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Cities Find Summertime Crime Rates May Be 35 Percent Above Normal

Some police departments deploy extra officers when the weather warms up and crime rates rise. To gauge typical crime patterns, Governing magazine reviewed monthly data that 384 larger law enforcement agencies reported to the FBI between 2010 and 2012. On average, monthly crime for seven major offense types increased nearly 10 percent between June and August over the rest of the year. While it’s too early to say how most cities fared this year, many police agencies and local governments initiated efforts aimed at limiting summer crime. “It’s almost a cliché in the northeast that things get busier in the summer for police,” said Michael Maxfield of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “They expect it.”

In Erie, Pa., totals for the seven major crime types rose by an average of 35 percent during the summer months, one of the highest increases nationally. The city’s harsh winters likely help push down crime totals, and police there also see more activity from visitors during the summer months. A few of the law enforcement agencies that registered the steepest fluctuations in crime serve summer tourist destinations. In Virginia Beach, Va., crime increased an average of nearly 23 percent. A few million people visit the city’s oceanfront each year, and 30 percent of those arrested are from outside the area. A number of theories offer explanations for higher levels of crime in the summertime. Jerome McKean of Ball State University said it’s mostly that there are more opportunities for crime to occur. “There’s a large pool of potential offenders and victims who are more vulnerable that time of year,” he said.

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KC Chief Forte Credited with Fixing Disconnect Between Police, Minorities

As Kansas City's police chief, Darryl Forté is focused on mending a historical disconnect between the department and the minority community, says the Kansas City Star. Three years into his stint as the city’s first black police chief, Forté is succeeding, many say. “Because of him, more people are comfortable talking to the police,” said Rosalyn Temple, chapter president of Kansas City Mothers in Charge, a group of women who have lost children to homicide and work to prevent more killing. Forté makes it a point to visit every homicide scene, and he regularly meets with community groups to an extent no previous chief ever did. People see that and see that he cares, says Temple.

Improving the department’s relationship with the community and reducing violent crime were two of the key parts of the 37-page strategic plan Forté prepared before he interviewed for the chief’s job. His vision meshed nicely with what the Board of Police Commissioners was looking for in a new chief in 2011. In Forté, the board tapped a lifelong Kansas City resident who spent his entire 26-year career with the department and who wasted no time in working to reshape the organization. Even before he was sworn in, the new chief reassigned more than 50 of the department’s top commanders. Three years into his tenure, he said his work to improve police-community relations is the thing he is most proud of so far. He hears it from people everywhere he goes, he said. 

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After Criticism From Pols, St. Louis Police Offer Them "Basic Training"

The St. Louis police union gave "basic training" this week to 18 public officials after widespread criticism of police following the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. “We’re not going to pretend like it has nothing to do with Ferguson and what happened in the (St. Louis) Shaw neighborhood,” union business manager Jeff Roorda said of the event. “There’s another side to the story that hasn’t been told, and some of our biggest detractors have been elected officials. 

One state representative was "shot" in the exercise after he searched his suspect twice when he put him in the back of a police cruiser. “You sure you don’t want to check him again?” officer Nick Manasco had asked. “No, I got him,” said the politician. “He’s clean.” A few seconds later, he had a gunshot wound to the chest. “I can’t believe I missed that gun,” he said, after he bent over and clutched his chest, visibly shaking. “Even though this is pretend, it was really scary and frightening, even though it was just staged.” The event began with officers giving the group a crash course in a classroom setting on basic police academy training and tactics. Then officers sent the officials out in pairs to respond to two scenes. One scenario featured a prostitute soliciting johns while her pimp was nearby. Another scenario included several men suspected of dealing drugs.

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"Ban The Box" Laws Spread; Evidence Of Crime Reduction Inconclusive

Washington, D.C.'s City Council has passed a law that forbids asking about criminal history on most job applications, a step being considered by Georgia, Michigan, New York, and other states, says the New York Times. After more than 25 years of tough-on-crime laws and the incarceration of millions of low-level drug offenders, the effort is part of a bipartisan re-evaluation of the justice system and reflects a growing concern that large numbers of people, especially African-Americans, who have been disproportionately jailed, remain marginalized from the work force and at greater risk of returning to crime. “There’s been a shift in people away from wanting to get even,” said Marc Levin of Right on Crime, a conservative anti-crime group in Texas. “People are focused now on getting results. It really is a great benefit to public safety if ex-offenders are able to get jobs, find places to live and get occupational licenses — whether it’s from the perspective of the ex-offender or those of us who are going to live next to them.”

During the past several months, states and cities as varied as Illinois; Nebraska; New Jersey; Indianapolis; Louisville,  and New Orleans and have adopted so-called Ban the Box laws. In total, some 70 cities and 13 states have passed such laws — most in the past four years. The laws generally prohibit employers from asking applicants about criminal records as an initial step in the hiring process and from running criminal background checks until job seekers are considered serious candidates for an opening. Most Ban the Box laws have been enacted so recently that there is little conclusive evidence that they reduce recidivism or unemployment among ex-offenders.

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Holder "Exasperated" By St. Louis County Grand Jury Leaks On Ferguson Case

Attorney General Eric Holder is “exasperated” with leaks emerging from the grand jury involved in investigating the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, the Washington Post reports. Holder privately referred to the leaks as a “selective flow of information,” and characterized them as “inappropriate and troubling.” The leaked information all appeared to support the case of Darren Wilson, the officer who shot the unarmed Brown. Various parts of the leaked narrative have appeared in the New York Times, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and The Washington Post.

