Saturday, December 20, 2008

Crime Tip of the Day: If you're going away for the holidays: Dirtball Waits!

With apologies to the late, great mystery writer, Tony Hillerman, Buz reports that if you're going away for the holidays, Dirtball Waits. He waits because he knows most young professionals, students, and even some older folk, go away for the holidays. And in some areas, the majority of people will be gone--then he'll strike! The areas closest to schools and universities are the main areas he lurks and waits.  A lot of young people make a big deal about loading their cars all up, yelling to their friends and neighbors: "hey, we'll be back the the 26th, the 20th of January or the the 27th of something. Yeah, we're going' up to New Haven, Philly area, New York, etc." He sees the luggage, and gifts, and wishes them well. He might see the wrapped gifts in the hallway, you never can tell; if they leave even briefly, he may have a shot; the doors are not locked securely, as likely as not.
When they're away, he'll scout and wait and be about. He's hoping to leave you a little without. No doubt.
So, if you're going away for the holidays, here are some tips to get you thinking, particularly if you are a student, grad student, post-doc, fellow, or intern, who is going home to see the family for the holiday.
  • Assume you may be broken into while you're away, as painful as that sounds. Leave no cash or jewelry for him to take; he also likes all electronic stuff. Take your laptop, ipod, itouch, etc., with you. Make sure you have your serial number for your desktop either recorded somewhere or, better send it to cyberspace.
  • Ideally, you would want a neighbor who is trusted to check on your house at least once a day, to take in your mail, any fliers or newspapers, and turn on or off some lights around the house. However, the less people who know you are going away, the better.
  • If there are no known viable neighbors, then use a post office vacation card to stop your mail while you're away; any newspapers you get should be stopped as well.
  • Don't make a big deal about leaving: no tooting of horns, no loud cell phone announcements, have all your luggage stockpiled to load quickly and quietly, the earlier in the morning the better.
  • Make sure all doors and windows are locked, using all locks. Even if you don't find a neighbor you feel you can ask, perhaps there is one you can at least discreetly mention to ask to keep an eye out.
  • Of course, if you have an alarm, set it, but make sure your notifications are viable. 
Areas at highest risk: Charles Village, Pigtown and other areas near to UM downtown campus, Remington, and heavy student areas of Hamilton and Loch Raven and Towson. Police historically are busy taking burglary reports right after the students come back from vacation. And many campuses are vulnerable because they are historically empty and the dorms are deserted and they have minimal staffing. Smart schools take special measures to ensure security of the unoccupied dorm rooms during these breaks. But not all schools have experienced this problem yet. Take your laptop with you as well as anything special of value that can reasonably be carried. 

Good luck! We wish these notices were not necessary. But he waits!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Do you feel safer because of the drop in murders?!

Someone just today was asking Buz about the sharp drop in murders compared to last year. While there has been an upsurge in homicides in the city since around the first of November, there is still projected to be a 40+ drop from last year. (Buz is predicting we'll end up with about 245 murders this year: he is so Mr. Cynicalpants!).

But your consultant wonders: does the decrease in homicides make you feel safer as you go about your day-to-day business? I dunno; and I'm skeptical.

So, we're wondering if our faithful, nice readers will chime in and let us know: what difference does the drop in homicides mean to you? do you feel safer? do you feel crime is moving in the right direction?

Please let me know!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Perception is everything! Crime does not exist in Baltimore!

I know, I know, that's a strange headline, isn't it. Well, you would think that that headline is true: that Commish of P0-leece Bealefeld has won the battle against crime and thievery. Why? Well, this week's Messenger newspaper, covering the neighborhoods of North Baltimore, reports on some crimes occurring in less than one week in the area (but don't believe for a minute that this is a comprehensive list). 

There are FOUR instances of purses, cash and jewelry taken from cars, in widely separated areas of the Northern District. Plus a purse containing wallet, cell phone, credit cards, and cash taken from an unlocked garage. Plus 3 other incidents in which cell phones, GPS devices, and Ipod were taken from cars. Obviously, people believe the city has little crime, nothing to worry about, and all those headlines and about a crime wave don't apply! Hurray! Perception is everything! People must really BELIEVE, otherwise they would be more worried about their stuff.

SECURITY TIP OF THE DAY: One cannot leave anything of value in your car, if it's visible. And it doesn't help to put your purse under your seat or in your trunk AFTER you arrive at your destination. One should put it in your trunk before leaving for your destination. Dirtball waits and watches; he knows where lots of cars are and where people are tending events or going shopping. He has the area under surveillance. Purses under the seat are a common practice. Dirtball knows and waits. But he really appreciates thoughtfulness (thoughtlessness?) this time of year. His little ones need presents too. Gym bags, dirty, wet stuff notwithstanding, are also much taken along with laptops and briefcases. If you leave it, he's coming to get it.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Crime Tip of the Day: If you're a celebrity---Be afraid......

Buz was intrigued by two recent articles: one: the Laura Vozella piece about Michael Phelps's trips to Vegas and guess who's coming to dinner; two: the ESPN News piece about how it's been about a year since Sean Taylor was murdered in his home during a home invasion/robbery. And one could include any number of other pieces seen on the news or in the paper about other celebrities, where they live, what they're doing, where they hang out, etc. 

Buz advice: Celebrities, you are all in danger.

Since we've now entered the high crime time of the year, combined with hard times, lots of layoffs, and a criminal mindset along with an overwhelmed criminal justice system, all of us, whether we are world class athletes or not need to be extra careful.

The National Football League has a staff of mostly ex-FBI agents to protect the integrity of the game and to oversee security for the league, the teams, and the players--as well as protecting the "brand" of the league (they don't want too many of their players arrested or hurt). The league also assigns a security consultant to each team to look out for player protection. And most teams have their own security directors. Several players have been robbed, including during home invasions, and others have been threatened. A couple have been shot and killed, and one maimed.

So if you're a Raven, an Olympic athlete, a CEO, or just somebody who has their name mentioned a lot, some minor, brief tips:
  • Try not to let anyone except trusted friends and relatives know where you live. Some celebrities get Secret Service protection. If you don't, minimize the public knowledge of your house, neighborhood, or where you like to go to party or hang out. Especially don't mention or tell anyone in the press: they're sure to publish how neat it is that so and so lives here. Consider renting or having the house in a corporation's name or someone else, so that your name does not appear in the public record.
  • Make sure you home is secure; good solid locks--at least two on each door; a peep hole to see who's out there; and a solid hotel-style door lock, so it can be opened only party way and still be locked. The alarm systems  should be able to be activated when you're home. You're probably safeer in a high-rise and/or a gated community, but don't be lured into a false sense of security even there.
  • Watch where you go, and use good judgment about who you hang out with. It's probably not a good idea to be closing up the clubs and going to after-hours joints, especially with old friends who've gotten into trouble in the past. Watch people who are overly friendly, want to buy you drinks, or offer you something for nothing.
  • Try to have someone with you that you can trust to watch your back at public events.
  • Lower your profile as much as possible, except in your field (or on the field) as necessary.
  • If you think you are being followed when driving, make three right turns, if they're still back there, you are!
  • Above all, don't have this sense that oh, it can't happen to me.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Security tip of the day--ATMs

Buz was going to the bank to get some money at an ATM in order to finance his ravenous appetite for pizza. As he was pulling up, your consultant noticed a man get out of his car at the ATM, leaving the engine running with keys in the ignition and the door to his car open as he did a "quick" visit for some money to the machine.

Now, have realize that this was Roland Park, but come on. I've noticed that many people often have a false sense of confidence: It can't happen here; I don't need to worry; it won't happen to me.

This was the same ATM where a young mom was car-jacked at night and driven around the city for several hours several years ago. Fortunately, though terrified, she still had her cellphone while locked in the trunk of her car. Police were able to home in on her cell and found her car in Clifton Park-abandoned by the robber/abductors. And in front of this same bank, a woman's purse was snatched in Broad Daylight (I love that term!) several months ago.

It only takes a few seconds for a dirt-ball to rob you, then jump into your car and you've-provided him with the means to escape or a second car for his group.

Buz's advice:
  • Avoid using ATMs at night. Most are well lit, but you'll stand out like a sore thumb. If you must, use one inside somewhere that doesn't have a window. For example, the one in the 3100 block of St. Paul is inside, but anyone can stand outside and watch you get money and see where you put it. Try to use one in Whole Foods at Mt. Washington.
  • Avoid ATMs in high-crime on the street locations, where the machine is right there outside on the street--unless the guard is present. I don't, for example, recommend using the one at 26th and Charles anytime, unless both your car and the guard is there. 
  • If you're going to use one, survey the area as you approach, either on foot or in your car. Look for people "hanging around"--both in cars or on foot. If you see anyone staring at you, however briefly, consider not engaging in the transaction. Seriously. 
  • Watch out for corners and right angles of buildings, where someone could just be out of your sight. 
  • Don't leave your car running, even for  a moment, if you're not in it; and don't leave the door open. It draws attention and puts ideas in people's heads. You'd be surprised how many women leave the rest of their purse on the front seat.
  • If you do get confronted by a robber, try to make the transaction as quick as an ATM withdrawal--and as pleasant as possible. Do not resist unless you are specially trained or skilled to do so (I don't mean a self-defense class several years ago). Many of these stickup artists are drunk or high, have poor decision-making skills, and are impulsive. They are disinclined to put up with any "disrespect". You can say something like: here, you can have it, that's all I've got.
  • I would recommend at all costs not getting into their car or your car with  them. You may not have an option depending on your situation, but it should certainly be only if you have no other choice.
  • And of course a lot of people have almost stopped carrying cash altogether so they don't have to visit ATM machines hardly at all.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Let's hear it from the bouncers!

