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New CT Forensics Center Offers A Hands-On Crime Experience

The new $14 million home of the Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science at the University of New Haven allows visitors an up-close look at the bloodstained world of forensic investigation, reports the Hartford Courant.  The missions of the institute include educating the public and students and training police, lawyers and investigators in the latest forensic practices. Its is also to show the public that forensic science "is not necessarily what they've come to know and believe after watching 'CSI,'" said the executive director.

The institute is named for Lee, a prominent forensic scientist, and many displays there are related to some of his more famous cases. One virtual crime scene laboratory includes images and pertinent evidence from Connecticut's notorious "wood-chipper" murder case. Other exhibits show how various types of light reveal bloodstains on a screwdriver; a chance to match bullets, and a look at the differences between male and female skeletal remains.

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Violence Down But Prescription Drug Abuse Up In NJ Schools

New Jersey’s schools are getting safer, but prescription drug abuse is a rising problem, reports the Newark Star-Ledger. The trends are shown in the state’s annual report in violence and vandalism in public schools, a document that covered the state’s 600 public school districts, which have a combined 1.38 million K-12 students. The reported decrease in violence, bullying and weapons incidents was credited to education efforts, and schools must now shift greater focus to the drug and alcohol problems, said educators and legislators.

The number of reported incidents of violence dropped 5 percent from 2007-08 to 2008-09; vandalism declined 3 percent; weapons incidents fell 15 percent and, at a time when bullying is a leading concern, reported incidents of harassment, intimidation, bullying and threat decreased by 4 percent. But incidents of substance abuse possession rose — up 6 overall percent in the one-year period, including a 22 percent increase in prescription drugs and a 14 percent increase in incidents involving alcohol. The number of incidents involving unauthorized use of prescription drugs rose from 149 to 238 between 2007 and 2009, an increase of 60 percent. However, the actual number of incidents over the three-year period may be considered small for a state with more than one million students.

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Government Enhances Tools To Aid Victims Of Domestic Violence

President Obama on Wednesday announced a federal effort to curb domestic violence and help women who have been victims of abuse, reports United Press International. Federal housing officials released new rules to prevent victims from getting evicted or denied housing assistance, and the Justice Department released new tools for judges, advocates and law enforcement to use "to help ensure that protective orders are issued and enforced." Obama spoke at a White House event to note Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

"As you all know, domestic violence was for far too long seen as a lesser offense," Obama said. "Victims were often just sent home from the hospital without intervention; children were left to suffer in silence. And as a consequence, abuse could go on for years. In many cases, this violence would only end with the death of a woman or a child.().The bottom line is this: Nobody in America should live in fear because they are unsafe in their own home."

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Thousands Of NYC Police Stops Unjustified: Legal Study

Tens of thousands of times over six years, New York City police stopped and questioned people on the street without legal justification, says a study reported by the New York Times. In hundreds of thousands more cases, officers failed to include essential details on required forms to show whether the stops were justified, says the study by Prof. Jeffrey Fagan of Columbia Law School. It was conducted for the Center for Constitutional Rights, has filed suit over what it says is a widespread pattern of unprovoked stops and racial profiling in the department’s stop-question-and-frisk policy. The department denies the charges.

The study examined police data cataloging the 2.8 million times from 2004 through 2009 that officers stopped people on the streets to question and sometimes frisk them, a crime-fighting strategy the department has put more emphasis on over the years. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly rejects the accusation of racial profiling, and said the racial breakdown of the stops correlated to the racial breakdown of crime suspects. The number of stops  jumped to more than 570,000 last year from 313,000 in 2004. Fagan found that in more than 30 percent of stops, officers either lacked the kind of suspicion necessary to make a stop constitutional or did not include sufficient detail on forms to determine if the stops were legally justified.

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10 Law Enforcement Groups Start Effort Against Gun Violence

Ten national law enforcement organizations have started a partnership focusing on effective strategies to address gun violence, calling the problem a "crisis" and "unacceptable." The National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence was launched at International Association of Chiefs of Police convention in Orlando. The groups said that 100,000 Americans or killed or injured with firearms every year.

In 2008, 34 officers were killed in the line of duty with firearms.  So far this year, there have been 43 such deaths. Chief Katherine Perez, president of the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives, said, "The trend is worsening, and we need to take immediate action." Other groups involved in addition to the IACP itself include the Police Executive Research Forum, Police Foundation, Major Cities Chiefs Association, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, National Sheriffs' Association, and Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association.

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AZ Executes Killer After High Court Votes 5-4 To Proceed

In only the second Arizona execution since 2000, convicted killer Jeffrey Landrigan died by lethal injection last night after the U.S. Supreme Court removed the last legal barrier, reports the Arizona Republic. Landrigan had been on Arizona's death row for 20 years for the 1989 murder of a Phoenix man.

