| NEWS of the Day - July 10, 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 ...
High heat forecast this week; LAFD warns of leaving kids in cars
by City News Service
LOS ANGELES - With high heat forecast for the Southland this week, the Los Angeles Fire Department is warning motorists to guard against the death of a child in a hot car.
"We need your help to make sure that no child dies needlessly by being left alone in a hot vehicle," the department said in a statement headlined, "Where's Baby?"
Among the department's recommendations to avoid forgetting a baby behind:
- Always put something you'll need -- a cell phone, handbag, etc. -- on the floor in the back seat to make you open the back door every time you reach a destination. This way, making sure no child is forgotten behind becomes a habit;
- Keep a large teddy bear in the child's car seat when it's not occupied. When the child is in the seat, put the teddy bear in the front passenger seat as a reminder that the child is secured in a safety seat behind you;
- If you see a child, dependent adult or pet alone in a hot vehicle, and they seem hot or sick, get them out as quickly and safely as possible. Call 911 for assistance;
- Never leave car keys where children can get them; always make sure your car is locked so that children cannot get in without adult supervision. Also, teach children about the dangers of a car, especially the trunk. Be sure they know a car is not a toy.
From Google News
The Fight Against 'Tourist' Painkiller Trafficking
by Associated Press
The Florida painkiller clinics have made controversial headlines. Now, "tourists" are beginning to catch on and use them to turn a buck in their home states.
As he sat in the doctor's office, ex-boxer and weightlifter Gerald Dixon explained that years of sports had left him in pain, especially his hands, and he was looking for relief.
After a cursory examination at the clinic in West Palm Beach, Fla., Dixon left with a prescription for 180 doses of OxyContin — and a plan to return to his Ohio home and sell them on the street.
The trips made by Dixon and others like him — authorities dub them "prescription" or "drug" tourists — have complicated the challenges investigators face trying to stem the flow of painkillers, whose prevalence have made drug overdoses the leading cause of accidental death in dozens of states including Ohio, Florida, Kentucky and Utah, surpassing car crashes.
Dixon, 52, a drug dealer for most of his adult life, had recently discovered a new angle on an old profession. By driving to Florida just once a month and acquiring a bagful of pain pills — legally and illegally — he could earn tens of thousands of dollars.
The only thing the medical clinics that Dixon visited in Florida cared about was the money, he said. A diagnosis for severe pain was easy to obtain.
"It's all about cash, cash, cash," Dixon said during a prison interview in April with The Associated Press. "You go, you pay the money, and they're going to come back and say, 'Yeah, you're right, you was hurt.'"
Prescription tourists thwart local efforts to combat the illegal sale of painkillers and to treat addicts by bringing huge volumes of drugs in from outside. Cracking down on the trade also requires complicated prosecutions crossing multiple state lines.
These tourists are based in a variety of states, but investigators in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia — where authorities have already cracked down on local pill mills — are among the busiest trying to track trips to Florida, Georgia and elsewhere.
The lucrative business involves drug dealers dispatching underlings like Dixon to states with numerous pill mills where they load up on painkillers, then return to sell the drugs to addicts willing to pay as much as $100 a pill, or as much as 10 times the drugstore price.
Florida for years was a popular destination because of its virtually unregulated pain clinic industry, which provided easy access to thousands of painkillers marketed under names like OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet.
As Florida cracks down on its pill mills, the clinics have migrated to states like Georgia, which had practically none three years ago and now has as many as 150, said Richard Allen, director of the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency.
Runners — another term for people like Dixon or addicts sent to buy pills and take them home — are coming from as close as Kentucky and Tennessee and as far away as Arizona and Nebraska, Allen said.
"They're like a swarm of locusts," he said. "Once they have a scrip, they'll hit every pharmacy in the state trying to get them filled."
In eastern Kentucky, several residents arrested in 2009 in a massive drug sweep had visited the Lauderhill Medical Clinic in Oakland Park, Fla. U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey estimates that nine of every 10 patients at the clinic are from Kentucky. He prosecutes about five dozen cases a year involving prescription drugs.
At West Virginia's Huntington Tri-State Airport, authorities have dubbed low-cost flights to Florida aboard Allegiant Air the OxyExpress. The airline isn't accused of wrongdoing, and spokeswoman Jessica Wheeler says it hasn't been approached by authorities.
In Tennessee, strict laws governing pain clinics force drug dealers out of state for supplies, using Interstate 75 to bring pills back from Florida or move them farther north, said Kristin Helm, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Ohio has prosecuted several prescription tourists in recent months, with a federal judge in December sentencing Christopher Thompson of suburban Columbus to 15 years in prison for leading a scheme involving more than a dozen other people who traveled from Ohio to Florida, obtained and filled prescriptions for oxycodone and other drugs, and mailed the pills back to central Ohio for illegal distribution.
