Unity in the Community anti-violence rally sparks hope for change
by Kiki Turner
Three 8-foot-tall crosses rested against trees in the center of Columbus Park, covered from top to bottom with pieces of paper. On each sheet were handwritten names and ages — one, for example, had these: Vincent Bass, 16; Donnell H. White, 13; Zoey Espinoza, 2.
"It's all the names of people who have died in our community because of violence," said Geri Martinez, who helped coordinate Unity in the Community, an anti-violence and public-awareness event held Saturday in the park on West 38th Avenue in north Denver.
The neighborhood has struggled with violence, particularly gang violence, she said.
Brightly colored thumbtacks pinned the sheets, listing hundreds of names, to the wooden crosses.
"We know we can't stop all the violence," said Dave Romero, pastor of New Beginnings Ministry. "But if we come together, we can slow it down."
Founded by Romero seven years ago, the ministry joined with the city of Denver and the Department of Public Safety to host the outreach rally.
According to Dionna Gastelum, event coordinator and Romero's daughter, more than 20 community organizations participated. They offered information about youth services, financial security, community policing, and health and wellness.
One community partner is the Gang Rescue and Support Project.
"There are a lot of myths around gangs, like that you can't get out," said GRASP director Cisco Gallardo. "We're trying to show kids that's not true. There are other options."
Gallardo, who helped found GRASP, said he was 14 when he got involved in one of the largest gangs in Denver's northside. By age 21, he faced possible jail time.
But for the past 20 years, he has helped teens understand the dangers of gangs.
"If you're going to be an agent of change, you have to be out there all the time," he said. "You have to keep pushing it."
Despite the efforts by GRASP and New Beginnings Ministry, the northside neighborhood has continued to see violence, with two possibly gang-related murders in the past couple of months.
According to Romero, a gang fight almost broke out in Columbus Park during a previous event: Gang rivals tried to start a fight on the basketball court.
At Saturday's rally, there was a lot of heated action on that same court, but this commotion was caused by basketball players participating in a tournament organized by the ministry.
"These games get pretty intense," said Clinton Brown IV, who played in the tournament. Brown played basketball for North High School and graduated in May. He will attend the University of Denver in the fall on a Daniels Scholarship. His father, Clinton Brown III, said sports have helped transform youths in the neighborhood.
Five or six years ago, the majority of freshmen at North High never graduated, said the elder Brown.
"Now, we have kids going to Division I schools. And not just for hoops — for their academics," he said. "They're all good kids. They're diamonds in the rough, that's for sure."
Private force of civilians will serve as eyes and ears in Camden
Funding from state still needed
by Jim Walsh
CHERRY HILL — Camden County freeholders on Thursday night approved a plan for “public safety ambassadors” to bolster the police presence in Camden's business districts.
But the private force, to be made up of 70 to 100 unarmed civilians in fluorescent vests, won't hit the streets until the state provides needed funding, officials noted.
The ambassadors are intended to serve as the Camden County Police Department's eyes and ears in the downtown business district along Broadway, as well as in shopping areas along Haddon and Mount Ephraim avenues, River Road and Federal Street, said Camden County Police Chief Scott Thomson.
“They'd provide a highly visible security presence,” said Thomson. “That will free up police officers to be in the city's neighborhoods, doing community policing and more particularly hitting the hot spots.”
“It's part of a larger law enforcement strategy that will allow the Metro Division to focus on policing the neighborhoods,” said county spokesman Dan Keashen.
The freeholders, meeting in Cherry Hill, approved a contract with AlliedBarton, a nationwide security firm. The contract's cost to the state will depend on the number of ambassadors hired, and a per-unit cost was not immediately available.
Thomson said the city's business districts, while low-risk sites for deadly crimes, can attract robbers, car burglars and other petty criminals.
“That's what we're looking to deter,” he said, noting ambassadors would be in “constant contact” with police officers. The ambassadors would have no arrest powers, but could handle routine police chores, like verifying alarms.
“These guys are also trained as far as assisting with information,” the chief added. “They're not just there as a deterrence. They're also there to engage the business owners and the citizens.”
The county police force, which took effect last month, is expected to reach its goal of 401 sworn officers in about six months, after 90 recruits complete their training. Camden's municipal police department, hit hard by layoffs and budget cuts, had about 270 officers.
Thomson said an ambassador program has been successful in Philadelphia.
“This is part of our overarching strategy to hit a tipping point where people feel safe,” he said. “It's very difficult for bad people to do bad things when they're surrounded by good people.”
Police Your Communities
Vandalism costs us all
by Matt Haag -- Idaho Fish and Game Conservation Officer
The recent temperatures sure make it feel like we kind of skipped spring and dove right into summer around these parts. I really enjoy watching people and families get out and enjoy all the outdoor opportunities we are blessed to have in North Idaho. Most people are really good stewards of the natural resources and leave the place better than they found it.
Unfortunately, good weather also brings out mischievous activity as well. Over the last few years the amount of damage and litter on public lands has increased. It appears there is an overall lack of respect for anything that does not directly belong to people. I know most of these folks are of high school age or around that age and I understand that kids do goofy things and the decision process of the brain doesn't always have the elevator going all the way up. I get it, I was a kid too. But, the level of destruction is over the top.