Buz has already gotten a couple of comments from doormen/bouncers at some of Baltimore nightspots/clubs/bars. He'd like to hear more on how the the big guys are thinking about the withdrawal of approval for cops to work overtime for the clubs. There seems to be a bit of anxiety out there, but your consultant wants to know: how's it going? Can you guys (and, maybe, some gals) handle it? Will the cops come if you call? at all? quickly? Do you guys think some of the officers will work for the bars, anyway, out of uniform--under the table? And, if so, will the on-duty officers wink and nod, and handle stuff for them?

And how did the first "college night" last night go without the boys in blue? I know the cold probably kept the lid on a bit.

Let me know what's going on with nightclub security! You folks, the first line of defense, are in the best position to know.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What's with this perp walk stuff?

From reading some of the comments in the Sun's recent article on the bail review for the alleged Harris killers, poor Buz realized that he was not alone in finding the media-enhanced "perp walk" done to the accused a little unseemly.
Of course, your consultant was delighted in the 2 arrests, but not in the immediate aftermath of perp walk.
It was an especially disappointing end point in an investigation during which the Commissioner used words like "thoughtful" and "professional" in stating how the investigation was proceeding. I know they were under a lot of pressure to solve the case by members of the council and the Harris family. But apparently, certain members of the department[or was it City Hall] conjured up this dog-and-pony show by alerting the media that they were captured and going to be brought thru the front door. Suspects are usually brought in thru the back garage.
  Buz has a couple of ideas which members of the Command staff might have instigated this--maybe. And he has always been uncomfortable with perp walks. Suppose the person gets off for some reason. Can they sue for intentional infliction of emotional distress? Too bad they didn't do a perp walk on the guy who texted: "I killed two people today, and one of them was a woman." I least we would have known what that clown looked like. And I am glad they didn't perp walk the folks who were arrested and some tased on the night of Obama's election.

But seriously, a thoughtful person should resist these things: there's a presumption of innocence in this country,  last I checked (unless you're at Guantanamo).

Apparently, some members of the department are not aware that there is a strong undercurrent in this city that the Harris murder was given significant more attention, resources, and determination than hardly any other murders get. And only the "connected" have the police on their side.
 Lights and sirens? How far? From the arrest scene? from 29th Street? Or were they just waiting around the corner for the show to begin? Even if they were going to have a perp walk, why didn't they just put them in the wagon and quietly drive down there obeying all traffic regulations? Anyone aware of how many auto accidents our police have? And how an emergency vehicle approaching can cause drivers to do abrupt things, including slamming on the brakes and getting creamed in the rear. And not to mention the ratcheting up of tension and stress in the city by unnecessary sirens--we have plenty, thanks.

If the intention was to have good PR, it was a disaster. The same thing could have been accomplished with another press announcement. And, remember, only one of the three was the killer; but the parade left these two bitter and nastier than they were. And the arrest is only the beginning: the third suspect is still out there, and the case has to still go to trial. And the defense has some negotiating advantages here.

The curmudgeon has spoken!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

No more police in uniform working for bars/nightclubs!

Buz is not sure where this business of having uniformed city police officers working outside bars and nightclubs exactly began. When I first came on the police force (a couple of years ago), working around alcohol was strictly forbidden. Then the crack in the policy began when officers were allowed to work, in plainclothes, at various charity functions-to provide security as long as they did not have anything to do with serving alcohol.

Your consultant became aware of the first big deployment of uniformed officers at the 3rd iteration of Hammerjack's when it moved to Guilford Avenue. [At the second Hammerjack's, management more than fulfilled its order-maintenance role. In addition to heavy bouncer/security presence inside, at closing time, everybody had to be out by 2am, there was a trashcan at the exits, any drinks in your hand were grabbed and not allowed outside; once the club was empty, all the security staff (sometimes more than 25) went outside and told people they could not hang around the underpass and to leave the area. They harassed, cajoled, and pestered til you left. They were following to the letter their obligations to the community: this was all observed by us.] We understand that later things got rougher and rougher til the club closed to make way for Ravens Stadium and they opened at their location on Guilford. Sometimes, they would have 10, 15, or even more uniformed city police working "outside" the club, as the club made an explicit business determination to attract the "rough kind of crowd" where the big bucks were to be made. This crowd required the presence of armed, uniformed off-duty police officrs--and lots of them.

Gradually, other bars and nightclubs across town began having them too. One bar owner in Brooklyn had more cops working for him, than working in the surrounding Sector 1 neighborhoods of Southern District-who were working for the city. {It didn't work: that bar had its licensed revoked by the liquor board because of the crowds and violence the owner attracted-deliberately, as a business decision.} Apparently, now many of the clubs in the Market Place and downtown area, as well as in Federal Hill now hire off-duty officers, often several at a time. Because of some problems that have inevitably occurred, the Police Commissioner has ended the authorization for secondary employment at these places effective November 17th. The world will not end, and life will go on.

I know many of my wonderful former colleagues in the department who work these details cannot see it, but there is an inherent conflict of interest in having officers work in licensed beverage outlets such as bars, nightclubs, and strip joints. The police department has the first level of legal oversight of these places, and the economic interests of the owners sometimes conflicts with legal mandates. I mean, c'mon, it's against the law to allow persons under 21 to drink booze and it's against the law to serve persons who become so inebriated that they want to fight and become obnoxious. 
At least one club sponsors buses to take dozens of college students (all seniors and 21 of course) directly to their club. They have been banned from the Towson University campus, and have been teh subject of complaints by other neighborhoods where they pick up and drop off these kids, in keeping with their "business model". And if your business model relies on those factors plus attracting a "thug" crowd, as well as an atmosphere of Preakness Infield-like activity, then I guess you would need several armed, uniformed police. Buz thinks you should re-assess your business model and its needs for security.
Ya can't have fights and barroom brawls, with police present, and nobody, including them, sees anything. The commissioner alluded to the combative, rowdy drunks being thrown out of the bar, only to have to be dealt with by the city police. And there have been instances whereby the city has been forced to pay settlements when bar patrons were injured.

In addition to liability, the department has to eat the court time that any of these officers get as a result of assignments there (oh, they're supposed to charge it to their secondary employers; betcha, 23-1, it doesn't happen, because the administrative challenges are too formidable.) The department can also get stuck with sick leave, workers comp, and have the potential for "double dipping". So, while, yes, the business owners are paying the salary of the cops, if anything happens, they want them to put themselves "on duty", in order to take police action with the city carrying any liability.

This reminds Buz of the untenable situation that occurred for many years at the Preakness infield: the city police deploying hundreds of officers (really on duty, though) to referee fights, drunkenness, and brawls often involving dozens. So that a large drunken frat party could occur and the TV stations could have "cute" shots of folks guzzling beer down tubes, etc. Over the years, many officers were injured, and a number of arrests occurred. Well, over the last several years, the city police segued out of doing it; last Preakness was totally security provided by Pimlico race track through its own sources and funding.

However, having taken a position in support of the commissioner, your consultant believes that he has also gotten himself into a conundrum: the patrol shifts in the city are at minimal strength. A few years ago, the department decided, for a variety of reasons, to eliminate one post in each patrol sector in the city on the midnight shift. Then later, the department decided, hey, patrol is worthless, so they then eliminated that same post on the day shift and 4-12 shift as well. So, there was a substantial reduction in the uniformed patrol presence, allowing them to dedicate more staff to specialized police units. Then, under yet another change, they decided to give each district only 160 officers, no matter how geographically large, or how many calls for service, or how much crime or accidents. 160 is it! One friend told me that when he was assigned toe the Northeastern District a number of years ago, they had well over 210 officers.

Violent Crime Impact Division has, depending on who you talk to, 200-300 officers. Betcha, 3-1, the bulk of them work secondary employment at bars/nightclubs. And, the Deputy Commissioner for Operations has not really spent much of his career in patrol; he made his mark in Narcotics stuff.

In the meantime, the poor patrol force, on midnight, has been relying on overtime to fill all its units for the first several hours of the shift. Apparently, there has now been placed a strict limitation on overtime. So, are those units now going to not be staffed, or are the few discretionary units available to the district commanders be called upon to fill 'em? And this overtime conundrum will  manifest itself when the bars let out without their police bar-employed babysitters. We'll see. Central and Southern District will be the most affected, because those areas seem to have the most Off-Duties working the clubs. Southeastern also has historically had a problem with post-bar club problems.
When I was a shift commander there, I usually had a district operations foot squad of 6 or so officers there on weekend nights, in addition to our whole patrol squad in Sector One--another 7 or 8. {At that time, none of the bars used off-duty police for security.}

For the guys and gals who want more off-duty overtime, there is plenty: Hopkins (both campuses), MICA, Loyola, Our Daily Bread, et al. And the guys and gals who own bars and clubs must reassess their business models and security situations in light of this new decision. It might require them to tighten up, reduce their income a bit, rethink and pay for security in a different way, and reduce the "socialization of risk" by relying on uniformed police in operating their businesses, but relying on the city when the heavy stuff goes down.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Some new security and crime thoughts

