Sunday, February 8, 2009

Wake Up Call: Facebook Isn’t A Safe Haven

View the article here
eAdvocate article

So what about all the other sites which children congregate on?  Who is next to be the victim of the AG's trying to prove something?  And what about all the other crimes that affect children?  Like murder, drugs, gangs, etc?  One day, some smart and powerful lawyer, will take this to court and win over discrimination, because that is exactly what this is.  They are kicking sex offenders off, simply because of a label, and without any proof that they are doing anything illegal.  If they were kicking people off, who were doing something wrong, then I'd understand it.

02/08/2009

By Jason Kincaid

Facebook just turned 5 years old. But a week that should have been filled with reflection and good times was instead marred by a series of breaking news reports detailing sex scandals, phishing, and other malicious activity on the world’s largest social network.

In his blog post announcing the 5-year milestone, founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote that “Facebook has offered a safe and trusted environment for people to interact online, which has made millions of people comfortable expressing more about themselves.” But is Facebook really as safe as everyone seems to think?

It’s Been A Long Week

On Tuesday, February 3rd, we reported that thousands of sex offenders (many of whom were previously booted from MySpace) are lurking on Facebook. As CNET’s Caroline McCarthy pointed out, these might not have necessarily been MySpace ‘refugees’ in the sense that they migrated en masse from MySpace to Facebook - they likely maintain profiles on multiple social networks. But the fact remains that there are thousands of convicted sexual offenders on a social network that is generally perceived as safe.

On Wednesday, news broke of an elaborate and disturbing sex ring involving at least 31 high school students. An 18 year-old man named Anthony Stancl has allegedly been masquerading as high-school girls on Facebook, flirting with underaged male classmates and convincing them to send him nude photographs. He would then use the photographs to blackmail the boys into performing sexual acts with him, which he took pictures of using a cell phone. Stancl has been charged with 12 felony counts and up to 300 years of jail time. (In a somewhat bizarre twist, Facebook responded to news of the sex ring by stating that fewer than 1% of its 150 million users are affected by impersonation schemes. So, around 1.5 million people. Not exactly a confidence-inspiring statistic.)

The same day, Facebook updated its Terms of Service, rewording many of its rules to make them easier to understand and explicitly prohibiting some common transgressions, like including false information in profiles or creating fake accounts. But there was one far more timely addition: “If you are required to register as a sex offender in any jurisdiction, you may not use the Facebook Service.” Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt says that sex offenders had previously been banned through a number of other more general statements in the Terms of Service, but that the company wanted to make it more explicit.
- You see, in their new TOS, they are simply kicking off or preventing any sexual offender on the site, simply due to a label. Next they will say "If you are a sex offender, you cannot use the Internet!"

Eligibility

You may not use the Facebook Service if you are under 13. If you are between the ages of 13 and 17, we strongly suggest that you seek parental consent to use the Facebook Service. If you are required to register as a sex offender in any jurisdiction, you may not use the Facebook Service.

On Friday, CNN reported on an increasing number of phishing attacks seen on Facebook, using a technique we first heard about in January. After gaining access to compromised accounts, scammers are now using Facebook to ask the victims’ “friends” for cash. The attacks can be particularly effective because the scammers can easily look up personal details of the people they’re contacting.

Finally, Maryland banned both Facebook and MySpace from its General Assembly Computers, as they had been the primary sources of numerous malware attacks (though we should note that the rumored ban of Facebook in Apple stores was overblown).

Had each of these stories broken on their own, they probably would have been met with little more than raised eyebrows. After all, with over 150 million users, it’s inevitable that some bad things are going to happen (and they have before). But taken together, it’s clear that Facebook isn’t quite the safe haven we might perceive.

How We Got Here

Since launching in 2004, Facebook has benefited from its public perception as a safe, clean site - especially compared to its biggest competitor, MySpace. Whereas MySpace allows users to customize their profile pages with graphics and audio (sometimes to the point of making them obnoxious), Facebook has maintained a more pristine environment, which certainly helps bestow a feeling of safety.

Facebook is also theoretically more secure. When it first launched, only users with valid university (.edu) Email addresses could sign up. Over the years the site expanded to allow high school students, and eventually opened up to everyone. But each group of students or coworkers is still segmented into different ‘networks’ - you can’t browse through anyone’s profile unless you belong to their university or company network, usually verified through Email. These roadblocks add up to make creating fake profiles more of a challenge, but as we’ve seen in the last week, they can be overcome.

