Summer L.A. Killings Are Down to The 2014 Level

Except for the total of 59 homicides this summer and in 2014, the city’s summer homicide tally typically was in the 70s or 80s. A decade ago, there were 116 homicides during the summer. Last year, there were 82. Police Chief Charlie Beck said that 59 homicides are “far too many.”

Two years ago, Los Angeles police were alarmed by a particularly brutal August, the deadliest the city had seen in years. Hoping to slow the bloodshed, top police officials retooled their crime-fighting strategies. They sent extra officers to the neighborhoods hit hardest, looking for guns and focusing on gang-inspired violence, the Los Angeles Times reports. This summer, those changes finally paid off. L.A. saw a total of 59 homicides in June, July and August, Police Chief Charlie Beck said, far lower than the number of killings typical for the three-month period. Other than 2014, when the city also recorded 59 homicides, it was the fewest killings in a single summer since 1966.

In recent years, the city’s summer homicide tally typically was in the 70s or 80s. A decade ago, there were 116 homicides during the summer. Last year, there were 82. Beck said that 59 homicides are “far too many.” He added, “that’s a pretty significant accomplishment for this city to have a summer that was that safe.” The drop in killings was welcome news for the police department, which has been nagged by crime numbers that began creeping upward in 2014. Though the department worked steadily to reverse the trend — most notably by adding more officers to the elite Metropolitan Division and creating a command center to more quickly respond to violence in South L.A. — the numbers were slow to move. This year, overall serious crime is up about 1.2 percent compared with the same period last year.

from https://thecrimereport.org

National Shoplifting Ring Charged In $20 Million Thefts

Tijuana vendors put in special orders for designer merchandise, dispatching teams of shoplifters to malls around the U.S. to steal more than $20 million in loot that could be resold at lower prices in Mexico, charges an indictment in San Diego federal court.

For the past decade, Tijuana vendors put in special orders for designer merchandise, dispatching teams of shoplifters to malls around the U.S. to steal more than $20 million in loot that could be resold at lower prices in Mexico, charges an indictment in San Diego federal court, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. The highly organized shoplifting ring targeted malls around San Diego County and as far away as Washington, Illinois, Oregon and Maryland, prosecutors said. They used sophisticated techniques to lift everything from Louis Vuitton shoes to Victoria’s Secret lingerie to Abercrombie & Fitch clothing.

When necessary, the suspected thieves used violence — knocking down an infant in a stroller or breaking a loss prevention officer’s arm — the U.S. Attorney’s office said. On Wednesday, more than 250 law enforcement officers arrested at least 14 people. A San Diego federal grand jury indicted 22 people in the scheme. Agents seized $30,000 in cash as well as about a dozen trash bags bursting with new clothing with tags and security devices still attached. Piles of new Louis Vuitton shoes, as well as jewelry and perfume, were also confiscated. The shoplifting crews were organized by team leaders, who would scout stores and choreograph the heists using cellphones and hand signals, prosecutors said. “Blockers” would distract store employees or shield the movements of the “mules,” who would use metallic-lined “booster” bags to hide the merchandise and defeat store security sensors.

from https://thecrimereport.org

U.S. Violent Crime Drops After Rising for Two Years

Based on data from the nation’s 30 largest cities, the rate of reported violent crime rate is projected to fall by 0.6 percent, also to the second-lowest point in over 25 years, says the Brennan Center for Justice.

The U.S. is on pace to record the second-lowest violent crime rate in 2017 of any year since 1990, says the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. Based on data from the nation’s 30 largest cities, the rate of reported violent crime rate is projected to fall by 0.6 percent, also to the second-lowest point in over 25 years, the Washington Post reports. The lowest rate was in 2014. “This result,” the center says, “is driven primarily by stabilization in Chicago and declines in Washington, D.C., two large cities that experienced increases in violence in recent years.” The murder rate is projected to be down 2.5 percent, on-par with the rate in 2009.

While there was a national uptick in violent crime and murder during 2015 and 2016, one driver of those shifts was the sharp increase in killings in two cities, Chicago and Baltimore, which combined made up more than half of the increase in murders from 2014 to 2017. This year, the number of murders in Chicago alone is expected to drop 2.4 percent. It is declines in New York, Houston and Detroit that are driving the overall decrease. “Our data leads us to believe that the upticks in 2015 and 2016 were likely short-term fluctuations,” said Brennan’s Inimai Chettiar, noting that “not enough research has been done to identify the exact catalyst.” Ronal Serpas, former New Orleans police superintendent, said, “In contrast to what we have been hearing from the president and attorney general … all measures of crime and murder are in decline this year. It’s irresponsible to incite public panic based on falsehoods, and it makes our police officers’ jobs harder.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Sessions Again Cites US Crime Wave; Fact Check Calls It a Lie

The U.S. attorney general once again drum-thumped about lawlessness this week, telling a police convention in Nashville that “violent crime is back with a vengeance.” The Washington Post says he is being duplicitous–“stoking American’s fears about crime and safety to advance a political agenda of ‘law and order.’”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week resumed his drum-thumping about American lawlessness, telling a police union convention in Nashville that “violent crime is back with a vengeance.” Except that it’s not, according to the Washington Post Fact Checker. Experts say crime in America is at historically low levels, and the Fact Checker presented Sessions with its highest “whopper” rating of four Pinnochios. It concluded, “Sessions’ claims about crime across the country are a distortion of the facts. Nationwide, the violent crime rate and the murder rate are lower than they have been in almost 45 years.”

