Archive for May, 2014

Obama Administration Proposes Race-Based Legal System in Hawaii

May 28, 2014

From The Daily Caller by Neil Munro, May 27, 2014

Thousands of native hawaiians and local supporters wearing red shirts carry large Hawaii state flags overflowed Kalakaua Avenue as they marched along side Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii, Sept. 6, 2004.


Hawaiian clubs, trusts, agencies and schools, marshal over 5,000 to protest threats to native Hawaiian entitlements and land trusts as well as U.S. military expansion on the islands. For the second year in a row, trustees and representatives from alii trusts, state and civic organizations, and native and non-Hawaiian supporters joined together in a march for “Ku I Ka Pono,” or “justice for Hawaiians.”

President Barack Obama’s administration has quietly suggested it is willing to create a two-tier race-based legal system in Hawaii, where one set of taxes, spending and law enforcement will govern one race, and the second set of laws will govern every other race.

The diversity proposal is portrayed as an effort to create a separate in-state government for people who are “native Hawaiians.”

If Obama succeeds, “what’s to prevent creating similar [self-governing racial] groups out of say, Cajuns, or Orthodox Jews or Amish?” said Gail Heriot, a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

“If you can do that with groups that are already part of the mainstream, you can balkanize the country,” said Heriot, who is a law professor at the University of San Diego.

But the proposed measure to increase legal diversity is illegal because the president doesn’t have the power to grant one group of Americans the status of a separate government, she said.

There is no constitutional basis for conferring such status, and Congress has repeatedly refused to confer this status,” said Carissa Mulder, a spokeswoman for two members of the federal Commission on Civil Rights.

“This seems to be yet another case of the Obama administration ignoring the law to achieve its policy objectives,” she added.

The move was announced Friday before Memorial Day as White House officials and congressional Democrats stepped up predictions that the president will try to bypass congressional opposition to his progressive policy preferences.

Last week, for example, Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid suggested the president would reduce enforcement of federal immigration law because the House has not agreed to double the current inflow of almost two million immigrants and guest workers per year.

The proposed new legal regime for Hawaii is sketched in a federal document released Friday, dubbed an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

“The Secretary of the Interior is considering whether to propose an administrative rule that would facilitate the reestablishment of a government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian community,” said the document.

The goal, it claimed, is “to more effectively implement the special political and trust relationship that Congress has established between that [Hawaiian] community and the United States.”

The move is likely intended to protect lucrative financial set-asides for Americans who are also part of the Hawaiian racial group, said Heriot.

These set-aside, which include cheap loans, are being threatened by the Supreme Court’s move to curb racial divisions and imposed racial diversity. In 2000, for example, the court’s Rice vs. Cayetano decision allowed non-Hawaiians to participate in the election of trustees for the state’s wealthy Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

The office holds a large tract of land in Hawaii under a legal trust, which generates revenue that is distributed to racial Hawaiians.

The 7,300 square kilometers of land were granted as a trust to the native Hawaiians in 1920 instead of creating a new tribal reservation that would have segregated Hawaiians from America’s mainstream government, economy and society. The transfer was solidified in 1959 when Hawaiians voted to become a state in the union, and in 1978 by the creation of the office to oversee use of the trust.

The land was awarded as trust, not a reservation, because Hawaiians were full citizens, said Heriot. “They’re part of the mainstream,” she said.

The Cayetano decision shows the court doesn’t want to encourage further moves toward tribal and racial separatism by granting more power to the race-based groups, such as the Office of Hawaiian affairs, she said.

“Once they made that decision, it’s pretty clear that whole is in jeopardy,” over the long run, said Heriot.

In response, Hawaiian groups lobbied Congress to pass the Akaka bill, named after Sen. Daniel Akaka, a native Hawaiian senator.

The bill would have imposing variety on Hawaiians’ shared government, via the creation of a tribal government for Hawaiians.

That bill would have converted Hawaiians’ status from normal Americans into to subgroup similar to American Indians. Many Indians live on reservations governed by tribal governments since they were overrun during the European settlement of north America. The Akaka bill would also have transferred the Hawaiian land to the new tribe, allowing it to be used to generate wealth via gambling and other businesses for racial Hawaiians, she said.

But the Akaka bill has failed to gain any traction since 2010, prompting advocates to try this new regulatory end-run around Congress, said Heriot.