A few tidbits related to crime, which came to my mind:
  • Buz ran into a Northern district member, who said, recently, that the robbery problem along Northern's border with the Northeastern district has been pretty bad recently, so they've detailed plainclothes units up in that area.
  • Your consultant ran into one of the officers working plainclothes: on his t-shirt, there was a logo of a stop-and-frisk, with the words: "real police work in the city". .........Ok, uh-uh. I ain't gonna touch that one.
  • This robbery problem was accentuated by Major Buzzoro at the community meeting at the Govans library when he talked about the problems just south of there along the east side of York Road, down to Coldspring or so.
  • As a result of that meeting, I signed up for a neighborhood communications crime group fostered by one of the folks at the meeting. We've noticed, along with, a real surge in burglaries along that York/Belvedere area, along with some other robberies along York Road, and the "carjacking" at York Road Plaza.
  • As a result of the Yahoo group's efforts, a bunch of citizens are going to get together at the leader's house tomorrow night for their first "Citizens-On-Patrol" walk, accompanied, this time, by one of Northern District's community relations officers. We're pleased that this tiny taxpayer's group is doing all it can to both alert people about crime, and patrol, and they have sent a letter of concern about a house that got raided on Belvedere for selling the wacky weed, etc.
  • Halloween in downtown Medfield was pretty quiet and uneventful; haven't heard too much from around town about how it went in other neighborhoods. How did your neighborhood survive during Halloween night?! Buz would like to know!
  • Did anyone else see Ralph Fridgen(?) on TV--UM's football coach? He was surrounded by city police and school police at the Dunbar-Edmondson game during the brief sports shot I saw. I mean, seriously, were they worried about his safety? Hmmmmm. Maybe. But shouldn't he have a bodyguard detail like the mayor and governor of several University Police? On the other hand, since he make more than a million $ a year, maybe they feel he should hire his own security/bouncers. I just thought it was kinda funny.
  • Buz noticed the double shooting in the 4600 blk. of Marble Hall over the weekend. Your consultant has noticed that area was where the former Morgan student was murdered last year, and maybe, just maybe, I think the killers of Ken Harris were headed up to that area, running thru the alleys north from Northwood. I hope the cops in Homicide are all over this shooting. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hooray for Alonso!

While Buz has sometimes disagreed with Dr. Alonso, CEO of Baltimore's Public Schools, he wholeheartedly agrees with yesterday's plea to stay the course on the Maryland High School Assessments. This is really a crime issue. So many of these kids go through their school years playing around, playing hooky, running the halls, hanging out, and just thinking that it's all a game--like on the streets. There are no consequences. What Dr. Alonso was saying yesterday is: this ain't juvenile court, guys and gals. There are consequences: you won't be pushed thru to graduate.

Buz works part-time as a vocational caseworker at a local nonprofit, where about 70% of the clients are court-awarded. His job is to help them find jobs. It is so sad to see men (they're mostly men) in their 30s, 40s, and 50s who dropped out of school--most will say 10th grade, though they probably weren't doing much by then--and never went back to a GED. Many have several children. Their job prospects are meager and limited-with a few exceptions. They enjoyed the pleasures of running the streets, hanging out with the girls, smoking a little weed, and not going in for all that nerd-like crap. (Peter Moskos says in his book that: "drug dealers get laid".) Well, people make decisioons.

And I know, this all sounds kind of judgmental, and your consultant feels very sorry for the kids who dropped out of school because the school was controlled by punks and thugs, (now gang members), who get their kicks beating up on people who were not them. But the GED route was always an option, even to them. But nobody was able to, or wanted to perhaps, take them aside and say: Ya gotta stop all this street stuff; without an education you'll get nowhere. But the decision to say that were not made; and the decision to finish even a basic education was not made. And now, as adults, the past is never dead--it's not even past. In three years, I've seen dozens of clients who I've urged to get their GED's; to my knowledge, a handful or less have tried.

Good for Dr. Alonso! He's sending the right message to the kids and their parents: school is not a prison; it is not a playground; it is an opportunity. {Posted in the vestibule of the Institute of Notre Dame}.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Brattton Visit

Buz attended the talk given last Thursday night at Evergreen by Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton.  Your consultant found the talk very intellectually stimulating, but felt a tad uncomfortable with some of the things the Chief was saying--inasmuch as they applied to Baltimore, and some of the things spinning around my poor brain. Peter Hermann in his blog goes over pretty well  what Chief Bratton said, so I won't bore my poor readers by repeating. I refer you-all to his blog at

I did have a bit of cognitive dissonance, though, having experienced a variety of policing in my growing up in Baltimore and my career: old Baltimore "regular policing"--both pre-Pomerleau, anItalicd reform after Pomerleau was Commissioner; and his successors, who basically carried on his systems, "community policing" under Tom Frazier, and the "New York style" policing under Ed Norris--on whose watch I retired. I also am coming up to the end of reading Peter Mosko's book on his stint in the Baltimore Police, most, if not all, of which was under the Norris implementation of the New York/Bratton model--including pro-arrest policies.

Now, let's give Bratton his due: He appears to be a savvy police manager, morale builder, and good administrator; his results speak for themselves. Ex-Commissioner Frazier, chatting with me today said: "Bratton's the real thing." Bratton said that he loves cops, and he loves cities, and really loves being a cop. He then went on to lead us thru a history of policing styles and paradigms, with a bit of criticism here and there. His philosophy was summed up by a somewhat complex version community policing mixed in with Jack Maple's interpretation for policing of the rational decision making principles: 1. timely and accurate intelligence (dots on a computer-generated map); 2. putting cops on dots; 3. sound strategy; and 4. relentless followup. Now, these were supposed to be the cornerstones of the "Compstat" model of doing business. Buz could not help wondering if Bill Bratton would help if he were brought to Baltimore as the Commish. Take a look at Charles Village's reported crime on a map for 90 days, for example, and tell the district commander how to handle that with his limited resources. 

But, you  know, Baltimore has had Compstat, or its version of it, for years, and perhaps they're doing it "right" now, I dunno. But at the time I left the department(2001), and for some time after, my colleagues in the operational side told me, that it had evolved into a "gotcha" session--whereby commanders who were unpopular or disliked by one of the officials questioning them were asked more and more detailed questions about crimes in their area--til eventually they were stumped: Gotcha! (Buz hopes that they're not still doing this-though he heard that the Deputy Commissioner for Operations got so angry not too long ago that he threw a bunch of papers-hopefully on the floor). 

Frankly, I do not expect that a district commander should have to know, study, and memorize every detail of every single crime that occurred since the last Compstat. He/she (they don't have any women district commanders now as far as I know--the starting lineup is in pencil, though) should know patterns, trends, areas of concern, and be able to articulate what actions have been taken to deal with problems, as well as any significant resolutions to incidents. And with each district limited in personnel, it's not clear at all that a whole lot of discretionary resources are available to district commanders to address their problem areas.

It was good to hear Bratton say: I love cities. I  love being a police officer.  Cops count! Police Matter! I believe that also.

He also said that the first duty of government in a democracy is public safety.  I believe that, too. He said police can change citzen behavior, regardless of other situational, demographic, and environmental factors.
As he took us thru the history of the evolution of police management, he, like others, denigrated "rapid response", random patrol, and, of course, 911. So, Buz thought back to the recent community meetings he has attended, reflected on experience, and wondered: what's really happening that's different? Citizens not only don't get rapid response, they claim, often, that they don't get any response. Some say they never see patrolling police, that they don't feel safe, and always have to look over their shoulder. 911 calls are backed up because there aren't any units available to handle them. The notion of response to calls, random patrol, and service to citizens sometimes seems to fall by the wayside. Moskos said it became: "let's go lock up a druggie". Now, maybe it worked in New York, Boston, the NY subways, and to some degree in Los Angeles. But it would be really interesting to have Bratton come here to Baltimore, to see if he gets the same results with this cantankerous criminal justice system. Perhaps Bealefeld is using some to the Bratton techniques to get the murders down to the current level. We're all rooting for him; we all want a safe city. (Bealefeld recently said at the Northwood meeting that no one loves cops more than him. Do I sense a kindred spirit of Bratton's?)

Bratton, in New York, talked about having a "booking bus" when he was Transit Police Chief. Seven out of ten suspects were let go on minor charges after booking; they kept the ones wanted on warrants and having guns. New York has "desk appearance tickets", which means that after you get arrested, fingerprinted, photographed, and checked for warrants, you get a summons for court and are released. He didn't have to contend with a Central Booking which was crushed and brought to its knees by Baltimore police making 100,000 arrest every year for a number of years in a row. Officers were taken out of service writing the reports, the statement of charges, and taking evidence for storage. And while they were doing that, the prosecutors were dropping, stetting, and nolle-prossing those same arrestees left and right. Calls for service were being answered late or not at all, but the cops were racking up lot of overtime with the 9:01am time stamps for court on their meaningless arrests. And many of those who went to trial got postponements, PBJs, suspended sentences, repeated offenses ignored or downplayed, made bail on 1% of money asked, and thought they now had street cred.  Of course, Central Booking, for some, was a very unpleasant and de-humanizing day or two. But "changing behavior" of citizens? I don't think so. 

Bratton also reported having a huge army of police at his disposal in New York to deal with problem areas. (He admitted to not having that in LA.). He gives the figure of  38,000 police. He doesn't mention the huge increase in police personnel, brought about by the Safe Streets Act enacted before he became Commissioner, bringing that number of police into existence from about 31,000; all New York State residents were taxed to bring about today's safer New York City.  

