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Cyber Criminals Hitting Small Businesses With Inadequate Security

Cybercrime is a growing threat for businesses as attackers are getting more creative and skilled in their methods of stealing information, The Tennessean reports. Cyberattacks on large companies such as Target, Neiman Marcus and P.F. Chang's have made headlines but what most don't realize is that small to midsize businesses are just as big a target as larger companies.

John Mensel, security expert at Concept Technology, said smaller businesses ask, "Am I really a target?" He says, "My answer is emphatically 'yes.' You're not only a target, you are being actively attacked." Many small-business owners believe they are under the radar. Mensel said this mindset can be "very dangerous." Cybersecurity firm Symantec says businesses with under 250 employees represented 31 percent of all attacks in 2012. Smaller businesses focus on good firewalls and anti-virus software; Mensel says, "Here in 2014, that's not enough."

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14 Lawsuits Allege Poor Medical Care At Tulsa Jail; Officials Deny It

Is the Tulsa Jail a black hole with systemic health-care deficiencies leading to needless death and suffering, or merely the recent target of lawsuits trying to capitalize on unavoidable deaths and injuries? The Tulsa World says those questions are being hashed out in 14 lawsuits filed on behalf of former jail detainees. Jail officials maintain that the facility is a top-notch jail where deaths may occur, but not due to lack of attention by staff.

Lawsuits pointing to graphic and sometimes horrific examples of death and suffering endured by detainees. A video showing Elliott Williams languishing for hours on the floor of a jail medical unit is exhibit A for abuse and neglect claims. Officials call Williams' 2011 death an "unfortunate incident" but deny wrongdoing. The jail processes 30,000 people a year and houses 1,800 inmates daily. “Anytime you compare a city in Oklahoma with an 1,800 population, they have an obituary section, they have an undertaker, they have people die,” said a sheriff's spokesman.

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How Maryland Killer Re-Enters Society After 40 Years Of Prison

Because of a 2012 Maryland Court of Appeals ruling on flawed jury instructions, David Belton, 69, and 60 other convicted robbers, killers and rapists whose cases were tried before 1980 have been released from prison early, says the Washington Post. He never imagined texting on a smartphone, ordering burrito bowls at Chipotle or celebrating birthdays with his daughter, who was six months old when Belton was locked up.

Belton was imprisoned for killing a suspected drug dealer in 1973. He wrote in a book in prison called “Each Night I Die.” During four decades of incarceration, Belton transformed himself into a model inmate. He earned two degrees and became the director of a youth-mentoring program. “Prison can be a cursing life, a lonely life and a miserable life,” Belton said. “But it is what we make it.” He has found work as a janitor, and hopes to find work mentoring teens and to reissue his book.

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Pickpocketing Fades In Credit Card Era; "We're Disappearing," Says One

The New York Times tells the story of Wilfred Rose, 58, who spent a career studying the pants pockets of New Yorkers, always on the lookout for “a nice stiff wallet” full of cash, or better yet, the fainter outline of a dozen folded bills. “When they are wearing a suit, or nice pants, you can visualize it,” said Rose, whom detectives describe as one of the city’s craftiest pickpockets. “You know when it’s there.” Rose had his run of New York, largely evading detection and arrest.

These are lean years for pickpockets. People carry more credit cards and less cash. Men wear suits less, and tightfitting pants more. The young thieves of today have turned to high-tech methods, like skimming ATMs. Pickpockets like Rose have been left behind. He was arrested and is on his way to prison for the first time. "We’re disappearing,” he said. “In a few years, there won’t be any of us left.”

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Supreme Court Unlikely To Agree With Judge On CA Execution Delays

A federal judge's decision striking down California's death penalty would be unlikely to receive a warm reception from the U.S. Supreme Court, which repeatedly has turned away similar challenges during the past 20 years, reports the National Law Journal. U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney said the state's death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment because of systemic delays. Those delays exceed 25 years on average, said Carney, who was appointed by President George W. Bush. The national average of time to execution was an estimated 12.5 years between 2000 and 2012. In 2012, the delay increased to 15.8 years.