Heriot and three other members of the civil rights commission opposed the Akaka bill.


How the NSA is Transforming Law Enforcement

May 26, 2014

From The Electronic Frontier Foundation by Nadia Kayyali, May 26, 2014

If you’ve been imagining NSA surveillance as something distant, with analysts sitting in remote data centers quietly analyzing metadata—stop now. NSA surveillance has become a part of day-to-day law enforcement fabric in the United States. The Snowden disclosures that were made public as part of Glenn Greenwald’s book No Place to Hide drive this point home, and they emphasize why we need real change to government surveillance, not minor reforms.

How the NSA is Transforming Law Enforcement

Image Credits: Timothy Krause

There are two key points necessary to understand the domestic aspect of NSA surveillance: the integral role of the FBI in helping the NSA spy on Americans, and the acceptance of usage of NSA material for domestic and traditional law enforcement purposes. These are contingent, of course, on the fact that the NSA’s procedures allow widespread targeting of Americans.

Much of the material published on May 13 expanded on the disturbing revelations that we’ve already seen, but there were some standout points: new information about the degree of spying on the U.N. and other foreign officials, documents demonstrating the economic espionage aspect of NSA surveillance, and some interesting technical details about NSA programs. Among those technical details, what was especially striking for those of us in the United States were the slides that described how the FBI enables NSA surveillance.

A series of slides demonstrated that the FBI essentially serves as an attack dog for the NSA, doing the NSA’s domestic dirty work. One slide, which was previously published, notes that for purposes of PRISM, relationships with communications providers are only through the FBI. (slide23.jpg). Another slide describes how the FBI and NSA partner to “address an unreliable and incomplete Facebook collection system.”  (slide81.jpg).

There are also a series of slides describing the FBI’s relationship with Microsoft. One notes that the NSA is now able to collect Microsoft Skydrive data as a “result of the FBI working for many months with Microsoft to get this tasking and collection solution established .” (slide27.jpg). The documents also show that the NSA, Department of Justice, and FBI collaborated to collect Skype data. (slide29.jpg). Similarly, after Microsoft enabled encrypted chat: “MS, working with the FBI, developed a surveillance capability to deal with the new SSL.” (slide30.jpg).

Clearly, the NSA would have a much more difficult—if not impossible—time collecting information without the FBI.

None of this should be surprising. It’s easy to forget that Section 215 of the Patriot Act allows the Federal Bureau of Investigation—not the NSA—to apply for production of business records. Remember the Verizon order that jumpstarted the NSA surveillance conversation? That order was an application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court by the FBI for production of Verizon’s business records to the NSA.

The national discourse since June 6, 2013, has been about NSA spying. But talking about NSA spying on its own doesn’t make sense. We need to be talking about the surveillance state as a whole.

And it’s not just the FBI that we should be concerned about. The NSA’s role in ordinary investigations is not new information. But every document that expands on the NSA’s involvement in anything domestic, and not national security related, should ring alarm bells for everyone in the United States. We know now that:

  • The NSA data is fed to the Drug Enforcement Agency’s “Special Operations Division.” The DEA in turn uses this information in ordinary investigations, while cloaking the source– even from judges and prosecutors.
  • The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorized the NSA to share unminimized data with the FBI, as well as the CIA, with the “Raw Take” order. Prior to this “agencies [had] to ‘minimize’ private information about Americans — deleting data that is irrelevant for intelligence purposes before providing it to others.”
  • Information sharing between the FBI, NSA, and CIA has been routinized through “software which would automatically gather a list of tasked PRISM selectors every two weeks to provide to the FBI and CIA.” (slide31.jpg). Similarly, the NSA sends “operational PRISM news and guidance to the FBI and CIA so that their analysts could task the PRISM system properly, be aware of outages and changes, and optimize their use of PRISM.”
  • And, most recently, we learned that the NSA partners with the DEA to record nearly all cell phone calls in the Bahamas– but not for national security purposes. This surveillance helps “to locate ‘international narcotics traffickers and special-interest alien smugglers’—traditional law-enforcement concerns, but a far cry from derailing terror plots or intercepting weapons of mass destruction.” In fact, a 2004 memo discusses the NSA’s integral role in the war on drugs.

Everything we now know about the NSA paints a picture of an agency that has grown wildly outside the bounds of its purpose—to protect national security.

