Fort Myers Police, community work to end silence
Relay Against Violence held in Dunbar.
by Jackie Winchester
Fort Myers police and the Dunbar community continue their efforts to work together and defeat criminals.
The Police Department held its first Relay Against Violence on Saturday at Clemente Park.
Much like the annual Relay for Life and other charitable walks, this one put together teams who walked around the park, showing unity against crime.
Community Policing Officer Yvetta Dominique said the event was excellent, and it shows the community is responding.
“They're opening up a little bit more,” she said. And Saturday's event was another way for the department to tell residents it can't be done without them.
The department released its mid-year crime report in August, showing a downward trend in violent crime. At this time last year, Fort Myers had seen 20 homicides. This year, only nine have been recorded.
Much of that drop is being attributed to not only police work, but to help of residents, who in the past have been apprehensive about getting involved.
Chief Doug Baker said whenever there is outreach, even if it's just one resident, it's a positive outcome.
“We have to remain consistent, continue to be involved in the community and continue to build on those relationships,” he said.
Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson was among walkers at Saturday's event, which he said helps create a sense of awareness.
“The last four years, that's been the most prominent change,” he said of officers being more visible in the community.
The department has held numerous events this year, all in an effort to bring together police and residents they serve. Each is held not just to deepen that relationship, but to remember victims. Among Saturday's attendees was the mother of Jerrett Byrd, who was found shot to death inside a car last summer at Gulfstream Isles Apartments along with his pregnant girlfriend, Cha'Riah Owens, 16. The case remains unsolved.
Dominique said cases like that are part of the reason the events are held.
“We don't want people to forget,” she said. “We haven't forgotten.”
Fire safety fest a fun reminder to be cautious
by AMANDA BANKS
PANAMA CITY — Fire departments from all over the county teamed up Saturday to raise fire prevention awareness with children and families.
Representatives from Callaway, Panama City Beach, Panama City, Parker, Springfield, and Bay County fire departments, as well as Red Cross and Bay County Emergency Medical Services were on hand to provide demonstrations and answer questions in recognition of National Fire Prevention Week.
“Area fire departments are here to educate on fire safety … and, you know, just let them see the equipment, let them see the gear, some of the things they do, and promote fire safety,” said Mary Lou Hodson, a member of the Panama City Fire Department's training fire safety and public education division.
National Fire Prevention Week is held every year during the week of Oct. 9 to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, which occurred Oct. 8 and 9, 1871. Each year, the National Fire Prevention Association focuses the week on a different theme. This year's theme is “Prevent Kitchen Fires,” with the Fire Prevention Association distributing literature focusing on tips to promote fire safety in the kitchen.
Some of those tips include keeping flammable items — such as oven mitts and wooden spoons — away from the hot stovetop and never leaving cooking food unattended.
“Be aware of all of the kitchen … and just don't forget all the basics, stop, drop, and roll, know two ways out, have a meeting place,” Hodson said.
The Panama City Fire Department was handing out brochures with fire safety tips, stickers and fire safety-themed coloring books for kids.
Also at the event were trucks from the various fire departments and an ambulance. Volunteers explained how the different rigs and the tools on board are used.
The Bay County Fire Department had a “smoke trailer,” which is a small trailer that could be filled with smoke to teach visitors — mostly children on Saturday — to navigate and escape a burning house. They also had a dunk tank — a large, rubber tank where children could play with the fire hoses, ‘just because they always want to,' said Capt. Michelle Gutierrez.
Parker Fire Department brought two wrecked vehicles, which volunteers broke down using hatchets, jaws of life and other tools to demonstrate how they extract victims after car accidents. Children crowded around the demonstration, their parents pulling them back from getting too close. While the demonstration was definitely cool, it also was a chilling reminder of how bad a car accident can turn out.
“Just wear your seatbelt. … You never know what'll happen. You may end up upside down somewhere in a ditch from somebody hitting you,” said Eric Baker, a volunteer with the Parker Fire Department. “… Just wear your seatbelt and follow the rules of the road.”
