NEWS of the Day - November 13, 2012
on some LACP issues of interest

NEWS of the Day - November 13, 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 ...



Bayview Officer Specializes in Community Policing

by Keith Burbank

“She's the type of person every station captain wants on their staff,” said Bayview Station Acting Captain Robert O'Sullivan, of San Francisco Police Officer Sue Lavin-Mann. Lavin-Mann has been at the Bayview Station for the past 10 years. Prior to that, she worked with the Sheriff's Department, stationed at the County Jails, which she said served as a stepping stone to her current position.

Lavin-Mann grew up in Ireland. She immigrated to the United States after she graduated high school. After moving to San Francisco she earned a degree in criminal justice from City College.

Lavin-Mann's duties include code enforcement and policing the area's homeless population, among other responsibilities. “I enjoy my job because I get to work on something from start to finish,” Lavin-Mann said. “Also, I enjoy solving community problems.” Lavin-Mann focuses on community policing, acting as a liaison between residents and business owners and the City to solve neighborhood problems. Lavin-Mann has helped arrest people for stealing copper and other metals from vacant buildings, and is involved in efforts to improve Bayview parks. “Community policing seems to become more and more important each year,” Lavin-Mann said.

“She's a great help; phenomenal.” said Olia Jegik, owner of Skool restaurant, which is located on the corner of Alameda and De Haro streets. When three to four cars were being broken into every night outside Skool, Jegik called Lavin-Mann for help. “She did not leave us alone when customer's cars outside our restaurant were being broken into. I was afraid we would lose all those customers. She's just a woman of her word.”

“The community police phone the department gave me is the best thing that could have ever happened,” Lavin-Mann said. “People can call me with a concern or problem, and if I don't have the solution, I know who does.” Lavin-Mann serves as a single point of contact for community members who need assistance from the police, or referrals to municipal services related to policing. Lavin-Mann is quick to put homeless individuals who want help in touch with city programs. “Plus, crime is related to homelessness,” Lavin-Mann said.

“She's extremely responsive to the needs of our merchants,” said Keith Goldstein, president of the Potrero Dogpatch Merchant's Association. According to Goldstein, Lavin-Mann's work with Skool exemplifies her approach to neighborhood merchants. “She's an expert on what she handles for the SFPD. She knows our neighborhood really well.” Goldstein also said Lavin-Mann is adept at handling problems with overnight camping, which can result in pollution, garbage, and vandalism.

Lavin-Mann has become expert at dealing with metal theft, which occurs when thieves break into vacant properties and strip the buildings' copper pipe and electrical wire, which they sell to a recycling facility or junk dealer. “Also, thieves steal wiring from street lights, which sometimes causes whole city blocks to lose power,” Lavin-Mann said. “The whole parking lot at Carol Street lost power.” Lavin-Mann once found a thief stripping the wire out of a Pacific Gas and Electric Company meter.

“The junk dealers in the area have been in on this,” Lavin-Mann said. “Two dealers are now working with us, but two do not do due diligence when they buy the wire and metal. And we have met with them and asked them to do so…I'm an instructor in metal and copper theft. We have taken the training nationwide. I teach at any law enforcement agency. Recently, I taught a class on Treasure Island. We…were…in Washington State in October. This is a huge problem, so we have created a web site that other law enforcement agencies can access for information.”

Lavin-Mann invests some of her time in activities that aren't directly related to crime. “I am involved in things like turning an area into a park,” she said. “For example, we are working on the parks around Islais Creek. Hopefully in the future we will have a path the goes around the creek, from the park on one side, to the park on the other side.” Lavin-Mann enjoys her job, and takes pride in getting things done. “That's the most important thing,” she said.




Police Chiefs Association Honors Hopkins With Community Policing Award

The award recognizes departments that partner with others in the community to proactively address crime.

by James Warden

The International Association of Chiefs of Police and Cisco Systems has honored the Hopkins Police Department with the 2012 Community Policing Award.