Arnold, PA American Legion Post Pitches in for Kevlar Police Vests

May 26, 2014

From The Tribune-Review by Chuck Biedka, May 26, 2014

Stan Rickabaugh of Arnold wore an armored vest when he served as a Army helicopter door gunner in Vietnam.

So the American Legion Post 684 member readily said yes when a chance came to help Arnold police, said Rickabaugh of Fifth Avenue.

The Arnold Post recently gave the department enough money to buy $1,000 Kevlar vests and separate tactical vests for each of the nine officers.

“This is fantastic,” Arnold police Chief Willie Weber said. “They understand better than most what it’s like to be on the front line of conflict. They feel we’re on the front line of conflict, too.”

“They’re like our comrades,” said Jim McFadden, Post 684 commander, a soldier who served in Vietnam and is a proud Arnold resident.

“We’re trying to improve Arnold,” McFadden said.

The vests will replace worn ones to provide better protection.

Police are at risk just like servicemen and -women and should be protected as they protect the public, said Raymond Cowen of Murray Avenue, who served with the Air Force in Korea after the cease fire.

The vests are armored, but officers can insert special plates to the vests to give more protection.

“We don’t have to replace the plates because they don’t deteriorate,” Weber said.

The newest vests are worn under uniform shirts.

The tactical vests have “Molle” attachments so ammunition pouches and other items can be rapidly and securely attached.

Molle stands for modular lightweight load-carrying equipment — gear that was developed for the military.

“Officers will be able to carry handcuffs, ammo — anything they need,” Weber said.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal Signs Gun Rights Bills into Law

May 26, 2014

From by Julia O’donoghue, May 23, 2014

Gov. Bobby Jindal signed two bills into law Friday (May 23) that will expand gun rights for Louisiana residents after they received overwhelming support from the state Legislature. The new statutes will go into effect Aug. 1.

Guns in the Capitol: Lawmaker wants broader concealed carry rights for legislators

The more sweeping of the two gun rights measures will allow people with concealed handgun permits to carry their weapons into restaurants that serve alcohol, but make most of their money from food sales.

Present law does not allow citizens to carry guns into establishments that serve alcohol. And while people with concealed handgun permits will be able to go into a restaurant serving alcohol soon, they still wouldn’t be able to drink alcohol while packing heat.

The soon-to-be law also gives current and retired law enforcement officers as well as district attorneys and judges even more flexibility than the general public when it comes to concealed weapons. Those in law enforcement would be allowed to carry guns into bars, though they also couldn’t drink while carrying a weapon.

In present law, law enforcement officers are only allowed to have their guns in a bar if they are acting in an official capacity. Even under the new law, local sheriffs will still be able to prohibit their own officers from carrying guns into bars if they didn’t think it was a good idea.

The second bill signed by Jindal will expand the “stand your ground” law in Louisiana. Under current law, a person who kills an intruder coming into his car or house is given the benefit of the doubt and can use self-defense as a lawful reason for the killing. But the same self-defense argument could not be legally applied to situations where a person hurt, but didn’t kill, the intruder.

Metairie Rep. Joe Lopinto, the sponsor of the legislation, said he wanted to close that loophole. People who end up harming — but not killing — an intruder or a carjacker should not be charged with murder if those who kill those people don’t face those consequences, he said.

“Stand your ground” laws are controversial, particularly after it was thought Florida resident George Zimmerman would use such a statute to defend his high-profile shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin.

There has also been a controversial “stand your ground” case in New Orleans, where a 33-year-old Marigny homeowner shot an unarmed 14-year-old. Lopinto said his legislation would not apply to this particular case because the shooting took place outdoors.

In an unusual move for Louisiana, the Legislature and Jindal have agreed to enact one new gun restriction. Domestic abusers under a legal protective order will be prevented from owning a gun for 10 years under a new law that will go into effect Aug. 1.

The National Rifle Association — which usually fights gun restrictions — remained neutral on the domestic abuser provision, which is probably one of the reasons the pro-gun Legislature and Jindal agreed to pass it.

When presenting the restriction, state Sen. J.P. Morrell said Louisiana has a particularly high rate of fatalities related to domestic abuse. “We lead the nation in spouses murdering spouses with firearms,” he said.

Harmar Township, PA Reaches 5-year Contract with Police Officers

May 26, 2014

From The Tribune-Review by Brian C. Rittmeyer, May 25, 2014

After eight months of negotiations, Harmar Township has a new contract with the union representing its police officers.