"The effect is the same effect as if they were coming out of our own pain clinics," said Aaron Haslam, who directs Ohio's anti-painkiller abuse efforts in the state's attorney general's office. "We have overdoses all over the state of Ohio because of it."
Defendants in one southern Ohio case brought back drugs worth $50,000 on the street in one trip, Haslam said.
Authorities have fought back with extensive crackdowns in Florida against pill mills and with prosecutions in states like Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia of both drug tourists and the Florida doctors who wrote prescriptions. State medical boards also regularly discipline or revoke the licenses of doctors who overprescribe painkillers.
Florida is finally seeing a drop in pill mills and doctors prescribing painkillers after enacting a 2011 law toughening penalties against doctors and clinics engaged in prescription drug trafficking.
Still, such a stance has consequences. A group sued the state in 2010 over the pill mill crackdown. One of the doctors, Paul Sloan, owner of Florida pain management clinics in Fort Myers and Sarasota, says that there's no question that some doctors and clinic owners were doing bad things, but that the state has overreacted.
"We're dealing with a war on legitimate medications that's being dealt with like we're all cartels and drug lords," he said.
Doctors in that lawsuit defended disbursing prescriptions to patients who paid cash, saying uninsured patients with chronic pain relied on pain pills for relief because they often couldn't afford more expensive procedures or services.
Posing as such a patient can serve a prescription tourist well.
Dixon said he traveled to West Palm Beach for about seven months in 2008, visiting clinics and picking up prescriptions and pills over a two or three-day period. Dixon never visited more than one doctor, but soon was also buying pills from people he met on the streets in deals arranged in motels.
"Once you get to motels down there, it's just like a Wal-Mart or Kmart or Kroger store for drugs, pills, whatever," Dixon said. "Once you get in that clique, they will find you."
He said it was not uncommon to see pills offered from bulging 50-pound dog food bags filled with the prescriptions.
Dixon was arrested in 2008 returning from what would turn out to be his last trip, set up, he says, by a fellow drug dealer. He had 6,000 pills hidden in a false exhaust system he'd installed beneath the car. He is serving a four-year sentence for drug trafficking charges. Although painkillers are a legal drug, it's against the law for anyone but a doctor or pharmacist to dispense them.
Crackdowns like Florida's may be driving prescription tourists to states like Georgia, Haslam said.
"We're squeezing a balloon," he said. "And as you squeeze the balloon, the air in the balloon goes someplace else."
California TRUST Act Builds Wall Around Secure Communities
by Alex Nowrasteh
[Last week], the California Senate passed the TRUST Act. Known by some as the “anti-Arizona immigration law,” it would limit California law enforcement's cooperation with the federal Secure Communities program. The TRUST Act is positive news for California budgets, residents of the state, and police departments that practice community-policing strategies.
The TRUST Act is an improvement for three main reasons:
1. The TRUST Act would limit immigration detainers to unauthorized immigrants convicted of a serious or violent felony. This is essential to continuing California cities' successful use of community policing strategies that rely on informant and witness cooperation with police, even if they are unauthorized immigrants. If the possibility of deportation is increased with Secure Communities, fewer unauthorized immigrants and their legal families will go out on a limb to help police solve real crime.
2. The TRUST Act would lower the cost for local governments who object to the high cost of detaining suspected unauthorized immigrants. Food, guards, prisons, beds, and other amenities provided to suspected unauthorized immigrants are too expensive for many jurisdictions.
3. The TRUST Act frees those who haven't been convicted of violent or serious felonies and would prevent imprisonment of American citizens like James Makowski.
Beyond the TRUST Act, Secure Communities should be discontinued. Secure Communities is a federal immigration enforcement program that links fingerprint records with government immigration and criminal databases. If ICE suspects an arrestee is an unauthorized immigrant, it issues a detainer to hold the arrestee so that ICE is notified when the arrestee is to be released, often delaying the arrestee's release until ICE is ready—on merely a suspicion that the arrestee is an unauthorized immigrant. ICE then detains the arrestee, verifies he is unauthorized (occasionally they deport American citizens by accident), and deports him. Meanwhile, local police departments hold these suspected unauthorized immigrants past their release dates.
Secure Communities was started in March 2008 by the Bush administration and was piloted in 14 police jurisdictions in October of that year. By now, Secure Communities is active in over 3,000 jurisdictions in the United States and will be nationwide shortly. States and localities originally volunteered to cooperate with ICE in this program, but some states like New York and Illinois want to drop out. The government's response to their requests was to declare Secure Communities mandatory despite earlier agreements and statements to the contrary.
