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Federal Gun Background Checks Block Only 1.6% Of Transactions

More than 180 million applications for firearm transfers or permits have been subject to federal background checks since the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act became effective in 1994, says a new report from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Through 2014, about 2.8 million applications were denied, 1.6 percent of the total. In 2014, there were nearly 15 million background checks, and only 193,000 purchases were denied.

BJS said that the 2014 total was down from an estimated 17.6 million in 2013. Of the 2014 denials, about 91,000 were turned down by the FBI and 102,000 by state and local agencies. The most common reason for the FBI to deny an application was that the applicant had a felony conviction; that was true in 42 percent of cases.

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Overdose Death Of IN Prosecutor's Sister Makes Him A Treatment Advocate

Johnson County, In., Prosecutor Brad Cooper never apologizes for being tough on crime, but his views on drug crimes were shaped by a personal tragedy that has affected him since before he became prosecutor in 2009: the overdose death of his younger sister. She took painkillers after hurting her back while playing high school softball but soon the pills were used for more than pain management, reporgts the Indianapolis Star. “That was the first time I’d ever heard of anyone using heroin,” said Cooper, 48. “Now I’ve heard that story a thousand times in the courtroom.” Heroin started to make a comeback in the past decade or so. Indiana saw a fivefold increase in overdose deaths attributed to all drugs between 1999 and 2013.

After Cooper became prosecutor in 2009, he started asking judges to place felony drug offenders in the Indiana Department of Correction’s Purposeful Incarceration program, which offers addicts time off their sentences in exchange for completing intensive drug treatment. Cooper now is asking other Johnson County leaders to start a similar program in the jail and at the work-release facility. He also credits a drug treatment court for helping the justice system turn around lives of those charged with possession and other lesser crimes. Cooper's interview with the Star was the first time he spoke publicly about his sister's death. The timing is right, Cooper said, because he wants other communities in Indiana to consider the approaches that he’s taking.

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Ex-Prosecutor Nancy Grace, Victims'-Rights Advocate, To Leave HLN

Nancy Grace, who parlayed a stint as a prosecutor into a two-decade career as one of cable's most recognizable and controversial figures, will depart HLN, her TV home for the past 12 years, when her contract expires in October, says The Hollywood Reporter. The network plans to replace her with a similar program. Grace, 56, is known as a crime victims' rights advocate. She led coverage of infamous trials, including Florida's Casey Anthony and Arizona's Jodi Arias. Her broadcast after Anthony's acquittal of charges that she killed her daughter drew 4.57 million viewers in 2011.

Grace plans to continue her work in some form that will involve "a very large digital component." Grace went to law school and became a prosecutor in Atlanta after the murder of her fiancé when she was 19. Her nightly show regularly highlights abused and murdered women, missing children, negligent mothers and what she perceives to be miscarriages of justice. Her detractors paint her as channeling rage over controversial cases for personal gain, frequently to the detriment of the judicial process. Fans love her dedication to seeking retribution for victims of violent crime and are gripped by disturbing details of the cases she highlights. 

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Ex-Dallas DA Investigator Admits Taking Bribe To Get Case Dismissed

A guilty plea by a former chief investigator with the Dallas County district attorney's office in a federal bribery case could be the beginning of a broadening investigation of that office while former DA Craig Watkins was in charge, reports the Dallas Morning News. Former investigator Anthony Robinson admitted taking a bribe from Wayne Joseph Sweeney in 2013 to get Sweeney's failure to register as a sex offender case dismissed. That case was dismissed by Heath Harris, Watkins' top assistant, a move that former prosecutors say is rare and violates decades of protocol dictating how cases are thrown out.

"What exactly was going on at the district attorney's office? Was this poor oversight, poor checks and balances, was this DA just duped or is there something more the feds may want to pay attention to?" said Matt Orwig, former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas. "It could be this is the end of it. But based on my 20 years as a prosecutor and 10 years as a defense attorney, I would lean toward this is not the end of it." Harris, now a defense attorney running for district attorney, said the case was dismissed because it was bad, not because of any bribe a felon paid to Robinson. Harris said he did not know when he dismissed the case that money had exchanged hands. 