The award recognizes law enforcement agencies worldwide for outstanding community policing, a philosophy that's about working with local partners to proactively address the conditions that lead to crime.

Hopkins was the winner for communities with populations smaller than 20,000 people.

“This isn't a Police Department award; this is a community award,” Police Chief Mike Reynolds said, noting the support the department has received from local nonprofits, churches and other city departments.

Bob Jacobson, New Brighton's public safety director, specifically mentioned Hopkins' Operation Recess program when he presented the award on behalf of the association at Tuesday's City Council meeting.

Operation Recess was sparked by a $20,000 MetLife grant the Police Department received in September. Police Chief Mike Reynolds challenged his officers to come up with the best way to use the money to help Hopkins youth. Officers spend recess time with students at Eisenhower Elementary and Alice Smith Elementary , playing organized games with the students and talking with them informally about bullying and making good decisions. Instead of wearing their uniforms, they wear Operation Recess T-shirts.

“As we review those community policing awards, we take a look at cities that truly believe in the community policing philosophy, that truly believe in community policing partnerships, that truly believe in problem solving,” Jacobson said. “And one of those things we found in that outstanding recognition, that outstanding awards submission, from Hopkins PD is that it was apparent that they truly do believe in partnerships and community policing.”



New York

Police Relations Exposed in Council, Court and Class

by Brittney Jackson

The police department's most controversial crime prevention strategies are coming under increased scrutiny with politicians debating their merit and the court system ruling on their constitutionality.

In the meantime, the question remains: Are tactics like stop and frisk and Operation Clean Halls “putting a distance between police and communities?”

That was a question addressed at “Crime and the Numbers Game,” a lecture and discussion held at the Monroe College King Graduate School for Urban Studies and Applied Research. Eli B. Silverman, an emeritus professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, led the discussion to an audience packed with students, professors and community members.

Silverman took an in-depth look inside the NYPD's manipulation of crime data, the surge of stop and frisk encounters, the increased use of police force in the Bronx and the crucial need for NYPD reforms.

“We have a surge of stop and frisk in the city,” said Silverman. “What started when Bloomberg came in with less than 100,000 stops in a year is now about 700,000 [per year].”

The NYPD stopped close to 700,000 people on the street last year. Nearly 87 percent were black or Hispanic and only about 10 percent were arrested, many for petty crimes.

“It's not only significant that there are over 700,000 stops but that this proportion amount, as many of you know, are black and Latinos,” said Silverman.

Silverman also addressed a concern over two Bronx precincts and their high use of force.

“Two of the precincts in the Bronx, the 46th and the 44th are two of the top for the use-of-force,” said Silverman, about two other high-crime precincts that stretch from south of Fordham Road to Yankee Stadium on the west side of the borough. “The 44th Precinct led the city in the previous six years in the use of force — 54 percent of all stops were use-of-force which is more than double the city's average of 23 percent. The 46th Precinct used forced with 58 percent of stops last year, the highest of all 76 precincts in the city.”

Silverman said there is an issue presented with these high percentages and efforts must be made to find out, “what's going on.”

The lecture came in the wake of a City Council hearing on the Community Safety Act, a legislative package aimed to help end discriminatory policing, held just hours before.

The Act aims to protect against discriminatory profiling and unlawful searches. It would require NYPD officers to identify themselves and explain their actions before performing a stop and frisk. It would also establish an Inspector General for the NYPD to provide independent oversight and increase penalties for abusive policing.

“New Yorkers stand in support of the Community Safety Act because it represents the first meaningful reform in a generation of the NYPD's approach to policing historically disenfranchised communities,” said the bill's sponsor, Brooklyn Council Member Jumaane Williams, during the hearing. “This legislation is a crucial step we must take toward achieving better policing and safer streets for all, a goal we collectively share. By tackling discrimination and instituting true accountability, we will empower ‘New York's Finest' to focus their energies on proven strategies that help our city root out crime and violence in every corner.”