Perhaps most important to note is Facebook’s relatively good security record up until this point. Parry Aftab, an independent online security expert who heads WiredSafety, says that there have been fewer sexual predator attacks on Facebook than its competitors and that her studies have found its security measures to exceed those seen elsewhere. She also notes that in general, users have behaved better on Facebook, and that teenagers have reported that they “feel safer” on the site.

But Aftab says that given how quickly Facebook has grown - it jumped from 100 million users last August to over 150 million users today - she isn’t surprised that some registered sex offenders slipped through the cracks. In her words, “if you have 150 million users, you’re going to have all kinds of bad people”.

So what measures can Facebook take to maintain its wholesome image?

What Needs To Change

Last May, Facebook announced that it had forged a deal with Attorneys General from 49 states to implement new safety and privacy rules (MySpace had adopted similar measures a few months earlier). Among the new policies were agreements to “aggressively remove inappropriate images and content” and to “more prominently display safety tips”.

At the time we noted that this was probably a tough measure for Facebook to swallow - such initiatives can be very costly in terms of manpower, especially when it comes to moderating content. And frankly it looks like Facebook hasn’t really lived up to its promise. For starters, MySpace has a pair of human eyes looking at every photo uploaded to the site. Facebook doesn’t - instead, it relies on users to flag any content they find inappropriate. Aftab says that this system is effective, but I don’t regard it as “aggressive” - I’d much rather hear that Facebook employs a dedicated team to scan through photos, even if only for those shared by minors (or even better, a combination of flagging and human scanning).

This events of this week, and the sex ring case in particular, will likely be a wakeup call for Facebook, akin to MySpace’s tragic suicide case a few years ago. As it continues its rapid growth, Facebook needs to step up both its technological and manpower efforts to more effectively deter malicious behavior. And Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer Chris Kelly, who plans to run for Attorney General of California, can’t afford to let these issues fall to his successor.

But the reality is that no matter what these social networks do, they’ll never have the technology or the manpower to stop every threat. Which is why they need to stop pretending that they’re safe. Facebook’s (and MySpace’s) goal is to connect as many people as possible, and the sad truth is that many people are very naive when it comes to online safety. These social networks need to step up their education and awareness efforts, perhaps even offering a ’safe mode’ for users (even adults) who aren’t adept at navigating the web’s pitfalls. Because sharing is only fun until someone gets hurt.



Effort to Track Sex Offenders Draws Resistance

View the article here

Pay close attention to the BS John Walsh says.

02/08/2009

By ABBY GOODNOUGH and MONICA DAVEY

An aggressive federal effort to keep track of sexual offenders is at risk of collapse because of objections from states and legal challenges from sex offenders and others.

The effort, approved by Congress three years ago, requires all states to adopt strict standards for registering sex offenders and is meant to prevent offenders from eluding the authorities, especially when they move out of state.

The law followed several heinous crimes by sex offenders on the run, including Joseph E. Duncan III, who in 2005 fled North Dakota, where he had been registered, and committed sex crimes and murder in three states, ending with the torture and killing of a 9-year-old boy in Montana.

An estimated 100,000 sex offenders are not living where they are registered, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which collects the data from the states and provides it to the United States Marshals Service and other federal agencies.
- 100,000?  Another nice round number.  Where is the FACTS to back up this "out of thin air" statistic?

But officials in many states complain about the law’s cost and, in some instances, contend their laws are more effective than the federal one. The states also suggest that the federal requirements violate their right to set their own policies and therefore may be unconstitutional, at least in part.

Despite a looming July deadline, no state has been deemed compliant with the law, and some are leaning toward ignoring major requirements. As a result, one of the toughest child-protection initiatives in the nation’s history is languishing.
- Tough doesn't always mean right, or that it will work.  The last 10 years has proved these laws do not work, IMO.

“We support the intent, and I’m sure every one of my attorney general colleagues supports the intent,” said Mark J. Bennett, the attorney general of Hawaii. “But we believed we couldn’t follow every single provision because, legally and practically, some of the provisions didn’t make sense.”

Some sex offenders and civil liberties groups have also taken court action to block the law’s provisions. In Ohio, a man convicted 15 years ago of “gross sexual imposition” involving a teenage girl is challenging the requirement that he remain on the state’s registry of sex offenders for the rest of his life, instead of the 10 years previously required by Ohio law.

