When Men Murder Women

Alaska has the highest rate of femicide by men, followed by Nevada, Louisiana, and Tennessee, according to the annual report of the Violence Policy Center (VPI) . Black women are more than twice as likely to be killed by men than their white counterparts.

The latest analysis of state-level homicide data shows a sharp increase in the rate at which women were slain by single men between 2014 and 2015 despite an overall 20-year decline, according to an annual report released by the Violence Policy Center (VPC) in September.

The 20th annual publication of When Men Murder Women analyzed the most recent Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) data submitted to the FBI, which covers the year 2015, and offers a breakdown of cases in the ten states with the highest rates of female homicides committed by men. Alaska had the highest femicide rate, followed by Louisiana, Tennessee, South Carolina, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Texas, New Mexico, and Missouri. VPC notes that data from Florida and Alabama are missing, and data received from Illinois is incomplete.

The study, which only examined instances involving one female victim and one male offender, found that 1,686 females were murdered by males in the U.S. in 2015.

“This is the exact scenario—the lone male attacker and the vulnerable woman—that is often used to promote gun ownership among women,” write the authors, zooming in on VPC’s main target: gun laws. For 2015, firearms, and especially handguns, were the weapon most commonly used by men to murder women.

The report also notes the findings of a 2003 study from California which showed that while two-thirds of women who get a handgun do so for for protection, “purchasing a handgun provides no protection against homicide among women and is associated with an increase in their risk for intimate partner homicide.”

Editor’s note: According to the Gun Violence Archive, out of 46,597 incidents of gun violence so far this year, only 1,518 incidents were “defensive use” of a firearm– roughly equal to the number of accidental shootings, which numbered 1,511.

Here are highlights from VPC’s analysis of 2015 data on women slain by men:

  • For homicides in which the victim to offender relationship could be identified, 93 percent of female victims (1,450 out of 1,551) were murdered by a male they knew.
  • Fourteen times as many females were murdered by a male they knew (1,450 victims) than were killed
    by male strangers (101 victims).
  • For victims who knew their offenders, 64 percent (928) of female homicide victims were wives or
    intimate acquaintances of their killers.12
  • There were 266 women shot and killed by either their husband or intimate acquaintance during the
    course of an argument.
  • Nationwide, for homicides in which the weapon could be determined (1,522), more female homicides were committed with firearms (55 percent) than with any other weapon. Knives and other cutting instruments accounted for 20 percent of all female murders, bodily force 11 percent, and murder by blunt object six percent. Of the homicides committed with firearms, 69 percent were committed with handguns.
  • In 84 percent of all incidents where the circumstances could be determined, homicides were not related
    to the commission of any other felony, such as rape or robbery.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) turned 23 this year.

Victoria Mckenzie is deputy editor of The Crime Report. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Trafficking Routes Up for Grabs After Fall of Top Caribbean Drug Kingpin

With global cocaine production estimated to be at historic levels, the flow of drugs, money and weapons through the Dominican Republic and its Caribbean neighbors looks poised to grow, reports InSight Crime. Homegrown criminal cells are also becoming stronger in a country that has traditionally come under the influence of Colombian and Mexican crime syndicates.

The man who was once considered the most powerful drug kingpin in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico has been convicted and sentenced to decades in a U.S. prison, raising questions as to who will step up to take control over the growing drug trade in this small but important trafficking corridor.

José David Figueroa Agosto, a Puerto Rican known by the alias “Junior Cápsula,” was sentenced to 30 years in prison on drug trafficking charges, local media reported on August 8. The sentence was handed down by a U.S. federal judge in May as part of a plea agreement, but relevant court documents had been sealed until recently.

A 2010 indictment charged Figueroa Agosto with shipping approximately 3 metric tons of Colombian cocaine between 2000 and 2001. His organization is thought to have controlled up to 90 percent of narcotics trafficking through the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico at the height of his power. This led the Puerto Rican–who enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle, using various false identities and even resorting to plastic surgery to evade capture–to eventually be dubbed the “Pablo Escobar of the Caribbean.”