The Community Safety Act isn't the only course of action being taken against the NYPD's controversial policing. A federal lawsuit accusing the NYPD of making an abundance of unmerited arrests in “Operation Clean Halls” buildings is currently under way. Many of the city's apartment buildings and all of the public housing projects fall under the Clean Halls program. It allows police officers to stop anyone in the building and ask for identification. Civil rights groups say the program leads to unwarranted arrests of residents who commit the “crime” of walking around without their identification.

In response to the suit, the Bronx District Attorney office recently announced that it will no longer prosecute any “trespassers” arrested for Clean Halls-related stops unless the arresting officer submits to an interview.

“For the first time there's an effort to deter (amount of wrongful stops and arrest) with the series of bills going on right now,” said Silverman in regard to the Community Safety Act.

Tivona Brown, a student at Monroe College and attendee at the lecture, appreciated Silverman's insight in the controversial stop and frisk police procedure.

“Stop and frisk is something we really need to address,” said Brown. “We can't walk around without being targeted or considered a suspect.”




In Chicago, Violence Soars And Witnesses Go Silent

As the number of shootings goes up, police are making fewer and fewer arrests for those violent crimes, leaving a staggering number of cases unsolved. Police blame a long-standing attitude for the failure to make arrests: you just don't snitch to police.

by David Schaper

It's an old problem and an old code — "don't snitch." And it exists everywhere.

But in Chicago, where homicides and shootings are up significantly this year, that old code is leaving a rising number of violent crimes unsolved. Chicago Police Department statistics show arrests are being made in about 30 percent of shooting homicides, while close to 80 percent of nonfatal shootings are going unsolved.

When police can't find and arrest the perpetrators, they worry that the shooters will soon shoot again.

Witness Protection

"It's very frustrating," says Chicago Police Sgt. Cesar Guzman, a detective with the department's violent crimes unit. He describes one of the city's hundreds of unsolved shooting homicides, which happened earlier this year on the city's impoverished west side, along a wide boulevard.

"It was a hot summer night," he says, adding "a lot of people were out."

Guzman and neighbors in the area say there were cars parked along the boulevard, many with their windows open and music playing. A few kids were playing in the wide grassy median, while adults stood watch talking and laughing. Some were drinking and smoking. At the corner of one of the side streets, two men started arguing.

"And then after the verbal altercation, the offender drew a weapon and shot at the victim, striking the victim multiple times," Guzman says.

The victim was 23-year-old Dominique Green, known in the neighborhood as "Snoopy." Paramedics rushed him to a nearby hospital but with five bullet wounds in his torso and two in his head, Green was dead on arrival.

The first few hours of an investigation are the most important, and locating eye witnesses is critical to solving such a crime. So Guzman and other detectives immediately started canvassing the neighborhood.

"And what was surprising is, no matter how many times ... I mean, we're looking, we're stopping people to see if they heard or saw anything, and most people would say no, they didn't see anything, they didn't hear anything, and they continued to walk by," Guzman says. "And that's one of the frustrations that we have to deal with when we come to areas like this, is that it's not easy to find witnesses."

Fear And Distrust

Investigators believe the shooting was gang-related, Guzman says, and many people in Chicago's gang-dominated neighborhoods are just too afraid of retaliation to talk to police.

But he and other police officials also blame a long-standing attitude that police say appears to be becoming more widespread in many communities: that you just don't snitch to the police.

Guzman says within Chicago's deeply entrenched gang culture, even shooting victims often won't cooperate.

"They know who shot 'em and there's a very strong possibility that they're going to take matters into their own hands," Guzman says. "And then we're going to have another shooting later on."

In fact, police officials say a spike in retaliatory shootings is part of what is causing the homicide rate in Chicago to increase more than 20 percent so far this year over 2011. And as the number of shootings goes up, police are making fewer and fewer arrests for those violent crimes, leaving a staggering number of cases unsolved.

