American Crime's Popular Posts

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Overwhelmed law-enforcement miss ankle bracelet alarms

Overwhelmed law-enforcement miss ankle bracelet alarms

More than 100,000 parolees and sex offenders are wearing ankle bracelets in the US, but a new report found that police are ignoring tens of thousands of bracelet alarms, and in some cases allowing criminals to commit new offenses.
Electronic ankle bracelets are used to track an offender’s location by sending radio frequency signals at timed intervals. Depending on the crime, parolees may be under house arrest, restricted from leaving a certain jurisdiction, or have a curfew. Tampering with the ankle bracelets or leaving a restricted area sends an alert to police, who are then required to check up on the offender.
But an AP investigation found that numerous agencies fail to respond to many of the alarms set off by the bracelets, and some don’t have clear protocols on how to handle a high number of alerts. In some cases, authorities took days to respond to cases in which parolees tampered with the devices or broke their curfews.
“I think the perception … is that these people are being watched 24 hours a day by someone in a command center. That’s just not happening,” Rob Bains, director of court services for Florida’s Ninth Judicial Circuit Court, told AP.
Throughout the US, AP found that 21 specific agencies logged a total of 256,408 alarms for 26,343 offenders in the month of April. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has an average of 944 alerts per day. The Delaware department, which employed just 31 field officers, had an average of 514 alarms per day. And in Tennessee, a government audit found that 80 percent of alerts generated at the Board of Probation and Parole went unchecked over a 10-month period.
Criminal justice departments that are flooded with alerts are forced to sort through the notifications and decide which ones are appear serious enough to warrant a response.
But a nationwide lack of responses has occasionally allowed offenders to commit new crimes. With no one checking up on them, parolees and sex offenders are able to engage in further illegal activities.
Authorities in Syracuse, N.Y. ignored 46 alerts from child-porn suspect David Rentz. One alert was generated after he removed his ankle bracelet. He then raped a 10-year-old girl and killed her mother.
In another case, Colorado offender and white supremacist Evan Ebel tampered with his bracelet andkilled two people, including Tom Clements, the executive director of Colorado’s department of corrections. His ankle bracelet alarm had gone unchecked for five days.
“Technology is not going to automatically issue warrants for people. It just sends an alarm that says, ‘This thing’s been cut.’ And for people to ignore it, what’s the point?” said Colorado resident John Leon, whose son was killed by Ebel after the parolee tampered with his device.
Kelly Barnett, a member of the union representing probation officers in Michigan, told AP that it is impossible to track each offender every day, and that ankle bracelets provide “a false sense of security to the community.”
California Sen. Ted Lieu had long pushed for harsher punishments for those removing a bracelet. He believes that ideally, offenders who are at risk to the community should be sent to prison rather than out on parole, but the state lacks the funds to pay for that. He believes that when when offenders tamper with their devices, their intentions are never good.
“Dangerous parolees do not cut off their GPS devices because they want to go to church unmonitored,” he said.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

When a child goes missing, there is no playbook

When a child goes missing, there is no playbook

By Kristi Ramsay

Most parents have felt the pain of having a missing child, if only for a few seconds.

They lose sight of their child at the park or at the grocery store or at the mall. Fortunately for most moms and dads, as soon as the knot forms in their stomach, they lock eyes with their kid.

But for the parents of the hundreds of thousands of children who go missing each year, that pain is much deeper; for some, there is never relief.

Working in the media, I've followed the cases that get national attention. I've watched the press conferences and the family statements.

Last week, however, I had the heart-wrenching experience of finding out what happens in between the media updates -- what it feels like when this is real life.

A sweet 14-year-old girl who babysat my son in the church nursery was missing.

She'd left home without her parents' permission to meet up with a boy she connected with online. That was on Monday. The boy said he never went to their rendezvous point, a park, and as of Thursday, the young girl still had not come home.

The days in between were grueling for those involved in the search. I cannot fathom the depth of emotion her parents experienced.

Police never suspected foul play and thought the girl might have run away.
That scenario was both frustrating and encouraging. It was frustrating because the family did not think she intended to be gone long. She didn't bring anything with her. No phone, no keys, no money. It was encouraging because it was the best case scenario. Maybe she "just" ran away. Maybe she was fine -- angry, confused, and unaware of how loved she is -- but fine.

The conversations that unfolded were surreal. We talked to a detective about the possibility she was involved in sex trafficking or abducted or even worse. We had to avoid focusing on the "what ifs" in order to stay focused on the search.

When word got out, the community rallied around the missing teen and her family. We plastered the city with fliers and canvassed her last known whereabouts. People who had never met the family joined the search. Dozens of homeless people in the area helped out. As the story spread on social media, people around the world sent words of support.

Those of us on the ground did everything we could think of, all while having no idea what we were doing.

Three days after the girl went missing, I was helping plan a prayer vigil. We didn't know where to begin. There was no guide. We "guessed" the parents should speak first, before things got too emotional. But what should they say? How do we get the word out? How long should it go? We didn't know the answers to these questions.

The prayer vigil never happened. About an hour before it was to begin, the young girl was located. She had run away, and she was home now.

For the media, that's where the story ends. A quick update to tell local TV viewers everything is OK.
For the friends assisting with the search, there was a huge sense of relief. There were hugs, tears, and then the exhaustion and gravity of the week hit. We laughed -- about how much trouble this girl is in, about how much wine we planned to drink.

After this experience, I'll never look at news of a missing child the same.

I will hold this experience close the next time an e-mail about a missing child crosses my inbox.
I will remember the reality behind the story.

Each missing child poster represents a family in heartache and a community at a loss.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Montgomery County teen Zykee Smith missing since July 3

LANSDALE, Pa. - Police in Montgomery County are on the lookout for missing teen. Family members of 16-year-old Zykee Smith say he's been missing since the afternoon of July 3. That afternoon he left his home in teh 300 block of East Second Street in Lansdale

Smith is 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighs 155 pounds, and has black hair and brown eyes. Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to call Lansdale police at 215-368-1801.