“That’s not what I want my children to grow up with,” said the man, Darren L. Coey, 35.

Members of Congress say they may try to address some of the problems with the law. Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said through a spokeswoman that he planned “to determine whether revisions and improvements can strengthen compliance, and then to quickly make whatever changes may be needed.”

While some of the law’s backers acknowledge that the states have legitimate concerns, they remain fundamentally committed to the law, and suggest that the delays leave a patchwork of differing state laws that keep children unnecessarily vulnerable to predators.

Even with the spotty compliance and shortcomings, supporters say, the law has reaped benefits. Since its passage, the Marshals Service has brought charges against 615 sex offenders for failing to register or update their registration, an agency spokesman said.
- So is that what this is about, locking people up?  These very laws are what is making people not register, because when they do, they cannot live almost anywhere.  So many, would rather take their chances on the run.  We should be working on prevention instead of just locking then up and punishing them over and over again!

“The single most important thing about it was creating a more consistent, uniform process across the country,” said Ernest E. Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an advocacy group. “There are a lot of states that really don’t know where these guys are.”

The law, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act — named for a 6-year-old boy whose abduction and murder in 1981 changed how law enforcement agencies look for missing children — makes it a federal felony to fail to reregister as a sex offender after moving to another state and requires states to toughen their penalties, now often misdemeanors, for failing to register at all.
- In my opinion, the AWA has a misleading title.  This law goes after sex offenders, and if it was about child protection, then people like gang members, DUI offenders, drug dealers, mother and fathers, or anyone else who harms a child, would be on a registry.

It also requires offenders deemed especially dangerous to register for life and to renew their registration, usually in person, four times a year. In addition, the law expands the number of crimes for which sex offenders must register and requires states to collect more of their personal information and post much of it publicly.

But legal challenges have been mounted over requirements that juvenile sex offenders appear on public registries, possibly for life, despite research suggesting that young offenders are less likely to commit sex crimes later in life than older offenders.
- Don't forget all the other recidivism studies, which show adult sex offenders are not likely to reoffend.  There are many studies out there, which prove this is a fact, yet the politicians continue to ignore the facts.  Why?  So that have something to use for votes next election?

Other lawsuits have challenged the requirement that adults whose crimes were committed before the law’s passage appear on public registries for longer than they had been led to expect. Some lawyers say that amounts to changing an offender’s penalty after the fact, a potential constitutional breach.
- Yes, that is exactly what it is.  The constitution STRICKLY forbids passing of ex post facto laws, which is what this is.  And also, they took a plea, and basically signed a contract, now the state is tearing up that contract and resentencing someone to more punishment, without a trial, thus violating more of the offenders rights and violating the constitution.

There are also concerns that the law does not take into account the individual circumstances of each sex offender, including the likelihood of committing more crimes. Instead, it lumps all offenders into broad levels of dangerousness based on the crime for which they were convicted, allowing, the law’s critics say, the worst offenders to blend in with less threatening ones.
- Amen!  Yes, many are treated as if they killed some child.  And a vast majority of those on the registry, will not commit another crime, or are low risk, yet they are treated as if they are someone like John Couey or Joseph Duncan.  If we treated all crimes like this, almost everyone would be in prison.

John Walsh, Adam’s father and the host of the television show “America’s Most Wanted,” said the law was vital to monitoring sex offenders but suggested Congress postpone the compliance deadline. Mr. Walsh said the many obstacles — most recently the recession, which has made it tough for some states to pay for the law’s provisions — need more time to be worked out.
- Once again, Mr Walsh ignores the facts.  Joseph Duncan, Joey Coey and the man in Virginia who killed his neice, were all KNOWN sex offenders, and they were registered.  So, did these laws prevent another crime?  Nope, and never will.

He warned, however, that delays come with a cost. Criminals like Mr. Duncan, who has been sentenced to death, are glaring examples of why the law must succeed, he said.
- By Walsh, he was a known sex offender and registered, and still committed a crime.  Stop grandstanding and lying.  If all these laws were in place right now, across the country, more crimes would still occur.  When are you going to stop working on punishment, and work on prevention and education?  Oh yeah, fear sells, and you have many companies that would benefit from that fear, I understand!

