Overhaul of Crime Stats Should Include Data Theft, Toxic Spills: Expert Panel

A 15-member panel assembled by the National Academy of Sciences said Wednesday that current statistics collection has left gaps in data about many offenses affecting American life today. It also recommended that the government consider centralizing the control of collecting crime statistics.

An expert committee organized by the National Academy of Sciences called Wednesday for centralizing the control of collecting crime statistics as part of an overhaul of the nation’s crime-data collection system.

Such an overhaul, which would fill in gaps on reporting of offenses like data theft and environmental crime, is essential to developing a “more inclusive picture of crime in the United States,” the committee said.

The changes  would help managers and policymakers better assess the effectiveness of crime-fighting policies, evaluate the effectiveness of existing policies, and make justice agencies more accountable, it added.

The experts did not specify which agency should lead the process, but it said “what is critical is that national crime statistics be produced, coordinated, and governed pursuant to the expected sensibilities of a statistical agency, one for which data collection and dissemination—and attention to issues of data quality—are essential to the agency’s mission.”

The 15-member panel, headed by criminologist Janet Lauritsen of the University of Missouri St. Louis, said policymakers and justice practitioners currently lack “key and timely” data to help them improve and measure the effectiveness of their work.

“There is great benefit to be realized from better statistics in the nation’s crime problems,” said the panel. “It is time to develop a more inclusive picture of crime in the United States.”

Overall, the panel contended that “modern crime statistics require consideration of completely different ways to measure crime,” including, for example, assessing the “harm imposed by, or the costs associated with, crime.”

The group also cited the “problematic lack of solid information about the relative magnitude of the costs, harms, or importance across crime offense types or specific incidents.”

The call for a centralization of crime statistics would replace a system in place for decades, in which authority has been split between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which issues an annual report on crime statistics voluntarily submitted by police departments, and the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, which publishes a yearly report based on interviews with Americans on whether they have been crime victims in the previous year.

The reports differ greatly because a large number of crimes are not reported to police.

The expert panel, formally known as the Panel on Modernizing the Nation’s Crime Statistics, offered several examples of the gaps in data on crime. Among them:

  • Thefts of data from businesses or government agents may put millions of Americans at risk of identity theft and serious financial harm. Cyberspace is a “perpetual domestic crime scene,” the committee said, but national crime statistics “have not been well equipped to measure cybercrimes such as the deployment of malware or coordinated attacks on computer networks.”
  • The opioid overdose crisis highlights the fact that production, sale and possession of narcotics are important crime categories, but those activities “are not well characterized in current crime statistics,” which largely consist of counts of seizures and arrests for drug law violations. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy periodically issues estimates on the dollar value of major drug markets, and data on drug users, but they are not part of routine crime reporting.
  • Materials “disappear” daily from the stocks of retailers and businesses, but the phenomenon is known as shrinkage “poorly understood by the public, in part because businesses do not commonly report all of their losses to law enforcement …even though the billions of dollars in losses almost inevitably affect all consumers.”
  • Available crime data “lack the detail and the timeliness to address important concerns,” the committee said. Both in 2006 and 2015, “news accounts and general perception fueled concerns about major increases in homicide despite the fact that the current homicide rate is less than half the rate of the 1980s and 1990s.”

Although some media outlets and advocacy groups collect their own data, the panel said, “the nation as a whole was hindered by the typical 10-month gap between the end of the calendar year and the release of current national crime statistics, unable to understand whether local patterns were part of broader regional or national patterns or whether increased homicide activities were limited to specific forms of homicide such as drug-related murder.”

The committee’s last reference was to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report (UCR), which typically is issued in late September for the previous year. The Justice Department’s victimization survey usually comes out even later.

The panel noted that merely counting the numbers of incidents, especially in the case of of relatively new crime types, is insufficient.

It cited as an example “ransomware” that denies computer users access to their data until a ransom is paid. There is a huge difference between locking up one home computer and the data system of an entire hospital or medical group.

Similarly, with environmental crimes, improperly disposing of a computer battery and spilling large volumes of toxic materials into the water or air each may represent a single violation of the law, but they are likely to have vastly different consequences.

Another problem cited by the panel is that both the FBI report and the victimization survey tend to report “coarse tallies” of how many crimes in particular categories occurred in the previous year.