Critics have said the information appeared to be an effort to prepare a volatile community for the possibility that Wilson might not be indicted. Former St. Louis County police chief Tim Fitch said there can be benefits to leaks. “It’s not a surprise to people” when a decision is announced, he said. Patricia Bynes, Democratic committeewoman of Ferguson Township, said such a strategy might backfire. “For weeks people have been told: Just let the system play out, there is a legal process in place,” said Bynes. “And then you have this happen. This is just spitting in the face of all of that. This has done nothing but radicalize people who thought that the justice system was not going to work for a black person in America.” Charlie Dooley, St. Louis County executive, renewed a call for a special prosecutor because “greater oversight is needed.”

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New Heroes In Secret Service White House Patrols: The Belgian Malinois

The apprehension of a man who jumped the White House fence Wednesday night and was bitten by a guard dog highlighted one of the Secret Service’s most effective weapons: its canines, reports the Washington Post. Secret Service agents and K-9 units quickly subdued the latest fence jumper, Dominic Adesanya, 23, of Bel Air, Md., after he punched two of the Secret Service dogs, Hurricane and Jordan. The two animals were taken to a veterinarian and treated for minor bruising they suffered during the incident. Adesanya was taken to a hospital with injuries from a dog bite and is now in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

The Secret Service began using dogs, including the Belgian Malinois, to patrol the White House gates last June. It was the first time canine agents were deployed among the general public. Belgian Malinois are often used in military operations by U.S. Navy SEALS. “I love the dogs,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who heads a panel that oversees the Secret Service. After watching a video showing Hurricane and Jordan being assaulted, he said, “I hated to see [the suspect] punch the dogs, but obviously they could take a punch. I was thrilled to see they’re back on duty.” Wayne Pacelle, chief executive of The Humane Society of the United States, helped craft the 2000 law that made it a crime to wound a law-enforcement animal in the line of duty. It passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and is the basis for two of the felony charges Adesanya now faces.

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Domestic Violence Costs NC $300 Million; Advocates Seek Prevention

Domestic violence costs North Carolina $300 million every year because of factors such as health care and criminal-justice expenses, says a study commissioned by two domestic violence advocacy organizations reported by the Charlotte Observer. Leaders of the Charlotte-based eNOugh Campaign and the Jamie Kimble Foundation for Courage hope that their estimate of the total costs of domestic violence will encourage policymakers and corporations to do more to prevent the crime.

Fifty-six people have been killed in domestic violence homicides in the state this year. Jill Dinwiddie, eNOugh co-chair and former executive director of the N.C. Council for Women, hopes the study prompts the legislature to put money toward a domestic violence prevention campaign, similar to campaigns about the dangers of smoking cigarettes. “What people haven’t stopped to think about is: What is the cost, what is the economic impact?” said Jay Everett of Wells Fargo, which funded the $45,000 study. “We just felt like it was another strategy to help educate, to help make people aware and to begin to change some attitudes and perceptions around the issue.”



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ACLU Challenges Florida Residency Restrictions for Sex Offenders

For five years, Miami-Dade County’s sex offender law has made national headlines as homeless parolees have been forced to move from street corners to parking lots because of a law that prohibits them from squatting near public spaces where children gather. The Miami Herald says dozens of homeless sex offenders have a voice arguing on their behalf. Yesterday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in federal court reasoning that Miami-Dade County and the state Department of Corrections have violated the offenders’ basic rights to personal safety, and to maintain a home.

“It undermines public safety. It’s harder to find a job and maintain treatment. Housing stability is just as critical to these folks as to anyone else,” said Brandon Buskey of the ACLU's Criminal Law Reform Project. The man behind the controversial county ordinance said no one has the right to demand where they live. Ron Book, the powerhouse state lobbyist and chair of the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust, said the courts have upheld the residency restrictions, and the ACLU is simply regurgitating an issue that’s been dealt with. “The U.S. Supreme Court has said they’re entitled to live places that don’t endanger the health, safety and welfare of law-abiding citizens of the U.S. ... “I don’t support those with sexual deviant behavior living in close proximity to where kids are.”

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AL Prison Reform Task Force Seeks Ways To Reduce Inmate Overcrowding

Alabama has some of the nation's most complicated criminal justice laws. Sentencing guidelines, in particular, are what officials say make the process so complex. Straight sentences, split sentences, voluntary sentencing guidelines, the habitual offender law and enhancements are some of what makes the system so difficult to understand. The state's sentencing structure has a huge impact on the prison population, which is at about 190 percent the capacity it was designed for.

A 24-member Prison Reform Task Force is working with the Council of State Governments Justice Center to analyze the system and find ways to reduce overcrowding, reduce recidivism and improve public safety, reports the Montgomery Advertiser. Andy Barbee of the justice center said Alabama's switch last year to presumptive guidelines, which judges are required to use unless there's a mitigating or aggravating factor to be considered, has accelerated a downward trend in the number of sentences to prison and the lengths of those sentences. Those guidelines, however, only apply to drug and theft cases. "At some point, the state will have to make a bigger investment in community services and supervision programming," said Bennet Wright of the Alabama Sentencing Commission. "Matching offenders with the right services lowers the likelihood that they'll commit more crimes."

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