According to the indictment, Figueroa Agosto would acquire Colombian cocaine and ship it either straight from Colombia or through neighboring Venezuela to Puerto Rico. A U.S. Justice Department press release indicates that his group also dealt with heroin, and at times used private yachts to ship millions in cash earned from drug sales back to the Dominican Republic.

Earlier in his career in the drug business, Figueroa Agosto murdered an individual he believed had stolen cocaine, a crime for which he was sentenced to more than 200 years in prison in 1995. But four years later, the Puerto Rican national walked out of prison through the front door with a forged release permit, most likely with help from colluding guards.

Figueroa Agosto twice more secured his release in the Dominican Republic, supposedly by bribing officials, before his final arrest in Puerto Rico in 2010. Rumours swirled that he may even have bribed a presidential candidate. And in 2015, Figueroa Agosto’s defense attorney was sentenced to nearly six years in prison on money laundering charges. The Justice Department asserts the attorney bribed Puerto Rican officials with drug money, in the hope of obtaining the nullification of the original murder sentence.

Beyond his colorful story, Figueroa Agosto is one of the rare examples of a homegrown Caribbean kingpin. As the region’s importance as a drug transit point has grown, his demise raises questions about the future of the criminal landscape in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, two of the Caribbean’s main drug trafficking hubs.

The volume of narcotics transiting through the region reportedly tripled between 2009 and 2014, while a series of multi-ton seizures in 2017 support official estimates that this upward trend has continued. Today, the Dominican Republic sees an estimated 120 metric tons of cocaine transiting through the country each year. Furthermore, the Caribbean’s role in the US market also appears to have grown over the past few years. In 2012, only 5 percent of drugs reaching the United States reportedly passed through the Caribbean; by 2015 this figure reached 13 percent.

No single major criminal figure has publicly emerged in the Dominican Republic since the days of Figueroa. But during recent field research to the country InSight Crime learned that local groups were assuming greater control of drug routes. This would represent an empowerment of homegrown criminal cells in a country that has traditionally come under the influence of Colombian and Mexican crime syndicates. It could also represent a potential impetus for conflict, if these local groups resort to violence in attempting to maintain or expand their operations.

Furthermore, analysts have suggested that corrupt government elements–particularly the military and police–have gradually stepped up their role in the drug trade from acting as facilitators to becoming traffickers in their own right. In 2015, top officials of the Dominican anti-narcotics police were accused of stealing over a ton of seized cocaine, and authorities suggested that up to 90 percent of organized crime related cases could involve collusion by security forces.

With global cocaine production estimated to be at historic levels, the flow of drugs, money and weapons through the Dominican Republic and its Caribbean neighbors looks poised to grow. The DEA’s Caribbean Division has also confirmed to InSight Crime that laboratories producing the powerful opioid fentanyl have been discovered on the island, potentially representing a new phenomenon in this traditional transit hub.

See also: Puerto Rico Cocaine Seizure Points to Caribbean’s Revival as Drug Hub

This story was originally published by InSight Crime, and is reproduced by The Crime Report under agreement. For the complete version, please click here. Readers’ comments are welcomed.

from https://thecrimereport.org

The Dirty Data Feeding Predictive Police Algorithms

The ability to predict crimes before they happen has long been a topic of fascination for science fiction writers and filmmakers. But in real life, the data feeding predictive algorithms is riddled with problems, according to a researcher at the UC Davis School of Law.

The ability to predict crimes before they happen has long been a topic of fascination for science fiction writers and filmmakers. In real life, predictive policing is getting a similar buzz, as dozens of police departments experiment with algorithm-driven programs to help them deploy resources more effectively.

But more attention should be focused on problems with the data that feed predictive algorithms, argues one researcher from the UC Davis School of Law.

“Predictive policing programs can’t be fully understood without an acknowledgment of the role police have in creating its inputs,” writes Elizabeth E. Joh, in a paper forthcoming in the William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal. Police aren’t just passive end-users of these data-driven programs–  they generate the information that feeds them.