That is not enough, said the experts, “to meet the needs of the full range of users and stakeholders.”

The committee mentioned some recently evolving offenses like arson, hate crime, human trafficking and cargo theft whose nuances are difficult to capture in totals of how many crimes were committed in a year.

The panel discussed the lack of detail in the FBI’s annual report, which provides totals of crime types like homicide and robbery that are reported by most of the nation’s 18,000 police departments.

For many years, the FBI has been trying to get more information on each crime through a system known as the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) that includes as many as several dozen details of each crime incident.

Police departments have been slow to compile and submit the data. Former FBI director James Comey called for the system to be adopted nationally by 2021.

The DOJ victimization survey also has had limitations because of a lack of resources. While the FBI data provides city-by-city crime counts, until recently, the victimization survey has been unable to make anything but national estimates. A few regional totals now are available.

The committee, which has been working for about four years, issued an earlier report with a proposed new classification of crimes to take into account modern-day violations in areas like environmental and computer crime, fraud, and national security.

Citing the historic split between the FBI and BJS in collecting crime data, the committee said that the U.S. has a “crime statistics system that lacks essential leadership.”

The committee did not take a stand on which agency should take the lead in the future or whether a new structure should be created.

“It is not clear if either BJS or the FBI is currently positioned to be successful in expanding the collection of crime statistics,” the committee said, suggesting that the White House Office of Management and Budget investigate the subject and make a recommendation.

Because most crime is reported on a state and local level, the report emphasized that state and local authorities should be included in planning any changes that will be coordinated on a federal level. The report includes a state-by-state summary of the laws and regulations on reporting crime statistics.

Joining Lauritsen on the study panel were Daniel Bibel, retired head of the Massachusetts State Police Crime Reporting Unit; Jonathan Caulkins of Carnegie Mellon University; Kim English of the Colorado Department of Public Safety; and Robert Goerge of the University of Chicago; Nola Joyce, a retired official of the Philadelphia Police Department; David McDowall of the University at Albany; and Jennifer Madans of the National Center for Health Statistics.

Other panel members were: Michael Maltz of the University of Illinois at Chicago and Ohio State University; Michael Miller of the Coral Gables, Fl., Police Department; James Nolan of West Virginia University; Amy O’Hara of the Stanford University Institute for Economic Policy Research; John Pepper of the University of Virginia; Alex Piquero of the University of Texas at Dallas; and Jeffrey Sedgwick of the Justice Research and Statistics Association.

Ted Gest is president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington bureau chief of The Crime Report. Readers’ comments welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Three Universities Launch National Database to Track School Shootings

The first of its kind open-source database will collect information on all incidents involving a firearm affecting K-12 students. In a project funded by NIJ, John Jay College, University of Texas at Dallas and Michigan State have partnered to collect and track school shootings in order to come up with prevention strategies.

Three universities have created a national, open-source data base to track school shootings and develop strategies for countering them.

The partnership between John Jay College, the University of Texas at Dallas and Michigan State University, will track fatal shooting attacks that targeted K-12 students or teachers, but also include cases that resulted in injuries but no deaths; domestic violence; workplace violence; as well as suicides on school grounds involving a firearm.

Joshua Freilich

Prof. Joshua Freilich

“The dearth of empirical data on school violence in the United States and the almost complete absence of quantitative data on perpetrators and incidents will be remedied by the production of this database and the analysis of data on the risk factors of school shootings,” said Professor Joshua Freilich, the principal investigator of the project and a member of the Department of Criminal Justice at John Jay College, said Tuesday.

The first-of-its-kind project is supported by a grant from the National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ) Comprehensive School Safety Initiative, which aims to provide a knowledge base about the root causes of school violence, as well as assess strategies for increasing school safety.

“At this crucial time in our national discussion on school violence, John Jay College is proud to be at the forefront of academic research that will support local, state and national efforts to tackle this problem with evidence-based policies and interventions,” said Karol V. Mason, President of John Jay College of Criminal Justice.“

The database will include data about all publicly known school shootings that resulted in at least one injury from 1990 to December 31st, 2016.

The database will be made public in the spring of 2019.

The major objectives of the project include:

  • documenting the nature of the problem and clarifying the types of shooting incidents occurring in schools;
  • providing a “comprehensive understanding of the perpetrators of school shootings and test causal factors to assess if mass and non-mass shootings are comparable”; and
  • comparing incidents that involved fatal and nonfatal shooting, with a view to “identify intervention points that could be used to reduce the harm caused by shootings.”