“As long as it isn’t fully funded and implemented,” Mr. Walsh said, “the bad guys can still float through the country and commit horrible crimes.”
- Even in states with the laws, the people intent on committing a crime, are still doing so, so again, these laws do nothing to prevent crime!

States can ask to extend the July deadline for one or two years, and officials at the Justice Department, which oversees state compliance with the law, said they had granted seven such requests.

According to the Justice Department, 20 states have sent materials for review, though in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Andrew J. Harris, an assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Massachusetts, the department said in December that only Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana and Ohio had tried to fully comply.

States that do not fully comply stand to lose part of their federal crime prevention grants. But the grants have shrunk in recent years — they currently range from $281,000 to $1.1 million a year, based on a state’s size — and many states have calculated that losing the money would be far less expensive than meeting the law’s requirements.
- And here is the rub, it's about money, and basically bribery and/or extortion.  Implement the laws, we will give you money, otherwise you are on your own.  And they are not telling people, it will cost more to implement all the nonsense, than to not, and wasting more money, which we need in this recession/depression.  Think of all the organizations that benefit from these laws.  If these laws did not exist, they would not be in business, so they hammer these laws, so they can stay in business.

Most states overhauled how they monitor offenders in the 1990s, after federal initiatives like Megan’s Law created general requirements for registering offenders and making information about them public. Many states complain that the new federal law disrupts and even clashes with their own carefully created policies for managing sex offenders.

“It’s this point in history where states have had many years of developing systems that they feel are working pretty well, and they look at this as a bit of a step backwards,” said Mr. Harris, who studies sex offender laws.

For example, opponents say, the federal law’s requirement that offenders update their information in person as many as four times a year makes no sense in rural states where they would have to travel great distances.

“That is a huge problem,” said Richard Svobodny, deputy attorney general of Alaska. “We have people who live in the village of Eek, Alaska, who would have to fly hundreds of miles to comply.”

Some top state law enforcement officials said they supported the law in spirit but were shocked by the statutory changes it demands, which some estimated would result in an utter rewrite of their state criminal codes.

“It would shut the justice system down to do this,” said Buddy Caldwell, the attorney general of Louisiana, a state whose effort to comply with the law last year was rejected by the Justice Department as inadequate. “And to be quite honest with you, it’s bordering on the ridiculous.”

In California, officials have estimated that even an “incomplete list” of costs to meet the federal act would be more than $38 million for efforts that include additional records checks, more frequent reporting to local law enforcement agencies and reclassifying current offenders.

The legal backlash has also been widespread.

In Nevada, which passed sweeping legislation in 2007 meant to bring the state into compliance, the public defender’s office in Clark County filed suit on grounds that the juvenile requirements went too far. The case is pending in the State Supreme Court.

In a separate Nevada case filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, a federal district judge invalidated the state’s attempt at compliance in September on the ground that it violated constitutional protections against retroactive laws.

The judge also found that the law violated both the constitutional right to due process, because it did not give sex offenders notice of changes to their registration status, and the contracts clause of the Constitution, because it changed the terms of plea agreements. Compliance in Nevada is delayed while its appeal is pending.

In Florida and other states, some federal judges have found that the federal government does not have the authority to punish sex offenders who fail to register as required under federal law. These judges have ruled that under the commerce clause of the Constitution, such punishment is the responsibility of the states, not the federal government. The rulings are under appeal.

Concerns over the retroactive requirements of the law set off thousands of legal challenges in Ohio, which has tried unsuccessfully to comply, passing legislation in 2007 that included provisions requiring many offenders to stay on the state’s registry longer than expected.

Many such offenders were originally told that they would be on the registry for 10 years, but will now be on it for life. They include Mr. Coey, the convicted offender who has asked a court to block the requirement, and who, with help from the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, earlier succeeded in fighting a residency restriction barring him from living within 1,000 feet of a school.

Mr. Coey planned to marry Crystal Mullins, the mother of his two young children, once he was off the registry.

“I’ve reached my limit with the changing laws,” Mr. Coey said. “I can accept that it was my decision that put my name on a list, but it’s not Crystal’s fault. I can’t do this to them if I’m going to be on that list for life.”



Tracking Sex Offenders with Electronic Monitoring Technology

Click the image to view the PDF document (August 2008)




Sex Offender Registry Laws: From Jacob Wetterling to Adam Walsh

View the PDF document here (PDF)
FAQ (PDF)
Guidelines

Remember, these are guidelines only, not mandatory!

