Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXIX, No. 594 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY February 28, 2003

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
People & Places: Valor in Vegas; Clark hits the mark; building on Hope; mushing off into the sunset; high on High; Santiago’s back to work.
Beyond Rampart: LAPD wants to put some gusto back in anti-gang efforts.
High hopes: Portland has cops focusing solely on quality-of-life issues.
Anteing up: Foundation pumps millions into E-911 system development.
Federal File: Bush’s mixed-bag budget; FBI computer upgrade called a “disaster”; weeding out virtual victims in kiddie porn.
Passing lane: Speeders use the Web to pay up (and avoid their insurance companies).
“Atrocious”: Report rips Houston’s DNA lab over work quality, procedures, training, physical facility and more.
Easing the restraints: Judge gives the NYPD a freer hand in intelligence-gathering.
Calling in the cavalry: Persistent violence outweighs fears of racial profiling as Baltimore gets set to bring in state police.
Graduation day: First alumni are due to leave California’s treatment program for sex predators.
Forum: Homeland security — safety in numbers; handling the news media.
Family matters: More Florida sheriffs are taking over child-protection investigations.

Hiding in plain sight
Survey says thousands of sex offenders can’t be accounted for

     At any given time, nearly one-quarter of the nation’s convicted sex offenders cannot be located because they failed to register with local law enforcement as required under Megan’s Law, according to the results of a telephone survey released last month by a child advocacy group.

     The informal poll by Parents for Megan’s Law, a nonprofit group with chapters nationwide, was prompted by an Associated Press report in January which asserted that California had lost track of at least 33,000 sex offenders, or 44 percent of those who were supposed to register in the past year...

Compstat-type anticrime programs put down new roots far from New York

     After visiting a number of jurisdictions around the state last year, officials with the Hernando County, Fla., Sheriff’s Department took bits and pieces of the Compstat-type crime reduction programs they studied, and developed their own initiative to improve the agency’s crime-fighting abilities.

     Launched this month, STARCOM — short for Sheriff’s Tracking Accountability and Responsiveness to Crime Oppression Management — divides the county into three districts with a full complement of officers assigned to each...

Hybrid cars electrify Florida sheriffs

     They’re good for the environment, they do their part to help reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and, best of all for law enforcement, hybrid gas-electric cars can potentially save agencies thousands of dollars in fuel costs over the life of the vehicle.

     In the past two years, the Martin County, Fla., Sheriff’s Department has added nine Toyota Priuses and four Honda Civic hybrids to its 311-car fleet. Sheriff Robert L. Crowder launched the program after seeing hybrid cars at an Earth Day celebration. Sgt. Jenell Atlas, a department spokeswoman, told Law Enforcement News that Crowder was so intrigued that the next day he drove to a local Toyota dealership that had a Prius on the lot. He promptly purchased the Priuses and assigned them to the agency’s non-first responder staff, including some detectives, victims’ advocates, community relations and deputies who serve civil process...

Beyond the Rampart:
LAPD looks to put gusto back in gang enforcement

     Experts say a crackdown on gangs in Los Angeles may be hindered because spotty record-keeping on any gang-related offense besides murder has left law enforcement with an incomplete picture of the problem.

     Police Chief William Bratton last month named Deputy Chief Mike Hillman to the post of citywide gang czar. As part of his strategy, Hillman said he would use task forces that paired citizen watchdog groups with local, state and federal law enforcement officers...

Hopes are high as Portland rolls out quality-of-life cops

     As part of a department-wide expansion of the Portland, Ore., Police Bureau’s community policing effort, officers from each of the city’s precincts will be charged solely with fighting livability problems within their own jurisdictions.

     Deployment of the initiative this month has not run smoothly, however. Police Chief Mark Kroeker has been challenged as to why only one of his 23 “Senior Neighborhood Officers” was not a white male, and only a handful of the officers, who are the linchpins of the program, agreed to have their pictures posted on the department’s Web site and displayed by the media...

Foundation fuels E-911 systems

     Grants that range in size from little more than $9,000 to $500,000 will be awarded to jurisdictions by a private foundation for the implementation of enhanced emergency call systems.