The compstat process seems to focus on the location and number and time of serious crimes. Yet, somehow, to my mind, there seems to be a conflict, with the simultaneous emphasis of quality of life crimes. Police do two almost-different things: fight crime and maintain order thru other types of law enforcement. Compstat aims at fighting crime, but order maintenance, which he lauded back to the old policing era doesn't lend itself to a Compstat model, and other criticism of "old" style of policing. Calls for service to 911, rapid response, and patrolling are most often used to maintain order in a community--there is an overlap with crime-fighting, but the two present a coherent whole of a safe community. When law-abiding citizens call, one used to be believe a cop could be there in 5 minutes or so when something is going on; a patrolling police presence can prevent crime and reassure residents, who can wave and chat with them. A rapid response is needed to maintain order when an assault is going on. Some of these may or may not show "scientifically" to reduce crime sometimes, but borderline illegal stop-and-frisks, lack of discretionary arrests and citations, and lack of followup don't maintain crime-fighting or order in the long run.

There is also a huge difference in the issues Baltimore faces when compared with cities like New York, Boston and LA. Baltimore has a huge percentage of its population belonging to the poverty demographic--much higher than those cities, percentage wise. And Baltimore's known drug addiction issues take a much higher toll on this poverty-stricken town, percentage-wise than those cities. And folks who regularly deal with behavior of addicts know that changing behavior is hard. Bratton believes policing can change behavior; and to some extent, I think he's right, but it also must function in an environment supporting that. One only need to look at the suspects in many serious crimes here in Baltimore just this past year: suspended sentence, released on bail, violation of probation, suspended sentence, time served, probation, etc. Everybody has to be in the game. Yes, police play a big role, and Bill Bratton is the big guy in policing (no doubt a brilliant, forceful, and courageous manager), but he still has to win over the loyalty of his cops and get them and their managers to perform, and get them the resources to do it. And the other players in the system have to be true partners in helping fix the problems.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Another community meeting: Bellona, Old Homeland, part of Govans, Belvedere, Rosebank and part of Homeland

Retired American General to retired North Vietnamese General: "You know, you never beat us on the field of battle".
Retired North Vietnamese General replied: "That is very true, but it is also irrelevant".
circa, 1978

Police Commissioner and Mayor to Joe the Thug: "You know, we reduced the homicides, that is you guys killing and shooting each other, even non-fatally".
Joe the Thug to Mayor and Commish: "That is very true, but it is also irrelevant".
circa 2008

Buz attended another community meeting this past Tuesday--another in which the citizens were upset and disappointed, somewhat, with our beloved police department. I was interested to see how at both meetings the police department was very proud of its tremendous reduction of the numbers of homicides and, to a lesser degree, the number of non-fatal shootings. And how, yet, one came away from the meetings with the feelings that the citizens had a unspoken (and sometimes spoken) reaction: "like, what's that all got to be with me and the crime problems we face"?

Your consultant thinks it's wonderful that the homicides are down, that the police and other criminal justice authorities are intervening in a "private civil war" [Judge John Prevas] going on in about 4 square miles of the city. In the meanwhile average "citizens" and "taxpayers" (in the Wire's lingo), are very concerned about the large number of robberies, burglaries, and other crimes in their neighborhoods--crimes which the department admits are basically unchanged from last year. Buz has always believed that robberies are the true measure of a community's safety--not murders. Robberies usually occur in a public place, between strangers, and involve force or the threat of using force. Murders, in this city (and most), involve either a domestic tragedy or business operations among people in "the game". (as Omar put it).
Both at this meeting and at Northwood's, and at a meeting of local security officials,  police officials expressed grievous concern about the worrisome numbers of assault and robberies occurring in many neighborhoods, including Northeast Baltimore, especially around the Alameda/Loch Raven corridors, Charles Village, and downtown.

Huge numbers of officers are assigned to arrest the big, baddest guys in Eastern, Western, and Northwestern districts, but the nasty up-and-coming young guns and street thugs are able to exact a weary toll on our other neighborhoods. The policy priority clearly is to keep the lid on the murders. Good! But we wish the department could be a bit more balanced about it, that the focus should be, by the press, policymakers, and all the criminal justice players on a safe city overall. The focus on murders numbers driving the system may win the numbers came, but we hope not at the expense of losing the war.


IT WAS held in the meeting room of the Govans library on Tuesday, October 14th at 6:30pm, and it was packed! Standing room only, about 85-95 people, despite not being very well advertised. No mayor or commissioner or state delegates: only one councilman, Bill Henry along with the Northern District commander and a couple of his people. It was sparked by recent crimes along the Bellona Avenue corridor, between York Road and Homeland, and included folks from Old Homeland, Rosebank, Belvedere, and some from Homeland proper.

Poor District Commander Ross Buzzoro had to face a mostly polite, but assertive and concerned and upset crowd of citizens. He seemed rather nervous at times, emphasizing the drop in murders for the district (19-11), and the fair number of serious arrests his people had made. He never really answered, because he didn't really have an answer, as to how the department could notify the community about crimes in the area of their concern. Although the city's crime mapping software has a lot of information, it is not terribly recent: with some exceptions, two weeks old, and does not tell time of offense, method of the offense, point of entry if there was a burglary, suspect information or victim demographics/activity.

The man sitting next to Buz described the robbery of his pregnant wife in their driveway, on a sunny Tuesday morning about 9am, witnessed by a 4-year-old, during which the wife got pushed in the face. Incredibly, this was not included in a year-long list of crimes posted for review in the rear of the room. And, again incredibly, the gentleman said that there had been NO followup by detectives on this incident, and no return of his several calls to detectives.
{Buz hopes this crime did not vanish into the realm of not counting, like the January holdup attempt in Northwood where a bullet fired into a gas station window turned out to be from the same gun used to kill Ken Harris. That crime was "downgraded" to destruction of property and thus not considered worthy of followup by the detectives--and doesn't thus count as a robbery either}.

Another fine citizen announced to the meeting that his house was burglarized on September 4th. Police found no good evidence after a cursory search of his house, and he declared a huge footprint outside the point of entry was not noticed by the crime lab. (could it have been the print of one of the officers there?). But what really ticked him off was that the crime lab took a number of hours to get there, and he couldn't go to sleep til three a.m. And most of that time 5 police officers stood around in his yard laughing, joking, and swapping stories of their girlfriends, and how they buy throwaway cell phones for.................? He also said he made 8 calls to the number he was given to find out about his case from detectives; none were returned by the detectives. He received NO followup on his case at all.

In fairness to the Major (who is a good street cop), none of the detectives who work in his building following up on street robberies or burglaries report to him, but to their bosses downtown--who might possibly revise the crime category by using the standards a defense attorney might use.

Oddly, the Major said several times without prompting, that he knows some of them might be skeptical of police reporting accuracy, but assured them auditing is taking place.

I'm concerned about repeated reports of quality of service, followup, and lack of responsiveness on the part of Baltimore's finest lately, after attending and reading about it at several community meetings. Nobody expects police to stop all crime or be everywhere at all times, but professionalism is hoped for at all times--and including followup and returning phone calls.

Buz thinks that robberies should be the police policy priority, along with making citizens feel that police are taking crimes against law-abiding people seriously, and following up professionally, along with a significant uniformed police presence. I wish the papers and TV would stop counting and harping on the homicide numbers.

Though one person lauded the police, which she said she sees 'all the time', and praised them finding her open door, she was in the minority; in both of these meetings. She even joked that she sees so many cops, that they are lowering property values.

A lot of talk at the meeting concerned email list serves, and crime information on them being traded back and forth among neighbors concerning suspicious people, etc. But it is not clear that the kind of information neighbors are trading would be helpful to the police, unless they were also on the email lists. I doubt the police are "lurking" on any of these lists, and even if they were, there is no clear way for the ones reading the emails to give viable info the officers can use to those that can use it in real time.

All told, the citizens seemed to be not terribly happy leaving the meeting, but not many citizens at meetings like this are.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Commish was upset about Northwood!

Buz attended a meeting at the Northeastern District last night, which featured the mayor and the Police Commissioner addressing the mostly, about 85% African-American, homeowners and taxpayers who live in the district and are frustrated about crime--an issue which gained more traction recently with the murder of former Councilman Ken Harris.

I was especially delighted to see the anger and audacity to speak truth about the situation on the part of Commissioner Bealefeld. He also expressed a bit of frustration with the situation. A couple of tidbits from the upset Commish:
  • Just this past Sunday, in "broad daylight" a woman closing her store in Northwood Plaza was accosted, and forced back into the store, where she was robbed--just four doors down from the Haven!
  • The Commissioner was upset that, with all the emphasis and "commotion" regarding Northwood, this crime was still able to occur, and during the day. At one point, he  practically shouted "someone's not doing their job!" By that he probably meant that the police patrols, and first line supervision, despite the robberies and murders, are not able or willing to do basic police work: patrolling, checking, getting out on foot, etc. (It's systemic problems, along with motivation supervision and training all mixed up here, Commish)
  • He then revealed that the police have received only two phone call tips regarding Harris's murder, despite all the publicity. He, like me, knows that there are folks out there who know. These guys are out and about in the area, probably in the same neighborhood, smoking weed, drinking, hanging out, not going to work, all the things which constitute 'failure to do right'.
  • The Commissioner pointed out that he sat in the shopping center for an hour and a half and no officers noticed him: how would they notice any bad guys?
The meeting opened with a re-iteration of desires of the community by Mary Pat Clarke: that an additional patrol sector be created for the Northeastern district, staffed by 3 sergeants and 33 police officers. And the owners of the shopping center be called in on the carpet and required to be in compliance with the PUD (planned unit development)-a thingamajig granting an exception for zoning.