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Gretna, La., Called U.S. Arrest Capital After Analysis Of Police Records

Gretna, La., the place where, as Hurricane Katrina's flood waters stubbornly refused to recede, police stood at the end of the bridge, guns drawn, to block the crowds who were trying to evacuate New Orleans, is the arrest capital of the U.S., Fusion reports. In 2013, the Gretna police department made 6,566 adult arrests, or a little more than one arrest for every three of Gretna’s roughly 18,000 residents. That’s about 14 times the rate of arrests in the typical U.S. town, according to an analysis of FBI arrest data. In a town that is about one-third African American, two-thirds of those arrested in Gretna are black, an overall rate of roughly eight arrests for every nine black adults.

The number of arrests that Gretna makes could make you assume that Gretna is a dangerous place. In fact, the opposite is the case. In 2013, 49 adult arrests by the Gretna police department were for the serious violent offenses of murder, rape, robbery, or aggravated assault. About a tenth of adult arrests, 652, were for drug violations, putting Gretna near the very top of the U.S. in per-capita drug arrests. Most of the arrests are even less consequential, with 948 arrests for drunkenness or disorderly conduct, and 4,258 arrests in the category of “other offenses,” not significant enough for the FBI to track.This relatively peaceful suburb arrests people at five times the rate of Baltimore. 

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FBI Trying To Block Disclosure Of Responders' Records On Orlando Shooting

The FBI has asked Orlando law enforcement agencies who responded to the Pulse nightclub shooting to withhold records from the public, the Orlando Sentinel reports. A June 20 letter from the FBI, attached to the City of Orlando's lawsuit over withholding 911 calls and other records from 25 media outlets, requests that agencies deny inquiries and directs departments to "immediately notify the FBI of any requests your agency received" so "the FBI can seek to prevent disclosure through appropriate channels, as necessary."

 

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Baltimore Adopts New Police Use-Of-Force Policy With De-Escalation

Baltimore's police department plans to implement a new use-of-force policy tomorrow that emphasizes the "sanctity of life," stresses de-escalation, and requires officers to intervene if they see a fellow cop crossing the line, the Baltimore Sun reports. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced the new policy as the U.S. Department of Justice prepares to release the results of its sweeping investigation into the department's patterns and practices. The first full rewrite of the policy since 2003 comes more than a year after the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray from injuries suffered in police custody — an incident that sparked widespread protests against police brutality, the Justice investigation and the prosecution of six officers.

Rawlings-Blake said the use of force by officers is "one of the most scrutinized areas in policing, and it is incumbent upon the police department to ensure its officers are well trained and knowledgable about the procedures when a decision is made to use force." Rawlings-Blake said city residents never tell her they want "an aggressive police department; they say they want an effective police department," which she said the changes would help create. Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said officers would be empowered by the clarity in the new policy, and said any suggestion the changes would inhibit officers from policing proactively was "just silly." David Rocah of the Americn Civil Liberties Union said the new policy is "certainly an improvement" over the old one, but still has "significant problems."

 

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Accused NYC Jail Employees Spend Their Days Doing No Work

A rogues gallery of correction officers spends eight hours a day doing next to nothing in a "rubber room" at New York City's Rikers Island jail, costing taxpayers millions each year, the New York Daily News reports. Some of the most notorious Department of Correction staffers have remained on the payroll as their criminal or internal disciplinary cases drag on for years. All told, 80 officers who have been accused of beating inmates, smuggling drugs into jails, or falsifying records, languish on modified duty, according to city records obtained by the newspaper. One officer has been shelved for six years. All the officers receive their full salary and benefits, while overtime skyrockets to record levels.

The cost to taxpayers is unclear but a conservative estimate based on officer salaries suggests it’s more than $5 million a year. The officers are blocked from interacting with inmates, and have their weapons taken away. More than two dozen spend their days inside a windowless, dingy room near the transportation unit, known as The Pumps because of a gasoline station there. “I sleep all day,” one officer said. “I sleep eight hours. Not because I want to, but that’s the only thing I can do.”

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