The difference between crime, and crime data  

“A closer look at the “raw data” fed to these algorithms reveals some familiar problems,” the study maintains.

Even under the best of circumstances, crime data only partially captures the actual crime that occurs in any given place. To become fact, a crime must first be discovered, investigated, and recorded by police.

See also: Measuring the “Dark Figure” of Crime

Racial bias is only one factor that can influence the way police record crime, as well as the rate at which they record it, writes Joh. Other factors include workplace pressures, contract disputes, funding crises, the seriousness of the offense, “wishes of the complainant, the social distance between the suspect and the complainant, and the respect shown to the police.”

Changes in policy, such as the ‘broken windows’ campaign of the early 90s, also leave an indelible footprint on crime data.

There is also a concern that the algorithms produce self-fulfilling prophecies; send police to an area where crimes occurred in the past, and chances are that they’ll see something, reinforcing the the prediction.

As crime forecasting programs become more and more commonplace in police departments across the country, the consequences of data gaps will also grow in scale.

“Many of these issues will become even more difficult to isolate and identify as algorithmic decisionmaking becomes integrated into larger data management systems used by the police.”

The legitimacy of the “black box” algorithms themselves, which remain hidden behind proprietary information laws, is also uncertain. Last year, ProPublica investigated an algorithm created by Northpointe, Inc, and after comparing risk scores to actual recidivism rates, found the program to be only “somewhat more accurate than a coin flip.”

Ultimately, Joh cautions against “the assumption that algorithmic models don’t have subjectivity baked into them because they involve math.”

The same goes for law enforcement’s role in generating crime data:

“As long as policing is fundamentally a set of decisions by people about other people, the data fed to the machine will remain a concern.”

This summary was prepared by Deputy Content Editor Victoria Mckenzie. A full copy of the report can be obtained here. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Children Exposed to Crime Rarely Get Needed Services: Study

Children are more deeply affected by crime, both directly and indirectly, than previously realized, a sobering new research paper from University of Pennsylvania Law School has found. And while most states provide services for children affected by crime, a world-class bureaucratic labyrinth makes it extremely difficult for anyone, particularly parents who are not highly educated, to access these programs. Yet not providing counseling and other help for these children is a step almost certain to cause more lasting damage both […]

Children are more deeply affected by crime, both directly and indirectly, than previously realized, a sobering new research paper from University of Pennsylvania Law School has found.

And while most states provide services for children affected by crime, a world-class bureaucratic labyrinth makes it extremely difficult for anyone, particularly parents who are not highly educated, to access these programs.

Yet not providing counseling and other help for these children is a step almost certain to cause more lasting damage both to the helpless minors and to society in the long term.

The study, conducted by Michal Gilad, looked at five categories of impact across 50 states: children’s being directly victimized by crime, witnessing crime in the family, witnessing crime in the community, parents being hurt by crime, and parents being incarcerated. While no one thinks that a crime committed against a child won’t cause psychological harm, the report found that even indirect exposure, such as witnessing violence in the community, damages children because of the plasticity of their developing brains and lack of emotional maturity.

“The documented harm ranges from physical and mental health problems to increased risk for learning disabilities, behavioral problems, repeat victimization, juvenile delinquency, adult criminality, and substance abuse,” writes Gilad.

Moreover, the problem is much more widespread than most people may think. The study found that “nearly half of the minor children living in the United States today” have been victimized or exposed to crime in their home or community each year.

And yet, “even when identified, only a minuscule minority ever receive services or treatment to facilitate recovery.” While Gilad was surprised and heartened to discover through a newly designed survey that in the majority of the 50 states, services are in place to help children in four of the five crime-impact categories (the exception being children of incarcerated parents), an extremely challenging bureaucratic labyrinth exists.