Mary Pat, God bless her: I love her to death: But Buz thinks she was dead wrong in her statement that because the shopping center is private property, the owners need to stop using the city police as their security guards. She compared this to the private property such as Johns Hopkins Homewood campus or Morgan State's campus. One problem: those colleges are open to the public at times, but basically are for the students and faculty and staff. A shopping center by its nature INVITES THE PUBLIC to come shop, browse, and in this case eat and drink there.  A strip shopping center is a very public place. And we taxpayers want to be protected there like any public street and we want those businesses to succeed and flourish. It's not like an enclosed mall which is just a very big building--though that too is open to the public.
Actually, using off-duty city police as security in uniform probably would not be a bad idea, because the severity of the criminal element in the area is such that even armed private security guards might not be enough to drive the criminals out and the retail mix there is such that not very well off customers are going to come.
(Buz went to Towson Town Center recently and there were FOUR off-duty county police officers, armed, and in uniform, working for the shopping center. One officer told me that , especially on Fridays they need 4, and sometimes more, to maintain order--in addition to the center's own large private security guard force--gangs he was told.)

The commissioner seemed very reluctant to promise the extra sector concept or any other large amount of additional manpower--not even temporarily. Buz wonders if City Hall is calling the shots here: there's probably a concern that every other district will say "me too". 

The mayor and commissioner both lauded the drop in crime and the 4-day, 10-hour shift the Northeastern is using: giving the district more staffing between 9pm and 2am than any other district. It didn't seem to help much in the Harris case nor did it seem to assuage the majority of citizens who spoke last night as being disappointed, if not frustrated with their police service. Northeastern still has only 151 sworn police at NED, just 9 less than authorized strength. (All the districts have 160 officers authorized no matter how big they are, or how busy, or how bad the crime. Eastern, Western, and to some degree Southwestern are supplemented perpetually with Tactical, Traffic, and Violent Crime Impact Division units, though).

The mayor somewhat oddly, during her opening remarks, cited a survey taken by Baltimore's Tourism officials proudly proclaiming that the tourists felt Bmore is a safe city. When one of the citizens interrupted asking, logically, where did those tourists go when they came to town, she was sort of scolded by the mayor, who claimed that the tourists went "everywhere". I guess Mr. Covington at the Haven wishes that busloads of tourists were coming to the Haven to have a cool, refreshing beverage and hear some good jazz-perhaps Big Jesse Yawn. And if they get out of the bus and walk into the club and go directly home, before it gets too late, they probably would feel safe too. Buz will betcha, 24-1, that tour buses rarely come to Northwood Plaza, or Loch Raven Plaza, or Erdman Shopping Center-some of the areas cited by citizens last night. 

The mayor did admit that strong  home ownership is crucial. And here were African-Americans, living the American dream, buying homes and paying taxes, and I didn't feel comfortable that they really were being listened to.

One gentleman pointed up and down the table and said that they participate in citizens on patrol, and that they call, and that they watch out for their neighborhood 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, that they do everything but lock people up. But: "we're being let down". They said there was little police presence in the Loch Raven community, and that THEY HAD NO CONFIDENCE IN THE DISTRICT COMMANDER--despite the commissioner's vote of confidence for the Major. They have tried us the 311 line, but after 20 questions from the call clerk, the police then take forever to respond; the suspects have long disappeared. Sometimes the police never come ( a common complaint that Buz hears).

One man named Tony from the Belair Edison neighborhood said  he is frustrated because when his neighborhood calls for druggies plying their trade, the cops, if they come at all, simply drive by most of the time, sometimes merely glaring at the boys on the stoop. He wishes the supervisors would go on these calls and have the officers get out of their cars, confront and talk to these dealers, and order them to leave and not come back, demand ID, or SOMETHING. He said that he and his neighbors were told (by the police?) to put up no trespassing signs--which many of them have done. But the officers don't enforce them at all and don't question the thugs on the steps where they don't live. (Peter Moskos, in his book about the Eastern District, explains in detail why the police, eventually, stop doing anything about the drug thugs sitting on the stoops.) Buz doesn't think a lot of no trespassing signs or no sitting on step signs is going to help property values much. Poor Tony. He's a real big guy, but I guess since the Dawson and  other cases of "don't snitch" have occurred, I guess even he's not going to go out and say anything to them.

Her Honor did say that the district she lives in, Southwestern, is the worst in the city. Ya heard it right from the top!
She also said at one point that she would love, if she could, to just take the shopping center from the owners. Um, yeah, eminent domain: we could have a "mixed use development" with apartments, shops, offices, and condos. Boy have we heard that expression a few times in the last few years!

Oddly enough, there was no one from Morgan there. Your consultant wonders if their Police Chief or anyone from the school was invited, especially since the own the biggest property on the shopping center site--the old Hechinger's building. You would think that since the Plaza is across the street from the university that they would have a dog in this fight. Buz has learned the Morgan police rarely enter the shopping center and don't really even drive around their building. He read on one talk forum that Morgan tells its students not to go there (unable to confirm).

Buz also speculates that these perpetrators probably live just a few blocks north in the heavily rental area near campus, so he wonders if any outreach to the students with the pictures and the one guy's profile widely publicized with the students might gain some calls. The commissioner can lament all he wanted to last night about only two calls, but these were all "citizens" at the meeting. None of them were in the "game". The people who will know these guys are either in the "stop snitching" culture or they may be student neighbors, who aren't even necessarily aware of the crime.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Crime meeting tonite at Northeastern District!

Buz has learned that there will be a big crime meeting tonight at the Northeastern District Station House. A number of neighborhoods along the Loch Raven corridor have been invited. This is an additional meeting sparked by the recent murder of Ken Harris. Reportedly the mayor will be there, possibly, along with the Commissioner. There is no word on whether or not the Master Crime Downgrader will be in attendance.

I've learned that there has been a sharp increase in robberies lately in the city, and enough to possibly project a increase compared to last year. Info received is that the Northeastern District, along the Loch Raven/Alameda corridors, have been one of the main places of increase--particularly in the area of the Northwood Plaza Shopping Center. 

Other areas of the city hit hard recently are: Northern District, especially in Charles Village; and Central District, especially in the "downtown" area.

Many of these robberies are committed by juveniles, according to the police, and as most of us who have been around for a while know, the system is ill-equipped to  deal  with dangerous juveniles who rob, until multiple offenses are (maybe not even then), or they get popped for armed robbery (or worse) as adults. And if they get caught and "nothing" happens, they keep on doing it, because, hey, it's fun--and of course, ya get money and other stuff out of it.

By the way, the surveillance photos of the three robbers in Northwood clearly show a pretty good side profile of the guy holding a Halloween mask. Really, if anybody sees this who knows this guy, he is really got a readily identifiable profile, so you gotta know it's him. But nobody's saying anything.

The mayor said they're gonna crack down on the rotten, no good shopping centers who allow crime to run rampant in their areas. Hmmmmmmmm. Wonder what she means? Are they going to padlock Northwood Plaza?! And what about cracking down on the thugs? And what about cracking down on downgrading attempt robberies with shots fired to "vandalism"?--which of course, is not investigated.

Mary Pat's idea of another sector for Northeast is a good one, but it probably isn't going to happen: the city's broke. She'll have to settle for that big ole dark and locked RV (oops, police command post), parked in the desultory shopping center.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The brouhaha over crime statistics

Peter Hermann has an interesting post about a dispute over crime stats and information in the Homeland neighborhood, as well as some interesting comments from his readers.

Buz has often gone to the city police crime mapping site for a lot of useful information regarding crime in the city. He agrees with Peter that we wish they would give us a little more info, like time of day, some comment on method, victim info, suspect info, etc. But it ain't gonna happen.

There are more than 17,000 police departments in the U.S., but only about 100 of them have crime-mapping data available to the public. Why? Well, cost, for one thing: someone has to create the program, keep it running,and update it frequently if not daily. The dirty little secret is that most police departments have little to no money budgeted for that sort of thing (or anything); most police departments in the country are very small--I believe the median size is about 10 officers. The other dirty little secret is: why do it? Very few departments have any real incentive to reveal to citizens the true number and kinds of reports of crime occurring in their midst. That information becomes political fodder for enemies of current political administrations. The police chief who lasts more than three years in the job is doing well, no matter the size of the department. And a jump in crime overall or in a certain place or of a certain type causes all sorts of conniptions (is that a word?) which take deployment and control and direction of the department out of the hands of the chief. The hue and cry goes out!

Take the city's mapping info, for example. They only allow you a look at 2 weeks at a time for the most recent 90-day period. And nothing more recent than about 10-14 days ago. But if you're a computer whiz you can get a look at all 90 days in their database at once. John Galt just did it last week for the area around the Barclay school, showing the crime in and around the Charles Village/Waverly area for the summer. Yikes! There was hardly any white space on the screen!

Your consultant met recently with the fellow who runs a crime-mapping site for cities, which I looked at a number of times, and in fact, signed up for a crime alert of crimes happening within 3 miles of my house. He gets a feed from both the city police stats and the Sun's blotter reports. Between the two, it gives a better picture. Of course, these are only REPORTED crimes; in certain areas the real crime is much higher--because so many people are involved with drugs that they won't call the police, not to mention the why bother factor. As one judge told me at a wedding on Saturday, "you know, the city police are not very well thought of". I said, "your honor, I believe that's an understatement". And certain jurisdictions don't give him any information, except what he can get in press releases, e. g. Anne Arundel county. But at least for now, that site, combined with the city police site help give a good picture of reported crime in an area.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Two books on the Eastern District

Buz has gotten hold of two books, both written by persons who spent some time in the famous (infamous?) Eastern District in Baltimore City. Your consultant is slowly making his way throught the two book: one chapter or subchapter in one, juxtaposed with the chapter in the other book.  One is by Petter Moskos, who spent a year there while doing research for his Ph.D.  The book essentially becomes his dissertation, and gets bogge down by the constant citations, and literature review, though he is trying to bring the literture to bear on his year as "Cop in the Hood".  Unfortunately, for us and for Peter one year+ being on the midnight shift in the Eastern is not necessarily representative of police work or even police work in Baltimore. I would argue that working nothing but the midnight shift is not representative.
Of course, Mr. Moskos never saw any brutality or corruption during his 14-month stay.

