Cellphone alert system comes to Iowa
Thousands in California were alerted to the suspected kidnapping of 16-year-old Hannah Anderson this week by the buzzing mayhem from their cellphones.
It was California's first Amber Alert sent statewide via mobile phone and was among the widest sent through the Wireless Alert System.
About 98 percent of cellphone users are signed up for the nationwide network, even if they don't know it.
The service was activated in Iowa last month and notified people across the state that authorities were searching for Sean Shannon, who was suspected of kidnapping his 11-year-old daughter Kiley from Shellsburg.
The alert was issued just after 10 p.m. July 12. Kiley Shannon was located unharmed in Cedar Rapids less than 90 minutes later.
Shannon's vehicle was identified by members of the public and law enforcement after the Amber Alert was issued, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Director Charis Paulson said.
It's an example, Paulson said, of how such technology can be used to alert a mobile public when quick action is necessary.
“The more eyes and ears there are, the greater our chances of rescuing a child,” said Bob Hoever, director of special programs at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The Wireless Emergency Alert system is used in only three instances: for alerts issued by the president, for those involving imminent threats to safety — such as weather — and for Amber Alerts.
The national center helps states, including Iowa, activate Amber Alerts. It issued its first alert on Dec. 18 in Texas and has sent about 100 more since, Hoever said.
He did not have information about how many of those alerts had led to the successful recovery of children.
Officials are aware of concerns that overuse of such a system could backfire and cause people to not pay attention.
“People enjoy getting involved when they know it's meaningful, but nobody wants to have their time wasted,” Hoever said. “We're all working to protect the integrity of the system.”
Malloy addresses crime, community policing in Norwich forum
by Claire Bessette
Norwich — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy gave a ringing endorsement for community policing in Norwich and elsewhere, calling it a "philosophy" rather than a program and saying it has helped to reduce crime throughout the state.
Malloy made his seventh stop in Norwich Wednesday in a statewide tour of cities to discuss urban crime and community policing. The City Council Chambers was crowded with invited guests, including police officers, representatives from the Greeneville Neighborhood Revitalization Zone Committee and neighborhood watch, city and state officials and several teenagers involved in local summer youth programs.
Malloy said that while most homicides occur in the state's larger cities, Norwich has other criminal issues related to drug trafficking, illegal guns and burglaries. Malloy touted the state's efforts to stiffen gun control laws and said federal legislation is needed as well. The nation still does not have universal background checks or national gun tracking laws, he said.
The audience applauded Malloy's comments on the new state gun control laws.
"That wasn't so popular last time I was here," the governor responded, referring to a packed town hall meeting Malloy held in Norwich shortly after passage of the new laws. Gun rights advocates peppered the governor with questions and held up signs criticizing the new laws.
Police Chief Louis Fusaro outlined the city's efforts to revive community policing in neighborhoods such as Greeneville and downtown, with bicycle and beat patrols and public surveillance cameras. Fusaro said the cameras have been especially helpful in Greeneville, giving police a "real time" look at activities there.
Peter Procko, chairman of the Greeneville NRZ, said the cameras made a difference instantly in nighttime criminal activities in the Central Avenue neighborhood.
Malloy said he is a strong advocate of public surveillance cameras.
"No one has the right to privacy to commit crimes in a public place," Malloy said.
Procko admitted that Greeneville had been "a tough neighborhood," but said police efforts and the neighborhood crime watch have made a difference. He especially credited the bicycle patrols and interaction between residents and police.
"We see senior citizens walking to church now," Procko said.
One new aspect of community policing was not addressed at the morning session but was announced shortly afterward. Norwich will now participate in the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority's Police Homeownership Program.
The program will offer a discounted mortgage rate to Norwich police officers who purchase a home in Norwich, as part of a community policing program. Norwich is one of 23 towns in the state participating in the Police Homeownership Program, which is open to local police and state police officers who are either first-time homebuyers or have not owned a home in the last three years.
CHFA also offers similar programs for teachers who teach and will live in Norwich, and for military personnel.
Gary Evans, supervisor of the Norwich community development office, said a representative from CHFA will come to Norwich soon to meet with interested loan applicants.
Several youths and teens who participate in a summer program co-sponsored by the Norwich Youth Services Bureau and the Greater Norwich Area Anti-Bullying Coalition attended the forum and asked questions of the governor.
"It's the best experience of my life," said Alexyss Fuller, 18, a youth mentor and teen summer employee in the program.
She asked the governor to ensure that grant-funded programs such as the summer program she's in is allowed to continue.
Malloy acknowledged the work of the Bully Busters program, which has lobbied in Hartford for stronger anti-bullying laws. He said bullying has been a topic of discussion in all three years of his first term as governor.
"Cutting bullying has a long-term effect on our society," Malloy said.
So does feeding children and helping struggling families, Norwich Human Services Director Beverly Goulet said. She told the governor that collaboration among agencies is critical to helping families get jobs and become stable.
"I think youth violence has everything to do with the breakdown in families," Goulet said.
Community-based policing: An alternative to stop and frisk
by John C. Liu, NYC Comptroller
In the face of growing criticism of the NYPD's “Stop and Frisk” operation, Mayor Bloomberg has taken a “my way or the highway” position. Without Stop and Frisk, he says, there is no effective way to reduce crime in inner-city neighborhoods.
As we have just celebrated the 30th National Night Out Against Crime on August 6, a yearly event that enlists community support in making our streets safer, we want to tell the Mayor that he's wrong. Other cities have developed strategies that have been as effective as Stop and Frisk without alienating the very communities they were created to protect.
One proven alternative, already being used in at least 50 jurisdictions, is known as “Pulling Levers Policing.” This method targets the small number of individuals known to have committed most of the violent crimes in a given minority neighborhood, not just any young black or Latino who happens to walk by.
This approach has been credited for a dramatic decline in Boston's murder rate while at the same time building community trust in the police. Without trust and collaboration, especially in the poorest neighborhoods, even the best police officers find it difficult to prevent crime and promote public safety.
In Pulling Levers Policing, an interagency task force is formed that includes police, probation, parole, state and sometimes even federal enforcement agencies. Repeat offenders, especially those on probation or parole, know that they are being closely watched.
The logic behind this approach is clear. Only a small portion of any community's population is regularly associated with violent crime. Most important, this strategy works, according to data collected on these projects during the last decade. In Chicago, where this tactic was employed in its Project Safe Neighborhoods, there was a 37 percent reduction in homicides in targeted districts and a significant reduction in gun violence.
In Cincinnati, the Initiative to Reduce Violence resulted in a 41 percent reduction in gang-related homicides sustained three and a half years after the program was launched.
Using a similar tactic, Los Angeles and Stockton, Calif., among other cities, have reported similar results.
In response to drug crimes, High Point, N.C., experienced success with its “Drug Market Intervention” strategy, which was designed to close neighborhood drug markets permanently. The approach brings together drug dealers, their families, law enforcement, service providers and community leaders to make clear that the drug market in a designated neighborhood is now closed. The message is that the community cares for the offenders, but rejects their conduct.
None of these and other approaches to the problem of violent crime are a miracle cure. Neither is Stop and Frisk. But these alternatives are far more likely to foster a healthy relationship between the police and the communities they serve.
As the City Comptroller, I have the greatest respect for the men and women of the NYPD who risk their lives on a daily basis to keep our city safe. But as a parent, I would be outraged if I learned that my son had been thrown against a wall and frisked for no other reason than his age and the color of his skin.
There has to be a better way to reduce crime, and there is.