The five-year agreement is retroactive to Jan. 1 and runs through 2018.

It covers the township’s seven full-time police officers, consisting of five patrol officers, one sergeant and one lieutenant. They are represented by Teamsters Local 249.

The officers’ last contract expired at the end of last year.

Under the new work agreement, officers will get 3 percent pay raises in each of the contract’s first three years, and 2.5 percent raises in the last two years.

The salary for a patrol officer will rise from $57,030 in 2014 to $63,556 in 2018.

A sergeant pay’s is 8 percent higher and a lieutenant is paid 10 percent more, Sgt. John Fechke said.

A newly hired officer starts at 80 percent of that year’s base pay and reaches full pay after three years, Fechke said. This year, a new hire would start at $45,624.

All officers will contribute to health care costs and will pay deductibles.

Officers will pay 5 percent for health insurance, capped at $100 per month in the first four years of the contract and $110 per month in the fifth year. Only three officers hired after Jan. 1, 2011, had been required to contribute to health care costs, Fechke said.

Officers will have a $500 deductible; previously there was none.

Officers’ contribution to their pension plan was increased from 2.05 percent to 5 percent.

The agreement removes a residency requirement. Officers had been required to live within 10 air miles of Harmar, Fechke said.

Supervisors recently approved the contract with a 4-0 vote. Supervisor Linda Slomer was absent.

When a resident expressed concerns about the potential rising costs of health care, Supervisor Bob Exler replied: “It’s the best contract we could do.”

Exler, along with supervisors Chairwoman Pat Janoski, served on a committee representing the township in police labor negotiations.

Solicitor Chuck Means said the contributions were typical for police contracts.

New York ‘Knockout Game’ Suspect Chased Down by Victim’s Friend

May 26, 2014

From The New York Post by Philip Messing, May 23, 2014

A Brooklyn fare-beater allegedly punched a young woman in the face while apparently playing the “knockout game” in a Manhattan PATH station — and her friend chased him down, put him in a choke-hold and forced him to apologize, sources said.

Ibrahim King, 36, allegedly slugged 21-year-old Elizabeth Mejia, breaking her orbital bone, in the Ninth Street station around 3:40 a.m. Sunday.

‘Knockout game’ suspect chased down by victim’s friend

“He looks at her for a very short moment and then he pulls his right fist back and lunges across the railing and punches her in the face,” said Mejia’s friend Steve Sala.

Sala chased and grabbed King, then put him in a chokehold, ripping out one of his dreadlocks in the process.

“I asked him repeatedly if he thought it was funny and asked him if he was sorry,” said Sala, 21. “He finally apologized, but not right away.”

King squirmed out of the chokehold and tried to escape, but was tracked down by Port Authority detectives.

He was charged with assault.

Mejia was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where she was treated for fractures to her left orbital bone and her nose.

California Shooting: The Missing Element

May 26, 2014

From The New American by Bob Adelmann, May 26, 2014

After a year of planning his revenge on sorority sisters who had ignored him, causing him “pain” and “suffering,” Elliot Rodger, a jj22-year-old student living in Isla Vista, California, began his killing spree at 9:30 p.m. Friday night. It ended 10 minutes later when Rodger, confronted by armed force, took his own life. In the wake were 12 separate crime scenes with seven people killed and 13 more (including a bicyclist and a skate-boarder) injured, some seriously.

Calling it a “chaotic, rapidly unfolding convoluted incident,” Sheriff Bill Brown added:

It’s obviously the work of a madman….

There’s going to be a lot more information that will come out that will give a clearer picture of just how disturbed this individual was…

[It was] premeditated mass murder.

The spree began at Rodger’s apartment, where he murdered his three roommates with a knife. He then shot three females in front of a sorority house near the campus of UC Santa Barbara and moved on to a deli, where he fatally shot another student. He then drove downtown, where he fired at two pedestrians, slowing down in front of a 7-Eleven long enough to wound another female. He ran a red light, hitting a bicyclist and a skateboarder. Finally, when confronted and challenged by armed sheriff’s deputies, Rodger took his own life.

Diagnosed with “highly functional Asperger syndrome” as a youngster, Rodger was at the time of the shooting taking a number of prescription drugs including Xanax and Vicodin.