See also: Trump Seeks Shutdown of School Safety Studies.

A release explaining the project can be downloaded here.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Trump ‘Not Considering Firing’ Mueller, But Tweets Continue

White House attorney Ty Cobb said the president wasn’t contemplating firing the chief of the Russian probe, but Trump lashed out on social media again Monday, calling it a ‘witch hunt.’

President Trump is not considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller, White House attorney Ty Cobb said Sunday evening—even after the president directly lashed out at Mueller’s probe during the weekend, reports CNBC news.

The lawyer’s assurance wasn’t likely to assuage concerns that the president would act against the special counsel, however. On Monday, Trump continued his social-media onslaught against the Mueller probe by again calling it a “witch hunt.”

Over the weekend, Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired former FBI deputy director Andrew Mc­Cabe, a little more than 24 hours before McCabe was set to retire.

McCabe alleged that the action was an attempt to slander him and undermine the ongoing special counsel investigation into the Trump campaign. 

McCabe said he was being targeted because he was a witness in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia and asserting that his actions were appropriate. 

“This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally, but to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally,” he continued, adding that the campaign “highlights the importance of the Special Counsel’s work.” 

Sessions said that both the Justice Department inspector general and the FBI office that handles discipline had found “that Mr. McCabe had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor — including under oath — on multiple occasions.”

President Trump tweeted that McCabe “knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!” Michael Bromwich, Mc­Cabe’s attorney, said he had “never before seen the type of rush to judgment — and rush to summary punishment.”

Simultaneously on Saturday afternoon, John Dowd, President Trump’s lawyer, asked the Justice Department to shut down the special counsel probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election immediately, the Washington Post reports. Dowd said the investigation led by Robert Mueller was fatally flawed early on and “corrupted” by political bias.

He called on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to end it, who oversees that probe, to shut it down. Dowd first told the Daily Beast he was speaking on Trump’s behalf but then told the Post he was not.

On a twitter rampage, Trump criticized “leaking, lying and corruption” in federal law enforcement agencies, but he stopped short of echoing Dowd’s call for an end to the Mueller probe.

If Dowd’s statement reflected Trump’s legal strategy, it would represent a significant shift in the president’s approach to the Mueller investigation.

Trump’s lawyers and spokesmen have pledged that he and his staff would cooperate fully with Mueller’s probe. The White House has responded to requests for documents, while senior officials have sat for hours of interviews with the special counsel’s investigators. 

This summary was prepared by TCR staffer Megan Hadley.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Can Better Health Care Help Ex-Inmates Avoid Returning to Jail?

Giving former inmates better health care through Medcaid and other coverage can “enhance public safety, reduce recidivism, and more efficiently use public resources,” says a new guide from the Urban Institute and the law and consulting firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips.

Returning inmates need cooordinated and effective health care coverage to escape the “revolving door” that cycles many of them back to jail or prison, according to a policy guide released Friday by the Urban Institute.

The guide, prepared by the Urban Institute and the law and consulting firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, is aimed at helping justice-involved individuals enroll efficiently in Medicaid and other health coverage to obtain “coordinated physical and behavioral health care.”

Currently, the “revolving door” between incarceration and the community leaves many people alternating between correctional and community-based providers, the guide said.

Better-coordinated health coverage will “enhance public safety, reduce recidivism, and more efficiently use public resources,” wrote the authors of the guide.

If states can improve health care for released inmates, they “will be in a stronger position to address (the) substance abuse issues, chronic physical and mental illness, unemployment and employment instability, and homelessness that result in many justice-involved people cycling in and out of jail or the hospital,” the authors wrote.

Maintaining health coverage is a common problem for released prisoners.

Prison inmates have four times the rate of active tuberculosis found in the general population, nine to ten times the rate of Hepatitis C, eight to nine times the rate of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, three times times the rate of serious mental illness, and four times the rate of substance abuse disorders, the guide said.

Jail populations have similar high levels. Many inmates fail to get needed care, and when they are released, they often face disruptions in medical care that contribute to recidivism, drug use, and poor and costly health outcomes. One study found a 12-fold increase in the risk of death in the two weeks after release.

