Marin Voice: Sheriff is building bridges in Marin City
by Robert Doyle
OVER THE PAST YEAR, there have been renewed calls for strengthening ties between the Marin County Sheriff's Office and the community of Marin City.
Some in that community have alleged deputies assigned to police their neighborhood have done so in an unfair and uncaring manner.
Others point to the July 7 shooting of Chaka Grayson by a Marin County deputy sheriff as proof the relationship between the sheriff's office and community is irreparably broken.
I cannot disagree more.
Marin City is a dynamic community that jealously guards its rich history and culture. There is much to be proud of within that small, largely minority community, but there are also some very difficult problems in need of solving as well.
In the Southern Marin Patrol District, which stretches from the Alto Hill to the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin City, an area of less than one square mile, accounts for over 34 percent of the call activity the sheriff's office receives.
Unfortunately, many of those calls involve crimes of violence, where far too often, one community member has been victimized by another.
Whatever the cause of those disproportionate crime figures, and there are many, they cry out for development of a community policing strategy that gives residents hope of a brighter future for themselves and their neighbors.
Unfortunately, that kind of community policing approach requires an active collaboration between residents and neighborhood officers. For a variety of different reasons, that collaboration has proven elusive for the community of Marin City and the sheriff's office alike.
There have, however, been recent efforts to improve police community relations within Marin City, including an increased dialogue between my office and the Marin City Community Services District. In partnership with the district board and its executive director, we are working to form a Sheriff's Advisory Council comprised of Marin City residents and business owners we hope will act as a conduit for information flowing to and from the community.
In addition, and in response to community concerns expressed in the aftermath of the July 7 shooting incident, the sheriff's office has just concluded providing cultural diversity training to approximately 150 deputy sheriffs. Those accomplishments have unfortunately gone largely unrecognized and unreported.
While some in the Marin City community have called for an end to using the Southern Marin Sub-Station as the home of the sheriff's office's field training program, there is no other patrol station in the county that offers the volume, complexity, and diversity of calls the Marin City station does.
It affords an opportunity to effectively teach and evaluate new deputies in any number of different and dynamic situations occurring across the whole of Southern Marin, not just in Marin City proper.
Seemingly lost in the argument to move the training program is the fact that deputies assigned to the Marin City Sub-Station are hand-picked from a list of candidates who must apply for selection as field training officers, who by the nature of their assignment act as teachers who are expected to set and uphold the highest standards of professional policing.
I am committed to helping create an environment where the voice of the community can be heard and respected, but I cannot do so in a vacuum.
Effective community policing requires collaboration between law enforcement and the people we serve and it is now time to spend our energies focused on the future and what can be, rather than to dwell on the past and what has been.
I am encouraged by the desire for partnership that has recently been re-affirmed by the leaders of the Marin City community and pledge to work with them to find a place of common understanding and trust.
Robert Doyle of Novato has been Marin County sheriff since 1996.
Christmas season emboldens pilferers, local police say
by John Barry
On the afternoon of Dec. 13, half a dozen officers from the Norwich Police Department's Community Policing Unit stood outside Wal-Mart in Norwich, collecting toys donated by the store's shoppers.
But the officers twice broke from their charitable activity to do some official business, said Sgt. Peter Camp, who leads the unit. They had to deal with two people trying to shoplift inside the store.
“There were actually two people, while we were standing outside with two cruisers,” Camp said.
As Christmas gets closer, the number of shoplifting incidents goes up, police say.
“Yes it does. There's no question about that,” Norwich Police Chief Louis Fusaro said. “There's more people in the stores and more opportunity for shoplifters.”
“You get families that are struggling financially,” Putnam Police Chief Rick Hayes said. “We normally see more shoplifting as well as vehicle and home break-ins.”
Hayes said, however, that thefts have not increased this year in Putnam.
Retailers themselves don't necessarily agree about a surge of thefts at holiday time, at least in their own cases.
“I don't think there's really a difference,” said Michael Matera, owner of Surplus Unlimited in Norwich. “Even with the heavier traffic in the store.”
Matera said a new surveillance system has helped him cut down on shoplifting. “We keep a pretty tight eye on things,” he said.