Prior to the shooting, he left plenty of evidence regarding his thoughts and intent. A video he posted on YouTube so unnerved his mother that she called social services in early April. When officers arrived at his apartment, Rodger presented himself as a model citizen, so friendly, open and transparent that the officers concluded that he was a “perfectly polite, kind and wonderful human [being].”

In his carefully crafted 141-page manifesto entitled “My Twisted World,” however, Rodger noted that underneath that warm, friendly exterior was a cold-blooded murderer who had long been planning his retribution. From that manifesto Rodger wrote of the incident:

After only a week … since I uploaded those videos on YouTube, I heard a knock on my apartment door. I opened it to see about seven police officers asking for me.

As soon as I saw those cops, the biggest fear I had ever felt in my life overcame me. I had the … fear that someone had somehow discovered what I was planning to do, and reported me…

The police interrogated me outside for a few minutes, asking me if I had suicidal thoughts. I tactfully told them that it was all a misunderstanding and they finally left.

If they had demanded to search my room, that would have ended everything. For a few horrible seconds I thought it was all over…

Thankfully, all suspicion of me was dropped after I took down the videos from YouTube, and the police never came back.

Such behavior is typical of a “highly functional” “aspie” — one suffering from Asperberger’s syndrome — who is able to behave normally on the surface while harboring destructive thoughts beneath. One symptom of an aspie is a peculiar or odd use of language, which was borne out in one of those videos that he entitled “Elliot Rodger’s Retribution”:

You girls have never been attracted to me. I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me but I will punish you all for it. It’s an injustice, a crime because I don’t know what you don’t see in me, I’m the perfect guy and yet you throw yourselves at all these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentleman. I will punish all of you for it. [laughs]

In the words of Massad Ayoob, for decades a student of criminal behavior, it’s also the behavior of a psychopath, a misogynist, and a narcissist. Here’s more from Rodger’s rant to prove it:

I take great pleasure in slaughtering all of you. You will finally see that I am, in truth, the superior one, the true alpha male. [laughs] Yes, after I have annihilated every single girl in the sorority house, I’ll take to the streets of Isla Vista and slay every single person I see there. All those popular kids who live such lives of hedonistic pleasure while I’ve had to rot in loneliness all these years. They all look down upon me every time I tried to join them. They’ve all treated me like a mouse…

You think I’m unworthy of you…. If I can’t have you girls, I will destroy you. [laughs] You denied me a happy life and in turn I will deny all of you life. It’s only fair. I hate all of you.

Janet Napolitano, the former head of the Department of Homeland Security and now UC Santa Barbara president, expressed sympathy without understanding:

I am shocked and deeply saddened by the news of a mass shooting last night in the Isla Vista area near UC Santa Barbara….

This is almost the kind of event that’s impossible to prevent and almost impossible to predict.

Rodger’s parents were equally appalled, according to their attorney:

My clients’ mission in life will be to try to prevent any such tragedies from ever happening again.

This country, this world, needs to address mental illness and the ramifications from not recognizing these illnesses.

Anti-gunners are having trouble turning the horror into a story supporting their agenda for more gun control. After all, a knife was involved in three of the murders, and Rodger’s BMW was also used as a weapon. And in his car were 10-round magazines, allowed under California law to limit the mayhem in the event a criminal decides to launch an attack. The police found 41 such magazines. 

So far as we could tell, however, not one of those reporting on the incident in the mainstream media even so much as breathed a word on how such incidents, springing from the evil heart of a twisted individual, could be limited. It was only when Rodger was confronted with armed resistance that the killing spree ended. If students in Isla Vista or on the nearby campuses of UC Santa Barbara or Santa Barbara City College (where Rodger was a student) had been allowed to defend themselves with deadly force, the outcome likely would have been vastly different. It might not even have taken place at all as Rodger was too intelligent not to know that some of his intended victims would return fire, if they could. But they couldn’t. They were sitting ducks.

How much longer will such massacres — killing sprees inside “gun-free zones” more accurately called “criminal-safe zones” — take place until common sense replaces political correctness?

Students, Pittsburgh, PA Police Work to Build Relationships, Raise Awareness

May 23, 2014

From The Tribune-Review by Margaret Harding, May 22, 2014

A boy who said there was no way he wanted to be on a team with a Pittsburgh police officer was one of the first to run gleefully toward the city’s bomb squad display in West Park in the North Side on Thursday.