Another study of people returning from prison in Ohio and Texas found that, within 10 months of release, a fifth had been hospitalized, and a third had sought care in emergency rooms.

The project, supported by the U.S. Justice Department, is called the “Connecting Criminal Justice to Health Care Initiative” (CCJH), and was developed by corrections and health care officials in Maryland and Los Angeles County, Ca.

Ted Gest is president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington bureau chief of The Crime Report. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Milwaukee Starts, Then Abandons, Anticrime Programs

As crime is reduced in many cities, the same problems continue to plague the same neighborhoods in Milwaukee. The city sometimes re-starts the same anticrime projects that languished years ealier, says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

As Milwaukee homicides spiked in 2015, the director of the city’s Homicide Review Commission was removed from her office at police headquarters, ending a collaboration that had been the commission’s hallmark since its formation in 2005. For more than 10 years, police, prosecutors, judges and parole officers had been meeting monthly to review homicides and shootings, trying to figure out why they happened and working to identify solutions.  The commission was responsible for a 43 percent drop in homicides when compared to control sites that did not use the model, found a 2013 study. Then-police chief Edward Flynn saw less value in the commission as he built up the department’s technology and crime analysis capabilities, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

Since the 1980s, other major cities like New York, Dallas and Houston have seen transformation when it comes to crime and quality of life. In Milwaukee, the same problems continue to plague the same neighborhoods. The pattern is predictable: There’s a spike in violent crime. People are outraged. Someone creates an innovative strategy. Money and resources pour into it. People get involved and are buoyed by early success. Then it’s abandoned.  In time, crime increases again, and the cycle repeats — with officials sometimes implementing the same programs that languished years earlier. When Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm travels to other places where people are trying to implement long-term public safety strategies, often, they tell him they learned from Milwaukee. “That frustrating thing is, they’re telling me about what they’re doing and I’m like, ‘That’s awesome; we’re no longer doing that,'” he said. One of the city’s most successful crime prevention initiatives is on the brink of extinction because no one is willing to pay for it. It is a program of the district attorney’s office to station prosecutors in city neighborhoods.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Tool to Measure Mexican Wall Effectiveness Not Ready

As President Trump plans a San Diego trip to view prototypes for his proposed wall on the Mexican border, the Department of Homeland Security is yet to develop a way to measure the effectiveness of barriers along the border.

More than a year after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) urged the Department of Homeland Security to develop a way to measure the effectiveness of fencing and barriers along the border with Mexico, DHS has no such tool ready, as President Trump prepares to pick the winning designs for his $18 billion border wall, the Washington Post reports. Trump officials have dismissed criticism of their border security plan with a simple retort: “Walls work.” A February 2017 GAO report found DHS has no way to measure how well they work, where they work best, or whether less-expensive alternatives could be just as effective.  Despite the assumption that illegal traffic enters through areas where fencing is absent, the report identified several sectors where more arrests occur in locations that have existing barriers.

U.S. border agents collect “geotag” data, electronic markers that assign geographic locations, to map illegal crossings and arrests. DHS has no means to gauge the extent to which those incursions are impeded by “tactical infrastructure,” the report noted, undermining the agency’s ability to avoid wasteful spending. DHS officials say they are working with the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory to develop such an evaluation system, and it may be ready later this year. President Trump is moving forward anyway. His administration budgeted $1.6 billion for wall construction this year. Trump will travel to San Diego on Tuesday to view eight prototypes and likely announce one or more winning designs. The trip will be Trump’s first as president to California, a state his administration is suing for refusing to assist with immigration enforcement. Trump’s wall-building plan, which is stalled in Congress, would spend $18 billion over 10 years to add 316 miles of new barriers and replace aging fencing along another 407 miles.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Georgia’s Collins Bids for House Judiciary Chair

Conservative Georgia Rep. Doug Collins is first to declare that he wants to succeed Bob Goodlatte to head the House Judiciary Committee. Collins has been working with President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner on a criminal justice reform bill.