July 2007

By Laura L. Rogers, Director of SMART Office

As Director of the new Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART) Office within the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, one of my responsibilities is to educate law enforcement officers and other criminal justice professionals on recent statutory changes relating to registration of sex offenders. This article outlines various changes instituted by the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 (AWA), which President Bush signed into law last year.

National standards for the registration of sex offenders were previously set by the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act. Under Wetterling, the national standards for registration of sex offenders applied to states, the District of Columbia, and principal territories. Wetterling required residency registration and encouraged registration of employment and school information. AWA adds includes Indian tribal jurisdictions and requires registration by sex offenders where they reside, are employed and attend school. AWA increases the federal failure to register penalty and allows for state sex offenders to be prosecuted federally for failure to register pursuant to inter-jurisdiction or foreign travel.

The AWA broadens the range of offenses against adults to cover crimes that involve sexual contact, while Wetterling was limited to assaults involving sexual acts, such as rape. AWA includes crimes of child pornography and conspiracy and extends registration beyond adults to include certain juveniles convicted only of the most serious sex offenses.

AWA establishes three tiers of registration requirements, based on offense severity. Tier I offenders must register for 15 years and complete annual in-person showups; tier II offenders must register for 25 years and complete semiannual showups; tier III offenders register for lifetime and complete quarterly showups. As under Wetterling, recidivism pushes offenders into higher tiers. AWA provides for tier I and juveniles offenders to be relieved of their registration requirement after maintaining a clean record for 10 and 25 years, respectively.

Wetterling required sex offenders to submit their names and residential addresses, with relatively limited requirements concerning other information. The AWA strengthens reporting requirements by mandating sex offenders submit information including SSN, employer and school information, fingerprints, physical description, photograph and a DNA sample.

A key element of the AWA is that it establishes standards to promote greater uniformity across public sex offender Web sites. Wetterling required the establishment of state sex offender Web sites, but left discretion to states about which registrants and what information would be posted. AWA establishes minimum requirements regarding which sex offenders and what information must be made available to the public through state and the National Sex Offender Public Website, and it sets forth specifications about required search capabilities. Information that is statutorily exempted from public dissemination will be included on law enforcements National Sex Offender Registry.

Another responsibility of the SMART Office is to provide jurisdictions with guidance regarding implementation of the AWA. The SMART Office is working on implementation guidelines. After the ongoing internal review process at the Department of Justice is completed, the guidelines will be made available for public comment. The dissemination of the guidelines is a top priority for the SMART Office.

Interim rules regarding the retroactivity of AWA were published in the Federal Registry on February 28, 2007. Public comment is available until April 30, 2007. Sex offenders convicted of an AWA registration offense, who have completed their registration requirements, must register if they come back into the judicial system by receiving a conviction for another crime, regardless of whether the offense is a sex offense.

All jurisdictions are required to implement the minimum standards included in Title 1 of the AWA by July 27, 2009. Jurisdictions should consider AWA minimum requirements as a floor, not a ceiling. Jurisdictions are free to implement regulations that are stricter than what AWA requires.



MN - 2009 Annual MnAtsa Conference



Wednesday, April 15, 2009 to Friday, April 17, 2009

The 13th Annual MnATSA conference will address treatment, assessment, and supervision issues that arise in working with adolescent and adult sexual abusers. This conference has been developed for social workers, probation agents, mental health providers, judges, attorneys, sex crimes investigators, polygraphists, dispositional advisors, victim advocates and correctional staff.

To register please click here.

Location: The Northland Inn and Executive Conference Center, 7025 Northland Drive, Brooklyn Park, MN 55428

The Northland Inn and Executive Conference Center is located at the intersection of I-94 at Boone Avenue North in Brooklyn Park, MN. It is approximately 12 miles from downtown Minneapolis and 25 miles from the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport.



Rehabilitating Sex Offenders



Hope for Reducing Recidivism

Michael Lee's life story, an ex-FBI agent who has dedicated his life to reducing recidivism. This video explains the calling that he took to work with ex-offenders after they are released from prison.



OK - Oklahoma's recidivism rate being reduced



GA - Security firms thrive amid uncertain economy, crime

View the article here

This is not sex offender related, or is it?  Fear is a great motivator, and makes millions for these companies.  Why do you think so many people push for GPS?  Registries, etc?  Because, as the last statement says "We are selling peace of mind!"  And that is all it is, the RSO laws protect nobody, but are just a placebo to make you feel better!