Pittsburgh Police Cmdr. Rashall Brackney (left) and teacher Dennis Henderson (center) joke with seventh-grader Isaiah Wilson (right) while sorting out groups of eighth-graders from Manchester Academic Charter School during a team-building exercise in West Park in the North Side. Henderson, a teacher at the school in Manchester who was arrested by Pittsburgh police in Homewood last year, arranged the exercise with police in Zone 1 to try to improve frayed police-community relations. — James Knox | Tribune-Review

That change in attitude is exactly what teacher Dennis Henderson said he wanted to accomplish by having seven officers and about 90 students from Manchester Academic Charter work together in a geocaching scavenger hunt in the park.

He said he noticed students expressing fear and anxiety about police officers because they saw news stories about the federal civil rights lawsuit a Homewood man filed against three city officers, and that compounded what they knew of Henderson’s own case.

“We found there was a need to have something where the kids see that the officers are part of the community,” Henderson said. “For me, this is about the kids. I’m an adult. They don’t have all of the experiences, and they need to see that officers are people, too. It really has nothing to do with my case.”

Henderson, who is black, was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and blocking a public sidewalk after a tussle with Officer Jonathan Gromek, who is white, outside a community meeting in Homewood in June.

Prosecutors withdrew the charges against Henderson, and he filed a lawsuit against Gromek accusing him of unlawful retaliation, false arrest and imprisonment, using excessive force, pursuing prosecution without probable cause and stopping and detaining Henderson on the basis of his race.

The case was referred to mediation. Gromek’s attorney could not be reached.

“You try to show them that we’re people too,” said Officer John Brennan, who volunteered to lead a group through the park.

Henderson worked with Zone 1 Cmdr. RaShall Brackney, a former member of the school’s board of directors, to set up the event with a mix of on- and off-duty officers. Henderson challenged students to learn about the officers who led each group through the park.

“We want to make sure what they took away from this is that not every encounter with law enforcement is a negative one,” Brackney said. “In fact, it can be positive.”

Officer Jason Lutz said he fielded typical questions from kids — “Did you ever shoot anybody?” — and a fascination with his police belt.

“I think it gives the kids a good opportunity to meet us and feel comfortable around police instead of feeling afraid,” Lutz said.

Detroit Motorists Under Siege in ‘Carjack City’

May 23, 2014

From The Associated Press by Corey Williams, May 23, 2014

When they pull up to a gas station these days, Detroit drivers are looking beyond the price per gallon at a far more threatening concern: carjackers.

 The armed auto thieves have become so common here that parts of the bankrupt metropolis are referred to as “Carjack City,” and many motorists fear getting out of their vehicles even for a few moments to fill a tank.

So gas stations are taking steps to protect customers, and the city has formed a special police team to go after suspects. Convicted carjackers will even get their faces and prison sentences plastered onto billboards.

“You need to catch these people and make a good example of them,” said Mousa Bazzi, who owns a Mobil station in a semi-desolate neighborhood bordering Detroit’s east riverfront. He keeps his business well-lit and continually has two to four employees inside to ensure “there’s always an extra hand or two” in case of trouble.

In a photo from Wednesday, May 7, 2014 in Detroit, Mousa Bazzi, who owns a Mobil station in a semi-desolate neighborhood bordering Detroit’s east riverfront is seen inside his station. Bazzi’s station displays pale-green decals depicting a lighthouse – a symbol that his business has joined the city’s anti-carjacking effort. To be part of the program, stations must have working security cameras, good lighting, be open 24 hours and have clerks willing to help motorists and provide a phone for emergency calls. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Authorities blame many of the carjackings, ironically, on improvements in vehicle security. Anti-theft equipment, GPS systems and advanced locks now prevent many vehicles from being driven without a key in the ignition.

That makes it difficult or impossible for thieves to steal parked cars, leading them to target vehicles that are occupied, said Jonathan Parnell, of Detroit’s auto-theft squad.

Also contributing to the thefts is a strong demand for stolen wheels and tires, police said.

In a photo shot from video provided by the Detroit police, car thieves take the tires off a Ford Fusion. Detroit police reported 720 carjackings last year in the city of 700,000 people. That’s down from nearly 850 in 2011 and 1,231 in 2008. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Bazzi’s station displays pale-green decals depicting a lighthouse — a symbol that his business has joined the city’s anti-carjacking effort. To be part of the program, stations must have security cameras, good lighting, be open 24 hours and have clerks willing to help motorists and provide a phone for emergency calls.