Fact Checker said he applies the same distortion in his spotlighting of crime in major cities, using Chicago as an example of rising violence even though a rudimentary understanding of data shows it to be an outlier that is out of sync with national trends. The Post concludes, “With every dramatic assertion, Session is stoking American’s fears about crime and safety to advance a political agenda of ‘law and order.’”

from https://thecrimereport.org

No Quick Fix to Baltimore Crime, Say Chief, Prosecutor

State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, in a joint interview with the Baltimore Sun, say they are overseeing crime-fighting in a different climate from six years ago, when the city experienced fewer than 200 homicides for the first time in decades. The officials said those past gains were achieved using heavy-handed tactics that have been disavowed.

Baltimore’s top law enforcement leaders say they are working closely together to fight crime, but the community should not expect a turnaround soon, the Baltimore Sun reports. State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, in a joint interview with the Sun, say they are overseeing crime-fighting in a different climate from six years ago, when the city experienced fewer than 200 homicides for the first time in decades. Both officials said those past gains were achieved using heavy-handed tactics that have been disavowed. “There was a price to pay for” the drop below 200 homicides, a price “that manifested itself in April and May of 2015,” Davis said, referring to the uprising after the death of Freddie Gray. “I think the long view is that doing it the right way is doing it the hard way, and I think most Baltimoreans realize that the way forward is not always going to be easy.”

Mosby agreed. “People want to look for an overnight solution, but a lot of what has gotten us to this place didn’t happen overnight.” She said Baltimore “is kind of in transition right now. At the end of the day, we’re making a lot of positive changes.” Baltimore is on track for more than 300 killings for the third consecutive year. Among the latest victims was a 15-year-old boy who was gunned down in the mid-afternoon Tuesday, the third teenager killed this month. In addition to spiking crime, authorities have continued to grapple with scandals that have led to criminal charges against officers and the dropping of scores of court cases. The two officials said they work closely and rely on each other. “There’s a co-dependence,” Mosby said. “It’s really important to collaborate and meet to be on the same page, for the safety and betterment of Baltimore.” Mayor Catherine E. Pugh released her plan this month for stemming the city’s persistent violence. She said she expects a 10 percent to 20 percent reduction in crime within a year.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Wave of Wheel, Tire Thefts Hits Michigan

Advances in vehicle anti-theft technology have contributed to the increase in stolen wheels. “It’s far easier to jack up a car and steal the tires and the rims than it is to steal the entire car,” said Mark Wagenschutz of Help Eliminate Auto Thefts (HEAT).

Brazen thieves swiped the wheels and tires from seven new Explorers and one Expedition, leaving the vehicles on landscaping bricks in a dealer’s lot near Kalamazoo, Mi. “I was very upset. You feel helpless,” said owner Bill Dorrance. “We’ve lost four wheels at a time before, but never on this scale.” The Detroit Free Press reports that the incident illustrates what many law enforcement agencies say is an increasing problem in Michigan: wheel and tire theft. The agencies are teaming up to address the rash of thefts sweeping the state, with more than 40 dealerships hit so far this year.

With people often working in small, organized teams, like a pit crew on a race track, the crime can happen quickly. “(There are) a lot of variables,” including how experienced the thieves are, Michigan State Police First Lt. Scott Woodard said. “If they’re good, they can have all fours tires off in two minutes and be gone.” Officials from 30 law enforcement agencies met two weeks ago at State Police headquarters in Lansing to discuss wheel and tire thefts. They swapped information and tried to piece together possible patterns. Advances in vehicle anti-theft technology have contributed to the increase in stolen wheels. “It’s far easier to jack up a car and steal the tires and the rims than it is to steal the entire car,” said Mark Wagenschutz of Help Eliminate Auto Thefts (HEAT).

from https://thecrimereport.org

Baltimore Mayor Lays Out ‘Urgent’ Anticrime Plan

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh named a new director of criminal justice and released an updated plan she said will stem Baltimore’s persistent violence. Councilman Brandon Scott said the city still need an anticrime plan “with accountability and goals and measurable targets.”

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh named a new director of criminal justice and released an updated plan she said will stem Baltimore’s persistent violence. As the city suffers a record homicide rate, Pugh said the plan is an “enhancement” of the strategy she campaigned on last year, reports the Baltimore Sun. Pugh laid out several steps her administration has taken to bolster policing, including putting more officers on patrol and improving police training and technology. “This is urgent,” she said. “I can’t say it any louder.” The mayor called for a holistic approach to fighting crime, to include engaging youth, promoting community health and growing jobs.