The execution moved relatively quickly after the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a temporary restraining order that had been imposed Monday by a judge in Phoenix and affirmed by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court imposed the order as it tried to force Arizona to disclose where and how it had obtained its supply of sodium thiopental, one of three drugs used in executions. The high court agreed by a 5-4 decision with Arizona prosecutors that there was no reason to force disclosure. "There was no showing that the drug was unlawfully obtained, nor was there an offer of proof to that effect," the court order said. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented.

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How NRA Works To Limit ATF's Gun-Tracing Powers

The National Tracing Center in Martinsburg, W.Va.,  is the only place in the nation authorized to trace gun sales, says the Washington Post in the third in a series. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives staffers make phone calls and pore over handwritten records to track down gun owners. The government is prohibited from putting gun ownership records into an easily accessible format, such as a searchable computer database. The National Rifle Association has successfully blocked computerization, arguing against any national registry of firearm ownership.

Concerns about government regulation of gun ownership have limited the resources available to the ATF, led to strict regulatory restrictions, and left the agency without leadership. The agency has about the same number of agents it had nearly four decades ago: 2,500. It inspects only a small fraction of the nation's 60,000 retail gun dealers, taking as much as eight years between visits to stores. ATF cannot require dealers to conduct a physical inventory to determine whether any guns have been lost or stolen. "We're a political football," said James Cavanaugh, who recently retired as special agent in charge of the ATF's Nashville office after a 30-year career.

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Latin American Leaders Question California Pot Measure

The leaders of several Latin American nations on the front lines of the battle against drugs say passage of a California ballot measure to legalize marijuana would send a contradictory message from the United States, the Associated Press reports. Next Tuesday's ballot measure in California was a key topic as Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos hosted the presidents of Mexico and three other countries at a one-day summit yesterday.

Santos said that if Californians approve Proposition 19, it would require reviewing the principles that have long underpinned efforts to combat drugs in Latin America with support from Washington. "How can I tell a farmer in my country that if he grows marijuana, I'll put him in jail, when in the richest state of the United States it's legal to produce traffic and consume the same product?" Santos said. A statement from the summit's participants urged drug-consuming nations to form "consistent and congruent" anti-drug policies. "They cannot support criminalizing these activities in this or that country, while at the same time (supporting) the open or veiled legalization of the production and consumption of drugs in their own territories," the declaration said.

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Smith, Possible Judiciary Chair, Focuses On ICE Enforcement

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tx.), who may become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee in January, says it's time for an "immediate accounting" of money spent on immigration enforcement, reports Legal Times. Last week,the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security released a report on the 287(g) program, under which state and local authorities can enforce federal immigration laws. The report found that immigration officials couldn’t explain all of their travel expenses.

It says U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials spent $6,329 per person for travel related to reviewing 287(g) agreements. The inspector general said the travel should have cost about $2,300 per person. Smith said the situation is unacceptable. “It appears that ICE officials have abused their authority when it comes to 287(g) funds and an immediate accounting before Congress is necessary,” he said, adding that the programs are “critical” to immigration enforcement. “We must ensure that federal funds are not squandered by government agencies instead of being directed to law enforcement communities that can help enforce our immigration laws,” Smith said.

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Few Arrests Made For Sex Trafficking; 172 Convicted In 2 Years

New York City is believed to play a significant role in international sex trafficking as an entry point for smugglers and place where trafficking victims are put to work as prostitutes. Yet there are few arrests, says the Wall Street Journal. An organization called Restore NYC is set to open the first safe house in the city dedicated to women  who have escaped the global sex trade. These victims are undocumented immigrants, often lured to the U.S. with the promise of jobs and then coerced into prostitution. The safehouse, in Queens, will open Nov. 1.

Restore NYC’s Faith Huckel says that her group alone has worked with 100 victims since 2009. The number of sex traffickers arrested for the crime remains far smaller, and prosecutions are rare and slow. The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services has recorded 29 arrests for sex trafficking between January 2008 and September 2010; during that span there have been eight people sentenced for sex trafficking in the state. “This is a problem that happens in the shadows and it happens in the shadows for a reason,” said John Feinblatt, the criminal justice coordinator tapped by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to lead the city’s anti-trafficking task force. “Because that’s where people want it.” The Global Report on Trafficking in Persons from the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime last year counts just 172 people convicted for sex trafficking in the U.S. between 2005 and 2007.

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TCR at a Glance

Can Homicide Be Predicted?

new & notable October 22, 2014

A new study in the journal Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice aims to isolate risk factors associated with youths who commit homicide