Conservative Georgia Rep. Doug Collins is laying the groundwork to run for House Judiciary chairman next year, buttonholing colleagues who choose panel chairs and showcasing his legislative acumen, Politico reports. Collins is the first to jump in formally for the powerful post to succeed the retiring Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). While Collins is not next in line in seniority, the significant number of departures on the committee and his close ties to GOP leaders give Collins a strong shot at the job. Collins, a 51-year-old former lawyer has been working with President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, on a criminal justice reform bill that Trump supports. As vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, he enjoys a close relationship with many of the senior lawmakers on the Republican Steering Committee, which selects committee chairs. (For Collins to become chairman, the Republicans must keep control of the House.)

Collins’ move to climb the ladder comes as top Judiciary Republicans have announced their retirements, including Goodlatte, Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, Darrell Issa of California, and Lamar Smith and Ted Poe, both of Texas. Rep. Raúl Labrador, a former immigration lawyer on the committee, is leaving to run for Idaho governor. Collins could face competition from Ohio Rep. Steve Chabot, who is far more senior than Collins. Collins said his approach would be to move legislation that can pass, not wait for perfection. Case in point: His criminal justice reform bill. It would give prisoners an opportunity to gain skills while serving their sentences, in hopes of making them more employable after they are released and reducing recidivism rates. Many Republicans, including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), also want to decrease mandatory minimums for certain nonviolent drug-related offenses — an idea Collins supports. It’s a nonstarter with the law-and-order Trump, Politico says.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Trump’s ‘Bipartisan’ Nominees to Sentencing Commission Tilt Conservative

The president has nominated four people to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, including three well-known conservatives. Families Against Mandatory Minimums opposed one of the nominees–Georgetown law Prof. William Otis, a former prosecutor—for his “outdated views.”

President Donald Trump’s four nominees to the U.S. Sentencing Commission include three well-known conservatives who may be inclined to support tougher sentences in federal criminal cases.

The White House announcement Thursday described it as a “bipartisan group” of nominees, but if all of them are approved by the Senate, the voting majority of the six-member commission (two of whom serve as ex-officio, nonvoting members), could tilt rightward, according to observers.

The commission, an independent judiciary agency, was created by Congress in 1984 “to reduce sentencing disparities and promote transparency and proportionality in sentencing,” according to its website.

The nominees are: federal appellate judge William H. Pryor, Jr. of Alabama, who has been considered by Trump for the Supreme Court; federal appellate judge Luis Felipe Restrepo of Pennsylvania, an Obama appointee to the court; federal district judge Henry E. Hudson of Richmond, Va.; and William G. Otis, a former federal prosecutor who now is an adjunct law professor at Georgetown University.

William J. Otis

William J. Otis

Judge Pryor currently serves as Acting Chair of the commission. If his re-appointment is confirmed, he will serve as chair, the White House said.

Sentencing expert Douglas Berman of Ohio State University noted on his Sentencing Law & Policy blog that Hudson as a prosecutor was known by the nickname “Hang ’Um High,”  and that Otis “prominently shares his (tough-on-crime) sentencing perspectives in many media.”

Reason noted that Otis has called for abolishing the sentencing commision.

Otis has written for The Crime Report about the Justice Department and sentencing.

Berman describes Pryor as an “Alabama pal” of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Restrepo is a former defense attorney.

The advocacy group Families Against Mandatory Minimums said it had never taken a position on sentencing commission nominees, “but we feel compelled to change that policy in light of today’s announcement. Mr. Otis’s outdated views are well-known and well-documented.

“This is not a person who will be guided by evidence and data. The Senate should reject this nomination.”

Ted Gest is president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington bureau chief of the Crime Report. Readers’ comments welcomed.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Stopping School Shootings: Is Colorado’s ‘Safe2Tell’ Hotline A Solution?

The state’s program has stopped bomb threats, suicides, murders, and prevented people from getting continuously bullied or threatened. It isn’t perfect, but it has saved lives and even won support from the ACLU, writes a former LAPD commander.

In the days after the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, that left 17 people dead, it has become clear that the massacre might have been prevented if each tip authorities received was taken seriously so that trained personnel could take appropriate action in response to credible information.

We now know that the Broward County Sheriff’s Office received at least 18 calls about troubled teen and shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz over the past decade. Records of calls about Cruz to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office reveal that in February 2016, neighbors contacted the sheriff’s department to say they feared Cruz “planned to shoot up the school” after posing for Instagram photos with firearms.

The FBI admits it received a Jan. 5 tip-line warning about Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior and disturbing social-media posts, as well as references to carrying out a school shooting — but failed to share the info with its Miami field office.

