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Oregon Prisons Seek to Expand Inmate Visitations

Oregon prison officials are working to improve connections between inmates and their families, a response to studies that show prisoners who get visits are less likely to return to prison, reports the Oregonian. The basis is a November 2011 report by the Minnesota Department of Corrections that concluded visitation from siblings, in-laws, fathers and clergy "significantly decreased the risk of recidivism." The study suggested more "visitor friendly" prison policies.

Oregon officials discovered that 59 percent of the 14,000 state prisoners got no visitation. They set up a working group to improve that dismal percentage and recently circulated a survey to inmates to help guide ways they could improve visitation. Corrections officials also considered setting up prisoners with trained volunteer mentors and relaxing visitation rules for inmates who are in disciplinary housing units. They have also increased visiting hours and special events.

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Obama Fixes 'Kafka' Sentencing Goof With Clemency

President Obama this week cut prison time for a drug convict sentenced to more than three extra years because of a typographical error in a court order, reports the Associated Press. Ceasar Cantu is only the 10th inmate Obama has granted a commutation, and his case was unusual. He pleaded guilty to drug trafficking and money laundering after prosecutors said he used his Houston trucking company to help move tons of marijuana from Mexico through Texas and into Virginia.

He was sentenced in Danville, Va., in 2006 by U.S. District Judge Jackson Kiser, who based his decision on a pre-sentencing report that had a critical error in "base offense level" that takes into consideration the crime's severity and the defendant's criminal history. The report correctly listed Cantu's level at 34 in one part, but incorrectly listed it at 36 in the portion that calculated a recommended sentence of up to 22 years. Cantu discovered the error himself in 2012, but Kiser rejected his motion due to a statute of limitations. Obama fixed the problem with clemency. In an editorial, the New York Times called the case "a scenario that would make Kafka blush."

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BJS Report Measures Decline in Domestic Violence

Domestic violence in U.S. households declined sharply over the two decades ending in 2012, according a new data from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. BJS said the rate dropped 63 percent, from 13.5 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older in 1994 to 5.0 per 1,000 in 2012. The data showed decreases in both serious domestic violence, including rape, sexual assault, robbery and aggravated assault, and simple assault.

Domestic violence accounted for 21 percent of all violent victimizations from 2003 to 2012, the report said. Nearly eight out of every 10 cases occurred at or near the victim's home. The findings are based on BJS’s National Crime Victimization Survey, which measures nonfatal crimes reported and not reported to police. Domestic violence includes rape, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated and simple assault committed by intimate partners (current or former spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends), immediate family members (parents, children or siblings) or other relatives.

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ShotSpotter: Only 1 in 5 Gunshots Reported to 911

Only about one in five gunshots is reported to police, according to 2013 statistics released this week by ShotSpotter, a private firm that provides gunfire detection in a number of U.S. cities. The firm said its sensors counted 51,000 gunshots in 48 cities last year. About 15 percent of the shots occurred on New Year's Eve and the Fourth of July, and 42 percent occurred during summer months.

The most popular time for shots was from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. An average of 3.1 rounds were fired per incident. ShotSpotter sensors cover portions of about 70 cities, including Chicago, Milwaukee, San Francisco and Oakland, Calif. Gunfire alerts are passed on from the company to the local police. The technology pinpoints gunshots within a 10-meter area, according to ShotSpotter.

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St. Pete Official Cites 'Impropriety' in Police Promotion Flap

The Tampa Bay Times reports that "specific allegations of impropriety" were behind an unusual decision by a St. Petersburg deputy mayor to halt police department promotions scheduled for this month. The department has been roiled by tension between white and black officers as St. Petersburg conducts a search to replace Chief Charles Harmon, who retired. Five weeks ago, officers, community leaders and city officials gathered at a church to discuss the racial tensions. Soon after, Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin stopped the promotions.

Speaking for the first time about police department intrigue that has become the subject of gossip in St. Petersburg, Tomalin said she made the move because she had learned that select officers had access to tests or test answers and that some received help during the testing. She said the allegations "absolutely required investigation." She added, "Our sole motivation in all of this is to create a unified force." The city is expected to hire a new chief this summer.

