NEWS of the Day - July 23, 2013
on some LACP issues of interest

NEWS of the Day
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 ...


Cleveland area on women's slayings, abductions: Why here?

EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio The soul-searching has begun in and around Cleveland -- again -- as the chilling details emerge from the latest missing-women case to send a shiver through the metropolitan area.

A registered sex offender was charged Monday with murder and kidnapping in the slayings of three women whose bodies were found in plastic trash bags in a run-down East Cleveland neighborhood. It is the third major case in four years of multiple killings or abductions to haunt the Rust Belt metropolis.

"I do think we have to ask ourselves as a community the larger question: Why here, and what can we do to better understand the conditions that fostered this savage behavior?" said Dennis Eckert, a political and urban-policy consultant and former Cleveland-area congressman.

Some civic leaders say the explanation lies in the disintegration of neighborhoods and people's connections to one another, plus a general mistrust of police -- conditions that make it easier for a predator to kill without others noticing anything or reporting their suspicions.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who was in Cleveland Monday to announce funding of some road projects, called the latest deaths "heartbreaking," reports CBS Cleveland affiliate WOIO . "This is what happens when you have poverty. It's what happens when you have individuals who are very dangerous inside the community and somehow lose track of them. It's about breakdown of neighborhoods, sometimes, where, you know, we don't always know our neighbors."

Rev. Larry Harris, of the Mount Olive Baptist Church in Cleveland, told WOIO, "Poverty does play a part, but, it's not the total part. What are we doing to alleviate this poverty? What are we doing to address the ills of the neighborhood? It doesn't have to be a poverty stricken or poverty ridden neighborhood. It can also happen in Pepper Pike. It can happen anywhere. So this is a tragedy regardless to where it took place. It's a tragedy."

Cleveland was a robust steel town for generations but has struggled for decades, ever since manufacturing went into a decline in the 1970s. Today, it regularly ranks among the poorest big cities in America.

Per-capita income is just $17,000 in Cleveland and even lower, at $16,000, in next-door East Cleveland, where the bodies were found Friday and Saturday.

Greater Cleveland lost more jobs than other big city in the U.S. between May 2012 and this past May, at a time when hiring was finally picking up again in many parts of the country.

Last year, Cuyahoga County, home to both Cleveland and East Cleveland, topped the list of foreclosures in Ohio with 11,427, according to Policy Matters Ohio, a Cleveland think tank.

A walk down almost any street in East Cleveland brings the crisis home. Boarded-up houses and ramshackle apartment buildings are a common sight.

On Sunday, volunteers scoured 40 of those homes, looking for any additional victims of Michael Madison, the man charged in the latest slayings.

A foul odor reported by a neighbor led to the discovery of the bodies and the arrest of Madison, 35, who served four years in prison for attempted rape and a drug offense.

At a court hearing Monday, Madison was ordered held on $6 million bail. He did not enter a plea.

The medical examiner has yet to establish the victims' cause of death; two were too badly decomposed to identify.

Authorities over the weekend said the victims were killed six to 10 days earlier. But the charges read in court specified a wider time frame for the alleged crimes -- days or months before the bodies were found.

In May, Cleveland was electrified by the discovery of three women who authorities say had been held captive for a decade in a house in a rough neighborhood dotted with boarded-up homes on Cleveland's west side.

Ariel Castro, a former school bus driver, has been charged with nearly 1,000 counts of kidnapping, rape and other crimes and has pleaded not guilty. Many questioned how he could have held the women for so long without someone noticing something wrong.

Four years ago, Cleveland was shocked by the arrest of Anthony Sowell, who stalked and killed 11 women on Cleveland's east side and hid the bodies around his house and yard. He was found guilty in 2011 and sentenced to death.

Many of Sowell's victims were drug addicts who were never reported missing. Law enforcement authorities were accused of fostering an environment that made residents, many of them black, reluctant to call police.

That mistrust led to the creation of insular islands in poor neighborhoods that make it easy for predators like Sowell to operate, said James Renner, a Cleveland investigative reporter, film producer and author of "The Serial Killer's Apprentice," about 13 unsolved crimes in Cleveland.

"Human predators work very similarly to predators in nature," Renner said. "They will go to the place that they have the highest rate of success, where they can stalk without being caught or seen or reported."

This week's news comes at a time when Cleveland is in many ways reinventing itself.

The city just opened a $465 million convention center and exhibit hall. The Horseshoe Casino has opened in a former department store, bringing scores of visitors. And parts of downtown are bustling with a vibrant restaurant scene and the first new apartments in decades.

Across the street from the new convention center, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is hosting an exhibit on the Rolling Stones. The Cleveland Indians are in second place in the American League's Central Division.

And next year, the city hosts the Gay Games, expected to attract 30,000 visitors.