Public Safety Fair on Oct. 19 will offer tips for surviving disasters
SEQUIM — Private and public agencies will tell about community resources available after personal and family life changes or natural or man-made widespread disasters at the Sequim Public Safety Fair on Saturday, Oct. 19.
The Sequim Police Department and Clallam Fire District No. 3 will host the fair at the Guy Cole Convention Center at Carrie Blake Park, 202 N. Blake Ave., from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Attendees can collect information about assistance programs ranging from Medicare and other senior issues to Clallam County Juvenile Services and understanding the Affordable Care Act.
Emergency and support vehicles from Fire District No. 3, the Sequim Police Department and the Clallam County Sheriff's Office will be on display outside the convention center.
Retired Detective Myrle Carner of Washington's Most Wanted and Crime Stoppers of Puget Sound will have the WAMW 335-horsepower Chevy Camaro at the event.
Certified child-passenger safety seat technicians will host a child-seat inspection station in the parking lot just south of the Guy Cole center.
Parents and grandparents may have safety seats inspected for proper fit and installation.
Helicopter to land
Members of Airlift Northwest will land a medical transport helicopter outside of the convention center at about 11 a.m.
The crew will be available to answer questions and talk about their service and the equipment before returning to their base at about 3 p.m.
The Sequim Police Department will have about 50 bicycle and skateboard helmets available free to children 18 or younger, as well as developmentally disabled adults, who live within the Sequim School District boundaries.
The helmet recipient must be at the event so the helmet can be properly fitted.
For more information, phone the Sequim Police Department at 360-683-7227.
The cost of a bullet: Price of gun violence takes widespread toll in Rhode Island
by W. Zachary Malinowski & Amanda Milkovits
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Hardly a week passes without someone, usually a young man or two, getting shot in the city's West End, South Side, Smith Hill or in the Mount Hope neighborhood on the East Side.
And things are not getting better in the state's largest city, which has a growing gang problem and increasing poverty. As of Oct. 8, 88 people had been shot in Providence in 2013, slightly higher than the 87 shot this time last year. Overall, 105 people were shot last year, 110 in 2011, 90 in 2010 and 86 in 2009. The vast majority are not random victims — they tend to know who shot them or what group was seeking revenge.
The constant shootings and trips to emergency rooms have become so commonplace that most people pay little attention to the bloodshed. But an investigation conducted by The Journal has found that the cost of the violence is high and widespread, affecting residents statewide. They help foot medical expenses, since many victims have no private medical insurance. They pay for assistance to individuals and families affected by violence. And then there are the costs of prosecution and incarceration when arrests are made.
Data from the Children's Safety Network and Urban Institute, both based in Washington, D.C., provide staggering numbers about gun violence. The cost of each fatal shooting, using 2010 figures, is $5,094,980, with more than $3 million of that charged to changes in “quality of life,” $1.5 million being the amount of income each victim would have earned during his or her life. Medical care and criminal justice costs were placed at some $423,962. Each shooting victim who survives costs an average of $432,813, with the biggest component once again being lost “quality of life,” at $296,498, according to the organizations.
Dr. Ted R. Miller, who compiled the data, said the pain and suffering includes the “lost quality of life” for the dead shooting victim as well as the family and friends of the deceased. A wounded victim's quality of life also suffers and the survivor must deal with “functional and psychological impairments,” he said.
Miller said the price of being shot and killed, or shot and wounded has increased by about 4 percent from 2010 to 2012 , meaning a fatal shooting has climbed $203,799, while the price of a shooting survivor has inched up $17,313.
An Urban Institute report last month said males between 15 and 24 are the most common victims of shootings, visiting emergency rooms seven times more than the national average. Eighty percent of shooting victims nationwide are either on Medicaid (52 percent) or have no insurance coverage at all (28 percent).
Many of the survivors collect Social Security disability benefits.
Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician at Rhode Island Hospital, injury-prevention advocate and professor at Brown University, has treated countless victims with gunshot wounds.