Sadly, not all rumors of school shootings are reported or, as we now know, acted upon appropriately. Research shows that in 81 percent of violent incidents in US schools, someone other than the attacker knew something about the shooter’s plans but failed to report what he or she knew.

After the April 20, 1999, mass shooting at the Columbine High School in Jefferson County, CO, then recently elected Gov. Bill Owens convened a commission to analyze the circumstances of the shooting and to make recommendations that could prevent future incidents. The Columbine Review Commission criticized law enforcement officers for not heeding significant and telling information about shooters Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. The bloodshed could have been averted, the report concluded, if experts had intervened.

One of the most important findings of the commission was that there was a “prevailing culture” of a “code of silence” among students who may have been aware of the impending threat of attack. In the Columbine incident, the attackers posted threats and expressed their thoughts on websites in what researchers termed “leakage.”

The commission recommended that a statewide hotline be created where anyone could safely report threats. In response, the State of Colorado developed a statewide, uniform, cohesive, and coordinated program called Safe2Tell.

Enacted in 2004, Safe2Tell is a hotline for students, teachers and parents to make anonymous tips about threats of school violence, suicide, bullying, and more.

Colorado’s Safe2Tell takes reports made by calling a designated number, filling out a form online, or through a special app. The Colorado State Patrol receives each report, and then passes it along to local law enforcement, the school in question, and the relevant school district.

The Safe2Tell program has emerged as a key resource to keeping Colorado students safe. So why hasn’t the successful program that allows anyone to anonymously report threats, violence, and other potentially dangerous situations been adopted in other states?

As the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs recently noted, in most states there is no uniform method for alerting authorities of school threats. In many communities, where school police departments exist, it may not be clear to most people if they should report a threat to the school police, the local police department, or the FBI because there is no centralized place to report threats, and no centralized system of follow-up and accountability.

Recently a school resource officer at El Camino High School in Whittier, CA, heard a student make verbal threats that he was, “going to shoot up the school sometime in the next three weeks.” After law enforcement obtained a search warrant, a search of the student’s bedroom revealed that he had more than enough weapons and ammunition to make good on his threat. Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said that deputies seized two AR-15 rifles, 90 ammunition magazines and two handguns, including one assault rifle that was unregistered.

Last year, high school students in Fullerton, CA were arrested for plotting a school shooting that would be “bigger than Columbine.” Fortunately, someone who knew of the plot alerted a school resource officer of the planned attack.

In those two cases a possible tragedy was averted. But in 2008, when 14-year-old Brandon McInerney shot and killed 15-year-old Larry King in the computer lab of the boys’ English class in a Ventura County (California) middle school, those who might have known of McInerney’s rising shame and rage, did not report it. Perhaps if a system such as Safe2Tell had existed, one boy would not have died, and a second boy would not have been sentenced to 21 years in a California state prison.

Safe2Tell ensures that every student, parent, teacher and community member has a way to discreetly report any concerns about their safety or the safety of others. In Colorado, Safe2Tell received 9,163 reports of planned school attacks during the 2016/17 school year. The data from January 2018 shows that suicide threats were the number one report (238) that month compared to 55 reports of planned school attacks.

The system that has stopped bomb threats, suicides, murders, and prevented people from getting continuously bullied or threatened, is not perfect. A number of false reports have been made because someone didn’t like someone else.

However, the anonymous online, telephone, and text message system continues to save lives and has even won the support of the ACLU, which tried to expand the program to Mississippi.

While not every report is credible, the program has assisted in preventing hundreds of threatened school attacks, helped to prevent thousands of possible youth suicides, along with causing expert interventions in cases of bullying, sexual misconduct/sexual assault, and other dangerous or harmful situations.

In short, Safe2Tell has been effective in creating safer schools and safer communities.

With a small dedicated, well trained staff, Safe2Tell manages intelligence gathering and sharing of information through a sophisticated dissemination process from the state level to the appropriate responders at the local level. In the case of a threat of a school shooting, the centralized program makes certain that the appropriate responders are notified and that they track and coordinate the intervention at the school level, ensuring that law enforcement coordination problems are reduced.

To spread the Safe2Tell message, Colorado created a Train the Trainer program that certifies individuals to present Safe2Tell classroom discussion materials in schools, to promote the program’s effective use. Would it work in larger states? In California, for example, such a program would require more staff.

