According to a recent article, thieves are now targeting catalytic converters on vehicles in the metro Denver, Colorado area. A catalytic converter is a device used to reduce the toxicity of emissions from an internal combustion engine. First widely introduced in 1975 for automobiles in the U.S. to comply with tightening EPA regulations on auto exhaust, catalytic converters are still most commonly used in motor vehicle exhaust systems.
Catalytic converters contain precious metals including platinum, palladium and rhodium. With the economy as bad as it is today, the cost of the metals contained in the coverter makes stealing the converters very lucrative for thieves. Accessing the converters located on the underside of a vehicle is easy to do. These thieves have targeted areas such as park-n-ride partking lots. Seventeen thefts have been reported in Aurora and six in Thornton, Colorado.
Toyota trucks and SUVs are the most targeted vehicles because of their high ground clearance and easily removable bolt on the catalytic converters. Even if the converters are welded on, thieves are still able to steal it.
Damage to the vehicles’ wiring or fuel line from stolen converters occurs. Plus the cost of replacing the converter can run into several hundred dollars.
The Associated Press has reported that highway deaths have dropped to lowest levels since the 1950s. The Transportation Department projections show total traffic deaths declined nearly 9 percent in 2009 to 33,963 compared to 2008 with 37,261 people. This is the lowest amount since 1954.
Several reasons for this are more motorists are buckling up, better-drunk driving enforcements and more enforcement of traffic laws. There are more safety improvements in cars, and the economic situation leads to fewer drivers on the road.
The good news is that seat belt use climbed to 84 percent in 2009. Many states allow police to stop a vehicle for a seat belt violation; even if this is the only violation an officer observes. With new cars and trucks with side air bags that protect the head and midsection becoming standard equipment as well as electronic stability control, helps motorists avoid rollover crashes.
States have pushed tougher laws to reduce drunken driving. In addition, more stringent laws against distracted driving including text messaging have been adopted by many states.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce is warning Minnesotans that there is an e-mail collection scam in Minnesota. The e-mails are from Experian Portfolio Services of St. Paul.
These e-mails say that you owe money to an unnamed creditor and ask you to pay the outstanding balances via PayPal. This is fraudulent and you should NOT provide any personal information or payment to Experian Financial Services of St. Paul.
As you may know, Experian is a global credit bureau but there is no connection between them and the fraudulent e-mails that are being sent out.
Minnesota law requires the Minnesota Department of Commerce license any entity in the business of collecting claims on behalf of another. Neither Experian Portfolio Services nor Experian Financial Services Corp. is a licensed collection agency in Minnesota.
If you receive an e-mail or a letter from Experian Portfolio Services or Experian Financial Services Corp. disregard these e-mails or letters.
Federal and Minnesota state investigators are working on dismantling a sophisticated fraud ring. Investigators say that the fraud ring involves about 200 members and could be one of the largest cases of its type in this country.
The organized crime ring has members in the Twin Cities and recruits on Facebook and other social networking web sites. This crime ring steals identities, raids bank and credit card accounts and defrauds businesses and banks nationwide. In addition, they buy stolen identities from employees of check cashing services and Internet data brokers.
The fraud ring has roots in West Africa and Eastern Europe. About thirty to forty percent of fraudulent check activity is in the Twin Cities. Some banks working with investigators are Wells Fargo, TCF Bank and US Bank.
In 2003, the Office of Justice Program’s (OJP) National Institute of Justice (NIJ) began funding major efforts to maximize the use of DNA technology in our criminal justice system. Much of NIJ’s work has focused on developing tools to investigate and solve the cases of missing persons and unidentified decedents. Recently the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) has gone online to help solve the nation’s 100,000 missing persons’ cases.
NamUs, a free online system, is a clearinghouse for missing persons and unidentified decedent records. This system can be searched by medical examiners, coroners, law enforcement officials and the general public to solve cases. By entering information such as description, photos, fingerprints, dental records and DNA information, the database provides potential matches and helps to further investigations.