Sometimes they arrive at the emergency room in rescue vehicles; other times their friends drop them at the hospital and drive off.
“If someone comes in as a shooting victim, there is a very good chance that they are coming back,” she said.
In 2012, 162 victims were treated for gunshot wounds in Providence hospitals. One hundred forty-two went to Rhode Island Hospital, the state's trauma center. Hasbro Children's Hospital received 11; and Miriam Hospital, 9. Seven of those shooting victims died.
Ranney provided a table that calculates lost potential income for those suffering gunshot wounds. The seven who died accounted for $9,931,733, while the survivors will lose $47,875,470 in future wages. The calculations are based on a formula from the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in California.
A trip to the emergency room for a shooting victim is a costly proposition that requires a large team of medical personnel and others to care for the patient. Among them: a trauma surgeon, emergency room attendant, at least two nurses, three or more medical residents, a radiologist, a radiologist technician, a respiratory therapist, an anesthesiologist, three EMS workers, a blood-bank worker, two techs or certified nursing assistants and a social worker.
Extra security also is assigned to the emergency room, which is “under lockdown” to make sure that the shooter or other rivals don't slip into the hospital to finish off the victim.
“Shooting victims are a priority because they are about to die,” Ranney said.
Ellen M. Slingsby, spokeswoman for Rhode Island Hospital, was reluctant to provide specific costs about emergency-room treatment, hospital rooms or other medical services associated with being shot.
“Every case is different and there's really no way to put a generic price tag on the care of patients who are victims of gun violence — the severity of the cases can range significantly — and therefore so does the cost to treat each patient,” she wrote in an email.
But The Journal obtained bills that were sent to three shooting victims in the past year. All of them were under 25 years old and none had health insurance. A woman suffered a gunshot wound to her lower abdomen and was charged $17,297, including $4,904 for surgery, $2,850 for the emergency room, and $2,356 for an overnight stay in a hospital room. Two other steep costs were $1,963 for laboratory work and $1,754 from the pharmacy.
A man who was shot in the pelvis and leg was charged $15,740. Among the top costs were $5,926 for observation and $3,519 for emergency services. The third victim, also a man, was charged $11,973 for treatment of a gunshot wound to his leg. That's an average of $15,003 for each shooting victim and none suffered life-threatening injuries.
The more seriously wounded spend weeks hospitalized and their medical bills can quickly top $100,000. These figures are based on the $8,000-to-$10,000 average cost of a night in the intensive care unit, surgery and other life-saving measures to treat a victim who has suffered multiple gunshot wounds.
Beyond the medical expenses are the justice system costs. A murder investigation can quickly top $20,000 in overtime for the detectives trying to track the killer and tens of thousands of dollars to prosecute the accused shooter. Once convicted, the average annual cost of keeping someone at the Adult Correctional Institutions is $53,400, close to the total cost of a year at Brown University.
Someone convicted of murder and given a life sentence must spend a minimum of 20 years in prison before being considered for parole. At the current annual average, that costs more than $1 million.
If the inmate is released, public costs shift to the state's probation system where monitoring of an individual can last for years. As of July, there were 24,133 people on probation and parole in Rhode Island.
Lynne Shea, a victim advocate at the Institute for the Study & Practice of Nonviolence, said all three shooting victims for whom The Journal obtained medical bills applied for and received the maximum $25,000 each from the state's Crime Victim Compensation Program. The money paid for their immediate medical expenses as well as mental health counseling.
The fund, which is operated from the state treasurer's office, helps victims of violent crimes and the immediate relatives of homicide victims. Beyond medical expenses, eligible costs include funeral expenses, counseling, cleanup of crime scenes and relocation for victims who are believed to be in danger. A victim who has been convicted of a violent crime within the past five years is ineligible.
Melba Depena, the fund's administrator, said the program is funded annually by about $1.2 million from court costs assessed by state judges on defendants who are convicted or plead no contest. For every dollar spent on expenses for victims, the federal government gives back 60 cents, Depena said.
