Violent crime drops in 2012, stats show
by Lorenzo Ligato
Roughly one year after the New Haven Police Department introduced an updated model of community policing, the number of homicides and deadly shootings in New Haven has decreased significantly.
The Elm City saw a 50 percent drop in homicides from 2011 to 2012 after the rate had increased for three consecutive years. Overall shooting victims in 2012 also plummeted by a third compared to 2011. But despite these signs of less violent crime in the city, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and NHPD Chief Dean Esserman said there is more work to be done.
The 2012 crime statistics were unveiled last week at a City Hall press conference, during which Esserman and DeStefano discussed the new initiatives implemented by the NHPD last year and presented their plans for 2013.
“It's a beginning,” Esserman said at the press event. “We have a ways to go.”
Last year's reduction in homicides and shootings follows the return to a strategy known as community policing. When crime reached a 17-year high in 2011, DeStefano announced the appointment of Esserman as New Haven's new police chief. Esserman — who had previously served as NHPD assistant chief from 1991 to 1993 — spearheaded a return to community policing in New Haven, a strategy that moves officers away from their desks and cars and puts them on walking patrols on the streets.
As police officers roam New Haven neighborhoods and interact with residents, this community-oriented policing strategy aims to increase police visibility, build trust with community residents and deter criminal activities, said City Hall spokeswoman Anna Mariotti.
“People talk to us: They might not talk to the 911 operator, but it's amazing how they reach out to their police officer,” Esserman said.
Esserman's strategy seems to have borne fruit. New Haven saw only 17 homicides in 2012, a significant drop compared to the 34 homicides in 2011 and 24 in 2010. Last year's homicide rate was the lowest since 2009, when 13 homicides were reported to have occurred in the city.
“Literally hundreds of family members and neighbors were affected by that carnage,” DeStefano said concerning the high homicide rate in previous years. “Clearly, we were off-track from where we needed to be. The community knew it, and we all wanted to reset our expectations.”
In addition to community policing, the NHPD created a shooting task force last year composed of police officers, state troopers, prosecutors and the Department of Correction to investigate shootings aggressively.
Mark Abraham '04, executive director of DataHaven, a nonprofit organization that compiles and shares public statistics for the Greater New Haven and Valley region, said he agreed that the decline in violent crime is a result of the new community policing strategy introduced by Esserman, as well as the new police chief's “more aggressive” approach to the issues around crime that were facing the Elm City.
“I hope New Haven continues to make this type of progress that we've seen,” Abraham said.
While the numbers of homicides and violent crimes are on the decline, Esserman and DeStefano said the goal is to reduce crime further this year. Extending his community policing strategy, Esserman will soon assign 40 new police officers to walking beats around New Haven, four for each of the 10 city police districts. Despite budget constraints, the department also plans to hire about 100 officers over the next two years.
“The focus of NHPD is and will always be violence, saving lives in the streets of New Haven,” DeStefano said.
Additionally, the NHPD has recently implemented a comprehensive plan called Project Longevity, which is aimed at combating gun and gang violence in the city. The program offers current gang members services like substance abuse therapy and career counseling as an alternative to a life of crime, but grants no tolerance to those who continue to commit violent crime.
Project Longevity, which is modeled after similar initiatives that have reduced gun violence in Boston, Chicago and other cities across the country, was first launched in New Haven on Nov. 26 and will soon be implemented on a statewide basis.
Esserman's current contract as NHPD chief runs through 2014.
Police to Increase Visibility in Shelby Township Schools, Neighborhoods
Shelby Township Township police Chief Roland Woelkers is encouraging his officers to familiarize themselves with the schools, businesses and people in their patrol areas by making one-on-one contact.
by Jenny Whalen
Shelby Township schools and neighborhoods can expect to see a greater police presence in the months ahead as the department works to increase its visibility and involvement in the community.
Township police Chief Roland Woelkers said he plans to encourage “community policing,” a policy that would increase the personal contact officers have with the community, according to Shelby This Week.
“Two of the most vulnerable people in a community are children and senior citizens,” Woelkers told Shelby This Week. Bearing that in mind, Woelkers said the department will emphasize its officers' relationships with these two groups.
One of the ways he plans to implement this "community policing" is to assign officers to a specific patrol area – one they will patrol 90 percent of the time – and require officers to make direct contact with the schools, businesses and senior centers in that area.
This will include assiging a second liaison officer to work in elementary school buildings specifically. Woelkers told Shelby This Week that this will allow the officer to familiarize him or herself with the building layout and staff, which would be vital knowledge in an active shooter situation.
Woelkers added that his department has been working for months to enhance its role in school security, even issuing patrol rifles to all officers.