So far, about 6,200 sets of remains and nearly 2,800 missing people have been entered. However, only about 1,100 of the nearly 17,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide are registered to use the system. This system has helped to solve 16 cases since it became operational last year.
As a result, legislation has been introduced named, “Billy’s Law” after a missing person who vanished five years ago. The bill would help to link NamUs with major FBI crime database. The cost of the bill is $10 million in grants annually to police, sheriffs, medical examiners and coroners to train people to use NamUs and to help cover the costs of entering date into the system. It will also provide another $2.4 million a year to run the system and to ensure permanent funding. The bill has passed the House and is pending in the Senate. Supporters are confident it will easily pass.
According to a recent New York Times article , states nationwide are trimming their budgets by using early releasing programs in their prison populations. As a result, more convicted felons are on the streets and not behind bars.
Take for instance in the state of Illinois. Gov. Patrick J. Quinn, a Democrat, described its early release program as “a big mistake.” This program sent some convicts who had committed violent crimes home from prison in a matter of weeks. Of more than 1,700 prisoners released over three months, more than 50 were soon accused of new violations.
The state of Michigan seems to have the worse case scenario. The state has the fifth largest prison system in the country. Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm of Michigan, a Democrat, has approved 133 commutations, which is more then some of her predecessors. In addition, she has expanded the state’s parole board to 15 members to allow more cases to be considered, and recently proposed a budget that presumes 7,500 fewer prisoners next year for savings of more than $130 million.
However, local prosecutors across the state of Michigan are challenging at least 20 of the parole decisions. Among the 13,541 inmates released on parole in 2009 was Scott W. Hankins, who has been convicted twice in sex cases and was given a thirty-year sentence. He has been accused of molesting other girls he had met at church, some of whom were developmentally disabled. The youngest girl was only seven years old. This man shows no remorse for his actions and should not have been allowed out on parole.
During these tough economic times, state governments still have the responsibility to keep their citizens safe. Cutting budgets in their prison populations should be carefully reviewed and be the last budget item to be cut.
Everyone knows that giving out “sensitive” information about your identity is not the right thing to do. However, when you are dealing with a cell phone carrier, you would think it would be all right to do. They ask many questions in order to verify that you are the person who is authorized on the account.
A recent article in the Star Tribune, shows that you can’t trust anybody. Tom Driscoll of Tonka Bay was adding minutes to his Virgin Mobile USA cell phone account when the call center representative started asking him questions. He asked for his mother’s maiden name and the last three numbers on the back of his credit card. These questions allowed the call center representative the use of Mr. Driscoll’s credit card on a Sony Play Station.
Mr. Driscoll immediately reported the identify theft to Virgin Mobile USA and canceled his credit card. However, the cell phone company didn’t report the incident to their fraud department. In fact, the cell phone company cut off Driscoll’s service when his credit card payments wouldn’t go through. For two months Driscoll tried to work with the cell phone company and got nowhere.
Finally, he contacted the “Whistleblower” and his cell phone was turned on and he received a free month of cell phone service. However, the point of this incident is that there are people out there ready and willing to steal your identity.
This is outrageous! After a Level III sex offender does his time in prison, the system releases him but doesn’t care if he has a place to live or not. Many of them end up homeless and on the streets. Currently, Duluth police are alerting citizens about a freed convict who preyed on teenage girls for sex is now homeless on the streets of downtown Duluth.
Wesley G. Vandell, age 39, is a Level III sex offender and is most likely to reoffend. He is no longer under the supervision of the Department of Corrections, but has to check in once a week to law enforcement. Big deal, he is free to continue whatever activities he wants to.
Along with Vandell, there are 20 other Level III offenders in Minnesota who are homeless. There are 16 in Minneapolis and four in St. Paul. The total number of Level III sex offenders in Minnesota are 176.
Laws need to be changed to make sure that these low-life sex offenders are released to a shelter and not left to shift for themselves on the streets. To the people of Duluth, Minneapolis and St. Paul, be aware of these people and protect yourselves and your family.