Undocumented workers arrested

February 24, 2009 by  
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WEST PALM BEACH, FL, — 14 workers were taken into custody this morning on the grounds of Palm Beach International Airport.
US Customs during a security check found a contractor with undocumented workers.

The people brought into custody did not have airport ID’s and a further check revealed that they did not have any other ID’s as well according to Customs.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Deputies assisted Customs officers in arresting the undocumented workers.

The were picked up on the southeast corner of the airport grounds near Perimeter Road and Belvedere Road.

Neighborhood watches are front lines in bad economy

February 24, 2009 by  
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In times past, Jerry Borbon would not have thought twice about the backpack-wearing young man he spotted strolling down a street in his Miami, Florida, community.

But times have changed. Now he’s learning to trust his suspicions more.

A neighbor saw the man trying to break into a house and called police.

“There was nobody at home at the house,” Borbon said. “[The alleged thief] didn’t know that a neighbor was watching from her window.”

Borbon is a Citizens’ Crime Watch volunteer for his Westchester neighborhood in south Miami, where residents have been trained to be alert to suspicious behavior and report it promptly to police.

With the economic downturn, neighborhood watch groups are proving to be a first line of defense in battling property crimes.

The Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington, D.C.-based independent research organization made up of local and state police officials, released a survey in January showing that 44 percent of police departments reported increases in crimes they believed could be attributed to the economic crisis.

Of the departments surveyed, 39 percent reported an increase in robberies, and 32 percent said they had seen a rise in burglaries.

Those surveyed also reported a 40 percent increase in thefts, including those of GPS devices from cars and other “opportunistic” crimes.

The survey also revealed that while quality-of-life crimes are rising, budget money is falling. Of the 233 responding police agencies, 63 percent said they expected their total funding for the next fiscal year to be slashed.

And as police departments grapple with budget cuts and hiring freezes, neighbors are stepping up and battling back against burglary, theft and vandalism.

Police Chief Dean Esserman of Providence, Rhode Island, said that for a time, his department saw a dramatic increase in copper thefts resulting from empty, foreclosed homes and the increased value of copper on the commodities market.

Things have gotten much better in Providence, Esserman said, but other communities haven’t been as fortunate.

“Most cities are having a tough time,” said Esserman, who added that his department is dedicated to community policing and has a strong partnership with neighborhood watch groups. “In the last year or two, the economics have been really rough.”

Borbon said his community has definitely noticed more criminal activity.

“We’ve never had so many problems before,” he said. “Nowadays, you have so many people just walking around pretending, leaving fliers, doing marketing surveys or some such baloney. But what they really are doing is looking for opportunities, watching to see who is or isn’t in their homes.”

Matt Peskin is executive director of the National Association of Town Watch, a nonprofit crime prevention organization that works with law enforcement and crime watch groups around the country.

Peskin, who estimates that there are about 20,000 neighborhood watch groups nationwide, said there has been an increase in requests for information on starting groups from all over the country including urban, suburban and rural communities.

“In a lot of cases, there are so many communities out there that already have groups that when you start to get new ones, you know that something’s up,” he said. “It does seem to be somewhat tied to the economy.”

Martin Floss, a professor and director of the Institute for Law and Justice at Hilbert College in Hamburg, New York, said that for the past 15 years, crime rates across the board have dropped to historically low levels.

Floss, a former crime prevention coordinator for a neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, said that as the economy worsens, property crimes tend to increase.

Well-trained neighborhood watch groups can be great assets to local law enforcement, Floss said. “If you can get them to organize, to look out for each other and to work closely with the police, that is only going to do good things,” he said.

A spate of vandalism and petty theft in his Las Vegas, Nevada, neighborhood prompted Doug Puppel to organize a neighborhood watch program in his area.

Like Florida, Nevada has been hard hit by the crumbling economy and housing market crisis.

Puppel said residents in such areas are motivated by concern for their families and community.

“What’s going on is not unique to Las Vegas, but what’s unique that I’m seeing is that people are pulling together,” he said. “It’s probably easier for a person to start a neighborhood watch today than it would have been if times were better.”

Crystal Zohner lives in a gated community in Las Vegas and said her neighbors are rallying to send a clear message that they are united against crime.

“It seems like now, since the economy has changed, [thieves] are getting a little bit more sophisticated and a little more brazen,” she said. “It’s time to get back to simpler times, when we did look out for each other.”

Robert Thompson, neighborhood captain for a watch group in Roswell, New Mexico, said that with police so busy and resources stretched so thin, members know they have to be vigilant when they patrol their neighborhood.

