| NEWS of the Day - February 7, 2013
|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 ...
Canadian woman, 21, missing in L.A. -- could be foul play, says LAPD City News Service
LOS ANGELES -- A young Canadian woman visiting Los Angeles has been missing for nearly a week, and police said today her disappearance is regarded as "suspicious and may suggest foul play."
Elisa Lam, 21, of Vancouver, British Columbia, was traveling alone. She was last seen Thursday at the Cecil Hotel, 640 S. Main St., LAPD Lt. Walter Teague of the Robbery-Homicide Division said.
"She had been in contact with her parents daily until (Jan.) 31st," Teague said at a news conference at police headquarters, accompanied by the missing woman's family. Lam was last seen by staff at the hotel.
Teague said LAPD detectives were contacted by Canadian authorities, and began investigating the woman's disappearance Tuesday.
Teague declined to elaborate about why police felt the woman's disappearance suggested foul play, other than to say it was "very unlike her" not to remain in contact with her family.
Lam arrived in Los Angeles Jan. 26, and her final destination apparently was Santa Cruz, Teague said. She was traveling alone.
Lam is of Chinese descent, 5 feet 4 inches tall, weighs about 115 pounds, and has black hair and brown eyes. She is fluent in English and also speaks Cantonese. She has used public transportation such as Amtrak trains and municipal buses.
Anyone with more information on the case was urged to call detectives Tennelle or Stearns at (213) 486-6890, or (877) LAPD-247.
Immigration reform: Napolitano claims U.S. border with Mexico is secure
by Juan Carlos Llorca
EL PASO, Texas - U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano called Republican lawmakers' insistence that the border be secured before there is immigration reform a flawed argument.
At a stop to inspect border security in El Paso on Tuesday, Napolitano said the argument ignores gains made in illegal immigrant captures as well as seizures of drugs, weapons and currency.
She also said the argument's fundamental flaw is contending that border security is unrelated to interior enforcement such as verification of legal residence of job applicants.
Napolitano said the immigration "system as a whole is badly in need of reform." It is, she said, inextricably linked with interior enforcement, visa reform and the process for legal migration, a pathway to citizenship and earned pathway for those already here.
A bipartisan group of senators wants assurances on border security as Congress considers proposals that would bring the biggest changes to immigration law in nearly three decades. Last week, the group of senators released a blueprint that would bring a path to citizenship for people living in the U.S. illegally, but they demanded assurances on border security first.
President Barack Obama does not endorse such a linkage in his own immigration proposal. But Republicans in the Senate group, including John McCain of Arizona and Marco Rubio of Florida, say they cannot support an immigration bill that doesn't make a pathway to citizenship conditional on a secure border.
"I believe the border is secure. I believe the border's a safe border. That's not to say everything is 100 percent," Napolitano said Monday in San Diego during the first leg of her trip to the Southwest border.
The current administration has "deployed historic levels of personnel, technology and infrastructure to help secure the Southwest border," she said Tuesday. It has meant that attempts to illegally cross from Mexico are half of what they were in 2008 and a 78 percent down from their peak in 2000. "The numbers are the numbers," she said.
Last year only, the El Paso sector saw an increase of 71 percent in seizures of currency, 39 percent more drugs interdicted and a 139 percent of illegal weapons seized, the secretary said. The sector includes far West Texas and all of New Mexico.
And while the perception of security along the border has improved with increased Border Patrol presence, there are still some rural stretches where officials still complain of illegal crossings by drug smugglers and traffickers of illegal immigrants. "I would agree that it's better now than five years ago, but it still is a huge cat and mouse game with these guys," said Patrick Green, a sheriff's deputy in New Mexico's Hidalgo County.
Green talked about reports of vehicle and firearms thefts and break-ins in ranches along the borderland.
Napolitano said that while the Border Patrol launched large scale operations in sectors like San Diego, Tucson, El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas, there are still sparsely populated rural areas where they are increasing the presence of agents, deployed sensors and installed or outposts. "That's not to say there will never be an illegal crossing on the Southwest border. ... People with common sense understand that."
The Border Patrol made 356,873 apprehensions on the Mexican border during the 2012 fiscal year, up 8.9 percent from the previous year but still hovering near 40-year-lows. U.S. Customs and Border Protection's budget nearly doubled to $11.7 billion in 2012 from $6.3 billion in 2005, according to figures from the Migration Policy Institute.
6 Spanish tourists reportedly raped by armed men in Mexico resort of Acapulco
by Bertha Ramos and Mark Stevenson
ACAPULCO, Mexico - Authorities have information they hope will lead them to the gang of armed, masked men who reportedly raped six Spanish tourists in the Mexican resort of Acapulco, the attorney general in the southern state of Guerrero said.
The vicious, hours-long attack at a beach home on the outskirts of Acapulco before dawn Monday was the latest chapter of violence that has tarnished the once-glamorous Pacific coast resort celebrated in Frank Sinatra songs and Elvis Presley movies.
"Fortunately we have strong evidence to lead us to those responsible for this reprehensible act," Guerrero state Attorney General Martha Garzon Guzman told Mexico's Radio Formula on Monday.
The beach home on an idyllic stretch of coastline had been rented by six Spanish men, six Spanish women and a Mexican woman.
The attackers gained access to the house because two of the Spaniards were in the yard and apparently were forced to open the door, Acapulco Mayor Luis Walton told a news conference late Monday.
The five attackers burst into the house and held the group at gunpoint, he said. They tied up the six men with phone cords and bathing suit straps and then raped the six Spanish women. The Mexican woman was not raped.
Garzon said the Mexican woman begged the men not to rape her and the assailants told her they would spare her because she is Mexican.
