Wednesday, September 28, 2016

FBI Crime Report: 2015 one of the safest years on record

The recently released FBI Crime Report for 2015 found that last year was one of the safest years on record, reported the Huffington Post.
The FBI found an increase of 3.1 percent from the 2014 violent crime rate estimate. But that year-over-year increase only tells part of the story. Looking at every year since 1996, the violent crime rate has only been lower in 2013 and 2014.
2015 was safer than any year during the presidencies of George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush or Ronald Reagan. Looking back at trends over the past five and 10 years, the total number of violent crimes in 2015 was 0.7 percent below the 2011 level and 16.5 percent below the 2006 level. Nevertheless, in a poll conducted earlier this year by The Huffington Post and YouGov, most Americans incorrectly believed that crime had risen overall in the past 10 years. 
John Pfaff, a law professor at Fordham University School of Law, said that even if the jump in the violent crime rate is similar to jumps seen in the 1990s, the actual effect of this one is much smaller.
“Crime was and remains quite low. Even in terms of worst case scenario with FBI numbers, things look similar to what they did four to five years ago,” Pfaff said. “At the time we celebrated those as being great.”
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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Idaho sex offenders challenge registration and notification laws

More than 100 sex offenders are challenging Idaho’s laws that require registration and community notification of sex offenders, saying the laws violate an array of constitutional rights, from the prohibition on double jeopardy to freedom of religion, reported the Idaho Statesman.
Twin Falls lawyer Greg Fuller sued Thursday in Boise federal court on behalf of 104 unnamed sexual offenders, identified as John or Jane Does 1-104. The lawsuit seeks a permanent order to stop the state and its counties from enforcing some portions of the law.
Similar lawsuits have been filed in other states, including Nevada and Illinois.
Here is how the lawsuit says other constitutional guarantees are violated:
Due process: Idaho law is vague, and it reassesses offenders and subjects them to new restrictions without a hearing.
Equal protection: The laws are designed to burden an unpopular group.
Religious freedom: Some churches and other places of worship fall within the places certain sex offenders cannot be, thereby interfering with offenders’ rights to practice religion.
Cruel and unusual punishment: The laws impose excessive punishment, community-notification requirements that can subject sex offenders to violence at the hands of vigilantes.
Double jeopardy: The laws impose new punishments on sex offenders previously convicted based on the crime originally committed.
Contracts: The laws impose new non-negotiated terms on previously negotiated plea agreements.
Takings: The laws place residential and movement restrictions on sex offenders, restricting property rights.
Separation of powers: The laws vacate earlier court judgments setting sex offenders’ classifications, community-notification requirements and length of times sex offenders must register.
The 73-page complaint names more than 35 defendants, including Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Warden, Idaho Department of Correction Director Kevin Kempf, Idaho State Police Director Col. Ralph Powell, and the sheriffs of the 21 counties where the plaintiffs reside.
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Monday, September 26, 2016

Rise in big city crime may have impact on presidential debate

Violent crime in certain big U.S. cities in 2015 likely increased over 2014, although the overall crime rate has remained far below peak levels of the early 1990s, experts said, in advance of the FBI's annual crime report, reported Reuters.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation's report was expected to show a one-year increase in homicides and other violent crimes in cities including Chicago, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., based on already published crime statistics.
Coming on the day of the first presidential campaign debate between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, the report could "be turned into political football," said Robert Smith, a research fellow at Harvard Law School, in a teleconference on Friday with other crime experts.
A rise in violent crime in U.S. cities since 2014 has already been revealed in preliminary 2015 figures released by the FBI in January.
A recent U.S. Justice Department-funded study examined the nation's 56 largest cities and found 16.8 percent more murders last year over 2014.
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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Prisons are not filled with non-violent drug offenders

Oregon district attorney Josh Marquis wrote an interesting piece on prison population for

One of the urban legends accepted by conservatives and liberals alike is the claim that mass incarceration is out of control, that America has become a virtual prison state filled with inmates serving time for nonviolent crimes. In the primary races for president, everyone from Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul to Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton decried the number of inmates in prison serving time for victimless drug offenses and harmless property crimes.
As the media are finally figuring out, our prisons are not filled with pot smokers.
The U.S. Justice Department found that only 3.6 percent of state inmates were sentenced for drug possession. When it came to marijuana, the number plummeted to three-tenths of 1 percent.
Yet the falsehood lives on because it’s politically convenient. Likewise the myth of nonviolent property crimes. Barely 25 percent of inmates are in prison for property crimes.
Prosecutors come face-to-face with the victims of these supposedly harmless crimes. If you think drug dealing is a victimless crime, you’ve never talked to parents trying to keep their children away from drug dealers. You’ve never seen someone whose life has been ruined by meth or heroin addiction. There’s nothing nonviolent about it.
And if you think breaking into someone’s home and destroying their sense of safety is no big deal, then you can probably afford private security.
The politically inconvenient fact is that the majority of inmates in our prisons are guilty of violent offenses. Do we now let them out so Republicans and Democrats who don’t live in high-crime neighborhoods can feel good about themselves?
We tried this in the 1970s, when the media was filled with optimistic stories of various social programs to rehabilitate violent criminals. The result? By the 1980s, crime was the No. 1 concern of many Americans.
What do we do about them? Require them to serve their sentences. Accountability and truth in sentencing are not political gimmicks. In the long run it will be cheaper. We will have fewer victims, and more criminals will focus on true change instead of trying to game the system.If you want to see what can happen if we let violent offenders out, consider what the Los Angeles Times found in 2006 when it looked at results of releasing jail inmates early because of jail closures: “Rearrests for violent and life-threatening crimes soared from 74 before the jail closures to more than 4,000.” What the Times story didn’t address, but prosecutors know, is that most victims of violent crime are poor and minority. These victims are invisible to even the most liberal politicians. This is the real reason for the bipartisan push to empty our prisons and save money. It is the poor whose safety will be sacrificed.
It has become a cliché that America incarcerates more people than any other nation. If America were a prison state, immigrants would not want to move here. They come here because of our freedoms and our justice system. In America, we attempt to control violent people who use their freedom to hurt others.

