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California Budget Cuts Eliminate Gang, Drug Task Forces

Fighting crime on a tight budget can prove difficult as gangs and drugs maintain their strength in California's Tulare County, says the Visalia (CA) Times-Delta. Now that Gov. Jerry Brown cut $71 million from state gang and drug task forces, it's going to get even tougher. Just two months after California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced the Tulare County TARGET team, her office's funding was cut along with 55 task forces across the state. "We are going to see a problem in law enforcement. We'll have no teeth to fight gangs and drugs," said Visalia Police Chief Colleen Mestas. "Investigations are expensive and we weren't expecting this cut to law enforcement."

The team would have been headed by the Visalia Police Department, and included representatives from two other police departments, a sheriff's office, and the California Department of Justice, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Parole, and California Highway Patrol. "The multi-agency approach offers an extreme amount of information and intelligence into the criminal life," said Tulare County sheriff's Capt. Mike Boudreaux. A recent Operation Street Sweeper, which resulted in the arrest of nearly 40 suspected members of the Nuestra Familia street gang, combined efforts from local and state law enforcement, but only temporarily.

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Detroit Hopes for 90 More Police Officers Under COPS Program

Detroit could see an influx of 90 more police officers on the streets in the next few months, part of a long-term plan to bring safety to a city battered by a series of shootings last weekend that killed seven people and wounded at least 21 others, says the Detroit Free Press. Fifty new officers are expected to come as a result of three-year Community Oriented Policing Services grants from the U.S. Department of Justice. The 40 others are officers moving off desk duty Sept. 1. (The House Appropriations Committee has voted to end the COPS program in the next federal fiscal year.)

"We have a very definitive plan to continually move officers to active policing," said Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr., while also announcing that police have made three arrests and are seeking a fourth suspect in the seven fatal weekend shootings. The department is aiming to put many more of Detroit's 2,845 officers back on patrol. Mayor Dave Bing said the added officers are only one part of a multipronged effort to help the community. Bing said re-population is another key component of curbing violent crime. Bing envisions residents strolling the streets without worry, like he saw during a trip to Europe in the spring.

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Nashville Jury Returns $200,000 Verdict In Inmate Labor Shackling

It took a Nashville jury less than an hour yesterday to decide that Juana Villegas deserved $200,000 for having her rights violated by the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office when deputies shackled her during labor. The Tennessean reports. It was far less than the $1.2 million Villegas’ attorneys wanted. Sheriff Daron Hall was unimpressed and said his office planned to appeal, “whether it was a dollar or a million dollars.”

The case brought nationwide criticism of the way Nashville treats immigrants and incarcerated women. It changed the way the sheriff’s office handles pregnant inmates. And it drew negative attention to Metro’s legal team, whose decisions and conduct were questioned not only by the presiding judge but also by other attorneys and at least one Metro councilman. The case already has led to change. “This case as it has been portrayed does not represent what Nashville is about,” said Mayor Karl Dean. “The sheriff’s office has already changed its policy regarding pregnant inmates. [ ] They are never restrained unless they are likely to harm themselves or others. That was the right thing to do.”

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WA Court: Release Misconduct Reports Even On Exonerated Cops

Investigative reports into alleged misconduct by police officers must be made public even if the accusations are not upheld, says a Washington Supreme Court ruling reported by the Seattle Times. Eight of the nine justices found that the reports can't be withheld on privacy grounds because the public has a "legitimate interest" in knowing how the allegations were investigated. Five justices found that the names of officers who have been exonerated may be redacted from the records for privacy reasons.

The ruling means the public, private attorneys and the media will have greater access to information that could shed more light on police investigations and help shape decisions regarding potential lawsuits and news stories. The decision stemmed from criminal and internal investigations of Bainbridge Island police Officer Steven Cain, who was cleared of allegations that he sexually assaulted and choked a woman during a traffic stop in 2007. The woman who made the allegation, Bainbridge Island attorney Kim Koenig, sought the records related to the investigations, along with a Bainbridge Island citizen and two journalists, including one for the Kitsap Sun. Superior Court judges in two counties held that the records could be withheld under privacy provisions of the state's Public Records Act.

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First Guilty Pleas In Disputed, Expanded U.S. Hate Crime Law

Two men pleaded guilty yesterday to a lurid crime that earned New Mexico unwanted headlines: The racially motivated branding and marking of a developmentally disabled Navajo man, says the Albuquerque Journal. The case became the first in the nation prosecuted under a beefed-up federal hate crimes law that is being challenged on constitutional grounds. All three men involved in the crime already have pleaded or been found guilty on state charges.

Vincent Kee, 23, came into a McDonald’s restaurant where all three men worked looking for a place to stay. Paul Beebe offered to let him stay at his apartment and took him there after work. The victim fell asleep on Beebe’s couch.“I have a set of house rules that requires that if anybody falls asleep before 2 a.m. then we are allowed to draw on them,” said Beebe. Two men drew on his face and neck using markers the three used a heated coat hanger to burn a swastika on Kee’s arm. They filmed their handiwork using a cellphone while telling Kee they were applying “Native Pride” and feathers. Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez, who called the facts of the case “shocking to the conscience,” said the defacement and exploitation of the victim underscore the need for aggressive national enforcement of the law.


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Obama Administration to Show Leniency In Some Deportation Cases

Some might view as a cynical bid for Hispanic votes the Obama Administration's new policy to review as many as 300,000 illegal immigration cases to focus more on deporting criminals than undocumented individuals posing little to no risk to society, says NPR. The decision would use some of the criteria of the DREAM Act, which Congress failed to pass, to show leniency to young people, especially students and military veterans brought illegally to the U.S. as small children by their undocumented immigrant parents.

The administration framed its decision as a way to target its immigration resources on the highest priority cases, those illegal immigrants whose criminality represents a true threat to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are being given significantly more latitude to exercise their discretion under the new rules. The decision will be welcomed by immigrant advocates and the communities they represent, who have pleaded with the administration to show compassion. Still, there's a risk to President Obama that it gives his conservative opposition yet another issue to energize their voters around. It's already being called a "backdoor" or "de facto amnesty" by some critics.

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Female Buyers Called Huge Emerging Firearms Market

For years, gun stores were predominantly patronized by men. These days, says NPR, shooting ranges and shops selling firearms are seeing more female customers than ever before, and that has them changing the way they do business. In a brand-new shooting range at Eagle Gun in Concord, N.C., shots from Sharon Skoff's handgun boom behind glass that separates the range from the rest of the shop. "I just refuse to be a victim if I possibly can in life," says Skoff, 47, a flight attendant. "I actually went and got my concealed permit a couple months ago so I can carry."

Rachel Parsons of the National Rifle Association says women are a huge emerging market. The National Shooting Sports Foundation says gun store owners reported a 73 percent increase in female customers in 2009 from the year before. Parsons says the trend is even being reflected by the number of guns made just for women. "You see firearms being developed that have smaller grips to fit a woman's hand," Parson says. "Maybe they're pink, or maybe they have pearl grips. And they're a little bit less intimidating." The NRA says it's organizing more hunting excursions for women than ever before.

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TCR at a Glance

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