Carney's decision differed from rulings by other state and federal judges who have identified various problems with death sentences, said Diann Rust-Tierney of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. "The judge here has pulled together all of the ways the system is dysfunctional," she said. "He is not challenging the policy per se; he is saying that in practice, this isn't working in a constitutional way. His analysis is applicable to the rest of the country. It has implications certainly for the Supreme Court, but also for policy analysis." His claim of unconstitutional delay in the death penalty system is known as a Lackey claim, first raised in a 1995 U.S. Supreme Court case, Lackey v. Texas. Although the justices denied review of that claim, then-Justice John Paul Stevens wrote separately of the opportunity for state and federal courts to "serve as laboratories" for further study of the issue. Since Lackey, the high court has denied review of the claim in multiple petitions filed by prisoners. 

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Public Defender Balks At Florida Mental Health Court

When it was conceived a decade ago, Broward County, Florida’s felony mental health court won wide praise and inspired imitators around the U.S. because of its groundbreaking approach to the handling of mentally ill defendants. Howard Finkelstein, the elected public defender, was one of its biggest advocates. The Miami Herald reports that Finkelstein has soured on the court, saying its mission has shifted from treating mentally ill individuals with compassion to patching up their mental well-being so they can be punished for behavior that was beyond their control when it happened.

Finkelstein told Chief Judge Peter Weinstein his office would no longer refer clients to the court. The public defender’s office currently has 1,560 cases in mental health court. Judge Mark Speiser, who, like Finkelstein, helped create the court and is one of its two presiding judges, said the program's aim remains the same as always. “[It] was designed to address the needs of people that have mental health issues and give them treatment instead of jail time,” he said. “But if they are found competent or found incompetent but their competency restorable, they need to be prosecuted.”

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D.C. Likely To Join "Ban The Box" Drive To Help Ex-Inmates

Washington, D.C., likely to is join four states and several cities in prohibiting companies from asking job applicants up front if they have a criminal record, reports NPR. It's part of a growing movement called Ban the Box, a reference to that box on a job application form that asks, "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?" Advocates for the laws say having to check the box prevents many ex-offenders from getting a fair shot at a job.

In Washington, an estimated one in 10 residents has a criminal record. Nationally, about 70 million people in the U.S. have been arrested or convicted of a crime. Sensitive jobs, like child care, are still protected under the laws. And they point out that employers are not prevented from checking an applicant's criminal record. They just have to do it later on in the hiring process, in some cases after the employer has made a preliminary job offer. That's too late, says Elizabeth Milito of the National Federation of Independent Business. "That's pretty far down the road for a small business owner that might have only five or 10 employees and needs somebody in there now," she says.

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FBI Sting With Fake Sex-Slave Auction Focus On New Trafficking Threat

A sting featuring a fake sex-slave auction in Arizona has uncovered what authorities say is a little-known human-trafficking threat while bringing criticism of increasingly elaborate undercover operations, the Wall Street Journal reports. Four men have been charged with federal trafficking offenses for attempting to buy slaves at a fictitious auction set up by the FBI in a wealthy Phoenix suburb. Undercover agents reached out to the men after they had allegedly shown interest in buying sex slaves through a separate online Malaysian slave-trading organization the FBI was investigating, which turned out to be a scam.

The sting operation run by the FBI and Phoenix police comes amid a broader effort to tackle trafficking that has focused largely on children forced into the commercial sex trade. FBI agent George Steuer called it a landmark case. "We came to realize that there was a portion of the human-trafficking threat that we were underappreciating," he said. "We realized that there was this group of individuals in the U.S. who were interested in owning a human slave both for sexual exploitation and domestic labor." Defense lawyers say the investigation went too far by inducing the indicted men to attempt crimes they otherwise wouldn't have pursued. "I thought I'd heard of everything until I got this case," said George Klink, a Phoenix attorney for one of the men. "It's an awful waste of resources." 

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TCR at a Glance

Five Things About Deterrence

new & notable July 24, 2014

A National Institute of Justice flyer argues that the certainty of punishment, rather than severity, deters crime

The ‘War’ Against Whistleblowers

July 19, 2014

Hackers and free speech activists gather in New York to denounce what they call unprecedented government efforts to prosecute leakers

Indigent Defense Spending Stalled

new & notable July 18, 2014

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that government spending on indigent defense steadily dropped from 2008 to 2012