The attack began on Monday about two hours after midnight and the victims were only able to report the crime five hours later, at nearly 7 a.m.
"This is a regrettable situation, and of course it is going to damage Acapulco," Walton said.
The once-glittering resort that attracted movie stars and celebrities in the 1950s and 60s has already been battered by years of drug gang killings and extortions, but except for very few incidents, the violence has not touched tourists.
Walton said he believed, but wasn't sure, that the assailants in Monday's attack didn't belong to a drug gang. Garzon said witness descriptions of the attackers were more difficult to obtain because they wore masks.
"From what the attorney general has told me, I don't think this was organized crime," Walton said. "But that will have to be investigated, we don't know."
Mexico's Foreign Relations Department issued a statement saying it regretted the attack.
"Up to now, the investigations are being carried out by local authorities and they will be the ones to provide information," the statement said.
In Mexico, it's up to local authorities to determine if organized crime is behind an attack, and, if so, turn the case over to federal authorities.
Security and drug analyst Jorge Chabat said that, after years of drug gang activity in Acapulco, the distinction may be merely semantic.
"At this point, the line between common and organized crime is very tenuous, there are a lot of these gangs that take advantage of the unsafe situation that currently exists, they know the government can't keep up," Chabat said. "
The Spanish Embassy in Mexico City said the victims were receiving consular assistance.
The victims were "psychologically affected" by the attack and received treatment, the mayor said.
Spain's Foreign Ministry had already issued a travelers advisory on its website for Acapulco before the Monday attack, listing the resort as one of Mexico's "risk zone," though not the worst.
"In Acapulco, organized crime gangs have carried out violence, though up to now that has not affected tourists or the areas they visit," the advisory states. "At any rate, heightened caution is advised."
The attack came just three days after a pair of Mexican tourists returning from a beach east of Acapulco were shot at and slightly wounded by members of a masked rural self-defense squad that has set up roadblocks in areas north of Acapulco, to defend their communities against drug gang violence.
The vigilantes say the Mexican tourists failed to stop at their improvised roadblock.
Walton said the city was already contemplating ways to revive the city's image.
"We have to look at an advertising campaign to say that not everything in Acapulco is like that," Walton said. "This happens everywhere in the world, not just in Acapulco or in Mexico."
The attack came just four days after Tourism Secretary Claudia Ruiz Massieu visited the International Tourism Fair held in Madrid to launch a "promotional offensive" depicting Mexico as a safe and attractive destination.
"This is Mexico's moment," Massieu said, describing it as "a safe country."
Acapulco is the granddaddy of Mexican resorts. Elizabeth Taylor was married there, John F. and Jackie Kennedy came on their honeymoon, and Howard Hughes spent his later years hiding out in a suite at the Princess Hotel, a pyramid-shaped icon in the exclusive Punta Diamante, or Diamond Point, zone.
Beheadings and drug gang shootouts, some on the city's main seaside boulevard, became more frequent after 2006, as gangs fought for control of the city's drug and extortion business.
In Richmond, Lebanese police learn community policing
by Suzanne Pollak
About a dozen members of Lebanon's Internal Security Forces spent five days in Virginia last week learning about community policing.
"It's certainly different than where we are," John Buturla, Richmond deputy police chief, said about the Middle Eastern country.
But, he stressed, Richmond's concept of bringing the police and the entire community to work together can be adapted to work in other countries as well. Both forces need to deal with a diverse population and different political groups to bridge gaps, Buturla said.
The idea of bringing Lebanese forces to Richmond began about 2 1/2 years ago at the U.S.?Department of State. Buturla's department was contacted by the federal government and asked to work with the Lebanese, because its community policing program has been so successful, he explained.
The Lebanese officers sat through lectures and also shadowed their mentors from Jan. 28 through Feb. 1.
On Jan. 28, the combined group joined in on the Richmond police's monthly walk, going directly out into the community.
"We knocked on doors, asked people how things are going," he said.
They also sat down together and reviewed intelligence leads by looking at such data as trends in crime and how department resources were being spent.
"The tenet of community policing is the ability to engage the community in a different way," he said, noting that everyone is involved from residents to social workers to business owners to religious groups.
"Community policing is a philosophy. It's not a program. Police and the community come together to solve problems together, especially quality of life issues," he said.
Part of this philosophy means allowing individual officers to make decisions rather than just following orders.
"It is chain of command driven" with those on the street doing what they believe is both right and effective, Buturla noted. "We empower our officers to not only solve crimes but also to make decisions," he said.
In some police departments the goal is to make an arrest, but that does not end the root cause of the crime, Buturla explained. In Richmond, officers are taught to think "what else can be done besides arrests to eliminate problems and help to build a safer community."
The real key, he said, is engaging with people.
He believed the Lebanese officers were very interested. "They listened intently. They asked a lot of questions and now will look to adapt it" to their own situations, Buturla said.
He said there wasn't one particular lesson that the Lebanese focused on but rather strove to understand the entire community policing concept.
While there are no plans now, Buturla said he is optimistic this will be an ongoing program, noting that he believed both his officers and the Lebanese learned a lot.
"It is something we enjoyed as much as they did," he said.
Language was not a barrier as "they do speak English." However, they did bring an interpreter with them just in case.
One of the highlights of the week was when a Lebanese Richmond homicide detective greeted them in their own language.
"It was remarkable to see when she was introduced and greeted them in their native language," Buturla said, adding that the Lebanese were equally surprised and excited.
"That was certainly one of the moments when they started to gel," he said of the two groups.
The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, through its partnerships with federal, state and local police agencies in America, sponsored the hands-on learning and has worked with the Lebanese Internal Security Forces since 2010.
The goal of the program was to provide the Lebanese with an understanding of community policing methods in order to create their own community policing pilot station in Beirut.