In the past few weeks we have had signs and toilets shot up on our Sportsmen's Access sites. We have gates shot, buildings and equipment shot, live trees cut down and large amounts of litter left behind. We have people using the woods as a shooting gallery with the new rage of shooting down live sapling trees. It's a blatant disrespect for public property and complete lack of understanding of who pays for the up keep of that area.
I look at the bullet holes in our sign at Johnson Creek Sportsmen Access and I'm dumbfounded. Who has the money to waste on bullets for activity like that, especially with the price of ammo these days? Parents, are you letting your kids have access to their or your guns unsupervised? If you are allowing your kids to just go out and “target practice” without an adult to guide their behavior then you are asking for trouble. As parents, do you know what your kids are doing at all times?Are you holding them accountable for their actions?
The obvious impact of this activity is damage to the natural resource and loss of revenue given the dollars spent to repair these areas. The money used to fix the signs and toilets is coming out of a budget used to expand public access to waterways and public land. Folks in the community should be outraged when this kind of damage occurs because it costs all of us money and future opportunity. The hidden repercussion of this kind of activity is loss of opportunity for all the good folks out there. Not only does it financially prohibit future sites but it will limit opportunity on present sites. We are contemplating shutting down Johnson Creek access to camping and other activities outside of launching a boat if this destructive behavior continues.
As many of you know, Avista Corporation owns some land around the Clark Fork River on which they allow public access for recreation purposes. Their land managers are frustrated as well with the destructive activity on their land and have made some major changes to their policies. One that will affect us all will be the camping closure on Antelope Lake. You heard me right, camping is now prohibited on Antelope Lake and I unfortunately had to ruin some families' Memorial Day camping trip and made them pack up and move out. This closure is a direct result of behavior that is destructive and disrespectful to not only the land but to the owners of the land. Avista's land is not public, it's private land they open up to the public for recreational enjoyment and some of us in society can't handle that simple responsibility? Unfortunately, laws, rules and closures are all geared to the lowest common denominator in society and the good folks get punished.
The answer is community policing; we as a community need to be the eyes and ears and make sure bad folks aren't ruining the good things in life. With school getting out for the summer, let's remind our kids to respect our special places as they head for the outdoors. Let's keep an extra eye out for special places so the right people are punished for destructive behavior and the good folks don't lose opportunity.
If you see something that is not right, please call 911, your local game warden, or our Citizen's Against Poaching Hotline at 800-632-5999.
If anybody has any information on the latest damage done to Johnson Creek Sportsmen Access site please call the above number. There is a cash reward for any information leading to the arrest of these people and as always you can remain anonymous.
Leave No Child Inside . . .and teach them to leave it better than they found it.
From the FBI
Top Ten at 500
Two New Fugitives Added to List
The FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives program—an iconic symbol of the Bureau's crime-fighting ability recognized around the world—has reached a milestone with the naming of the 500th fugitive to the Top Ten list.
Jose Manuel Garcia Guevara and Walter Lee Williams—numbers 499 and 500, respectively—are the latest fugitives to be named to the list that was established more than six decades ago and has included notorious criminals such as bank robber Willie Sutton, serial killer Ted Bundy, Centennial Park bomber Eric Ruldoph, and terrorist Osama bin Laden. Update: Walter Lee Williams has been captured. (6/19/13)
During a ceremony held today near FBI Headquarters at the Newseum—a museum dedicated to news and journalism (see sidebar)—FBI Assistant Director of Public Affairs Mike Kortan noted, “The Top Ten program relies heavily on the help of citizens and the media. Without their help over the years, the FBI could not have located many of these individuals.”
Between the two of them, the fugitives named today are wanted for a combination of crimes including rape, murder, and the sexual exploitation of children. Rewards are being offered for information leading to the apprehension of both men.
“These individuals are a dangerous menace to society,” said Ron Hosko, assistant director of our Criminal Investigative Division. “That's what got criminals on the Top Ten list 63 years ago, and that's why we put them on the list today.”
Jose Manuel Garcia Guevara is wanted for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. In 2008, he allegedly broke into the mobile home of a 26-year-old woman in Lake Charles, Louisiana and raped and stabbed her to death in front of her 4-year-old stepson. Guevara is believed to have fled to Dallas, Texas and then potentially on to Mexico.
Walter Lee Williams, a former university professor, is wanted for allegedly sexually exploiting children and traveling abroad for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual acts with children. Williams has an extensive history of travel throughout Southeast Asia—specifically the Philippines. He may also travel to Mexico and Peru. Both Williams and Guevara are considered to be extremely dangerous.
Since its creation in 1950, the intent of the Top Ten list has been to seek the help of the public and the media to catch some of the nation's worst offenders. That strategy has paid off. Of the 500 fugitives who have been named to the list, 469 have been apprehended or located. Of those, 155 fugitives have been captured or located as a direct result of citizen cooperation.
“This has been a tremendously successful program,” Hosko said, “but one that is dependent on the willingness of concerned citizens with information to come forward and offer us their assistance.”
We need your help. If you have any information about Guevara or Williams, please contact your local FBI office, the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate, or submit a tip on our website.