The demand for services, particularly from gun homicides, has been going up in the last several years. Out of $1.5 million spent on victims of violent crime in the fiscal year that ended June 30, Depena said, the fund paid out $299,000 in 86 payments for gun homicides.
That's an increase from the previous fiscal year, she said, in which $220,000 was paid in gun-homicide cases, out of $1.8 million paid in all violent crimes.
State General Treasurer Gina M. Raimondo said it wasn't easy to determine if the increase in gun-homicide payments is due to more shootings or better outreach from the program.
When she took office in January 2011, Raimondo said, a backlog of 900 applications from crime victims went back to 2007. She hired Depena, who worked with three other staff members to eliminate the backlog within six months.
A memorial stands outside a triple murder scene just days after the July 30, 2012, killings of Shemeeka Barros, 22, her boyfriend, Michael Martin, 23, and their friend Damien Colon, 22 at the Maplewood Terrace apartment complex. Two teenagers, a 19-year-old and a convicted felon were charged in what the police believe was a botched robbery. Barros' two young daughters and her 6-year-old brother were left alive. One of those charged, Donovan Hall, pleaded guilty to the murders.
The program now seeks out crime victims who need help through contacts with the Institute for the Study & Practice of Nonviolence, Family Service of Rhode Island, Day One and the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “We need to be there for them,” Raimondo said.
The program has since expanded — increasing the payment for funeral expenses from $6,000 to $8,000, expanding what they'll cover for the cleanup of crime scenes inside a victim's home, paying up to $2,000, and up to $2,500 to relocate victims. The program also sets aside money for the children of crime victims for when they turn 18.
The need continues. Since July 1, the program has paid out $97,000 to assist families of gun homicides, out of $584,000 total spent for victims of all violent crimes in the last three months, since July 1. “It's just a disturbing trend,” Raimondo said.
When medical bills aren't paid by the uninsured, or are paid in part, hospitals try to collect through an uncompensated-care fund financed through state and federal tax dollars and private donations. There is also cost-shifting to people who do have medical coverage.
Ed Quinlan, president of the Hospital Association of Rhode Island, said the state's hospitals are getting stuck with millions of dollars of bills for treating poor and indigent patients. He said shooting victims are expensive to care for, and many have troubled pasts and are difficult to treat. Shooting victims are expensive to care for and many of them are hardened criminals and uncooperative with doctors and the hospital staff.
He said projections for fiscal year 2013 have the state's 12 hospitals assuming $189 million in charity care and bad debt for patients who are uninsured or underinsured. That breaks down to an average of $519,000 a day. Charity care covers those unable to pay, while bad debt is a result of patients on Medicaid or other insurance coverage refusing to pay their share.
Quinlan said his organization projects that the hospitals will recoup only $3 million of that money from the federal and state governments.
As recently as 2007, the total cost of uncompensated care in the state was $106.9 million, meaning that the total has ballooned 56 percent in the past six years. Quinlan attributes the huge increase to the recession, which includes the state's 9.1-percent unemployment rate — the nation's third highest — and the growing number of people living in poverty.
Shootings tie up municipal rescue squads and the police, leading to delays in responding to other emergencies. Steven M. Paré, Providence public safety commissioner, said shootings are the number-one priority and often require a team of rescue workers and detectives.
“If we get them to the hospital, they will probably live,” he said. “If we are late, they will probably die.”
Ranney, the emergency physician, sees the street bravado disappear when wounded gang members and young toughs arrive in the emergency room. “The vast majority of these kids are scared for their life,” she said. “Please don't let me die!” they scream from the gurney. “They don't realize the impact of what they are doing.”
Ranney views gun violence no differently than lung cancer or car crashes. In those cases, quitting smoking or wearing seat belts saves lives. She believes that society can curtail gun violence by providing young people with jobs, education and treatment for problems such as substance abuse, domestic violence and depression.
Counseling, treatment and peer advocacy, she said, can help remove young people from the cycle of gun violence.
“We do see where it is eminently preventable,” she said. “But there is a lack of resources.”