Diane Kulik said doing something about crime in Greenville comes down to a simple question.

“Are you just interested in stopping crime or are you committed to stopping crime?” asked Kulik, who heads up a neighborhood watch program in the Lynndale neighborhood. “Don't just sit back and complain about crime, step up and do something about it.

“Whose team are you on? Ours or the criminals?”

Kulik, a former chairwoman of Greenville's Police Community Relations Committee, is helping the Greenville Police Department with its new crime prevention program called “Speak up … Stop Crime.”

“People see stuff all the time; we are the eyes and ears of the community,” Kulik said. “The police can't be everywhere at once. We need to work hand in hand with our police to fight crime.”

Kulik said the program is about reporting any suspicious activity in the neighborhood to the police.

“It basically boils down to citizens being aware of their surroundings,” Kulik said. “If something looks suspicious, call the police and let them know. It's that simple.”

Police Community Relations Committee member Richard Crisp, who heads up a neighborhood watch program in the Overlook Drive area, said a neighborhood watch is about getting to know your neighbors.

“A lot of people don't get to know the people living around them,” Crisp said. “If you don't get to know them, you don't know what is normal at their home. People have to get to know one another and develop a kind of peripheral vision on your street.”

Kulik and Crisp discussed several key strategies in developing an effective neighborhood watch.

The first is making your home and vehicles less-attractive targets for criminals.

“If you leave your car doors unlocked and leave your GPS, purse and laptops in plain sight, you're just baiting the criminals,” Kulik said. “If you make it easy for a criminal, they will keep coming back. Use common sense and keep your doors locked at home and valuables out of your vehicles.”

“We had nine vehicles broken into a week or two ago,” Crisp said. “I talked to the owners and a majority of them admitted they didn't lock their doors.”

Another important tip is never to open your door to someone who you don't know.

“That is one of the most important things I tell people,” Kulik said. “If you don't know them or didn't request them to come to your house, don't open that door.”

Kulik said that anyone who comes to your door trying to sell something must have a Greenville Police Peddler's Permit with them. The permit should have a picture of the salesperson on it and must be signed by the chief of police.

“Don't hesitate to ask to see their permit,” Kulik said. “I also tell people that no legitimate salesman is going to come to your home at night. Don't let them in.”

Kulik also offered an alternative to someone who comes to your door requesting to use the phone because of an emergency or is asking for help because of car trouble.

“Don't open the door to these people,” Kulik said. “Just tell them that you are calling the police and the police are on their way to help them. Almost every time, the people will turn and run away as fast as they can.”

Kulik and Crisp said that the most important part of being involved in a neighborhood watch is picking up the phone and reporting suspicious activity.

“If you don't report crime, how are the police going to stop crime?” Kulik asked. “You just have to pick up the phone. You don't even have to give them your name.”

“So many people tell me they don't call because they are afraid of being wrong,” said Crisp. “I tell them that you can't be wrong if you are simply reporting to police what you are seeing. The police aren't going to be mad with you if it turns out to be nothing, they want citizens to report things to them.”

The Greenville Police Department's tip line is 329-4949.

However, after the report is made, let the police handle the situation, Kulik said.

“Just be the eyes and ears and let the professionals do their jobs,” Kulik said. “The shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman is an example of what not to do.”

Kulik said she hoped that the incident didn't hurt the concept of the neighborhood watch.

“When I saw that tragedy on the news, I hoped people wouldn't think that neighborhood watch is a bad thing,” Kulik said. “Because it isn't. It's something that every neighborhood should install. It can really make an impact.”

Greenville police spokesman Sgt. Joe Friday said the department is hoping more communities will set up neighborhood watches.

“That is part of our five-year strategic plan,” Friday said. “We are working to obtain more community involvement across the board.”

Friday said that the department's Crime Prevention Unit will assist an area with starting its own neighborhood watch.

“We will do anything we can to help them get going,” Friday said. “This is what community policing is all about. The more people that get involved, the more eyes and ears we have out there watching for criminal activities.”

Friday said that anyone interested in starting a neighborhood watch can call 329-4355 or 329-4158.

“It's not hard to do and can make a huge impact,” Friday said.

Kulik said that every new neighborhood watch helps to shift the odds against the criminals operating in Greenville.

“We have 84,000 people on our team, how many do they have?” Kulik said. “There are a lot more of us than there is of them, the odds are in our favor.

“We can do this; we can win.”