The other is by Danny Shanahan, a cop who writes about going over the edge and being eventually shot by other police and going to prison. His writing is awful, though some of his vignettes are interesting; the book is not well edited; apparently self-published. It's pretty clear that the picture Daniel Shanahan paints of the Eastern is one of burned out police, bad attitude, some sense of police duty and glory, and almost casual mention of police officers in his squad drinking and sleeping on duty. Even a casual reader would come to learn that a suburban boy brou;ght up in an all-white neighborhood, suddenly thrust into what is almost a third-world country and trying to police it, soon becomes way in over his head. And an amateur psychologist would dedeuce from his writing that eithere he is fooling us, or early on began suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Book review to Continue...................... 

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

No Arrest yet!

It's now been more than a week since former Councilman and community leader Ken Harris was murdered in the Northwood Shopping Center during a holdup of the Haven jazz club. And no arrests have been made.

Buz thinks that all the leads have dried up; nobody's "snitching". He's sure that in addition to these 3 hoodlums, others know about the crime and either suspect strongly or know or can guess that they were involved: girlfriends, street friends, people noticing them throwing a lot of money around, etc. But no info to 5-0. The nasty little secret is that if no one tells them anything, the police don't know anything. People who know are either afraid of the perpetrators or believe they are somehow supportive of these guys, that they didn't really mean to kill anybody, that they needed the money, and they're really good dudes, etc.

I heard a fella call in on the WBAL C4 radio talk show arguing that the city police were "up to something" sinister in this case for some unknown evil political reason or something. And that they shoulda have by now got all those surveillance pictures, and analyzed them and publicized them, etc. Sheesh. That's pretty heavy conspiracy stuff! I'm pretty sure Bealefeld and crew really want to solve this "red ball". It would mean mucho brownie points.

Your consultant guesses (semi-educated-wise) that the fancy-schmancy surveillance cameras for the security of the shopping center lot were: broke; fake; very poor quality; didn't really focus on the scene; or were so bad that they barely could see anything worth publicizing--pick one or all of these, or any combination.  

We sincerely hope that somebody is eventually charged with this brutal crime, because as one of our leaders put it right after the event: "this could happen to anybody".

And, Buz doesn't believe that the murder of the Morgan student last year not too far away was not solved either for similar reasons. Perhaps it was, but if so he missed it. (You know, there's just so much violent crime to keep up with.)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Murder in the Northwood Shopping Center--from a police/security perspective

Buz has a few thoughts about the murder of Ken Harris, though I don't think I ever met him, from the perspective of security:
  • I wish people would stop using the word "random" when referring to these kinds of crimes. It was only random in the sense that Mr. Harris happened to pick that place to visit at that particular time. Otherwise, it was not "random". These thugs were engaging in a planned robbery of the bar. My sense is that they were waiting for the owner, Covington, to come out so they could jump him and get the proceeds of the day's special event (which they were apparently aware of--meaning at least one of them is from the area, unless there's a "snitch" working or attending the bar). When Harris drove up and left a woman in the car, the wait was over; they could see that he would be coming right out, and the door had to open to let him out to rejoin the woman waiting for him. So it was no more random than the Zach Sowers robbery: a bunch of thugs/criminals (not gentlemen) going around looking, watching and waiting for someone to rob. So, yeah, in that sense, it is correct that "it could happen to anyone".
  • For you small business owners out there: once your business is robbed, some sort of action to change the environment, or your biz policies, procedures, or practices needs to occur--or the probability of it happening again increases dramatically. Sometimes, small business owners don't want to pay for security personnel or cameras or alarms; but sometimes modest, simple changes might help. If you can't think of any, perhaps a consult with a professional in this area might be useful.
  • Of course, if you're in a high-crime area, probably not much is going to prevent another robbery from happening, but some actions and equipment might reduce the number.
  • One elected official said that something has to be done so that our young people had other choices, sort of implying that they didn't have any choice in doing this. But I guess this well-meaning person is suggesting programs that allow our young people, who don't have fathers around, and sometimes not very good mothers, to see and interact with positive role models. You can think what you like about former Commissioner Frazier, but he had the right ideas with his PAL program. Too bad it wasn't supported, and it has essentially become a shadow of its former self and would it could have become.
  • However, having said that, armed robbery and thuggery don't happen overnight: these individuals tend to be very nasty and sociopaths. Often police and judges and POs know, or can fairly easily predict, who these people are. So, early intervention must take place right away--after their first arrest; someone has to tell them this is wrong and if they can't stay away from THE STREET, they're messing their lives up. Apparently, nobody tells them. But they learn the hard way: when you have 2-3 criminal convictions, it is really difficult to get a job or even an apartment; you have to keep going back to the STREET. So, young people make choices.
  • The fact that the clowns who committed this robbery took great care to hide their faces probably means that they're from the area. And, of course, they didn't want to be seen by the probably pathetic, cheap security cameras in the shopping center.
  • Hardened heavy-duty miscreants are not deterred by security cameras; the companies make themselves a lot of money pushing them to businesses, but the truth is that they only have a function as part of a total security program. They probably deter some people, but all ya gotta do is put up a hood or sunglasses (or a Halloween mask), and the cameras are worthless. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: you can see from this lousy camera picture that that can't possibly look anything like my client!
  • The more days that go by, the less likely this crime is going to be solved anytime soon. (It's been almost a week now.) After a week, the probability of solvability drops off dramatically. Of course, about a year from now, one of these clown will get arrested for something else serious and bingo, his DNA will match. 
  • I really like this guy Bealefeld: he made the notification to the widow of her husband's death himself at 5 am. And he was very careful and close-mouthed about anything he was giving out to the public; I really liked that he said: "we  have to be THOUGHTFUL" about how we proceed and release information toe the public. Wow! Thoughtful! I have never heard another high-ranking police official in my 30 years in the business use the word or advocate being "thoughtful". We are lucky to have this guy as commissioner.
  • There's been a lot of talk about security at the shopping center and who's responsible. Well, I hate to say it, but landlords are probably the most-sued of any business owner, and security is one of those issues they are sued for. I believe the layman's standard is whether the security was "reasonable and adequate". Maybe Donald Wright can help here. The family of the St. Paul's School administrator who was killed in the Towson Town Center parking garage sued earlier this year for that very thing. I haven't heard how that case turned out, or if it has gone to trial yet. ( I understand that Baltimore County is a tough jurisdiction to sue for such a thing and win.)
  • Clearly, Mary Pat Clarke is right when she says that the Northeastern District needs a substantial increase in police officers. I told a former Deputy Commissioner, more then ten years ago, that Northeastern District need a 4th Sector. (an area covered by a patrol sergeant and squad of officers) The district has had only three sectors and is too busy for that; plus it has experienced a substantial increase in criminal activity the last several years as a result of the demolition of public housing. Please see a recent issue of the Atlantic magazine which discusses the phenomenon of a movement of crime because of housing policies.
These are some of my thoughts from my perspective. I wonder what you-all (a Southern term) think.

Peter Moskos is coming!

Buz has learned that Peter Moskos is coming to the Baltimore Book Fair this weekend. He'll be here promoting his book covering his year as a patrol officer in the Eastern District. The poor skeptical consultant is anxious to read it, but is a bit jaundiced (is that the right word?) because he wonders how well this could reflect police work in Baltimore since he was only in one district and on the midnite shift at that-for a year or so, and I'm not sure that that includes the academy time.

On the other hand, it's always good to see someone from Baltimore, especially even a rookie cop, finish their Ph.D.

I hope many of my readers will make It down there and chat with him, and tell me what you think.

I heard he got into it with Norris on Norris's show no less, but alas, I missed it. Did anybody out there hear Norris and Moskos and Moskos chatting, and hopefully, politely disagreeing?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Emergency Alerts via Facebook/Myspace?

Some colleges are experimenting with the idea of having emergency alerts for the campus community posted on Facebook and My Space. The idea is to make social networks interactive,  allowing details about  disaster to be reported to emergency officials from "on-the-ground", "while it happens", so to speak. This was reported in an article recently in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

But other campus officials feel that this isn't the way to go because the network then could be a conduit for wrong, false, or misleading information-and the posting of rumors- which could make a situation worse and possibly do more harm than good.

Do you think your campus should allow interactive emergency alerts?