In a photo from Wednesday, May 7, 2014 in Detroit, a decal highlighting shelter, safety and assistance is displayed on the front door of Mousa Bazzi’s Mobil station on Detroit’s east riverfront. Bazzi’s station displays pale-green decals depicting a lighthouse _ a symbol that his business has joined the city’s anti-carjacking effort. To be part of the program, stations must have working security cameras, good lighting, be open 24 hours and have clerks willing to help motorists and provide a phone for emergency calls. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

“There is a waiting list,” Sgt. Michael Woody said. “We have so many gas stations that want to become a lighthouse. You get better protection with that big sticker in the window that tells criminals there is proper equipment that will help police investigate these crimes.”

Detroit police reported 720 carjackings last year in the city of fewer than 700,000 people. That’s down from nearly 850 in 2011 and 1,231 in 2008.

The decline may partly be due to Detroit’s free-falling population, but the thefts still exceed the carjackings in some comparably sized U.S. cities.

Sharlonda Buckman, executive director of a Detroit nonprofit, was at a gas station on an October morning when she ran inside for aspirin. Back inside her SUV, she was just closing the door when she saw a carjacker shove his gun inside.

She screamed and jumped out of the vehicle. The carjacker jumped in and drove off. Three other customers gave chase in their vehicles. One caught up to the SUV and got shot in the leg by the carjacker, who was later arrested.

Now, Buckman said, she tries not to pump gas at all.

“If the night catches me, I won’t pump gas in the city,” she said. “Or I’ll call somebody to meet me.”

It’s difficult to know how Detroit’s carjackings rank nationally because many police agencies lump carjackings with all armed robberies in annual reports to the FBI.

Newark, New Jersey, with a population of 280,000, had 382 carjackings last year, giving it a per capita rate that is actually higher than Detroit’s. Memphis, Tennessee, with a population of 655,000, had slightly more than 400 carjackings over three years from 2011 through 2013. El Paso, a rapidly growing western Texas city of 670,000, reported only 15 carjackings last year and 18 in 2012.

Through May 19, Detroit has recorded 191 carjackings in 2014, including the Feb. 24 shooting death of CVS security guard Courtney Meeks, who rushed toward a car being taken by three men, and the Feb. 4 slaying of Donald Bradshaw, a 68-year-old man who was beaten to death with a tire iron after he was carjacked at an intersection.

Prosecutors, the FBI and Detroit police recently announced a campaign to spread the word about stiffer federal penalties for carjacking, which can include the death penalty if someone is killed. A similar campaign that includes billboards with photos of convicted carjackers started last summer in Newark.

Detroit police have also announced a partnership with General Motors’ OnStar roadside assistance service to track down stolen vehicles and promote rewards tied to an anonymous tip line.

To avoid becoming a victim, security guard Greg Champion wears a handgun on his hip whenever he’s pumping gas.

In a photo from April 9, 2014, Greg Champion wears a gun while pumping gas in Detroit. To avoid becoming a carjacking victim, Champion wears a handgun on his hip whenever he’s pumping gas. Through May 19, Detroit has recorded 191 carjackings in 2014. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

“I don’t want to surprise you,” Champion said. “I want you to know I’m armed, and I want you to know I can defend myself, and I want you to go somewhere else.”

Christine Reed takes the opposite approach. The 27-year-old mother of two won’t stop for gas in Detroit. She lives north of the city in Warren and works four days a week cleaning offices downtown.

If she’s in a bad section of town, Reed said, she passes through red lights because it’s tougher to carjack a moving target.

“It’s not a safe place anymore,” Reed said. “It’s dangerous.”

The state-appointed emergency manager tasked with restructuring Detroit’s $18 billion in debt has said crime needs to be reduced to make the city attractive to new residents and businesses.

That’s going to take more and better resources, said Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who complains that she has only a few assistants to try carjackings.

“When nobody has any resources … all we can be is reactive,” she said.

Illegal-Alien Population Surging Under Obama

May 20, 2014

From by Greg Corombos, May 19, 2014

The national immigration debate is being rocked by the new report showing more than 36,000 criminals in the country illegally were released on American soil in just the past year, and the author now says this is the result of a badly flawed system and a growing desire within the Obama administration not to deport illegal aliens.