“It's really moot for us,” said Mark Grader, owner of Grader Jewelers, which has stores in Norwich, Groton and Waterford. Because jewelry is so expensive and portable, it's kept locked in glass cases except when customers are interested in buying. And even then, the store takes precautions.
“Our insurance company has us show one item at a time,” Grader said.
Carl Versteeg, manager of Coliseum Games & Hobbies in Norwich, said his store has a built-in safeguard against shoplifters — its comic books and other merchandise cost only a few dollars and may not be worth the risk of stealing.
Besides, “Most of the people who come here I know,” he said.
Versteeg said he recently chased after someone he suspected of leaving the store with a stolen item in his hand.
“He turned out to have an umbrella,” he said.
So what kind of stores do get hit more often?
“The big box people are more apt to call us with shoplifting complaints,” Fusaro said.
Lisbon Landing is home to several big box stores and is one of the biggest shopping centers in the region. But according to its owners, shoplifting has not been on the rise there recently.
“We have not seen any appreciable gain in shoplifting,” said Laura Sibert, corporate marketing director at WS Development, which owns Lisbon Landing.
Fusaro agreed with Hayes that people leaving Christmas gifts in their cars while they shop are at risk for having their cars broken into.
“They're liable to do a smash-and-grab,” he said. “It's a good time to be extra vigilant.”
Fusaro suggested putting gifts in a trunk or under a covering in an SUV.
Camp agreed. “Keep presents as inconspicuous as possible,” he said. “As long as you're careful, you shouldn't have a problem.”
Capitol Police Don Elf Costumes for Kids
by Hannah Hess
A white, unmarked Capitol Police SUV cruised down C Street Northeast Friday morning with a red pom-pom nose affixed to its grill and brown cardboard antlers taped to its black-tinted windows.
Sixty Savoy Elementary School students waiting on the sidewalk outside the Dirksen Senate Office Building shrieked as they glimpsed the red sleigh it pulled.
“Santa,” screamed one little girl in a pink puffy coat and purple earmuffs, waving to the rosy-cheeked, red-suited retired Capitol Police officer shaking silver bells atop a flat-bed Capitol Police trailer.
Garland Thompson, who served 34 years with the department, welcomed the grade schoolers to the Capitol Police's annual holiday party for students from the Anacostia-based school with a chorus of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
“Do you know whose birthday we celebrate on Christmas?” asked Thompson, who has been dressing up as what he calls a “Christian Santa” for 45 years. The response was mixed.
His next question, “What do you want for Christmas?” drew a much more enthusiastic chorus of answers from the kindergarten through third grade students, 99 percent of whom are eligible for free lunches, according to a school official.
Friday's celebration marks the 14th year that the Capitol Police have hosted students for a holiday party. Sworn and civilian officers dressed as elves, complete with pointy, bell-tipped shoes, helped the children color cards for patients at the National Children's Hospital, made ornaments and fed them a pizza lunch.
“It's an opportunity for us to engage in community policing, build some trust and give back to the D.C. community,” said Chief Kim Dine, who appeared at the party in uniform, with no sign of festive costume.
At one table, officers painted snowflakes and sprinkled glitter on the students' faces. At another, they set up a spread of Skittles, M&Ms and plastic bulbs to make candy ornaments. Each student also visits Santa and Mrs. Claus — this year played by a House-side officer — for a gift bag stuffed with clothing, toys and books donated by the Capitol Police.
Fatima Lambert, a Savoy Elementary social worker, said the party has become a “bright spot” that students look forward to every year, and for some of the less fortunate kids, it's one of the best parts of the holiday.
“They are in love with the K-9 unit and a lot of them do look up to the Capitol Police officers,” she said.
ICE announces year-end removal numbers
98 percent of the agency's total removals were convicted criminals, recent border crossers, illegal re-entrants or those previously removed by ICE, in line with agency's enforcement priorities
WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced the agency's fiscal year (FY) 2013 year-end removal numbers showing that 98 percent of removals met one or more of the agency's civil immigration enforcement priorities. These figures highlight ICE's ongoing commitment to primary immigration enforcement missions: the apprehension of criminal aliens and other immigration violators in the interior of the United States; and the detention and removal of individuals apprehended by ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) while attempting to unlawfully enter the United States.