Even in conducting the survey for his report, Gilad found that contact information for agencies serving children was hard to come by with phone numbers and emails withheld reportedly for security reasons and “phone contact frequently proved to be futile, as the caller seeking information is transferred from one person to another until reaching a dead end, usually a voice mail filled to capacity.”

In a disturbingly large number of cases, once Gilad was able to communicate with an agency worker, there was lack of awareness of statutorily mandated victim-assistance funds for necessary services. Lack of coordination, and stakeholders not speaking the same language, was apparent.

This report poses the chilling scenario: “Imagine a child in desperate need for assistance to overcome trauma in this environment. The child must depend almost solely on a lay parent with no professional skills, and often with only minimal education and resources, to go through the daunting journey through the thorny terrain of the system.”

The difficulty in finding out how to help children victimized by crime raises the possibility that “these persistent and reoccurring system design flaws and administrative roadblocks are not entirely coincidental,” and are saving states money in the short term, the report says.

“Unfortunately, an evidence-based examination of the problem indicates that such short-term savings are likely to result in epic long-term costs borne by tax payers and society,” Gilad writes.

This summary was prepared by TCR Deputy Web Editor Nancy Bilyeau. A full copy of the report can be obtained here. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

The Wrong Path: Involuntary Treatment and the Opioid Crisis

The use of involuntary commitment for drug addiction is expanding across the country, as desperate families seek help for their loved ones. But it is likely to make things worse.

In May, nine people committed to the Massachusetts Alcohol and Substance Abuse Center in Plymouth briefly walked out from the minimum-security facility. State authorities mounted a manhunt, using helicopters and dogs to apprehend these treatment “patients.”

The episode illustrates a dangerously-blurred line between substance use treatment and prison, based on a statute that allows for involuntary commitment of “alcoholics or substance abusers.”

In this case, the facilities housing criminals and patients were, in fact, one and the same.

The Massachusetts provision—Section 35—allows family members, doctors and police to petition a judge to civilly commit an individual with substance use disorder, where the condition creates a “likelihood of serious harm.”

Across the US, at least 33 states have similar statutes, though their precise parameters and level of deployment vary widely. In Massachusetts, an individual can be ordered to a course of treatment for up to 90 days.

The use of this mechanism has rapidly expanded as the opioid crisis has worsened, used primarily by desperate families seeking to get help for their loved ones.

In some of the over 8,000 Section 35 commitments a year in the state, the mechanism is being invoked by the very individual who is to be committed. This is because many see Section 35 as the only—or the most expedient and cheapest—way to access treatment.

That highlights the perversion of our drug treatment system.

It’s easier to voluntarily submit oneself to “involuntary” treatment, just to receive rapid and free access to assistance. This is despite the fact that the path is through a coercive, criminal justice-based structure, rather than through normal health care navigation channels.

Drug users committed under this provision have committed no crime. Treating them as criminals and depriving them of agency and liberty without adequate justification violates basic constitutional and ethical principles, as recent and previous litigation has posited. To make matters worse, these individuals are now subject to being physically restrained in treatment facilities, raising concerns about possible physical abuse.

The parallel provision in Massachusetts law applying to mental health cases, such as cases of suicide risk, imposes only a three-day commitment and requires authorization from a mental health clinician. In contrast, Section 35 authorizes a person to be held for up to 90 days and considers clinical judgment non-binding.

Further, the rules of evidence do not apply to Section 35 hearings. And, for police and physicians, “committing” individuals through Section 35 recently became easier because a standing order in some courts now allows those petitioners to simply fax the petition rather than appearing in person.

In the meantime, police, family support groups, and others are disseminating information and instructions on how to “section” SUD-affected individuals.

Leo Beletsky

As it turns out, coerced and involuntary treatment is actually less effective in terms of long-term substance use outcomes, and more dangerous in terms of overdose risk.

Mandated evaluation of overdose data in Massachusetts has found that people who were involuntarily committed were more than twice as likely to experience a fatal overdose as those who completed voluntary treatment. (See page 48-49 in this preliminary analysis.)