Jessica Vaughan is director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies. In addition to the number of criminals released, her research shows those offenders committed more than 88,000 crimes, many of them after being released from custody.

The Obama administration admits that it is looking to decrease deportations, essentially focusing efforts on those deemed to be a threat to public safety while allowing nonviolent offenders to stay in the U.S. Many of the 36,000 criminals are under orders to be deported, but were released, rather than detained, until they were due to be sent out of the country. Vaughan said this sort of lax immigration enforcement puts all of us at risk.

“They’re really playing Russian roulette with our safety. We do know from other studies that have been done that a very significant share of these people do go on to commit other crimes. In fact, a 2012 study by the House Judiciary Committee found that about 58,000 crimes were committed by illegal aliens who were released instead of processed for deportation,” Vaughan said.

“That’s a gamble and they’re betting on our safety, but I would rather them err on the side of caution and keep people in custody, not only to keep us safe but also to make sure these individuals are deported,” she said.

The track record of the Obama administration on immigration enforcement has a lot of people confused. The administration claims deportations were up considerably in the early years of the Obama presidency in comparison to the final years of the George W. Bush administration.

However, the government has recently admitted that illegals simply turned back at the border are now counted as being deported. Previously, only those who went through the system and were formally deported were counted.

Vaughan said it’s hard to calculate what the real numbers are but the actions of President Obama concern her greatly.

“The most important metric that we could look at is the size of the illegal immigrant population. It was dropping from about 2007-2009 and then has gone up a little bit. That’s a pretty strong indication things are not getting any better,” she said.

“The other important figure to look at is the number of interior deportations, which has been dropping steadily for the last couple of years, even though the number of illegal aliens who have been identified, especially the number who have been identified after arrest, so these numbers are very concerning for those who think the first thing we should do when talking about immigration is to enforce the laws we have,” Vaughan said.

“Clearly they are not being enforced as vigorously as they were in the past and the administration was able to claim this record number of deportations by counting Border Patrol arrests that got turned over to (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) instead of looking at the traditional way which is interior enforcement,” she said.

The decreasing focus on interior enforcement may well be the tip of the iceberg in the administration’s admitted efforts to limit deportations.
In addition to the 36,000 criminals who were processed but released, she said another 68,000 were approached by ICE in 2013 for violating immigration laws but did not ultimately face charges.

Vaughan said the Department of Homeland Security is sending clear signs that this will only become more common.

“Secretary (Jeh) Johnson is saying that he’s going to scale back the Secure Communities Program, which is the program under which all these criminal aliens are identified. So the numbers are only going to go up if what I’m hearing is correct. They’re not going to allow ICE agents to accept referrals of criminal aliens from state and local police and sheriffs. So you’ve got a sheriff with people in custody and they want this

criminal removed, and ICE agents are going to have to say, ‘No, sorry,’” she said.

Defenders of the Obama administration’s goal of reducing deportations claim they are saving taxpayers a great deal of money. They estimate each deportation costs roughly $12,500 and removing young people also eliminates a lifetime of tax revenue from them.

Vaughan isn’t swayed. She said the government’s position is weakened by its own inefficiencies and conflicting priorities.

“It is much costlier for the government, and by extension for American taxpayers, because there are two immigration court systems. One is for people who are detained, and that moves very quickly. They get their order of deportation much faster. If they are not detained, there is a backlog that is about two years right now. So the more people that they let out to await their hearing, the longer that hearing is going to take,” Vaughan said.

“That gets especially expensive when people never show up for their hearings and have to be tracked down by ICE. That’s very labor intensive,” she said.

“But I find it ironic that the administration has actually asked Congress to reduce funding for detention for criminals who are in the deportation process. They asked for a 10 percent cut this year. That’s why it was especially shocking to find out they are releasing criminals even as they’re saying they don’t need as much money for detention space.”

Vaughan said detaining more criminal illegals until deportation would save a lot of money, but she insists a bigger goal needs to be in mind.

“The answer is not to detain and deport every illegal alien in the country. The answer is to have deterrents in place, such as preventing illegal employment, not allowing people who are here illegally to access social welfare systems and have better border enforcement so that fewer people will try to come here illegally and those who are here will realize it’s not as good a deal for them to be here,” she said. “Over time, this becomes much less of a problem. The more we can deter illegal immigration, the fewer people we’ll have to detain and deport.”