How to stop the bloodshed
Stockton police look for root causes in effort to fight city's murder spree
STOCKTON - They just want the damn killing to stop.
In direct response to the city's record-setting number of homicides in 2012, the Stockton Police Department has developed an internal Homicide Reduction Plan.
The plan breaks down the violent act of murder by motive and other factors in order to aid law enforcement in reducing similar homicides from occurring in the future. It organizes the department's ability to respond based on the resources it has at its disposal and those available in the community, including public and private agencies that address mental health and community services.
The plan establishes regular meetings with stakeholders such as the District Attorney's Office, sheriff, Community Partnership for Families, school districts, state parole, county probation and mental health services to develop ideas on how to reduce homicides.
Some of the tactics it is considering include stricter enforcement of referrals to community programs and a stronger focus on education.
"It's the first time I can remember breaking it down to this level so we can look at each motive, and within the component of the motive, see not only what law enforcement can do to reduce similar-type homicides but what other agencies such as faith-based organizations, mental health and community groups can do," said Officer Joe Silva, the Police Department's spokesman.
"Having a plan like this is a more formalized, organized approach than we've taken before," Silva said.
The 71 homicide investigations that Stockton detectives initiated during 2012 is, simply put, "unacceptable" to the department, Silva said.
"It is a concern to the Police Department so that is why we wanted to take a more in-depth look at the root causes," he said.
The plan incorporates all the resources the department has implemented to date, including Operation Ceasefire, formation of the Countywide Gang Task Force with the cooperation of the Sheriff's Office, and inviting the California Highway Patrol to assist on the streets.
Motives such as gang-related issues - that accounted for roughly 50 percent of last year's killings - and robberies might take different approaches to prevent. Child abuse, domestic violence, narcotics and personal disputes are other motives that involve problems where counseling, intervention, rehabilitation or more education might help reduce the most extreme levels of violence.
With information provided by parole or probation officers who deal directly with past offenders, for instance, one client might be required to attend an anger-management program. A school in a violence-prone neighborhood might get more support for an existing after-school program that could be the difference-maker to an 11-year-old considering the gang life.
"Finding the right strategy to combat the different levels of violence is difficult. Many of these cases are referred, and there needs to be follow-up. We are going to refer these people to an appropriate program because we do believe these types of programs will continue to have a positive impact," Silva said.
In designated crime hot spots that have become accustomed to violence, the department's relatively new Community Response Team with its flexible approach to policing can provide proactive enforcement and high-visibility patrols down to the micro level.
The Homicide Reduction Plan recognizes the importance of adult role models. The Police Department sponsors a summer camp at McKinley Center, "because we understand the importance that it makes for youth to have positive role models in their lives, whether it is a family member, a coach, a music teacher or a police officer," Silva said. "Kids need someone they can look up to. If they don't, in some areas there's a high possibility of getting recruited into a gang, and that is something none of us at the Police Department or the community as a whole want to see."
Ron Freitas, San Joaquin County's chief deputy district attorney who runs the homicide and gang prosecution division, applauded the Stockton Police Department's latest plan.
"Look how challenging it is right now," Freitas said. "If you don't have police officers on the street making car stops and finding weapons, you don't have guns being taken off the street.
"Then there are the challenges that AB109 (prison realignment) has put on our (county) jail. People who should be incarcerated are out committing violent crimes. The waiting-for-criminals-to-become-tired policy isn't going to work," he said. "It's almost as fruitless as waiting for them to run out of bullets. What's needed is good solid law enforcement with personnel. It's fundamental to bringing safety back to our community."
During 2012, Stockton officers confiscated 932 firearms off the streets. That's considerably more than the 701 guns they confiscated in 2011.
"So we know we have prevented some types of crimes and potential homicides from happening by the confiscation of those weapons," Silva said. "It's getting back to proactive police work."
From the Department of Justice
Court Finalizes Consent Decree to Transform the New Orleans Police Department
Today, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana entered an order granting the joint motion of the United States and the city of New Orleans to enter the consent decree regarding the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD). This order is a critical milestone in reforming the long-troubled NOPD and is an important step in dealing with the public safety crisis in New Orleans and in restoring community confidence in the New Orleans criminal justice system. The court's order ensures critical changes to policy and practices, oversight by a federal monitor and transparency so that the community can continue to participate in and track the reform process. The order finalizes this binding agreement that was extensively negotiated between the department and the city, and allows for that agreement's immediate implementation. The department and the city signed the agreement in July 2012.