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Missouri city to require written consent to search a vehicle

Columbia, Missouri police officers will soon need your written permission to search your car if they don't have a warrant or probable cause, reported the Missourian.
A new department policy will require police officers to fill out a consent-to-search form and ask the driver to sign it. If the driver declines to consent, that will be noted on the form and the officer will need to request a warrant from the court.
Current policy allows officers to search vehicles with the driver's verbal permission. Otherwise they need probable cause or a warrant signed by a judge.
Saying implementation of the new policy isn't quite complete, Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton declined to talk about the change.
Officers who say they have received consent to search are often contradicted by defendants, said David Tyson Smith, a lawyer at Smith and Parnell LLC. He said the new policy will be “good for the citizens.”
Smith declined to speak about specific cases, citing his clients’ privacy, but he said he has handled cases where consent was called into question. Videotape is not always helpful, Smith said, due to occasional audio issues or poor camera angles.
The new policy should also help the police force verify that consent was given, Smith said.

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Friday, September 23, 2016

GateHouse: Gun owners down, gun purchases up

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse Media
September 23, 2016

Gun enthusiast will argue that guns are not just for killing. They can be collected, used for target practice, hunting and self-defense — although the latter two may include killing as well. However, all can agree that guns make killing easy. In fact, killing is so easy with a gun it is the weapon of choice for criminals and killers.
Where do criminals get guns?
Privately owned firearms are stolen in America between 300,000 and 600,000 times per year, according to researchers at Harvard and Northeastern universities, reported The Guardian. On the high end, that is more than 1,600 guns stolen every day, more than one every minute.
When a gun is stolen from a car, truck or home, it doesn’t just disappear. According to a 2012 Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives report, Firearms Reported Lost or Stolen, lost and stolen guns posed a “substantial threat” to public safety and to law enforcement. The report suggested, “Those that steal firearms commit violent crimes with stolen guns, transfer stolen firearms to others who commit crimes, and create an unregulated secondary market for firearms.”
Americans own an estimated 265 million guns, more than one gun for every American adult. The new Harvard and Northeastern universities’ survey estimates that 133 million of these guns are concentrated in the hands of just 3 percent of American adults — a group of super-owners, reported The Trace.
The survey also found a sharp cultural shift in American gun ownership. Twenty years ago, the primary reason people listed for keeping a gun at home was recreation. Today, the primary purpose for ownership is protection.
“When I look at our survey, what I see is a population that is living in fear,” Deb Azrael, a researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health and one of the lead authors of the study, told the Washington Post. “They are buying handguns to protect themselves against bad guys, they store their guns ready-to-use because of bad guys, and they believe that their guns make them safer.”
Interestingly, surveys of gun ownership in America continue to find the percentage of Americans who own guns decreasing, even as Americans buy more guns. The downward trend in gun ownership is consistent across national polls.
The percentage of American households owning guns is at a near 40-year low in the latest CBS News poll released this summer, even though gun purchases are at historic highs. According to CBS, their survey included 1,001 Americans in the aftermath of the Orlando nightclub shooting, 36 percent of U.S. adults either own a firearm personally or live with someone who does. That’s the lowest rate of gun ownership in CBS polls going back to 1978.
So how do you keep guns out of the hands of criminals amid this odd phenomenon of gun ownership? GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has an idea. He has proposed a nationwide stop-and-frisk policy, reported Time Magazine.
At a town hall meeting this week, Trump said the policy “worked incredibly well” in New York City, arguing that it is “proactive” and should be expanded across the country.
Stop-and-frisk is a controversial program that allows police to stop a person on the street based on suspicion of criminal activity and to frisk the person in search of a weapon. Several years ago, The New York Times reported, that federal Judge Shira A. Scheindlin wrote in an opinion calling for the end of stop-and-frisk in New York City that it had led police officers to stop “blacks and Hispanics who would not have been stopped if they were white.”
Not to mention that Trump’s “initiative” is normally a local issue implemented by municipal or state authorities. It is doubtful that a president could impose a nationwide stop-and-frisk initiative, nor should he or she advocate for such a policy.

Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book, “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010,” was recently released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewTMangino.

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Trump proposes nationwide implementation of controversial 'stop and frisk' policy

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump proposed a nationwide stop-and-frisk policy, when asked how he would prevent violence in black communities as president, reported Time.
Trump, who has previously spoken out in favor of the policy, made the comments during the taping of a Fox News town hall on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.
Stop-and-frisk, a controversial program that allows police to stop a person on the street based on suspicion of criminal activity, was expanded in New York City under Mayor Michael Bloomberg until a federal judge ruled in 2013 that it was unconstitutional and racially discriminatory. It has since been scaled back.
While city officials had argued the program was an effective crime-fighting measure, Judge Shira A. Scheindlin wrote in her decision that it had led police officers to stop “blacks and Hispanics who would not have been stopped if they were white,” the New York Times reported.
But at Wednesday’s town hall, Trump said the program “worked incredibly well” in New York City, arguing that it is “proactive” and should be expanded across the country.
The other problem for Trump is that a initiative like "stop-and-frisk" is locally implemented by municipal or state authorities.  It is doubtful that a president could impose a nationwide stop-and-frisk initiative. 
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