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Court-Ordered Deportations Have Plummeted Since '09

New deportation cases brought by the Obama administration in immigration courts have been declining steadily since 2009, and judges have increasingly ruled against deportations, leading to a 43 percent drop in the number of deportations through the courts in the last five years, reports the New York Times. New Justice Department statistics show that the administration opened 26 percent fewer deportation cases in the courts last year than in 2009.

In 2013, immigration judges ordered deportations in 105,064 cases nationwide. The statistics present a different picture of President Obama’s enforcement policies than the one painted by many immigrant advocates, who have assailed the president as the “deporter in chief.” While Obama has deported more foreigners than any other president, the pace of deportations has recently declined. The steepest drop in deportations filed in the courts came after 2011. Last year the Department of Homeland Security opened 187,678 deportation cases, nearly 50,000 fewer than in 2011.

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St. Louis Revives 'Dear John' Tactic Against Prostitution

St. Louis police are reviving a push to target — or perhaps humiliate — those prowling the streets for prostitutes with "Dear John" postcards, reports the city's Post-Dispatch. “Johns” charged with trying to pick up prostitutes will receive admonishing postcards by mail. “Thanks for your visit to...” the bright postcards say, leaving a spot for the location and date of a crime. “The city of St. Louis, its residents and your neighbors would like to remind you that lewd, lascivious and/or suggestive behavior (including but not limited to prostitution, solicitation and prostitution loitering) are a violation of city ordinance and state law.”

Police are rolling out the program this week in two neighborhoods, Carondelet and Holly Hills, where residents have complained of prostitution. Police say they will provide local news media with mug shots of those charged with prostitution crimes. The postcard approach was last used in St. Louis in 2005. Other cities have also tried it, including Baltimore, Oakland, Calif., and Sanford, Fla.

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Denver Police Pressed Over Domestic Homicide Response

 

Denver police are being pressed to explain why it took officers at least 15 minutes Monday night to arrive at a home just one mile from the nearest police station where a man killed his wife, reports the city's Post. The victim, Kristine Kirk, spent 13 minutes on the phone with 911 before her husband, Richard Kirk, shot and killed her. Richard Kirk is in custody, facing a first-degree murder charge.

 Police have declined to release the audio in which victim Kirk told a 911 operator that her husband was hallucinating, talking about the end of the world and asking her to kill him. Denver police dispatch alerted two officers about a domestic violence report at the Kirk home at 9:32 p.m. Officers were warned that Kirk's wife said he had been smoking marijuana and was frightening the couple's three young sons. There was a handgun in the house, but Kristine, 44, said it was locked away. More than 10 minutes later, Kristine screamed and a shot was heard.



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Portland Troubled by Failure of Emergency Alert System

Portland's inability to notify residents of an armed gunman in a quiet neighborhood for hours on Wednesday is just the latest failure for the contractor used to provide emergency alerts since 2010, reports the Oregonian. Carmen Merlo, director of the city's Bureau of Emergency Management, said she has a "growing lack of confidence" in FirstCall, the Louisiana-based company that covers Portland and Multnomah County. She described Wednesday's failure as "completely inexcusable."

The incident comes as Portland tries to figure out how to fund the fledgling system when federal grants are longer available starting in July. FirstCall has provided emergency alert notification software to the city and Multnomah County since 2010 and has an $82,000-a-year contract through August. Matt Teague, FirstCall's president, said the city's account of Wednesday's incident was false. Portland's emergency notification system has 320,000 devices – meaning landlines, cell phones and emails mainly – that can receive alerts via the FirstCall software.

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No Locals Among 10 Seattle Police Chief Finalists

The search for Seattle’s next police chief has been narrowed to 10 candidates, all from out of state, reports the Seattle Times. The only internal candidate to apply, Assistant Chief Nick Metz, was among 10 applicants removed from a list of 20 candidates reviewed on Friday by Mayor Ed Murray’s search committee, the sources said, without revealing names of those who remain in contention.

With Murray poised to make his selection the week of May 19, the 12-member search committee plans to interview the remaining candidates next week, according to the sources. Pramila Jayapal, one of two co-chairs of the committee, confirmed the numbers, interview schedule and out-of-state profile of the remaining candidates. The removal of Metz’s name and the lack of any internal candidates is not a surprise, considering the department’s leadership came under scrutiny and criticism in the wake of the city’s 2012 settlement agreement with the Department of Justice to curb excessive force and biased policing.

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TCR at a Glance

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