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Police Ready For Sex Trafficking Near Super Bowl, Problem May Be Slight

It seems like an occupying army has taken over the San Francisco area in advance of Sunday's Super Bowl, reports The Daily Beast. A massive surveillance campaign covers seemingly every square inch of pricey real estate, the mayor floated a plan to squirrel away the city’s homeless population, and there is a massive bump in police activity that will cost San Francisco about $1.5 million. A chunk of that police bill has gone towards busting sex workers, including a sting operation that snagged one of the Denver Broncos.

The Bay Area police ratcheted up their activity to combat a supposed massive influx of sex workers and human traffickers ready to service men in the area for the game, but there is no proof the problem exists. A 2011 report by the Global Alliance Against Traffic In Women found that when it comes to large-scale sporting events like the Super Bowl and the World Cup, “despite massive media attention, law enforcement measures and efforts by prostitution abolitionist groups, there is no empirical evidence that trafficking for prostitution increases around large sporting events.” Before the 2014 Super Bowl in New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie warned against trafficking, and the FBI arrested 45 people and "rescued" 16 juveniles. The McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University later found “no evidence indicating the 2014 Super Bowl was a causal factor for sex trafficking in the Northern New Jersey area in the days preceding the game.”

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Jails Face Staffing Shortages; Inmates, Employees May Be At Risk

Local jail audits and other independent reports shows a "management miasma that all too often is hobbling the smooth and safe functioning of jails," says Governing magazine. One of the big issues confronted by these lockups is lack of staffing. That often is the result of insufficient funding, but it can also be a product of difficulties in hiring enough personnel to fill jobs in jails. “People don’t want to work in a jail when they grow up,” says Brandon Wood of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, adding that the ups and downs of the economy and employment rates aren’t necessarily the problem. “Meeting the staffing ratios is a challenge at all times,” he says.

Denver budgeters have had a difficult time coming to grips with staffing shortages. The department that runs the city and county jail has underestimated its staff budget by $8 million or more every year, which translates into roughly 100 full-time positions. The result has been high overtime rates as well as high turnover. One report found that an average jail employee worked about 24 hours of mandatory overtime every week. Denver is taking steps to rectify the situation. Jails are filled with inmates who are potentially dangerous and can’t be ignored. When that happens, both the correctional officers and the inmates in these overcrowded and understaffed jails are at risk. A worn-out, overworked correctional officer is less likely to be effective at dealing with inmates. “The risk of an inappropriate response to a jail incident,” says Valerie Walling, deputy auditor of Denver, “is higher when an employee is mentally or physically fatigued.” Even when jails are able to increase staffing, they often neglect to keep up with staff training. 

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MN Men Accused Of Planning To Fight With ISIL Seek "Combatant Immunity"

Five Twin Cities men accused of plotting to go to fight alongside ISIL in Syria are asking a federal judge to drop murder conspiracy charges on grounds that they have “combatant immunity” under both common and international law, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. They say combatants are immune from criminal prosecutions for acts of war, including murder, against military targets. The five — Hamza Ahmed, brothers Adnan and Mohamed Farah, Abdirahman Daud and Guled Omar — are scheduled to appear in federal court in Minneapolis next week for a hearing.

The men were charged last year with conspiring to leave the U.S. to fight with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. In October, the government filed a new indictment that added a charge of conspiracy to commit murder, which attorneys for the men say should not apply. “ISIL has engaged in atrocious acts,” attorneys for the five said in one motion. “But however one might describe it as an entity, it has an organized professional army engaged in traditional military warfare — an army with which the defendants are alleged to have intended to join in ‘combat.’ ” Federal prosecutors who brought the case argued in a court filing last month that the men were “grossly mistaken” in claiming ISIL fighters are combatants as part of a regularly constituted military force.

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NYC Closes Homes Under Nuisance Abatement Law With No Criminal Case

Under a nuisance abatement law, New York City can shut down places it claims are being used for illegal purposes. The law was created in the 1970’s to combat the sex industry in Times Square. Since then, its use has been vastly expanded, commonly targeting apartments and mom-and-pop bodegas even as the city’s crime rate has reached historic lows, reports the New York Daily News and ProPublica. The police deprtment files upward of 1,000 such cases a year, nearly half of them against residences. Most residential cases involve allegations of drug sales. Some target traffickers who are convicted of moving large amounts of narcotics through their apartments; others minor offenders caught with amounts more consistent with personal use. Many lawsuits ensnare people  whose criminal cases have been, or ultimately are, dismissed. The process has few protections for people facing the loss of their homes.

Three-quarters of the cases begin with secret court orders that lock residents out until the case is resolved. The police need a judge’s signoff, but residents aren’t notified and have no chance to tell their side of the story until they’ve already been locked out, sometimes for days. Because these are civil actions, residents also have no right to an attorney. Residents can be permanently barred from their homes without being convicted or even charged with a crime. The two news organizations reviewed 516 residential nuisance abatement actions. They found that half of the 297 people who gave up their leases or were banned from homes were not convicted of a crime: 96 had their cases dismissed and sealed, 33 pleaded only to violations, and 44 appear to have faced no criminal prosecution whatsoever. Runa Rajagopal of the Bronx Defenders, who leads a division that represents people in civil courts, called the practice a “collective punishment” on the entire family of those accused of a crime, “used by the NYPD to exert power and control largely over communities of color.”

