Is There a Tipping Point with Crime? A Tipping Point for Crime Prevention?

In Chicago, 225 people were shot in July, and 42 of them died from their wounds.  In one night alone, a dozen people were shot; on another night, six men were murdered.

In Baltimore, last Sunday, 18 people were shot in five different incidents.  In the Baltimore Sun, Peter Hermann and Arthur Hirsch profiled an emergency room nurse on duty throughout the carnage: ... 

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Some Other Elected Officials Who Should Be Shown the Door

Amazing, the amount of work it takes to get our leaders to the point of appearing to do their jobs.  But the job of getting elected officials to do their jobs, alas, is never done.  The mayor and chief of police have promised more police on the streets by next summer (and if this promise is not kept, they will be long gone anyway, so accountability is moot).  A weekend crime sweep netted 159 arrests, including many for outstanding warrants, which means that enough manpower was deployed to do what is supposed to be done all the time: pick up people with outstanding warrants.

In other words, in the last five days, the mayor briefly did her job by addressing the crime problem while only slightly denying it; the chief of police was spotted in the same zip code as his office, and law enforcement officers were given enough resources for all of 48 hours. ... 

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Post-Press Conference Fallout: Aphorisms Versus Platitudes

I had not been watching Atlanta television news until I tried to watch the press conference yesterday morning.  They are sending people to bang on doors, looking for the Chief of Police, and challenging the Mayor on her unwillingness to address the issue.  My apologies.  The media is alive and kicking in Atlanta.

Yesterday morning, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and Police Chief Richard Pennington held a press conference to talk about crime.  Here is some of what they said, culled from local news reports: ... 

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Yellow Leadership/White Collar Crime/Newspaper Blues

Some days, it’s hard to sound constructive. Thursday blues?  For once, I’m not gonna try:

Exhibit A: Somebody should demand that Atlanta Police Chief Pennington surrender his day book, so people can see precisely what he is doing for all that money.  How often does he go to the office?  Where is he at 5:05 p.m.?  At 7:05 a.m.? ... 

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That “Perception of the Crime Rate Dropping” Perception Thing: One Statistic That Would Count

It is good to see politicians in Atlanta responding to (as opposed to studiously ignoring, or denying) the crime crisis.  But now that we’ve gotten their attention (no small accomplishment), how does the city really move forward to make residents safe?

The Atlanta Police Department has a fascinating series of charts on their website, showing fifty years of statistics for various crimes in the city.  Go to this page and click on “Part I Crime: A Fifty Year Retrospective.”   Immediately, what jumps out is that crime is down since that horrible time in the early 1990’s, when crack cocaine was burning a fat fuse through certain neighborhoods — especially the housing projects.  If you compare 1989 to 2009, it is easy to say, yes, crime in the city limits is not as bad now as it was then. ... 

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30 Years Ago, Today: It Takes A Village to Sexually Exploit a Child

July 28, 1979. Rocky II and Moonraker were in the movie theaters.  The Ayatollah Khomeini took over Iran, and Saddam Hussein took over Iraq.  “Good Times,” and “We Are Family” played on the radio that summer (“Message in a Bottle” and “London Calling” if you weren’t into disco).  Little boys wanted to grow up to be the next Michael Jackson.  Three Mile Island almost melted and Skylab fell out of the sky.

Atlanta’s murder rate was unambiguously the highest in the country.  Cops said they were understaffed, and they were understaffed, though, ironically, there were approximately as many cops then as there are now, even though there were far, far fewer residents in the metro area. ... 

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What Works? D.C. Moves Forward on Fighting Crime

As Atlanta prepares for the none-too-soon departure of the current mayor and police chief, it’s worth considering the example of cities where reasonable, engaged crime-fighting policies seem to be working:

Washington D.C. is experiencing the lowest murder rate in years.  Why? D.C.’s fairly new and interesting Police Chief, Cathy L. Lanier, attributes the drop in murder rates to intensive use of communication tools and intensive planning to anticipate trouble at certain events and between certain gangs: ... 

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What Works? Overcoming Fatalism by Fixing Broken Glass: New York City

Back in the 1980’s, when I was living in upstate New York and deciding where to go to college, New York City beckoned as an obvious choice: the schools, the libraries and bookstores, the Village.  I went down to Fordham for a campus visit.  The next day, I returned home, appalled.  The grounds were beautiful, but the neighborhood was so dangerous that security guards would not allow students to leave campus in groups smaller than 12.  Fordham was gated and patrolled like an embassy on enemy soil.  The streets a few blocks away looked like a war zone, and the subways surrounding it were filthy, subterranean toilets filled with more or less aggressive lunatics trying to catch your eye.