02/08/2009

By BILL TORPY - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

It has been the perfect formula to build homeowner fear.

Take some high-profile home invasions and killings, add digitally connected residents, throw in a stress-inducing economic meltdown and you have security businesses scurrying to keep up with demand.

Stories of criminal mayhem have spooked homeowners from Atlanta to Alpharetta to McDonough, causing them to batten down homes and possessions with fortified doors, barred windows, safes and fierce dogs.

These days, gatherings that resemble Tupperware parties are used to sell Tasers, stun guns and pepper spray.

“With the economy getting worse, my business is getting better,” said Collise Jackson, an office manager from Conyers who throws such a party each week. “You hear the news and you’re frightened — especially if you’re a woman.”

She said $12 pepper spray and $80 stun guns are hot. The $300 Tasers are harder sells, with the economy.

Burton Kolker has been in the security business 37 years. “I’ve never seen [public concern about crime] as bad as it is now,” he said. “I think it’s exacerbated by the economy.”

He rattled off home invasions last month in Roswell and Johns Creek where victims were tied up and terrorized. Incidents like those resonate, especially in areas where crimes like those have not been commonplace.

Kolker, who owns Sandy Springs Locksmiths, started a home alarm company that was later purchased by Atlanta-based Ackerman Security.

Alarm sales have dropped because fewer homes are being sold, industry analysts say. But security companies have seized on public unease to keep customers on monthly monitoring contracts and to recruit homeowners who have been on the fence about buying.

Many people want more than an alarm, Kolker said.

In recent months, Kolker has built three “safe rooms” — fortified interior doors where a homeowner can flee during a break-in. “It’s like safes for the person,” said Kolker, who has also been selling several $999, 400-pound home safes.

“It doesn’t make people feel safe the banks are failing,” he said. “People are concerned about their stuff in security boxes.”

Those worries may not be housed in reality, but that doesn’t matter. Perception is reality.

Crime has dropped dramatically since the early 1990s. Atlanta averaged about 250 murders a year when Kolker got into the business in the early 1970s. The past three years? It’s less than half that.

But crime has begun to tick up and publicized crimes, such as the killing of Grant Park bar worker John Henderson last month, can scare the public. That crime united the community to pressure police to increase patrols. Much of that movement was organized on a Facebook page.

Kolker asks why customers are doing business with him and increasingly they say they have been alerted about crimes via computer.

“In the world we live in with e-mail lists, it’s people who know of a crime but are not necessarily a victim,” he said. “They are a victim by association.”

Security door proprietor Drew Matteson sees more walk-ins telling of a neighbor who has been burglarized. The proprietor of Ornamental Security in Lake City said business has bloomed because of increasing crime in surrounding Clayton County.

“People are just kicking in front doors,” he said. “Break-ins have increased so drastically.”

Matteson has been in business 30 years, “the last four years have been the busiest. So many people are out of work it’s scary.”

Those in the security business know fear is a motivator, that protecting one’s family is perhaps the paramount human emotion. Matteson’s Web site has a photo of a smiling family with red lettering saying “STOP INTRUDERS.” A cartoon masked burglar continually darts across the scene.

Brinks Home Security has shown several ads playing on a fear of intruders smashing into homes that are occupied by lone women. In the ads, the alarm scares away the bad guy and the frightened damsel gets a reassuring call from an alarm company employee monitoring the situation.

Tricia Parks, whose Dallas-based company monitors and researches digital living, said sales of home alarms have actually dropped since 2007.

Security firms now must keep revenue flowing by peddling new safety features — such as fire alarms or energy programming — and by keeping customers on monitoring services. With business flat, fear can be a good seller.

Jim Salva, who has been in the guard dog business 42 years, chuckled when asked about the Brinks ad.

“If you had a dog in the house, it’d be at the door sounding off,” he said. “The dog is there with the girl like a bodyguard.”

Salva runs US K-9 Command Dogs in East Point. He trains dogs and sells trained dogs. Business is picking up, he said.

“When things get bad, a lot more people will go with dogs; they’re fail-safe,” said Salva, whose firm runs a newspaper ad saying, “Don’t live in fear! Stop Muggers, robbers and rape.” The ad displays a husky German shepherd. “People are looking for an alternative to fear. We’re selling peace of mind.”