Buz has several thoughts on this:
  • This whole business of schools feeling that they have to "alert" students immediately to a crisis is sort of going ga-ga. It started with Virginia Tech, when the campus police didn't notify the student body that two students had been found shot to death in a dorm. The idea sprung from the prevalence of cell phones, text messages, and email. Like, shouldn't we all have been told, so that................................we'd do : What?!  The campus police believed that they had a confined criminal action and even had the suspect in custody. So, what was the point in telling everyone about it, especially since a press release would be done when all the relevant facts were in (of course, they weren't). I suppose that if they thought a wild, deranged killer was on the campus (he would be back soon enough): what would they have told the huge campus to do? Run? Go Home? Go to your rooms and barricade yourselves in? It was not clear then, nor is it clear now, what, if anything could have stopped him from going to the building and opening  fire. They had no idea who they were looking for other than to "inform" the campus to "use caution".
  • Your consultant remembers the case at the College of Notre Dame last year when their new emergency notification system "worked". A woman student reported that she had been abducted and the suspect was on campus and armed. An increasingly strident and alarming number of alerts were sent to the students, at one point causing 8 women to barricade themselves in a bathroom. A huge police response followed as the alarms became more filled with impending danger. It turned out that the woman student made the whole thing up as a result of a dispute with her boyfriend. So, the electronics of the system worked, but the facts didn't warrant the panic. (By the way, betcha, 24-1, the student was NOT expelled from CND. She was probably "counseled".)
  • Then there was the case at Loyola up the street from CND. An Asian student, looking a bit like the VT guy, engaged in a "social Psychology experiment", as part of a class project,  to gauge people's reactions to unusual behavior. So he went into the Loyola dining hall dressed in fatigues, and began talking loudly to no one but himself about injuring people and destroying the school with explosives, etc. Students nearby heard this (as he planned), and called campus police who then called city police (he hadn't planned on this). Buz did not learn of the emergency alerts which went out, and has a lot of respect for Loyola management of their campus police, but can just imagine the alert and the kind of instructions which might have  gone out. It turns out that the instructor wanted the students to do minor things to disturb other people, like cutting in line, or invading another's space; it apparently never occurred to her/him that he/she should be thinking of or mentioning VT. And neither, apparently, did the student, who was Asian-looking, and wearing fatigues--just like the Virginia Tech shooter. I guess it's a good thing that Maryland has not been captured by the concealed-carry-on-campus crowd.
  • And then there was the murder of the student near Morgan several blocks away on Cold Spring Lane. The Morgan Police didn't say much when they activated the emergency notification system, except to say there was a shooting and to "use caution" or some such.
  • (Of course, these systems are good for sounding the "all clear" once a crisis is over.)
Anyway, schools have spent a lot of money on these systems since VT, but it isn't at all clear that they would be any good in a campus shooting type emergency. By its nature, an emergency is something terrible happening right now. By the time everyone got on their Blackberries and blogged about it, it would probably be rumors and misinformation; it would be good for the administration to report what they know/knew, but that's about all.

From having been involved in several emergencies (many?) during my career, I have learned that information is a precious commodity: it comes fast, furious, and is is often ever-changing and incomplete. The real challenge from the perspective of the command post is: relying only on useful confirmed information, or working to make it reliable as soon as possible. The danger of rumors or "playing around" is high. Of course, during a long-term "emergency", such as Katrina, or a blizzard, an information exchange system might be useful. But, on  balance, an authoritative source only would be best.  School can and should experiment with it a bit, but one only has to read some of the posts on your newspaper's talk forum to see the danger of allowing open, unmoderated commenting.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Peter Hermann is back!

When things were just starting to get boring around Bmore, Peter Hermann has come back from his stint in the Middle East to blog about crime in Baltimore. good! The more people talking about crime, better for all. Peter used to be the police/crime reporter in Baltimore. At one point, the Sun brought up from Florida, I think, a hotshot crime reporter named Jim Haner. But something must  have happened, because Haner kinda fizzled out and really never did much crime reporting.

Peter at least stayed with it and tried to develop sources and write some good cop stuff. I think he became a little too enamored with Commissioner Thomas Frazier, though, and his stories on Frazier programs became a little too fawning.

His newest blog leads right into the issue of street prostitution here in Bodymore. It's a problem which just doesn't seem to go away. Mostly because enforcement is non-existent and too focused on the ladies. (Not all of whom work in the evening.)

Now, Buz is not sure that legalizing prostitution is a good thing, but he does think, if it is going to be illegal, laws against it must be enforced. The only way to knock it out of a specific neighborhood (it is probably impossible to eliminate it), is very simply to target the Johns. That is, sting operations, using multiple police officers posing as prostitutes, who get solicited for money. The Johns get arrested, and their cars get towed away. Of course, it would be helpful if the judges were on board, and stopped giving PBJs out to some of these clowns. (Or maybe all of these clowns.) In addition, to the decoy squads, uniformed patrol officers, particularly on the midnight shift can easily spot trolling johns. Many of them commit traffic violations, and many have been drinking. If the word gets out that a particular neighborhood, say Pigtown, is having rigorous enforcement, the dum-dumbs might  go somewhere else. On the court end of things, a first time arrest for either prostitute of john is indicative, usually, of someone in need of help. Usually, the women are often pathetic creatures, heroin and crack addicts, with no real means of support. Typically, the guys are in it for some sort of macho thrill, and many of them are borderline sickies--at least the ones who cruise the streets looking to pickup "dates".

I think we could learn a lot from countries, such as Holland, where prostitution is legalized--though I cannot think I'd like to have it around my house. Of course, we have it already in Baltimore, not just in Pigtown, but in Hampden, Brooklyn, Curtis Bay, and all up and down Garrison Boulevard and Park Heights. OOps, and I forgot it's around beautiful, wonderful Patterson Park. In fact, walking after dark in Medfield the other day, I got waved at twice by a woman on the other side of the street. Now, of course, she was no real threat, but I felt a mite uncomfortable. Any  locations, I leave out?

There is a sex blog dedicated to the sport(?) of trolling for street walkers; just reading it for a few minutes makes you sick. Like, don't these guys have a life? Wouldn't they like a real relationship with a woman instead of this pick up stranger on the street stuff?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Crimes in North Baltimore

Buz has learned that an employee of Eddie's Supermarket (works in Bakery) was coming home after work on Monday night, August 11th when she stopped for the light at southbound Roland at Coldspring. Two young dudes came out of the bushes near the Women's Club, one armed with a gun, and pulled her out of her car, hitting her in the face with the gun. Fortunately, an officer was waiting for the light across the way, saw it go down, and a short chase ensued. One of the suspects got away, with all of her property, purse, cell, etc. The other was caught. No other details immediately available.

A whole bunch of other crimes were reported in this week's messenger in North Baltimore, including a robbery of a guy who was followed into the Roland Springs development in the early morning hours. Wonder what the backstory is here? (If any)

Also, there were a number of second story burglaries, mostly in the early morning hours, wherein crooks used ladders or fire escapes. You-all can't assume that just because you're on the 2nd floor, you can't be broken into; it often decreases your risk, but isn't foolproof. Buz watched one guy climb the latticework outside the Hickory Heights apartments from ground level to the 2nd floor balcony in less than a minute. When he saw me looking at him, he said, "I live here". I then noticed another person came out of the apartment, looking ok, so I believed him.

An employee of Eddie's also told me about a customer who wanted to report his expensive bike stolen to two of Baltimore's finest. They went "uh, huh, ok". Finally, he said: "aren't you guys going to write anything down?" When he got an equivocating answer, he said: look, I need a police report for my insurance claim, ok? Then the notebook popped out. The Eddie's employee told your consultant that a "high ranking legal person"/customer also told him that a lot of stuff isn't getting reported. Buz wonders if anyone else has similar thoughts along these lines.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Observations of recent crime events

~A dear friend who lives in Federal Hill reports that the huge police presence in the area after the two homicides has all but disappeared. She hopes that the cops are still around after dark to patrol the park (that rhymes!).
~She and her husband told Buz that at the community meeting held right after the wild shooting spree that the Association Prez held tight reins on the meeting and people could only ask questions of the Boys in Blue-not vent frustration. The brass were being real coy and bureaucratic and noncommittal.
~However, a couple nights later, the Commish came back to a second meeting and was forthright and upfront and down-to-earth: after reports of shots fired during the second murder, they should have gotten out of their car and looked around, especially since one caller was very specific as to where he heard it. (The body was not found till the next morning by the Bodymore, Murdaland jogging body-finding patrol.); and the Commish said that many Southern District units had often (I guess on busy weekend bar-fighting nights) been pulled away to the Inner Harbor/Downtown areas to assist because those po-leece "weren't doing their jobs". Apparently, the people with too much fire-water in them don't "choose civility."
~Your consultant has further learned that the shooter in the first FED Hill murder on Battery Avenue was a white guy. Who woulda thunk!? (poor dumb Buz hadn't heard that one before-and he tries to follow this stuff.) Hmmmmmm. Whaddaya think ? Brooklyn? Pigtown? (Nah, Carol says nobody over there is violent). Oh, I know, maybe he came from the County.
~Both of these murders remain unsolved at this time.
~ Buz read about the death of the Baltimore woman DJ, the creator (?) of the Bmore sound. And though he saw that the death was ruled accidental, ya had to wonder why anyone would dive into their own shallow pool, knowing its depth. And at a party. Your consultant wishes that in all cases like this the blood alcohol level and the presence of illegal drugs would routinely be reported by the medical examiner. Remember the biker policeman who got killed by the on-duty officer at a strip joint? We never heard his blood alchohol level, either. Now, of course, this being Bmore, nobody at parties drinks, smokes weed or does coke. And of course, we know that off-duty police never get drunk, or do any of that other stuff. But Buz just wonders, you know?
~Speaking of the Bmore sound (of course, Buz doesn't do the club scene), I read that it has extremely vulgar lyrics, to the point that even stores that sell this sound, don't play it till late at night (so children don't get to hear it). And it is "in your face" music. And the pictures shown of the DJ gal seemed like she was pretty tough and mean, perhaps ready to fight. Now, I realize that art sometimes imitates reality, and sometimes reality impinges on art, but I wonder to what extent art helps make the reality. (The Wire?!) In this case, plenty of young Baltimoreans are extremely vulgar, and "in your face". Buz wonders how many of them get shot, because they get in the face of the wrong people? And extremely vulgar conduct can sometimes get you arrested, banked, shot, stabbed,  or not even considered for a job. And Buz wonders how many high school girls emulate fighting looks-- and how many fights among girls have broken out because of glaring at each other--or is the DJ just reporting on what is?  (Like David Simon says he does?) Buz just wonders, you know? Sheesh. Wouldn't it be nice if everyone chose "civility".
~Buz asked the African American custodian at his gym some questions about the club scene. He reported that he works two full-time jobs, and doesn't go to clubs; no sensible person that he knows does, because of the ever-present potential for "shit" to happen. 
~Your consultant spoke to one of the many Puerto Rican officers Baltimore recruited to come work here because Baltimore has found it extremely difficult to find people to pass the rigid recruitment standards from its Baltimoron labor force, despite I am so wise's idea of great pay. (Baltimore pays far less than surrounding areas with much worse working conditions and much less community respect and support). This officer seemed extremely intelligent, spoke better English than I did, was friendly, decent, and respectful.
~And an hour later, the bank we were standing in front of on Roland Avenue was the scene of an armed stickup; bank employee heard the victim's screams and got the tag number of the miscreant vehicle. Another Puerto Rican officer, assigned to the Northern,  observed and stopped the car at Park Heights and Cold Spring, and effected the arrest. 