I know, I know: I was a wimp for not wanting to become one of those tough city denizens, Blondie-tough, the type who didn’t blink as they negotiated the human detritus piled up in the streets.  I was also a serious long-distance runner, and I couldn’t imagine living in a place where you needed to recruit 11 other people just in order to walk down the street.  And then, parks were off limits for runners at any hour of the day.  Even in the nicer parts of Manhattan, normal people went about their business only by studiously pretending they were not stepping over some zoned-out junkie passed out in a pool of vomit as they made their way from the subway to the street. ... 

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Blogging Crime Versus “Disappearing” It: Chicago and Atlanta

Chicago:

In Chicago, something interesting is happening as “twittering” and blogging and e-mail bring in first-hand reports that deviate from official versions.  It is hard to whitewash incidents of violence and rioting when people are reporting them in real time and police are going back over their incident reports to compare notes later. ... 

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The New Normal: Atlanta

I, for one, think newspapers are being rejuvenated by their current financial crisis.  The old-fashioned, insular newsroom, with its disturbing status quo on crime reporting (defendants are victims of society; victims are society, and thereby guilty of something) is becoming a thing of the past.

Over the holiday weekend, the Atlanta Journal Constitution ran this must-read story by Bill Torpy, in which he examines the real costs of retail burglaries for small business owners: ... 

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Court Watching in Atlanta Scores a Victory — and Kudos to Judge Wendy Shoob

From Marcia Killingsworth’s always informative blog, Intown Writer, this story of keeping career criminal Andre Grier off the streets.  For now, at least:

[R]ecently, CourtWatch Coordinator Janet Martin and one of our community prosecutors Assistant District Attorney Kimani King alerted us to State of Georgia vs. Andre Grier 09SC77314, a case coming before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Wendy L. Shoob. ... 

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The Tech Crime Wave. What Can Be Done. What Can’t Be Done.

What can be done about crime in the neighborhoods around Georgia Tech?  As reported by the AJC, the youths who have been arrested — and the ones who are yet to be caught — are perhaps the most dangerous type of criminal: immature and armed.  As James Fetig, an administrator at Georgia Tech, observed:

“[o]ne concern is the age of the criminals. Police tell us they are between 16 and 19,” Fetig said. “This is not a time when young men tend to consider consequences. We are very concerned that one of these robberies could go terribly wrong and have terrible consequences.” ... 

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The Next Step for Georgia Court Watching

I have been watching the growth of court-watching in Georgia, and it is encouraging to see the practice taking hold.  Nothing will change on the streets until public scrutiny is brought to bear on the courts, where evidence abounds that judges have been breaking and bending the intent of Georgia’s sentencing laws with no professional consequences whatsoever.

No consequences for judges, even when they actually violate Georgia’s sentencing laws.  No prosecutor dare complain when a judge cuts an illicit deal with an offender — because the prosecutor must appear before that judge, or one of that judge’s peers and colleagues, every single day.  You can’t be critical of judges and be effective in the courtroom.  So there are no consequences for judges, even when their decision to overlook the law or their failure to do their jobs with appropriate diligence results in preventable murders, like the killing of Dr. Eugenia Calle. ... 

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Sgt. Scott Kreher Update: Cops and Us

Sgt. Scott Kreher of the Atlanta Police Department, has been returned to desk duties as Mayor Shirley Franklin continues down the path of using the D.A.’s office to “investigate” him for importune remarks made during a hearing on denying medical benefits to the city’s disabled officers.  Stephanie Ramage, at The Ramage Report, has issued another call to restore Sgt. Kreher to his full duties.  It’s an amazing plea for forgiveness and the respect the police deserve.

Along the lines of Stephanie’s blog, I’ve been having some interesting conversations with a young police officer at my gym.  What always strikes me when I’m talking to police is how they view their jobs as a calling, not just a place to punch the clock.  The young officer at my gym told me that he does not do overtime because he recognizes the need to be able to go home and have a life at the end of his shift, because the job is so intense and what is being asked of police officers is so emotionally challenging. ... 

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Two Crimes I Didn’t Report, Part 1

As I’ve mentioned several times, most crime is committed by a small number of very prolific offenders.  Remove these people from the streets, impose real consequences, and crime rates will drop.

But so long as the courts continue to let people off for their first offense, whatever it may be, and then for their second and their third and their fourth offenses, with a slap on the wrist and time served or probation, then the streets will remain dangerous. ... 

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Shedding Light on the Problem: Recidivism, Neighborhood Activism, and The Courts

Midtown Atlanta Neighborhood Association safety chair Randall Cobb, commenting in the Atlanta Journal Constitution about two stabbings in Piedmont Park, got it right:

“Crime has not gone down in the city, no matter what the city says they’re doing,” [he said] noting a spike in Midtown break-ins and armed robberies since 2007. ... 