But they also know that they are not the police, he said.

“They are not going to confront anybody, but they are the eyes and ears,” Thompson said. “I feel a sense of satisfaction because I am trying to make a difference in my community.”

The key to reducing crime in communities may be found in history books.

University of Arizona economist Price Fishback has studied urban crime rates during the Great Depression and said there was a correlation between getting people back to work and decreasing crime.

“If you are worried about crime, training programs and things that take people’s time up help to reduce crime rates during a period when things are getting worse,” he said. “For a 1 percent increase in employment, you found about a 1 percent reduction in the crime rate.”

FBI recovers 48 juveniles in prostitution raid

February 24, 2009 by  
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(CNN) — Law enforcement officials arrested more than 500 people, and took custody of 48 juveniles in a coordinated 29-city weekend sweep aimed at combating child prostitution, the FBI announced Monday.

Task forces made up largely of state and local police officers arrested and booked what authorities said were 464 adult prostitutes, 55 pimps and 55 customers on state charges. While most faced local charges, a senior FBI official said he expected there were would be some federal charges as well.

The FBI Monday said 19 searches were conducted, netting a total of $438,000 in cash, plus illegal drugs, cars and computers.

The four dozen juveniles were recovered in the third phase of Operation Cross Country, an initiative that seeks to help child prostitutes and crack down on people who control them and patronize them.

In the previous coordinated operations, authorities recovered 21 alleged child prostitutes last June and 47 in October.

In 2003 the FBI, Department of Justice prosecutors, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children launched what was called the Innocence Lost National Initiative to address what had become a growing problem of children forced into prostitution. Many were young runaways.

Officials say the 32 Innocence Lost task forces formed nationwide have now recovered about 670 children in the six years, and seized more than $3 million in cash.

The most recent operation involved law enforcement agencies in several states including California, Alaska, Michigan, Georgia, Colorado, Oregon, Alabama, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Illinois, Texas, Florida, Ohio, Minnesota and Arizona.

11-Year-Old Boy Charged with Killing Pregnant Woman

February 21, 2009 by  
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WAMPUM — An 11-year-old boy has been charged in the death of a pregnant woman who was found shot in a bedroom of her western Pennsylvania farmhouse, police said Saturday.

A statement from state police said the boy was charged with criminal homicide and criminal homicide of an unborn child in the killing of 26-year-old Kenzie Marie Houk. The victim was 8 months pregnant.

The statement said the boy had been arraigned in District Court and placed in the Lawrence County jail.

Officers couldn’t immediately say Saturday whether the boy and the woman were related and wouldn’t give any other details.

Police said Houk’s 5-year-old daughter found her mother’s body Friday morning in a bedroom of their home in a wooded area in the community of Wampum.

The home, located at the end of a half-mile-long driveway along a road scattered with abandoned and burned-out trailers, was cordoned off with yellow police tape and a Pennsylvania State Police vehicle was parked out front early Saturday afternoon.

Next to the house was farm equipment and a barn filled with hay.

WPXI-TV identified the dead woman’s father as Jack Houk.

There was no immediate response Saturday to a call by The Associated Press seeking comment from a Jack Houk of New Castle, a town next to Wampum.

A preliminary hearing is set for Thursday.

The rural community is about 35 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

Police officials release sketch of pervert

February 20, 2009 by  
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Police have released a sketch of the man wanted for lewd crimes on one South Florida beach.

Investigators said the man exposed himself to women and children on the beach in Surfside. Police said the pervert may have also committed similar acts in Miami Beach.

Officials described the subject as 6 feet tall, with a muscular build and brown hair. He was last seen wearing black swim shorts and a black cap with a red symbol.

If you recognize this man, call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS. Remember, you can always remain anonymous, and you may be eligible for a reward.

Miami Graffiti artist “Merk” falls from sign on expressway

February 20, 2009 by  
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The Florida Highway Patrol says a man who was hit and killed by a truck on an expressway might have fallen from an overhead sign he was tagging.

highwaydeath

The 28-year-old man fell from a catwalk on a road sign hanging over the Palmetto Expressway at about 1 a.m.

Authorities say a pickup truck hit and killed the man on the roadway. The driver of the pickup truck did stop.

FHP troopers found a can of spray paint near the man’s body. Several signs on Interstate 95 in Miami were vandalized earlier this week; officials say they don’t know if the man who fell scrawled the graffiti on the other signs.

The man’s identity has not yet been released.

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