According to Chicago Police statistics, there were close to 1,800 nonfatal shooting incidents in Chicago this year through the end of September. In almost 80 percent of those cases, detectives were forced to suspend the investigations because they had no workable leads.

"And most of those are gonna be from lack of cooperation, quite frankly," says Chicago Chief of Detectives Thomas Byrne.

"So a detective arrives to a scene, witnesses are not cooperating, victims not cooperating. It makes it very difficult to piece the puzzle together on what happened," he says.

When it comes to homicides, the chances of police making an arrest are not much better. The clearance rate for last year's 433 homicides in Chicago was just 30 percent. In other words, 7 out of 10 times, murderers in Chicago get away with the crime.

Twenty years ago, the clearance rate in Chicago was near 70 percent, and there were more than twice as many homicides a year back then. The union representing Chicago police officers says one factor in the low clearance rate is that there are fewer detectives now.

Chicago Police officials refuse to disclose specifics on staffing within the detective ranks, but Byrne acknowledges it is a fair question.

"Everybody wants more people," he says. "I'm not going to lie — everybody would like more people, but you have to operate in the parameters that are set."

Those parameters, Byrne says, include financial constraints. He says recent promotions are helping ease the caseload for detectives in violent crimes and new hiring should lead to more police promotions into the detective ranks soon.

He adds that it doesn't matter how many detectives are working a case if no one will talk. Byrne calls the "don't snitch" culture frustrating.

"If we get some cooperation, we're going to take a shooter off the streets of the city of Chicago. I mean, that's the bottom line," Byrne says. "If that shooter shoots today and nobody comes forward or a victim doesn't step forward and do the right thing, that shooter's still out there tomorrow. And if he's shooting today, I guarantee you he's going to shoot tomorrow. And that's some of the frustration that goes with it."

Community Watch

But those who live in Chicago's gang and crime-ridden neighborhoods see things quite differently.

Stanley Jackson fixes his car on the street, 100 feet or so away from the spot where Green was shot dead just a few weeks earlier.

The 43-year-old security officer says he wasn't out that night, but he has heard some about what happened. And he understands why those who were out that night won't tell police what they saw.

"Even if you did see something, you don't know nothing. Basically, the fear of either they'll shoot your kids, or they'll try to get you, or if they can't get you, they'll get somebody in your family," he says. "It's that old code of silence thing, you know?"

Others in this community say there's even more than fear that is keeping many people in this neighborhood from coming forward to police as witnesses.

"It's that they don't trust police officers," says 54-year old laborer Sherman Smith.

"Police patronize you, man. Police over here, they don't protect and serve. They patronize," says 21-year-old Joenathan Woods.

Woods, who works on an automotive assembly line, says he doesn't think police put much effort into investigating crimes such as the Green shooting, especially if it appears to be gang-on-gang and happens in poor, black neighborhoods like this one.

"The only thing I can really think of that would help the community really is if the police are more hands-on in serving and protecting, you know what I'm saying? If they walk the streets and get to know the people," Woods says.

Criminologist Art Lurigio agrees that Chicago police need to do a better job earning people's trust.

"The police are responsible for creating an atmosphere in a community that encourages residents to come forward and cooperate with them in solving crimes," he says.

Lurigio, a professor of psychology and criminology at Loyola University Chicago, says the city's community-policing strategy had been making progress in reducing violent crime since its implementation in the mid-1990s. But, he says, the department seems to have de-emphasized community policing in recent years.

Without a better effort witnesses won't come forward, he says, and without witnesses identifying the shooters, shootings are extremely difficult to solve. And that's something he says the shooters know all too well.

"I believe, and so do some other scholars, that there's a general sense in communities where the homicide clearance rate is very low, that they're getting away with murder," Lurigio says.