MS - Opening arguments begin Monday in mayor's trial

View the article here

What kind of message does this send to the public, when their very own mayor is being a vigilante?

02/08/2009

By The Associated Press - The Natchez Democrat

JACKSON (AP) — Opening arguments in the federal trial of Mayor Frank Melton, accused in the sledgehammer attack on a suspected crack house, are scheduled to begin Monday.

The case has become a spectacle for Mississippi's largest city, complete with allegations of vigilante justice and accusations that the government's star witness was coerced into cooperating with rumors of sexual misconduct.

Melton and his former bodyguard, Michael Recio, face three felony charges — and a maximum 25-year sentence if convicted — for damage to a duplex apartment in August 2006.

Prosecutors say Melton, 59, had been drinking scotch the night he directed a group of young men, some with criminal records, to use sticks and sledgehammers to bust the home's windows and tear down walls.

Melton and Recio pleaded not guilty. The first-term mayor has not denied participating in the home's destruction. A gag order prohibits him from discussing the case, but in December he acknowledged making mistakes while in office, but called them "mistakes of passion."

He was elected in 2005 on a promise to root out crime in Mississippi's largest city.

"People tell you they want to get something done and when you get it done they criticize the way you do it," Melton said at the time. "It's human nature."

Melton and Recio are charged with violating the constitutional rights of the duplex owner and tenant. A separate charge alleges they violated those rights under color of law. A third charge alleges the men committed a crime while in possession of a firearm.

Melton and Recio were acquitted on state charges related to duplex attack after a high-profile trial in April 2007. The defense in that case argued that Melton's intentions were honorable in trying to rid the community of a haven of illegal activity.

Prosecutors in the federal case, however, have a witness not available in the state trial. Marcus Wright, Melton's other former bodyguard, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and agreed to testify against his former boss.

Melton and Wright had been close, but it didn't take long after WRight's plea deal in October for the defense team to attack his character and motives. Defense lawyers wanted to present evidence about an unsubstantiated claim that Wright had sex with male prostitutes as a way to discredit him. The defense claimed prosecutors used the allegation to coerce Wright into cooperating.

The judge will only allow the defense to ask Wright if he was aware of an "allegation" against him and if that played a role in his decision to plead guilty. The attorneys in the case were instructed not to go into specifics.

Jury selection took an entire week as U.S. District Judge Daniel Jordan III tried to find 12 impartial jurors and three alternates. The jury pool of about 100 people was called from 45 counties in south Mississippi. Still, most of the potential jurors had heard of the case and many of them said they already had formed opinions. Numerous people were excused after saying Melton was only trying to fight drugs. A few said they'd already decided he was guilty.

Melton is a former television executive and one-time head of the state narcotics agency who made a name for himself with a tough-talking opinion segment called "The Bottom Line" on the station he ran. He was elected by a landslide in 2005 after running on a tough-on-crime platform.

He soon became a fixture in rough neighborhoods, carrying guns and participating in police checkpoints. But authorities said he went too far with his unorthodox crime fighting techniques.



CT - UCONN Police Reporting a Suspicious Occurrence and Safety Alert

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What kind of crap is this? Now you can't even walk by people?

On 2/7/09 at approximately 6:35 PM a suspicious incident occurred at Hilltop Apartments, in the parking lot between the Beard and French buildings. A male approached a female from the opposite direction and came up within several feet of her personal space. The female turned around and left the area. The male walked away in the opposite direction. The male did not say anything or make physical contact with the female. The intention of the male is unknown. Description as follows: a white male 6’ 0” with shoulder length brown hair wearing a red or brown cloth jacket and jeans. Male described as older than college age. The male had a round face and large build.

If you have any information or witnessed the incident please call UConn Police at 486-4800. As always, you are encouraged to travel in groups at night and in well lit areas. Please notify police of any suspicious activity to police immediately.



MA - Court questions whether Plymouth County prosecutors should have charged preteen girls in rape case

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02/06/2009

Teen boy claims discrimination

BOSTON - In a ruling Friday, the state Supreme Judicial Court raised questions about whether Plymouth County prosecutors should have charged three preteen girls in a 2007 rape case, and not just a teenage boy.

