The city of St. Paul, Minnesota seeks court action to restrict alleged gang leaders and members from attending the Cinco de Mayo Fiesta on May 1st thru the 2nd. The city is requesting that a Ramsey County judge ban gang members to associate with other Sureno members, recruiting on behalf of the gang, wearing gang colors, flashing gang signs and a host of other activities in and around the Cinco de Mayo event.
If a judge agrees, the 10 — seven men and three juveniles — would be banned from a “safety zone” that encompasses much of the city’s West Side neighborhood, where the annual parade and carnival is held. Last year’s festival witnessed a drive-by shooting. As a result, police and organizers are concerned about the presence of gang members at the family fest.
The city’s goal is to prove that the Surenos, a Los Angeles-based gang established in the Twin Cities over the past decade, has been responsible for much of the violent crime in the past year. At least 13 incidents of shootings and other violence have been attributed to them. The police consider this gang as a public nuisance. If the law were passed, a nuisance declaration would allow the city to ban members of the gang from congregating or carrying out gang activities.
Similar anti-gang tactics laws in Florida, California and Texas have been upheld by courts. However, a spokesperson from the Minnesota chapter of the ACLU, said no such law has been challenged since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down an anti-loitering ordinance in Chicago that sought to ban gang members from street corners. He criticized the city’s action as “a direct attack on freedom of assembly.”
Whether this violates freedom of assembly or if it is considered public safety, the city and law enforcement need to make sure that their community is safe from gang activities during important events.
Last week, two people were involved in an accident on a highway in Colorado. The driver and passenger of a pickup up truck died after an odd sequence of events led to the driver rolling his truck. The driver, Jonathan Holum, and his passenger, Cora Weil, both of Eau Claire, Wisconsin were wanted in Wisconsin on charges of bail jumping, resisting an officer, burglary and criminal trespass and were on the Most Wanted List.
It all started when a Colorado State Trooper saw the black and gold Ford pickup with Wisconsin plates weaving in and out of traffic. The Trooper pulled them over but the driver took off. The Trooper chased the driver but when the driver tried to ram the patrol car, he lost control of the vehicle and rolled it. Both driver and passenger were not wearing seat belts and were ejected from the vehicle and died.
What contributed to the accident was alcohol, speed and failure to yield. Was this “karma” or just a coincidence that two people who were on the Most Wanted List met their death running away from police?
A recent article from the Associated Press reported a sixty-year-old Spokane, Washington woman who was on vacation in Wisconsin was arrested for drunken driving three times in three days.
The police stopped her on March 11th in the early afternoon when a county sheriff noticed that she was trying to drive out of a ditch near the Kohler Andrae State Park entrance. She was wearing only one shoe and her blood alcohol level was 0.21 – the legal limit is .08.
Twenty-fours hours later, she was arrested again when her car was stuck in the snow in a park campground that was closed for the winter. The woman said she had only four or six cups of wine before she got behind the wheel and she hadn’t finished the box of wine in her car. For this mishap, she spent 12 hours in jail and then was released.
After her release, she was arrested again after someone reported her driving all over the road. Police found a partial bottle of wine in her car and her blood alcohol level was 0.16. She must have been drinking the wine in her car that she hadn’t finished the day because she was in jail. For this drunken driving episode, she is sentenced to 30 days in jail and is fined more than $3,000.
What makes this very sad is that this woman obviously has a drinking problem and needs help. She is no criminal but needs help from Alcoholics Anonymous. Hopefully, a relative or friend will convince her to seek the help she needs. She must realize that her actions of drinking and driving may kill other people.
Violent crimes that include felony, theft and burglary increased last year in Winona, MN according to the latest police statistics. The small increase of the total number of crimes by 40 for a total of 651 may be attributed to people looking to make a fast buck by stealing property and pawning it.
However, this small increase does not compare to 1995 where nearly 1,500 violent crimes were reported. Since then police have been more proactive in their approach by increasing police presence and not just reacting to crimes. The Community Policing Program was developed and created the neighborhood watch groups and Landlord’s Associations. They also created the Winona Downtown Tavern Association that works to reduce drinking, move people out of the downtown area at bar close and reduce violence.
In addition, this extra police work has sent more people to prison for longer periods of time. In 2008, 63 people were sent to state prisons for a total of nearly 247 years. However, these crimes were more violent, such as sexual assault, home invasions and attempted murders.
With the economy down, crime may be increasing. However, it seems that law enforcement may have a handle on the problem.