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PA Prosecutor Probes Officer Killing Of Man Who Stabbed Police Dog To Death

Allegheny County, Pa., District Attorney Stephen Zappala, is reviewing the fatal shooting by a police officer of a local man, Bruce Kelley Jr., on Sunday, after Kelley stabbed a police dog to death, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The incident happened after Kelley fought with officers investigating a report of drinking in a park, and a police German shepherd latched on to Kelley's arm. After Kelley stabbed the dog, Port Authority officer Brian O’Malley fired 10 shots at him and another officer fired twice, killing him. "Could we have done something short of taking a human life? I feel like we need to have that discussion,” says Zappala. “This is not about a dog. This discussion is about police training, policies and procedures.”

Zappala said officers followed the use of force continuum. After pepper spray and use of a Taser, he said, releasing a police dog is the last step before deploying deadly force. Under Pennsylvania law, deadly force is justified when it is necessary to prevent death or bodily injury or when it is necessary to prevent escape and the person has committed a forcible felony, Zappala said. “Obviously, if you come at an officer with a knife, that’s aggravated assault. He’s a definite threat with the knife.” Stabbing a police dog, too, is a forcible felony. Zappala has requested the police dog policies of police departments across the county. Police dogs are wearing vests more frequently, said James Cortina of the Connecticut Police Work Dog Association Inc., because shootings and stabbings of the dogs appear to be increasing.

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U.S. Appeals Court Casts Doubt On MD's Post-Newtown Assault Weapon Ban

A federal appeals court yesterday cast doubt on the legality of Maryland’s 2013 ban on semiautomatic high-capacity assault weapons that passed after the mass shootings at a Newtown, Ct., elementary school, the Washington Post reports. The 2-to-1 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit sends the law back to a lower court for review, but allows the existing ban to remain in place. Chief Judge William Traxler found that the Maryland law “significantly burdens the exercise of the right to arm oneself at home” and should have been analyzed using a more stringent legal standard. The issue could end up in the Supreme Court

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NYC Corrections Worker Chief Defends Solitary To Protect Officer Safety

President Obama's ban on solitary confinement for juveniles does not take into consideration the reality that correction officers face every day, president Norman Seabrook of the New York City Correction Officers' Benevolent Association writes in USA Today. He says Obama's referring to corrections officers as "guards" in an op-ed article "shows not only a lack of respect, but a fundamental lack of understanding about how correctional facilities operate. Guards don’t enforce the law, trained officers do."

Seabrook says corrections officers "are routinely spit on and have urine and feces thrown at them. They are punched, slapped and kicked by inmates. That should not be part of the job. We are hired as professional law enforcement officers charged with maintaining care, custody and control." Since New York City banned punitive segregation for 16- and 17-year olds, "we have seen these inmates become emboldened and even more dangerous," Seabrook says. He agrees with Obama that solitary "should be used judiciously and sparingly, and that there should be limitations. But it must remain for enforcement." He says that New York City is slowing down "rash and haphazard" changes in solitary confinement policies after corrrections officers complained about threats to their safety. 

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Obama, State Legislators Seek More Education To Cut Teen Dating Violence

In middle and high schools across the U.S., counselors and teachers are quickly becoming the front line of defense for state officials looking to prevent teen dating violence, and the cycle of violence that follows, reports Stateline. Research shows that teenagers who experience violence either as victims or as abusers are more likely to be involved in it later in their lives, which leads to more people in hospitals, behind bars and receiving welfare. States hope that investing in education programs now will help prevent those negative, and expensive, outcomes down the road.

About one in 10 high school students who dated in 2013 reported being physically or sexually abused by a partner during the past year, says the most recent survey of high school students by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The percentages have fluctuated over time, but the 2013 figure is the highest ever recorded. Sexual abuse incidents on high school and college campuses and heated debates over sexual consent policies have heightened public awareness of the issue. Last week, the president called teen dating violence “a serious violation that can affect a young person’s safety, development, and sense of comfort” and called for support for programs that help young people develop healthy relationships. This year, lawmakers in at least five states — Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and South Carolina — are considering bills that would encourage or require schools to discuss dating violence prevention with students in middle school or high school. Georgia approved the first such law in 2003, and since then 21 states have followed suit.

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Most Top Officials Arrested In TX City Billed World's Spinach Capital

Almost every top official in Crystal City, Tx., a remote city in the southern section of the state, was arrested yesterday after a federal indictment accused them of taking bribes from contractors and sending city workers to help an illegal gambling operator nicknamed "Mr. T," the Associated Press reports. Crystal City's mayor, city manager, mayor pro tempore, one of three current councilmen and a former councilman were arrested. A second councilman is charged in a separate case with smuggling Mexican immigrants. That leaves just one councilman not facing federal charges in Crystal City, a town of about 7,100 some 50 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.

Once billed as the "Spinach Capital of the World," Crystal City's logo features a cartoon of Popeye. Its spinach festival and beauty pageant draws tens of thousands of people each year. In recent months, the town has been in the news for turmoil at City Hall and allegations of misuse of public money. The indictment accuses the town's leadership of using their positions "to enrich themselves by soliciting and accepting payments and other things of value." Also charged was Ngoc Tri Nguyen, allegedly an operator of illegal gambling rooms, who was nicknamed "Mr. T."

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