City Councilman Brandon Scott, a critic of the mayor, cheered the plan’s release. Scott, who chairs the council’s public safety committee, said he was “expecting and hoping for more.” “There is still a need for us to have a more in-depth plan with accountability and goals and measurable targets,” he said. Pugh announced that Drew Vetter, chief of staff of the Baltimore Police Department, would lead her criminal justice staff. “Violence impacts everybody,” Vetter said. “It doesn’t matter what the nature of the circumstances are, every murder in the city is tragic. I think we can all agree that the level of violence in the city should not continue.” Scott praised the choice but said, “It is a far cry from what the council was told on June 2, that a national search was being done and the position would be filled in a month.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Baltimore Plan Due to Fight Homicide Surge

Mayor Catherine Pugh is scheduled to announce a new anticrime plan today. Police Commissioner Kevin Davis is reconstituting drug and gun squads. A symbol of the crime wave, Wadell Tate, 97, was bludgeoned to death in his rowhouse just a few weeks ago.

Wadell Tate, 97, was bludgeoned to death in his pajamas inside the two-story rowhouse he’d owned for six decades and refused to leave. Tate, one of Baltimore’s oldest homicide victims in decades, is a symbol of the relentless violence that has claimed 211 lives so far this year. Today, Mayor Catherine Pugh is scheduled to announce her plan to tackle the record-setting surge in homicides. Whatever the city pursues will come too late for Tate, a World War II veteran and retired refinery worker who still took a short walk every day before the July 21 burglary that left him dead, the Washington Post reports.

“You’d think at 97, how much longer does he have to live?” said his daughter, Sylvia Swann, 65. “They took away his right to die on his own.” Her family’s grief and pain are familiar emotions in Baltimore, still struggling to recover from the 2015 riots after Freddie Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury in police custody. The relationship between the police and many neighborhoods remains strained. The erosion in trust has fueled the spike in violence, making Baltimore one of the nation’s deadliest cities. Last weekend, beleaguered city residents called for a 72-hour cease-fire, holding rallies, vigils and cookouts. The police are fighting crime while changing the way they operate under a Justice Department consent decree. Police Commissioner Kevin Davis is reconstituting drug and gun squads disbanded after the riots. The department is using crisis intervention teams after slayings to head off retaliation and offer help to crime victims.

from https://thecrimereport.org

GOP Governors Send Troopers to Democratic Cities

Mirroring President Trump’s anticrime rhetoric, several Republican governors are sending in state troopers to combat violence in big cities. Democratic St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson favors the idea but some residents are dubious.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens sent the Missouri Highway Patrol to St. Louis last month amid a surge in shootings and assaults there, part of a nationwide trend of rising violence in some large cities. The killings have rattled neighborhoods and embarrassed city officials, many of them Democrats. Governors, mostly Republicans, are sending in their troops to fight urban crime, reopening historical tensions, the Washington Post reports. The governors’ actions mirror President Trump’s vow to send in federal agents to curb crime in Chicago, which he said had reached “epic proportions.” In St. Louis, Greitens said, “We are rolling up our sleeves and taking strong action to protect people.” Lyda Krewson, the new Democratic mayor of St. Louis, supports the plan, although she disagrees with Greitens on many other issues. In 1995, she saw her husband fatally shot during an attempted carjacking in front of their home. Still, Missouri’s intervention is unsettling some local residents who question the governor’s strategies and tone.

The debate threatens to drive another wedge between heavily Democratic cities and GOP leaders in statehouses and in Washington. St. Louis has recorded more than 110 homicides this year, which could become the city’s deadliest in two decades. Last month, after 25 people were shot in a Little Rock nightclub, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson organized state troopers and FBI agents to respond to “a looming cloud of violence.” In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott pledged to use “all lawful means” to snuff out a serious “gang problem” in Houston. In South Carolina, Gov. Henry McMaster used warlike language when announcing a plan for more state resources in Myrtle Beach, where homicides threatened the city’s reputation as a family-friendly beach destination. The governors are Republicans, and their actions come as President Trump has used tough-on-crime rhetoric. Jim Pasco of the Fraternal Order of Police said GOP governors know that crime “has been a good issue” for Trump.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Texas Police Clamp Down on Spiking Highway Hostilities

Police on a road rage task force in Arlington have written nearly 600 citations in the past six weeks following a fatal shooting that began as a traffic dispute on June 25. A police official says encounters between motorists have increased in frequency and severity.

A task force assembled after a fatal road-rage shooting in June on Interstate 20 in Arlington, Tex., has so far made seven arrests and written 574 citations during 464 traffic stops related to aggressive driving, reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Police have also activated a road-rage hotline (817-459-5389) for reporting dangerous drivers. The agency had a road-rage hotline in the early 2000s but deactivated it in 2008 because of dwindling calls. But the topic has been rekindled by a spate of violent road confrontations that included a fatal shooting of a 19-year-old man on June 25. Over the next three days, two other people in cars were injured in shootings in the Dallas Metroplex.

The task force has officers working in both marked and unmarked cars. It targets aggressive driving that includes excessive speeding, tailgating, unsafe lane changes, driving on road shoulders to pass traffic, throwing objects at vehicles and brandishing weapons and other actions that can lead to violence. An Arlington police official cited “an increase in the frequency and severity of road rage type incidents on our area freeways.”

from https://thecrimereport.org