In today’s economy, there are a lot of people out of work and desperate to find a job. What would you do if a placement service promised you a good paying job but you had to pay a fee upfront?
It’s not unusual for a placement service to have a potential employee pay a finder’s fee for a job. However, Careers For Life, a placement service in Denver, Colorado made customers pay thousands of dollars in finders’ fees upfront but never sent them on a job interview. In fact, paying a finder’s fee upfront for a promise of a job to a placement service is against Colorado law.
Now, most people would refuse to pay a finder’s fee upfront and legitimate career placement firms never ask you for the money. But one young man, Justin Hollon, found out the hard way that paying a finder’s fee upfront to a Careers For Life placement firm was nothing but a scam.
Why did Mr. Hollon and many other people fall for this scam? Because just like many people today who are in a dead-end job or have no job, they are hungry to find a good paying job or career. Mr. Hollon is only 22 years old and never attended college because of family circumstances. He had to take care of his mother and his six sisters and when he got married, he was desperate to find more than just a job – he wanted a career to help his family.
In fact, the high-pressure tactics the men used at this placement service on Mr. Hollon were unbelievable. They promised him a job for a big oil company and left him with brochures for an hour to look them over. When they returned the men started to question his integrity and asked him if he was man enough to do anything like this? They asked him personal questions such as if his wife deserved a guy that only works for hourly pay. Their pressure tactics broke him until he agreed to pay the up-front fee. Once they got the money, Mr. Hollon never heard back from Careers For Life. It was all just a scam.
However, this story has a happy ending. Mr. Hollon was able to get back his money because he sued them in court and then told his story to the local news stations. As a result, Careers For Life is now shut down and three of the men working at Careers For Life have been arrested with one still at large.
If you find yourself in this type of situation, you can check out career placement services or any other businesses on the Better Business Bureau website.
Back in October 2008, we reported that Minnesota’s prisons were receiving decks of playing cards featuring 52 violent unsolved homicide, missing person and unidentified remains cases that occurred throughout the state of Minnesota in the past 50 years. The decks of cards were distributed to all 515 police departments and sheriffs’ offices in Minnesota, 75 jail facilities with 10,000 decks to Minnesota state prison inmates.
Recently, a tipster helped in solving a cold case missing person in Wabasha County. The Ramsey County Medical Examiner positively identified the remains of Deana Patnode of Inver Grove Heights. She disappeared in 1982 but her remains were found seven years later. Unfortunately, the police could not identify her until recently when a tipster saw a reconstructed picture of her on the deck of the playing cards. The tipster remembered seeing her in the neighborhood where he used to live. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension found relatives of the missing person and matched her DNA with her relatives.
Thanks to the Minnesota Cold Case Playing Cards, this may be the first tip generated and hopefully not the last, to help solve a cold case.
Sara Jane Olson was the 1970’s member of the leftist Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), a terrorist organization. She committed terrorism with this group that included attempting to blow up a Los Angeles police car and helping rob a Sacramento-area bank that led to an SLA cohort murdering a customer. Today, March 17, 2009 she is scheduled to be released from prison from her seven year prison term to parole in Minnesota.
According to the Star Tribune, California doesn’t want her to serve her parole there and neither does Minnesota. Sara Jane eluded police for over 25 years by living a quiet life in St. Paul, Minnesota as a wife, mother, actress and a DFL activist until she was arrested a decade ago.
The Minnesota Senate and House members are preparing a resolution that urges California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to require Sara Jane Olson to serve her parole in California and not return to Minnesota. Governor Pawlenty is in total agreement with this resolution.
However, it doesn’t appear that Minnesota has the authority under the applicable compact and laws to turn her back to California. This means that she may have to server her three-year parole in Minnesota.
State lawmakers are working on expanding legislative bills to require persons to provide their DNA to law enforcement at the time of their arrest. The Hastings Center reported that in 2007, 91 DNA expansion bills were introduced in 36 states. Almost half of the bills include persons arrested for various felony offenses. More than a dozen states already allow law enforcement to collect DNA from suspects before they are convicted.
Currently, the state of Colorado has introduced “Katie’s Law”. This law would take DNA evidence from every arrested felony suspects. Katie Sepich was a graduate student at New Mexico State who was raped and murdered back in 2003. The killer’s DNA found beneath her fingernails and eventually led police to an arrest, three years later.