The state’s highest court ruled that Plymouth County prosecutors must turn over statistics on statutory rape cases to the teenage boy, who claims he is suffering discrimination because he was the only person charged after he had what he claimed was consensual sex with the three girls.

The Plymouth County District Attorney’s spokeswoman, Bridget Norton Middleton, would not say what towns the four children lived in at the time of the alleged assaults between Aug. 10 and Oct. 15, 2007.

The boy was 14 when he was accused of having sex with two 12-year-old girls and one 11-year-old girl who were his friends. He was charged with nine counts, including statutory rape and indecent assault and battery of a child under the age of 14.

After his lawyer tried unsuccessfully to have the girls also charged with raping him, the defense sought statistics from prosecutors to support his claim that he was being selectively prosecuted because he was a boy.

The Supreme Judicial Court last fall ordered Plymouth District Attorney Timothy Cruz to turn over information on statutory rape cases prosecuted over the last five years. The court issued a written decision on the case Friday.

In its ruling, the court said that statutory rape laws, which once protected only girls, have been amended over the years to give the same protections to both boys and girls. The court also noted that the girls said they willingly performed sex acts on the boy. “Indeed, sexual behavior seemed to melt seamlessly into games of ‘manhunt,’ ‘truth or dare,’ and ‘making out,’ “ Chief Justice Margaret Marshall wrote for the majority in the 3-2 ruling.

But in a dissenting opinion, Justice Francis Spina noted that the boy was at least two years older than the girls and was entering the ninth grade, while the girls were entering the sixth and seventh grades. Spina also said the boy had not shown “intentional or deliberate discrimination by the prosecutor.”

“The gender difference here is purely incidental. The age difference and grade difference were the basis for the decision,” Spina wrote.

The boy’s attorney, Janice Bassil, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

In its ruling, the court said that after the boy was arrested, he was suspended from school and thrown off the football team.

Cruz said the circumstances of the case prompted the decision to prosecute the boy and not the girls.

“There are three victims in this case who are two to three years younger and two grade levels behind the juvenile,” Cruz said in a statement. “The facts ... are not only deeply troubling but they also soundly support this prosecution.”

In the ruling, the court said the boy’s father found out about the activity when he read a sexually explicit text message his son had received from one of the girls. The father called the mother of another one of the girls to express his concerns. After talking to her daughter and with other parents, the woman called police and said the boy had sexually assaulted the three girls.



TX - Hundreds who posted views on sex assault trial targeted in Tarrant suit

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This is why you must watch what you say in forums and on news articles. Freedom of speech is great, but you can go over board, and be held liable.

02/07/2009

By CHRIS HAWES / WFAA--TV

FORT WORTHHundreds of people who posted their opinions of a sexual assault trial in an online forum are now the targets of a lawsuit.

The authors of those comments on a Web site thought they were anonymous, but this week, a judge ruled their names should be revealed.

Mark and Rhonda Lesher lived quietly in northeast Texas; Mark practiced law, Rhonda ran a beauty salon.

Then, last year, a woman accused the couple — along with another man — of sexually assaulting her. That's when the anonymous comments started appearing on Topix.com.

An estimated 1,700 statements were too graphic to be included in this story, going far beyond the criminal charges.

"They were perverted, sick, vile, inhumane accusations," said Mark Lesher in a telephone interview from Clarksville, Texas.

The Leshers' attorney, William Pieratt Demond, labeled the comments "a form of persecution."

Last month, the couple got their day in court. A jury found the Leshers, along with their alleged accomplice, not guilty. But in the online forum, it seemed, the trial had no end.

"It just ... basically made us both feel like common criminals," Lesher said. "It's like someone had basically raped us of our reputation and our standing in the community over and over and over again."

And so this month, the Leshers sued 178 anonymous posters on the Web site. A Tarrant County judge ordered Topix to turn over potentially identifying information about the users listed in the lawsuit.. The site has until March 6 to comply with the ruling.

"We do not just give up people's privacy," said the Web site's CEO Chris Tolles. "We're very, very careful about that."

But Tolles said the discussions are not necessarily a license to run people through the mud. "If there is a line that's been crossed from a libel standpoint — and it seems reasonable — we do, in fact, cooperate with the courts."

This lawsuit was brought in Tarrant County because it appears at least one anonymous poster lives here.

Internet libel suits have had success in the past. A few years ago a North Dakota professor was awarded $3 million over claims a student Web site defamed him.