Though further research is needed to confirm these findings, there are several possible reasons for this. One is that recovery is much more likely when it is driven by internal motivation, not by coercion or force (i.e. the person must “want to change”).

Second, the state may actually route individuals to less evidence-driven programs on average (e.g. “detox”) than the kind of treatment accessed voluntarily (i.e. outpatient methadone or buprenorphine treatment).

Finally, those receiving care in outpatient settings may also receive services that help address underlying physical or mental health needs, which are often at the root of problematic substance use.

Another important concern is that mechanisms like Section 35 massively shift financial responsibility for substance use treatment from insurers directly to taxpayers. In Massachusetts, care provided under Section 35 has to be paid for by state public health dollars (or criminal justice dollars, depending on the location of commitment). In contrast, care received voluntarily is paid for by health insurers.

This is in addition to the fact that the gold standard for most people with opioid use disorder is outpatient treatment, which does not require “beds.” In other words, taxpayers are left holding the bag for something that is more costly, less effective, and more traumatizing. Misuse of those resources also raises questions about what alternative evidence-based investments could be made with those resources.

Despite these and other weighty concerns, policymakers in Massachusetts and elsewhere have looked to expand the scope of mechanisms like Section 35, because they seem them as a key tool in addressing the opioid crisis. The recent federal announcement of a public health emergency will likely accelerate this trend.

Though involuntary commitment represents an attractively decisive policy option, it is in fact the wrong solution to the crisis.

Elisabeth Ryan

Across Massachusetts and throughout the U.S., families are desperate for solutions, but increased reliance on Section 35 is not the way to go. Many individuals who are in crisis are unable or unwilling to access help. There are formidable logistical, financial, and other barriers to receiving on-demand treatment and related services.

The way services are currently rendered is also a barrier.

Many users do not want to engage in existing programs because those programs use unproven methods and approach care in ways that traumatizes and denigrates patients. Others may simply not be ready to enter treatment.

Currently, there is no alternative mechanism that would trigger timely assistance and intensive case management of the kind that is necessary to support people in crisis and their families in non-coercive, evidence-driven way.

Any conversation about reducing over-reliance on involuntary commitment provisions like Section 35 must include a discussion of such alternatives.

See also: Leo Beletsky, Law Enforcement, Drugs and the ‘Public Health’ Approach 

Leo Beletsky is an Associate Professor of Law and Health Sciences at Northeastern University. He’s on Twitter at @leobeletsky. Elisabeth Ryan is a Legal Fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Law, Northeastern University School of Law. She runs publichealthlawwatch.org, on Twitter at @phlawwatch. They welcome comments from readers.https://twitter.com/phlawwatch 

from https://thecrimereport.org

Most People ‘Unaware’ Climate Change Threatens Global Security

A survey conducted by the John Jay College Center on Terrorism, found that only 38% of all respondents “expressed familiarity with the general idea that climate change could multiply global threats such as political violence or mass migrations, or act as a catalyst for conflict.”

According to a survey conducted by the John Jay College Center on Terrorism, even people who believe climate change is real remain largely unaware of its connection to global security. The study found that only 38% of all respondents “expressed familiarity with the general idea that climate change could multiply global threats such as political violence or mass migrations, or act as a catalyst for conflict.”

That number was only slightly higher among people who believe climate change is real, and caused or contributed to by human actions: 42%.

Only 15% were aware of the role a deadly drought played in sparking the ongoing Syrian conflict.

Participants in the study were more willing to take action and change their behaviors when they perceived U.S. national security, rather than global security, to be at threat, say the researchers.

According to the authors, the results of this study could have significant implications for “climate change communications.”

The connection between global climate change and security is not new among the national security, intelligence and research communities. However, according to the John Jay College Center on Terrorism at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, public understanding of climate change as a security threat has been under-explored till now.

The study was conducted by Kelly A. Berkell, Research Fellow and principal author,
with Charles B. Strozier, Director of the Center on Terrorism. The original report can be found here.

from https://thecrimereport.org