“The Department of Justice appreciates the court's careful attention to this matter,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. “The court's action today ensures that the people of New Orleans will have a police department that respects the Constitution, ensures public safety and earns the confidence of the community. This decree will provide the city with important tools to reduce crime, ensure effective, constitutional policing and restore public confidence in NOPD.”
As outlined in the court's order, approval of the consent decree comes after thorough review of the consent decree to determine if it is fair, reasonable and adequate to address the long-standing constitutional deficiencies within NOPD. The review included hearing extensive testimony from the United States, the city, the Office of the Independent Police Monitor, the Fraternal Order of Police and the Police Association of New Orleans and many other New Orleans stakeholders and residents. The testimony reaffirmed both that NOPD engages in unconstitutional conduct, and that there is a public safety crisis in New Orleans that the NOPD can only address by implementing the reforms required by the decree.
The court's approval of the consent decree comes at a time of continuing and serious public safety challenges in New Orleans.
“The deficiencies within NOPD that the Department of Justice identified during its extensive investigation continue to plague New Orleans,” said Assistant Attorney General Perez. “Time is of the essence. We look forward to the immediate implementation of the agreement, and stand ready to work with all stakeholders in New Orleans to continue the reform process.”
The department opened an investigation into NOPD in May 2010 after Mayor Landrieu asked for the department's help with a complete transformation of NOPD. After a thorough investigation of NOPD's policies and practices the department issued a letter of findings in March 2011 that outlined a pattern of unconstitutional conduct and violations of federal law that stemmed from entrenched practices within NOPD. These constitutional violations include use of excessive force; unconstitutional stops, searches and arrests, and; discriminatory and biased policing based on gender, race, national origin and sexual orientation.
“In his first days in office, Mayor Landrieu called for a comprehensive federal civil rights investigation of NOPD, and said that ‘nothing short of the complete transformation is necessary and essential to ensure safety for the citizens of New Orleans.' This consent decree provides the roadmap for the complete transformation of NOPD,” said Assistant Attorney General Perez.
The court documents can be viewed at www.justice.gov/crt/about/spl/nopd.php
ICE arrests 97 during 4-day operation targeting criminal aliens, immigration fugitives in West Michigan
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – As part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) ongoing efforts to focus agency resources on the removal of criminal aliens and egregious immigration law violators, 97 convicted criminal aliens, immigration fugitives and other immigration violators were arrested during a four-day operation in West Michigan.
This operation concluded late Thursday and was conducted by ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) teams from Grand Rapids and Detroit.
Of the 97 arrested, 60 had prior convictions for crimes such as: sex with a minor, assault, illegal firearm possession, drug possession and theft. Twenty three are immigration fugitives who had been previously ordered to leave the country but failed to depart; 11 others had been previously deported and illegally re-entered the United States, which is a felony. Three other immigration violators were arrested during the operation and placed in removal proceedings.
Following is the nationality breakdown of the 86 men and 11 women arrested: Mexico (66), Guatemala (18), Honduras (3), Laos (2), Dominican Republic (2), Canada (1), Romania (1), Cambodia (1), Vietnam (1), India (1) and Thailand (1). Arrests were made in the following 11 West Michigan communities: Grand Rapids, Holland, Wyoming, Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, Fennville, Grant, Niles, Kentwood, Newaygo and Pullman.
Following are summaries of three individuals arrested during this operation:
- A 39-year-old Laotian man with a prior conviction for criminal sexual conduct with a minor, assault on a female and petty theft. He was arrested Jan. 8 at a residence in Holland and will remain in ICE custody pending removal proceedings.
- A 38-year-old Mexican man, who was previously deported, has a prior conviction for firearm possession. He was arrested Jan. 7 at residence in Grand Rapids. The U.S. Attorney's Office has accepted this case for criminal prosecution for re-entry after deportation.
- A 56-year-old Mexican man who has a prior conviction for assault with a dangerous weapon. He was arrested Jan. 6 at a residence in Grand Rapids and will remain in ICE custody pending removal proceedings.
"Our focus on priority targets continues to contribute significantly to the safety and security of communities in West Michigan and throughout the state," said Rebecca Adducci, field office director for ERO Detroit. "By targeting criminal aliens and egregious immigration violators, we are ensuring the best use of agency resources and a continued focus on public safety."
This enforcement action was spearheaded by ICE's National Fugitive Operations Program, which is responsible for investigating, locating, arresting and removing at-large criminal aliens and immigration fugitives.
ICE is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that targets serious criminal aliens who present the greatest risk to the security of our communities, such as those charged with or convicted of homicide, rape, robbery, kidnapping, major drug offenses and threats to national security. ICE also prioritizes the arrest and removal of those who game the immigration system including immigration fugitives or criminal aliens who have been previously deported and illegally re-entered the country.