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Selective Outrage: What the Paralyzed Cop Scandal Says About Atlanta’s Politicians

As elected officials in Atlanta crowd the microphone to denounce Sgt. Scott Kreher for saying something importune about Mayor Shirley Franklin, the list grows . . . of elected officials in Atlanta grandstanding on Kreher while refusing to comment on the city’s grotesque treatment of wounded police officers, the real issue.

Here is a video Kreher helped create that details the systematic abuse of the officers by the city.  And here is a petition supporting Kreher, a decent guy who lost his temper over real injustice.  Not fake injustice.  I urge you to read the text of the petition, if you want to know what really happened. ... 

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How Atlanta Treats its Wounded Police Officers on Memorial Day

If the genius of democracy is the peaceful transfer of power through elections, the tragedy of democracy is the exploitation of this public goodwill by elected and appointed officials who treat their last year or so in office (sometimes, their entire time in office) like a tin pot dictatorship, holing up and divvying the spoils while behaving as if the needs of the people are beneath their concern.

There’s little the public can do about a lame duck elected official who treats them with contempt.  Little, that is, except doing their homework for the next election, noting who is aligned with whom, voting accordingly — and carefully counting the towels after each transfer of power is complete. ... 

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A Fall From A Tree, And Then Rape

Michael Ledford’s attorneys want the jury to believe that Ledford is not responsible for murder and rape — is not responsible for any of the rapes he committed — because he once fell out of a tree.

If they believe that he is utterly incapable of controlling himself, and that he must rape and kill, then where were they when he was released from prison?  Why didn’t these experts — or rather their peers, somebody from the cohort of prison psychiatrists — make the case that Ledford should have been committed to an institution upon release from prison?  For surely he has not fallen out of another tree since his release: he has not changed.  If he was that dangerous and that crazy a few years ago, why did nobody do anything then? ... 

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Silver Comet Trail Killer’s Sentencing: Our Twisted System for Excusing Killers

The sentencing phase has begun in the Silver Comet Trail case, and this is a good opportunity to see the types of things that keep or get a killer off death row — not just now, during sentencing, but later, during the endless appeals that will inevitably follow.

Anti-death penalty activists always use the “evidence” presented during the sentencing phase to try to get their clients off death row, “evidence” in quotes because the types of things that get presented in court during sentencing are wildly subjective.  Nevertheless, if the defense says later that jurors did not consider these factors appropriately, there’s an appeal.  And if one defense lawyer says later that the defense lawyer at trial did not present this subjective “evidence” appropriately, there’s another appeal. ... 

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Five Ugly Pieces, Part 5: Around Atlanta

Some mop-up for the week:

The Silver Comet Trail murder case is moving along despite efforts by the defense to derail it.  Tragically, Michael Ledford’s mother had tried to get her son put back in jail before Jennifer Ewing was killed: ... 

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Five Ugly Pieces, Part 4: Britteny Turman, Grace Dixon, and Frank Rashad Johnson Denied Justice in Atlanta

On Sunday, May 10, the Atlanta Journal Constitution published an article by Bill Torpy that raises troubling questions about what is going on in Atlanta’s courtrooms.  Like this April 10 story by Steve Visser, Torpy’s story focuses on an element of the justice system that receives less attention than policing but is arguably far more responsible for the presence of dangerous felons on Atlanta’s streets: the choices, both legal and administrative, made by Atlanta’s judges.

We invest judges with extraordinary power.  We allow judicial discretion in all sorts of sentencing and administrative decisions.  Legislators have tried to limit judges’ discretion in recent years by imposing minimum mandatory sentence guidelines and repeat offender laws.  But Georgia’s sentencing guidelines still give judges far too much latitude to let criminals go free.  Also, far too many judges have responded to this legislative oversight (aka, the will of the people) by simply ignoring the intent, and even the letter, of those laws. ... 

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Five Ugly Pieces, Part 2: Hiding In Plain Sight

The MySpace Page (thanks, to Grayson) of the “30 Deep Gang” is, according to the creator, “all about money.”  There are images of dice, diamonds, blocks of gold, rap stars, and twenty dollar bills.  There is a photograph of a young man pointing a gun at the camera, and another photo labeled “Lil’ Wayne . . . Prostitute Flange” showing a smiling woman towering over the rap star.  In the “friends” section, there is a picture of a young man with the caption, “Zone 3 shawty money men da longway.”  Zone 3 is where bartender John Henderson was murdered, and the police are looking for “30 Deep Gang” members in Henderson’s death.

Zone 3 is also where I used to live, and the sound of gunfire was a regular thing there.  In order to get by you had to ration your response to it, or you would spend every day responding to it, which is an impossibility.  This is what the mayor and the chief of police are denying whenever they announce that residents are being hysterical about crime.  Residents police themselves, even more than criminals are policed.   Innocent people are held captive by the threat of violent crime, but, still, there are people who believe it is distasteful to demand to be freed. ... 

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