This week, the city is filling up with 11,000 older athletes competing in the National Senior Games. But the lead headline in The Plain Dealer that greeted many participants Monday was: "Discovery of three bodies again raises issue of violence against women here."

The crimes are affecting the image people have of Cleveland, said East Cleveland resident Ali Bilal.

"They're thinking it's one of those places that you don't want to go," he said. "It's like a horror show."

Yet, ask other people in East Cleveland about the long-term effect of this latest tragedy, and many return to the same thing: At least it's bringing people together.

"Maybe after all this, maybe this will bring a change to East Cleveland," Vanessa Jones said Sunday as she watched investigators search a vacant lot near where the bodies were found. "Hopefully. Pray for that."



House to weigh legislation to limit surveillance programs

The House will consider legislation that would cut off funds for the National Security Agency's surveillance programs and imposes limits on the operations.

The Rules Committee voted late Monday to allow the NSA amendments to the $598.3 billion defense bill to be voted on after the House begins consideration of the sweeping measure on Tuesday.

One amendment would bar the NSA from collecting records, including telephone call records, unless the individual is subject of an ongoing investigation.

Another amendment prohibits funds to the NSA to target a U.S. individual or acquire and store the content of that person's communications, including phone calls and emails.

Tea party conservatives and liberal Democrats had pushed to include the amendments. Republicans leaders had raised concerns about any attempt to undercut anti-terrorism efforts.

The White House in June threatened to veto the House version of the bill, arguing that the legislation rejects the Pentagon's cost-saving efforts to close domestic military bases and raise enrollment fees for health care.

Justin Amash, R-Mich., who sponsored the amendment that limits the government's ability to collect information on Americans who are not connected to an investigation thanked House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, for allowing open debate on the amendments.

"I want to thank Speaker Boehner for working diligently toward resolving significant concerns over the amendment process with respect to ?#?NSA," Amash said in a Facebook post.

Amash said his measure would allow the NSA to collect data and records, but only if the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court said in a statement that the collection of data pertains to an individual under investigation. Otherwise, the NSA would lose its funding.

Former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden leaked documents last month that revealed that the NSA had collected phone records, while a second NSA program forced major Internet companies to turn over contents of communications to the government.

Leaders in Congress, such as Boehner and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., have strongly defended the programs, but libertarian lawmakers and liberals have expressed serious concerns about the government's surveillance in a fierce debate over privacy and national security.

The Rules Committee also voted to allow amendments dealing with the use of funds for Syria and Egypt and the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

On Syria, the House will vote on a proposal from Florida Republican Rep. Trey Radel, who is seeking to block funding for military operations in Syria inconsistent with the War Powers Resolution.

The United States has been providing humanitarian assistance to the opposition seeking to overthrow the Assad government. The administration has recently taken steps to arm rebels with weapons and ammunition, a move welcomed by some in Congress but troubling to other lawmakers.

The House will also consider an amendment introduced by Thomas Massie, R-Ky., and Amash that prohibits the use of funding for military or paramilitary operations in Egypt.

On Guantanamo Bay, members will vote on a proposal by Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va, and Adam Smith, D-Wash., that would permit the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the United States or elsewhere.

A similar measure introduced by Smith allowing the transfer of detainees was rejected last month by the House Armed Services Committee.



North Carolina

Community policing effort set in Swannanoa

Meeting set for Wednesday to receive input on Swannanoa crime problems

by Sabian Warren

ASHEVILLE — The Buncombe County Sheriff's Office is focusing a community policing project in Swannanoa for a second time.

The Sheriff's Office will launch the effort, called Community Oriented Problem Solving, with a public meeting Wednesday to get input from Swannanoa-area residents on public safety or crime issues they think need attention.

Sheriff Van Duncan said the department has noted an increase in the number of break-ins in the area, and Swannanoa community leaders requested a second COPS project.

“We've had an uptick in vehicle break-ins and residential break-ins,” said Duncan, who will attend the meeting. “That's absolutely one of the things we want to address.”

In the first COPS project in Swannanoa in 2012, officers targeted problems in the Beacon Village and Grovemont areas.

“I thought it was a great program,” Carol Groben, a leader in the community group Friends and Neighbors of Swannanoa, said of last year's effort. “I'm glad they're doing it again. It's a good way to develop a rapport between the sheriff's department and the community. It focuses attention on issues that are important to the community. It helps to focus on trouble areas and increase the overall safety of neighborhoods.”

The Sheriff's Office launched the COPS program last year to give special attention to individual communities in the county, with the aim of resolving crime problems while building relationships with residents. A key goal is finding solutions to crime or public safety issues that work long-term, including establishing or strengthening community watch programs.

“This can address problems in a community that a patrol response or an enforcement response won't take care of,” Duncan said. “We try to leave as much sustainability as possible so the community can keep moving forward and in a positive direction.”