Since 2006, Katie’s Law has been adopted by 16 states and has been credited with hundreds of arrests along with 200 suspects exonerated for crimes they didn’t commit. DNA is a good technology that helps to solve crimes. Many law enforcement agencies say that it is easier to do and less intrusive than taking fingerprints at the time of an arrest.
However, state criminal defense groups and the American Civil Liberties Union feel that it is unconstitutional and against a person’s 4th Amendment right. Opponents to these bills claim that DNA is a lot more than a fingerprint because it reveals a person’s past, present and future history. In addition, taking DNA samples from someone who has not been convicted of a crime may pose legal retribution in the future.
Several Federal Laws such as the DNA Analysis Backlog Elimination Act of 2000, the 2001 U.S.A. Patriot Act and the Justice for All Act of 2004 allowed for further definition of qualifying offenders to include all persons convicted of felonies under federal law. Two recent federal actions again expanded DNA sample categories. When Congress renewed the Violence Against Women Act in 2006, it included an amendment that authorizes federal officials to collect DNA samples from individuals who are arrested and from non-United States persons detained under U.S. authority. In April 2008, the Department of Justice published a proposed rule directing certain U.S. law enforcement agencies to collect DNA samples from individuals who are arrested, facing charges, or convicted, and from non-United States persons who are detained under U.S. authority.
Then there is the cost of collecting DNA samples from everyone who is arrested. In Colorado, approximately 60,000 people are arrested on felony charges each year. The cost of collecting and testing DNA would be $1.8 million per year. With budget cuts, states don’t know where they will get the money. In addition to the cost, critics worry about the security of a government DNA database and the potential privacy invasion of people arrested, but never convicted of a crime.
Everyone knows how teens love to text each other, but now the phenomenon is the practice of “sexting”. This is where a teen, even as young as 13, sends a nude or semi-nude photo via text message of themselves to another teen.
This growing trend seems to be exploding everywhere. For example, three teenage girls in Pennsylvania who allegedly sent a nude or semi-nude cell phone picture of themselves to their boyfriends; the boyfriends were then charged with child pornography. A Texas eighth grader who sent his football coach a nude picture and wound up in juvenile detention center. A 15-year-old Pennsylvania girl is facing child pornography charges for sending nude photos of herself to other kids. A 19-year-old Florida man was thrown out of college and has to register as a sex offender for 25 years because he sent nude pictures of his girlfriend to other teens. The examples seem to go on and on.
Approximately, 20 percent of teens admit to participating in “sexting” according to a nationwide survey by the National Campaign to Support Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. However, law enforcement is having a difficult time with the punishment for sexting. Is it considered child pornography, which is a felony, or is it just a youthful prank?
Some believe the punishment for teens sexting doesn’t fit the crime. A kid sending a racy picture is very different behavior than a pedophile forcing a toddler to perform a sex act on camera. Child porn laws were designed to catch pedophiles in their criminal acts. Many of these teens will tell you that they are just messing around and really don’t mean to harm anyone. It isn’t a crime if adults send nude photos out to their friends so why can’t teens to the same? As a result, many people feel “sexting” is a societal problem and not a criminal problem.
However, as a parent of a teen, you should be aware of your teen’s phone habits. Know who they are talking to; know what they are texting; and know what types of pictures they are sending over their phones. Make sure that they don’t fold under peer pressure. If all else fails, give your teens the same talk you received – “If everyone was jumping off the cliff, would you do it too?”
Whenever a state lists the most wanted criminals on a web site and asks for information about them, the capture rate is high. Take for example in Colorado, when Crime Stoppers and Fugitive Location Apprehension updated their 50 Most Wanted Criminals List, it resulted in six arrests within a few days. Many of the criminals who were spotlighted were wanted for murder or were sex offenders and even some were wanted for white-collar crimes.
Law enforcement can’t do this without the support of the community and their tips. In Colorado alone, some 39,000 people have warrants out for their arrests. Many of these people are career criminals. When they are not in jail, they are out victimizing people. That is why it is important to help law enforcement catch these people.
To help law enforcement in Minnesota, a good web site is Minnesota’s Most Wanted. This web site breaks out the most wanted by Fugitives, Unsolved Crimes, Cold Cases, Escapees and Absconders, Bail Jumpers, Missing Persons, Child Support Enforcement, Incarcerated Offenders in jail or prison, recently released offenders and registered sex offenders.
If you have a tip, you can anonymously call crime stoppers and may receive a reward for your tip. Let’s get these criminals off the street and in jail where they belong.