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Recent observations on crime and security, mostly Baltmore area

~Buz went to Towson Town Center yesterday afternoon, and notice that 4 Baltimore County Police officers were there on duty for the shopping center. All were posted on an upstairs centrally-located position where the center court could be observed. When questioned, one of the officers said that often on Fridays, at closing time 4 officers are needed to supplement the security force. You know, we get a lot of gangs here around closing time. Come on over then; you'll see. Buz declined. {Gosh, I wish we could find some economic development use of all our gangs around here. Maybe, like a private security force, like Blackwater; or maybe a new religion, or maybe a new reality game show.}
~Buz wondered how that suit against the operators of that mall by the family St. Paul's Schools administrator killed there is going: like, what's its status, or has it been settled.
~Interesting that many of the merchants in cross keys are complaining that they don't get a lot of drive-through or walk-through traffic to their stores. Well, you're located in a gated community; most of the stores cannot be seen from Falls Road. Life's full of trade-offs, one of which is often security and accessibility.
~One of my colleagues from Syracuse University on a college security list serve is taking a survey of schools to find of other large schools to find out: a. if they have any or full desk coverage at the entrance to dorms. b. If yes, do student cover the door security, or is it paid professional staff. c. do schools use cameras in residence halls. d. are the doors set up so that only one person at a time can go in.         I wonder if any readers can share experiences with these questions at their schools.
~~JHU's web security tips says: (paraphrasing) stay away from groups of older juveniles on the street who you are not familiar with. Take measures to avoid them if you feel suspicious or threatened. Good idea; wonder why it's necessary?
~Getting back to Syracuse, it must be even worse: they recommend walking or jogging or biking in groups of three or more. And don't approach strangers or let them get close to you. Oh, well, guess when next time I'm in Syracuse, I won't ask an Orangeman for directions. The three of them might jump me.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Sun's article on expungement

"The past is never dead. It's not even past."   ---William Faulkner
Buz read with interest the Sun's story on expungement, and the mention of it by mjb on Baltimore crime blog. Some semi-idiotic ramblings:
  • For many years in Bmore, when you got arrested on a minor charge, you were held in the police station lockup overnight, and your trial was held the next morning. To be honest, there weren't a heck of a lot of arrests for "humbles", unless that person needed to be arrested and police authority needed to be asserted. In any case, you got your day in court the next morning, and, yes, the Assistant State's Attorney nolle-prossed or stetted plenty of cases. And the judge gave PBJ to plenty of people. The person at least spent overnight in the lockup. I often approached the job with a sort of Zen-like philosophy that I wasn't too worried what happened in court: I made peace with the idea that getting arrested was the most they were going to get, unless............So Buz kinda got it in his mind that the conduct leading to the original arrest was "abated by arrest".
  • Along came the Police Commissioner Frazier years and he was able to unload prisoner processing and holding to the state: Central Booking was created--supposedly improving "efficiency". Your court date was 30 days away, hanging over your head, and the new courtrooms for the now "newly" independent judges soon became circuses, overflowing with cases. The first waves of  "Zebra" operations and the Violent Crime Task Force arrests soon brought the new Central Booking to its knees, holding far more prisoners that it was supposed to.
  • So, eventually, the idea, the notion of a trial (except for some felonies) went away. Go to any of the courthouses for District Court in the morning. The poor ASA has defendants and their lawyers lined up to "try" their case in less than 2 minutes, or discuss it or something. Judges can take a powder for a while. The first thing the ASA asks: 'who wants a postponement?' A  long line ensue by his table. Next: "who wants a jury trial"? another long line. Who want to be given PBJ for a guilty plea?" (This is rarer, since they're offered abatement now.) [Or were]. And, finally, the cases that do go to trial are almost always agreed "statements of facts". Hardly ever does a real trial take place in district court.
  • So, the huge number of arrests continued thru the term of Police Commissioner Norris, who implemented New York style of policing in Baltimore. Central Booking and the courtrooms were becoming ever more chaotic. So, as a sort of bureaucratic response to an untenable situation, the ASAs assigned (sentenced) to Central Booking simply began reviewing cases and declaring them "abated by arrest." {See, the Electromagnetic Radiation emanating from Buz's brain somehow reached the brains of the ASAs, even though they were separated in time and space, often in years.} On a serious note, they were simply making a judgment that the crime was very minor, and it was not worth the effort to now require them to show up in court, go thru the whole process again, and end up with little or no punishment, and simply clog up the courthouses even more. (Of course, many would not show, leading to arrest warrants, and clogging up the system yet again.)
  • Buz always took this to be a dismissal of the charges by the state's attorney's office. They were not making, in this case, any judgement as to the legality of the arrest. They were simply saying: "case closed".  The ASA is simply saying: ok, you were bad, minor charge, it's over, it was abated by the arrest. Though this may be unheard of anywhere else, it was a strange bureaucratic adjustment to a peculiarly Baltimore situation.
  • Of course, there was also some percentage of arrests in which it was determined that there was "no probable cause." Those were dismissed in the same way. So, the open question there is how many of all these humble arrests were for really no probable cause or the officers were too careless, lazy, or stupid to actually write something worthwhile. (After a while, they began expecting "abated by arrest", so why bother writing anything hard: the ASA was just going to through it out, anyway. So it became an ever-spiraling self-fulfilling expectation and result.) Or were the ASAs pressured to rigorously declare these to be no probable cause.  I always thought no probable cause was a "bad arrest." So, I guess if there's anything illegal, this is where it's at. I just wish they'd never have used my term "abated by arrest". And of course, nobody then cared; no one was minding the store, the only thing that counted was that the arrests continue.
  • The other "abated by arrest" charges are, in my mind, simply short-circuiting the nolle prosse process of saving the city the time and money of not having these folks come to court.
  • Your consultant thinks that the vast majority of these arrests were legal. Look, all you gotta do is drive around town, especially in the evening, in many neighborhoods. People are littering with abandon--both little and big littering; drinking on the street, urinating, fighting, being disorderly; riding illegal dirt bikes and ATVs, gambling, drividng like crazy people, etc., etc., etc. Any dummy can get a humble arrest every day. Ya don't have make anything up. And this doesn't even count open drug-dealing and smoking.
  • So now, we have Joe or Jane the miscreant, who gets locked up for something "minor", and now is shown the door at Central Booking and never has to come to court. They were told that either their case was abated by arrest or had no probable cause. So they left with the feeling that: a.) they didn't do anything wrong; b.) the police were picking on them because..........c.) they were the victim of this evil system  because "they" were out to get their poor selves and d.) there's nothing wrong with what they were doing and e.) let's go do it again and you know, these square, chump, punk law-abiders are pretty easy to get over on. And the law is weak, not as smart and tough as me; plus now I got my street cred; I got locked up by the man. No, I am the man. (There is only a bit of irony here in the folks who changed the slogan from Believe to Behave.)
  • One can easily see the psycho-social leap that is made when a person feels impunity about committing little crimes evolves into committing bigger crimes--because they can. After all, the chumps (the evil system of us) won't do anything.
  • Buz read the expungement article and the poster guy, who's been in and out of jail for 15 years, and just shakes his dumb head. The expungements granted under the new law are nice: they will probably actually help a very small number of people. The truth of the matter is that for the vast majority of employers, the explanation that the State's Attorney dropped your charges would be good enough (assuming that's all you got). The people in and out of jail many times, though, have larger issues than their humble arrests--which if they have more than one are big red flags in and of themselves. They say: don't hire me; I love street stuff; and I can't learn; lets go be tough and hang on the corner; we can do whatever we want; we know how to get over; rules are for those stupid nerds; those nuisance laws are really a nuisance; I should be able to do whatever I feel like.
  • Buz sees very few people in his vocational coaching work even convicted of these nuisance laws. They usually nolle prossed. Open container, urinating, and related offenses often are an indication of substance abuse and alcohol issues. Same with possession charges. However, plenty of people can get jobs with these issues, if they deal with their problems sincerely and actually work at it. If you keep doing nuisance crimes, at some point, you are, in fact, a nuisance--no matter what the case results say--to yourself, your family, and the rest of us.
  • The real problems are with guys (and some gals) who have convictions, often more than one, for assault: employers run the other way. And forget robbery, theft, and burglary convictions. Expungement really is a non-issue for them.