This year, as part of an effort to enhance the manner in which it collects and reports enforcement statistics, ICE is also reporting where the individual was apprehended – an important indicator that helps ICE ensure it is operating in line with its identified priorities. This format builds on the refinements of prior years and provides enhanced detail and clarity regarding ICE's immigration enforcement operations.
"The FY2013 numbers make clear that we are enforcing our nation's laws in a smart and effective way, meeting our enforcement priorities by focusing on convicted criminals while also continuing to secure our nation's borders in partnership with CBP," said Acting Director John Sandweg. "Ninety eight percent of those removed in the last year met one of our key priorities – a record high and a testament to the men and women of ICE who are helping to implement a strong and focused immigration enforcement strategy."
In FY2013, ICE conducted a total of 368,644 removals, 235,093 of whom were apprehended while, or shortly after, attempting to illegally enter the United States, and 133,551 of whom were apprehended in the interior of the United States. Nearly 60 percent of ICE's total removals had been previously convicted of a criminal offense, and that number rises to 82 percent for individuals removed from the interior of the U.S. Other than convicted criminals, the agency's enforcement priorities include: those apprehended while attempting to unlawfully enter the United States, illegal re-entrants – individuals who returned to the U.S. after being previously removed by ICE – and immigration fugitives.
For a comprehensive breakdown of ICE's FY 2013 removal numbers, please visit our immigration enforcement webpage.
From the FBI
'Serial Infector' Gets 39 Years -- Linked to Hepatitis C Outbreak
The vast majority of health care professionals are dedicated individuals committed to their patients. But in a recent investigation, we came across a hospital worker who was more committed to his own selfish needs than to his patients—he knowingly put patients at risk of exposure to the hepatitis C virus so he could steal and abuse a powerful narcotic prescribed for use during medical procedures.
David Kwiatkowski—who pled guilty to a scheme to divert and obtain the controlled substance fentanyl as well as to product tampering, was sentenced earlier this month to 39 years in prison. Because of Kwiatowski's actions, at least 45 people became infected with hepatitis C, a virus that attacks the liver and may cause liver damage, liver failure, or cancer. At least one patient died as a result of the infection.
You see, Kwiatkowski himself was infected with hepatitis C. And he admitted that while employed at a New Hampshire hospital and at hospitals in several other states, he stole syringes of fentanyl prepared for patients about to undergo medical procedures, injected himself with the drug, and refilled those same syringes with saline—tainting them with his hepatitis C-positive blood—for use on unsuspecting victims. As a trained health care worker, Kwiatkowski would have known that hepatitis C, a blood-borne viral disease, is primarily transmitted by exposure to infected blood.
How the case began. In May 2012, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services began a public health investigation after it was notified by an area hospital of four patients newly diagnosed with hepatitis C. Three of the individuals had been patients in the hospital's Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory (CCL), while the fourth was a CCL employee (Kwiatkowski). Although Kwiatkowski led the hospital to believe he had been previously unaware of his hepatitis C status, the investigation showed that he had known of his infection since at least 2010.
Testing confirmed that all four shared a genetically similar virus, indicating a common source of infection. Because Kwiatkowski had previously worked as a traveling technician in multiple hospitals in several states, the information about his activities was shared with those states, which began their own reviews.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) coordinated the overall public health investigation, which ruled out other possible methods of transmission and suspected that a drug diversion scheme was the source of the outbreak. During their investigation, public health authorities recommended that more than 12,000 people who may have crossed paths with Kwiatkowski in various hospitals get tested for possible hepatitis C infection.
In June 2012, the FBI's Boston Office opened a full criminal investigation into the outbreak…and into Kwiatkowsi. The investigation involved several search warrants and included a search of Kwiatkowski's vehicle that uncovered needles and syringes. Working with public health agencies along with other federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, we gathered evidence and interviewed dozens of people who either worked with Kwiatkowski or were patients at hospitals that employed him. By July 2012, we were able to arrest him.
According to New Hampshire U.S. Attorney John Kacavas, the 39-year sentence imposed on Kwiatkowski “ensures that this serial infector will no longer be in a position to harm innocent and vulnerable people, extinguishing once and for all the pernicious threat he posed to public health and safety.”