Colorado’s Safe2Tell is run by the Attorney General’s office and has an annual budget of about $300,000. Enacting innovative and thoughtful programs like Safe2Tell in larger states would clearly cost more as well.

But given the potential benefits, bringing Safe2Tell or something like it to California and other states around the country should be a bipartisan goal of every state legislature.

Richard Webb

Richard Webb

With the annual costs associated with youth violence exceeding $161 billion in the US, it would be money well spent.

This is a slightly edited version of an article published by the Los Angeles County Association of Deputy District Attorneys, and reprinted with permission. Richard Webb retired as a commander in the LAPD after 35 years of service. While at the LAPD, he helped develop the multiple location active response protocol for the department. Webb has a Master’s from American Military University, where his thesis was on school shootings. He welcomes comments from readers.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Gun Politics ‘Distort’ Efforts to Protect Domestic Violence Victims: Study

Gun-control advocates who push for “one-size-fits-all” enforcement of laws that make it illegal for anyone convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses to possess firearms “ignore the reality of intimate-partner abuse,” argues a paper published this month in the Ohio State Law Journal.

“Punitive” approaches to gun control can be counterproductive when they are applied to protecting women from domestic violence, according to a forthcoming research paper.

Gun control advocates who push for “one-size-fits-all” enforcement of laws that make it illegal for anyone convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses to possess firearms “ignore the reality of intimate-partner abuse,” argued the paper in the Ohio State Law Journal, posted online this month.

Such laws fail to address equally valid concerns of potential victims, such as whether an arrest that takes the family breadwinner out of the home would create economic hardship, the paper said.

 “A real danger exists… that the politics of gun control will overwhelm and distort the search for a sound approach to intimate-partner violence,” wrote the paper’s author, Carolyn B. Ramsey of the University of Colorado Law School.

“Stripping all domestic violence offenders of their guns for conduct that includes merely reckless infliction of injury might have a variety of negative outcomes,” Ramsey continued.

“It might chill the reporting of abuse; exacerbate recidivism; lead to unemployment, a known contributor to intimate femicide for abusers whose jobs require them to carry a gun; and leave victims without weapons for self-defense.”

The paper, entitled, “Firearms in the Family,” argued that blanket gun bans for anyone convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense fail to take into account the wide variety of concerns and needs of individual spouses who may be victims, including individuals in minority communities.

But at the same time, Ramsey also took gun-rights advocates to task for depicting greater access to guns as a way of empowering women against threats inside and outside the home.

“Female self-defense concerns play a supporting role in gun-rights advocacy,” she wrote. “Gun-carrying women soften the public face of America’s masculine firearms culture. Second Amendment activists frequently deploy images of women wielding firearms to protect themselves from armed robbers at home, mass shooters in our nation’s schools, and rapists lurking in shadowy parking lots.

“(But) singing the praises of concealed-carry does little to protect women from violent attacks by their intimates at home.”

Gun-control and pro-gun advocates, she wrote, are equally at fault for manipulating stereotypes that serve ideological or political goals, and do not address the concerns of women exposed to the threat of domestic violence.

While Ramsey acknowledged that statistics show that about two-thirds of intimate-partner homicide victims are killed with a gun—usually a handgun—and that more than two-thirds of men and women murdered by spouses or ex-spouses between 1980 and 2008 were killed with guns, she cited surveys suggesting that women are skeptical of laws that prohibit all offenders convicted of misdemeanor abuse offenses from possessing firearms.

Ramsey argued instead for a “narrowly tailored” approach to gun prohibition that targets the most dangerous offenders, responds to the individual victim’s concerns, and allows for a way to “differentiate recidivists from offenders who learn to avoid using violence against intimates and family members.”

Noting that enforcement of existing domestic violence gun laws at state and federal levels is often erratic and undependable, she warned that taking a uniformly punitive approach could result in dis-incentivizing the reporting of abuse and increasing the likelihood of further or worse victimization by abusers angered by the removal of their guns.

“Gun-control in the context of domestic abuse ought to respond to a variety of concerns, not solely the aim of reducing homicide rates,” Ramsey wrote.

The research paper can be downloaded here.

This summary was prepared by TCR news intern John Ramsey (no relation). Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org