     A total of $2.4 million will be dispersed to 29 grantees in 20 states by the Public Safety Foundation of America, a nonprofit organization established last year by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International (APCO)...

Federal File
FY 2004 budget seen as mixed bag

     On top of budget cuts likely to devastate local law enforcement agencies that depend on federal dollars in the forms of grants, critics of the Bush administration’s proposed $2.23-trillion budget for FY 2004 contend that the government is still shortchanging the nation on homeland security.

     Among the programs on the chopping block is the $400-million Edward Byrne Memorial Law Enforcement Grant Program, an initiative launched by the first President Bush in 1988. Under the new proposal, it would be combined at half the cost with two other law enforcement initiatives to form the Justice Assistance Grant program...

Speeders take an alternate route

     Drivers and police officials are at odds in Summersville, W.Va., over the significance of a Web site that allows those caught speeding to pay $20 plus a hefty fine and be on their way after passing an easy, Internet-based exam.

     While the strategy does offer drivers a way to avoid notifying and involving their insurance companies and state licensing agencies, some drivers also insist it points to the militancy of the city in collecting fees...

Audit rips DNA work by Houston PD

     The Houston Police Department and Harris County prosecutors have so far identified 90 cases as needing further forensic review, after a scathing audit ordered by the state last year led to the suspension of genetic testing by the HPD’s laboratory, and the likely suspicion that at least some of those imprisoned on the basis of DNA evidence got a raw deal.

     The result of the audit, conducted by the state Department of Public Safety and technicians from the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office, was damning. According to its findings, technicians were ill-trained and kept shoddy records. While a quality manual existed, the processes detailed in the document were not conducted, said the report...

NYPD gets a freer hand in intelligence-gathering

     The New York City Police Department’s adoption of surveillance guidelines issued last year by Attorney General John Ashcroft has convinced a federal district judge to modify a long-standing court order that had restricted the department’s ability to gather intelligence on political groups.

     Judge Charles S. Haight Jr. handed down his ruling on Feb. 12, saying that he had been convinced by an affidavit submitted in January by David Cohen, the NYPD’s deputy commissioner for intelligence. Cohen, a former CIA official, said that he believed the force could investigate terrorism under Ashcroft’s guidelines. Cohen also laid out for Haight the “changed circumstances” that warranted the modification. Islamic institutes and mosques in the United States, he wrote, had become increasingly radicalized, yet they hid behind the First Amendment, beyond the reach of law enforcement...

Persistent violence has Baltimore ready to bite the bullet on calling in troopers

     While fears of racial profiling have stymied past attempts by Maryland lawmakers to expand the jurisdiction of state troopers into the city of Baltimore, the persistence of drug-related crime and violence there has changed enough minds so that an agreement allowing city and state authorities to work together may become a reality sooner rather than later.

     “We’re anxious to get any help we can get from the state,” said Mayor Martin O’Malley, adding that he would like to get troopers into the city as “soon as possible...”

First ‘alumni’ due from California sex-predator treatment program

     A two-year treatment program in California for violent sexual predators who have been committed after serving criminal sentences will soon release at least one of its first two graduates into the community.

     This month, Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Robert Baines ruled that Brian DeVries, 44, has completed the program and could continue his therapy as an outpatient. Baines gave the state Department of Mental Health three weeks to find DeVries a treatment provider and a place to live. The agency must also come up with a plan to monitor his day-to-day activities...

Not exactly kid stuff:
Florida sheriffs take over child protection

     The Hillsborough County, Fla., Sheriff’s Office is due to become the next agency contracted by the state to take over the task of child protective investigations, under a plan that would shift some of the burden away from the overwhelmed state Department of Children and Families.

     So far, the experiment is underway in Pasco, Pinellas, Sarasota and Manatee counties. Hillsborough will join — if funding for the initiative does not get derailed — in April. Citrus County is also being tapped for the project. State officials, including Gov. Jeb Bush, have called for the privatization of child welfare services by January 2004...