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PA Police Department Offers Its Parking Lot, Lobby For Craigslist Sales

If you're buying or selling goods through Craigslist or other websites, you might be a little hesitant to let a stranger into your homes, or venture to theirs. One police department near Philadelphia is designating its station as a "safe zone" for people to exchange items and cash for transactions arranged through online sales sites, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Conshohocken, Pa., said its police department's parking lot and lobby are available for people to conduct the transactions safely.

The lobby is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and both the parking lot and lobby have 24-hour video surveillance, police said. The department said the police station's parking lot is well-lit at night. Police say it can be unsafe to give your home address to someone you don't know, so conducting the exchange in a public place can be a safer option. In the Philadelphia area, a number of violent crimes have been reported as a result of online transactions gone wrong. In May, a man was charged with attempted murder for a shooting during a supposed sale of dirt bike that one of the victims had listed on Craigslist.

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AP, ACLU Criticize FBI For Phony AP Article To Trick Bombing Suspect

News outlets and privacy advocates are reacting sharply to the disclosure that the FBI tricked a school-bombing suspect in 2007 into revealing his whereabouts by getting him to click on a link to a fake Associated Press article infected with tracking software. the Washington Post reports. “We are extremely concerned and find it unacceptable that the FBI misappropriated the name of The Associated Press and published a false story attributed to AP,” said spokesman Paul Colford. “This ploy violated AP’s name and undermined AP’s credibility.” American Civil Liberties Union technologist Christopher Soghoian disclosed the ruse in documents obtained by another privacy organization under the Freedom of Information Act.

The FBI Seattle field office created a false AP news story with headlines that served as click bait: “Bomb threat at high school downplayed by local police department” and “Technology savvy student holds Timberline High School hostage.” The agents sent a link to the story in a private message to the owner of an anonymous MySpace account who was believed to have been making bomb threats against Timberline High. By clicking on the link, the suspect unwittingly downloaded "malware" that enabled agents to identify his Internet protocol address. “Of course the FBI should investigate bomb threats to schools, but the ends do not justify the means,” Soghoian said. “It’s a dangerous road impersonating the media. If people do not trust the news media, then our democracy cannot function properly.”

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Next Week's Votes On Pot Legalization Could Start A National Tide

Two years after Colorado and Washington State became the first states to legalize sales of recreational marijuana to adults, Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., will vote next week on similar  ballot measures, reports the New York Times. People on both sides of the issue say these initiatives could determine whether there will be a national tide of legalization. A changing political landscape has weakened anti-marijuana efforts. As the libertarian movement in the Republican Party gained force, with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), supporting decriminalization of marijuana and others going further, an anchor of conservative opposition to legalization has eroded. Democrats have found that supporting legalization, once an invitation to be labeled soft on crime, no longer carries the risk it once did, as discussion of prison overcrowding and law enforcement budgets has reframed the issue.

National groups advocating legalization have provided labor and money, along with help from a legal marijuana industry that did not exist in 2012. The old antidrug coalition has struggled to find traction and money. Supporters of legalization have outdone opponents’ fund-raising in Oregon by more than 25 to 1, and in Alaska by about 9 to 1. Opponents in Oregon were late in forming a united organization, and their campaign had only about $10,000 for advertising, with spots running on two Portland radio stations starting last weekend. “They’ve done a pretty good job of shutting everybody up,” said Joshua Marquis, the district attorney in Clatsop County and an opponent of legalization..

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Three NYC Correction Officials Leaving Amid Criticism Over Rikers Violence

In what the New York Times calls a major shake-up at the New York City Correction Department, three high-ranking officials, including the top uniformed officer, are stepping down amid criticism over the handling of violence and corruption at tjhe Rikers Island jail complex. The chief of department, William Clemons, and deputies Joandrea Davis, the bureau chief of administration, and Gregory McLaughlin, the bureau chief of facility operations, are departing. The surprise departures came five months after they were appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s correction commissioner, Joseph Ponte.

A department spokesman said the changes were the result of “a restructuring” by Ponte in an effort to halt brutality on the most violent cellblocks. The department has been under intense pressure from lawmakers and federal and city investigators to address systemic brutality and corruption at Rikers, the nation’s second-largest jail complex. The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, which in August released a damning report detailing abuse of adolescent inmates at Rikers, has threatened to sue the city if changes are not made.

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Should Feds Be Able To Avoid Warrant By "Fixing" Internet They Cut Off?

In a federal case now working its way through the courts in Las Vegas, the question is whether federal agents can disrupt Internet service to a house and then, masquerading as helpful technicians, gain entry to search the premises in hopes of finding evidence that might later justify a search warrant, NPR reports. The defendants are Chinese gamblers who were staying in villas at Las Vegas' Caesar's Palace this year.