The COPS initiative will feature a five-member team from the Sheriff's Office who will be assigned to work exclusively in Swannanoa for 30 days. Team members will speak with community leaders and residents to identify key concerns and develop a plan to address the issues. The Sheriff's Office then will work to make sure the plan is carried out. A second public meeting will be held after plans are implemented to gain input on the success of the efforts.

In the first Swannanoa project, officers solved a number of break-ins, conducted traffic stops in trouble spots and arrested people wanted on outstanding warrants. The project also spearheaded the cleanup of an outdoor meeting place in Beacon Village that had become a magnet for drugs and alcohol, cleanup of graffiti and replacement of street signs that had been stolen.

In addition to Swannanoa, COPS projects have been held in Enka/Candler, Leicester, Fairview, Barnardsville, Beaverdam and Emma.




Research fuels drop in crime in Philly


PHILADELPHIA is turning the corner on crime.

The latest statistics show sharp decreases in almost every major offense, led by homicide, which is down 30 percent this year compared to the same period in 2012.

It does not end there. The city has seen double-digit decreases in other major crimes, including robbery and auto theft, and smaller but significant declines in such crimes as aggravated assault and burglary.

At the beginning of July, of the 14 types of major crimes that police track on a weekly basis, nine were at their lowest levels in the last five years.

In looking for the reasons why, experts point to a number of trends. For starters, Philadelphia is riding a tide - crime is down in many big cities, not only in the U.S., but also overseas. And there are broad demographic trends at work, including fewer people in the crime-prone ages of 18 to 29.

Law-enforcement officials look at these numbers and see an additional cause: Smarter policing that is data-driven, proactive and community-centered. It is policing that relies on the best of the new, such as computer analysis that hones in on "hot spots," with the best of the old, including a revival of foot patrols.

Kevin Bethel has lived through the changes in policing. He graduated from the Police Academy in 1986. Today, he is deputy commissioner in charge of the department's patrol operations.

"When I came on, you were given a nightstick and handcuffs and a slapjack and told to go out and police," he told me. "Today that has changed substantially . . . the paradigm has shifted."

To hear a police official use the word paradigm is, in itself, a paradigm shift.

The old world of policing relied mostly on gut. Now it is being informed by academic research - albeit practical, result-oriented research - which tests crime-fighting approaches with scientific rigor.

The local epicenter for this approach is Temple University's Center for Security and Crime Science, headed by Jerry Ratcliffe, a former police officer in his native England who turned to academia after a climbing injury ruled out a future in the police.

Ratcliffe arrived in Philadelphia in 2003 and has been working with increasing frequency with the Police Department, particularly under Commissioner Charles Ramsey.

A turning point came in 2009, when Ramsey approved a summerlong experiment that centered on the efficacy of foot patrols.

Foot patrols were once the norm in policing. Gradually, they had been abandoned in favor of patrol by car. The assumption was that while foot patrols might make local residents feel better about the police and reduce their fear of crime, they had little or no effect on crime itself.

The Foot Patrol Experiment proved that assumption wrong. In the areas where foot patrols were used in 2009, violent crime went down by 23 percent.

Ramsey and top police officials embraced those findings, and foot patrols have become an important part of policing strategy.

Success, though, was built on more than a revival of police officers on foot. What the country is seeing today is the end result of a 20-year process that has changed policing. In Philadelphia, it began in the 1990s with Compstat, the data-based approach to fighting crime. It included more emphasis on community policing to break down the "us vs. them" thinking that permeated both the community and police. It also embraced the "broken window" theory of crime prevention that calls for police to pay more attention to quality-of-life crimes.

Today, the data and maps rendered by Compstat in the 1990s look crude compared to the astonishing array of deep, real-time data that can be called up on police laptops. (As part of the shift, a number of districts now have police officers assigned to work full-time as data analysts.)

It helps that police leadership today, many of them now in their 40s or 50s, are members of a generation that grew up with - and grew comfortable with - these new approaches. They believe these approaches work.

One of those believers is Joe Bologna, a cop since 1990 and now commanding officer of West Philadelphia's 19th Police District. An energetic man who exudes an enthusiastic can-do attitude, Bologna became captain of the 19th in June 2012 after serving a stint as head of the department's South Street police unit.

Bologna has a large map of the 19th in his office, stuck with multicolor pins, indicating the location of crimes he wants his officers to focus on. He assembled the map using two years of crime data - yellow pins for burglary, red for robbery, etc. - and deploys a half-dozen foot patrols, mostly on weekends, in these key areas.

"I want boots on the street, out of the metal box [a patrol car] and into the community," he said.

He preaches the gospel of community engagement and encourages his officers to concentrate on figuring out what can be done before they employ the enforcement option.

"I preach to the troops: 'Work on the little stuff and maybe we'll stop the big stuff from happening.' "