Makowski, who was naturalized at the age of 1 after his American parents adopted him from India, was held for two months in a maximum security prison in Pontiac, Ill., because his immigration files were not updated after he was naturalized.
“Everybody makes mistakes. I've made mine,” said Makowski. “But if the government can detain a U.S. citizen without justification, that's pretty outrageous. There have to be safeguards in place.”
He is suing the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security for his two-month detention.
ICE officials have previously stated in their Secure Communities agreement with California that the program would only target those “ convicted of serious offenses .” Recently obtained government documents show that Secure Communities issues detainers for people who are not suspected of any criminal conduct. Some are detained by Secure Communities because they were unable to identify themselves satisfactorily at drivers' license checkpoints or because they were arrested for identification purposes. Merely being arrested for non-serious offenses should not subject an arrestee to Secure Communities.
Secure Committees has lost credibility with the public, imposes heavy incarceration costs on states, and the resources expended on it should be used to deport unauthorized immigrants who have been convicted of violent or serious felonies. The TRUST Act would build a wall around the worst parts of Secure Communities in California and help restore confidence between police and immigrants.
From the FBI
Four Fugitives Sought for Murder of Border Patrol Agent
A reward of up to $1 million is being offered for information leading to the arrest of four men wanted in connection with the death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who was killed in a shootout near the U.S.-Mexican border in Southern Arizona on December 14, 2010.
In an indictment unsealed in Tucson today, Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga, Ivan Soto-Barraza, Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes, and Lionel Portillo-Meza—who had allegedly entered the United States illegally in order to rob drug traffickers of their contraband—were charged with various crimes, including murder, assault, robbery, and firearms offenses. Manuel Osorio-Arellanes was taken into custody on the night of the shooting, but the four other men are still on the lam.
“Brian Terry made the ultimate sacrifice while protecting our border,” said FBI Phoenix Special Agent in Charge James L. Turgal Jr. “It is our hope that the publicity surrounding this case will lead to information concerning the whereabouts of the remaining four fugitives. The FBI and our law enforcement partners will continue to pursue those individuals responsible for the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.”
Help Us Catch a Killer
Unknown Offender Linked by DNA in Two Separate Cases
On a Saturday night in October 2009, college student Morgan Harrington left a Metallica concert at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and disappeared. It would be several months before her body was discovered in a field about 10 miles away.
We need your help to find Harrington's killer. The individual we are seeking has also been linked by DNA to a sexual assault in Fairfax City, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C. Today, the Virginia State Police, Fairfax City Police, and the FBI released two enhanced sketches of the suspect and are reminding the public there is a reward of up to $150,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the Harrington case.
The multimedia campaign being launched today to draw attention to the investigation will include information on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, a public service announcement by Metallica, and electronic billboards in Virginia and along the East Coast.
“Bringing renewed attention to the case will get people thinking about it again,” said Virginia State Police Special Agent Dino Cappuzzo. “Our hope is that someone will come forward and provide a crucial piece of information that will help us solve the murder.”
Harrington was a 20-year-old student at Virginia Tech when she went to the concert that Saturday, October 17, at the John Paul Jones Arena on the University of Virginia campus. At about 8:30 p.m., she left the building and was unable to get back inside. She was last seen hitchhiking nearby.
Her remains were discovered the following January in a remote field on a farm in Albemarle County, Virginia. A camera she had that night and a distinctive Swarovski crystal necklace she was wearing have not been recovered.
FBI agents in our Charlottesville Resident Agency have been assisting state investigators, and profilers from our Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) have also provided consultation.
“A lot of BAU's work focused on the location of the body and what that told us about the offender,” Cappuzzo said. “We believe he was intimately familiar with the farm and the surrounding area where the body was recovered. He may have been comfortable there and felt he was not at risk of getting caught.”
DNA recovered in the Harrington case was linked to an unknown offender in a September 2005 sexual assault in Fairfax City. A 26-year-old woman was attacked at night while walking home from a grocery store. The offender was scared away by a passerby—but the victim got a good look at him, enabling a Fairfax City Police artist to produce a sketch of the attacker.
“It was a remarkable break to get the DNA match,” said FBI Special Agent Jane Collins. The forensic evidence linked the two cases, so now we have a face to put with the suspect in the Harrington case. The suspect is described as an African-American male with black hair and facial hair (at the time of the 2005 attack). He is approximately 6 feet tall and was believed to be between the ages of 25 and 35 years old at the time of the Fairfax City assault.
Help us catch Morgan Harrington's killer. If you have any information about the Harrington case or the Fairfax City assault, contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or the Virginia State Police Tip line at 434-352-3467, or submit a tip online.