The Nevada Gaming Commission and the FBI were suspicious about illegal gambling. That wasn't enough for a search warrant. So, according to court papers filed by defense lawyers yesterday, the FBI came up with a plan: Working with a computer contractor for Caesar's Palace, the agents first tried to get in by delivering laptops and asking to come in to make sure the connections worked. The butler wouldn't let them in. When that ploy failed, the agents came up with "another trick," says defense lawyer Tom Goldstein: "We'll dress up as technicians, we'll come inside, we'll claim to be fixing the Internet connection — even though we can't, 'cause we broke it from outside — and then we'll just look around and see what we see."

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NYC Misdemeanor Arrests Of Young Black Men Nearly Tripled Over 23 Years

Young black men have been arrested for misdemeanor offenses at a far greater rate in New York City over three decades as more-serious felony arrests have dropped to record lows, says a new study by John Jay College of Criminal Justice reported by the Wall Street Journal. The study found that the rate of misdemeanor arrests, which includes property theft, drug possession and resisting arrest, for all races increased from 1,174 arrests per 100,000 people in 1980 to a peak of 3,774 in 2010.

The misdemeanor arrest rates for both whites and blacks doubled between 1990 and 2010. Hispanics saw a smaller increase. The rate of misdemeanor arrests for black men between the ages of 18 and 20 almost tripled between 1990 and 2013. Since 2010, the number and rate of misdemeanor arrests in the city has dropped. Richard Aborn, president of the nonprofit Citizen’s Crime Commission of New York, attributed the recent drop in misdemeanor arrests to fewer stop and frisk stops being conducted by police officers and a drop in low-level marijuana arrests. “There is a robust discussion going on across the country about alternatives to arrest and I think this reports aids in that discussion,” he said.

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U.S. Bolsters Security At Federal Buildings After Canadian Attack

The U.S. government is stepping up security at federal buildings after the killing of a Canadian soldier near that country’s parliament and continuing threats from groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, reports Politico. “I have directed the Federal Protective Service to enhance its presence and security at various U.S. government buildings in Washington, D.C., and other major cities and locations around the country,” said Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

Johnson called the move “precautionary” and said the locations getting extra attention “will be continually re-evaluated.” He did not give details of the security measures. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) welcomed the move. “ISIS is waging a campaign of war over the Internet to incite homegrown violent extremism in the United States. We must do everything we can to protect every American abroad and at home,” McCaul said. Canadian Army Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, killed last week at the Canadian National War Monument in Ottawa, was laid to rest yesterday.

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Salary Gap In Police Response To Brown Killing; Some Get $10.50 Per Hour

After the Ferguson police killing of Michael Brown this summer, police officers from throughout St. Louis County were dispatched there to respond to mounting protests. Though the officers were doing the same jobs, they were paid starkly different wages, some as low as $10.50 an hour, reports NBC News. Data from 24 municipal police departments in St. Louis County show a gulf between police officer pay in poor, majority African-American cities and wealthier, whiter cities. Average annual patrol officer pay ranges from $23,000 in Hillsdale to nearly $70,000 in Town and County and Des Peres.

The police pay gap in St. Louis County is mirrored in metropolitan areas and rural communities around the U.S., with some officers earning a comfortable middle-class living and others scraping by on poverty and near poverty wages, forced to take second and third jobs to cover basic costs. The wage gap affects not only the police officers themselves, experts say, but the communities they are paid to serve. “In areas without a tax base to speak of, where residents live in poverty already, communities are saddled with a police force that is underpaid and under resourced in other ways,” says David Harris, a University of Pittsburgh law professor who studies policing. “It’s another form of a penalty for being poor.”

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Ferguson Chief Thomas Jackson Denies Report He Is Resigning

Ferguson, Mo., Police Chief Thomas Jackson denies a CNN report he is resigning, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. "It’s absolutely not true. Nobody has asked me to resign, nor have I been fired," Jackson said. He added: “If I do resign, it will be my own choice.” CNN’s report cited unnamed “government officials familiar with the discussions ongoing between local, state and federal officials” as saying Jackson is expected to step down. Mayor James Knowles III confirmed that Jackson has not resigned. “He’s stayed strong with us till this point,” Knowles said by text. “Don’t see that changing.” Knowles also said no state or federal officials had asked the city to consider disbanding its police force.

Assistant St. Louis County Police Chief Kenneth Cox said he was unaware of any formal discussions about the county taking over policing duties in Ferguson. “This is a decision that would be up to the city of Ferguson,” Cox said. “I definitely don’t know what the future holds, but there have been no contracts signed and no formal movement from the Ferguson City Council.” Meanwhile, seven St. Louis area school superintendents asked St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCullough not to announce the grand jury decision in the Michael Brown shooting case during the school day, fearing that riots will occur if police officer Darren Wilson is not indicted.

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