Saturday, January 23, 2010
Like I've said before, I wonder how many people pushing the GPS scam, have stock in the GPS market?
By Rebecca Catalanello
ODESSA — Black towers buzz inside a fire-resistant concrete room.
Red dots blink on a monitor that shows a satellite image of the United States.
Each blink represents a criminal offender on a court-ordered Global Positioning System monitoring device who, at that very moment, is doing something wrong.
This is Pro Tech Monitoring, an Odessa company under contract with Florida to keep track of 2,457 offenders the courts consider a threat when not locked up. Seventy-five percent are sex offenders, including the Tampa man under Pro Tech's watch who is accused of leaving home on Jan. 1 and assaulting a woman before his probation officer was alerted.
Satellite tracking seemed a novelty when Bob Martinez, Florida's governor from 1987 to 1991, helped found the company in 1996 at its first Palm Harbor headquarters. His brother Alan, also a founder, called it "the orbiting warden."
Today, Pro Tech employs 135 people, runs data centers in Odessa and Jacksonville, gets paid $7.2 million a year by the Florida Department of Corrections and monitors offenders in 42 other states and six countries.
Martinez left Pro Tech in 1999, two years after the company scored its first Florida contract. His brother bowed out, too.
Current president Steve Chapin, who joined in 2001, said he understands the weight of his company's responsibility to keep an electronic eye on offenders.
"You always hope that it doesn't end badly the way this one did," he said.
By "this one," Chapin means the New Year's Day incident involving a twice-convicted sex offender. According to police, _____, 37, broke the terms of his probation, went to a Port Tampa bar, brought a woman home and attacked her.
_____'s ankle monitor signaled to the Pro Tech data center that he'd left home. But the company's automated efforts to reach _____'s on-call probation officer went unanswered until four hours later.
In its initial review, the Department of Corrections blamed delayed text message transmission by cell phone company Verizon Wireless. Pro Tech says its records show the messages were delivered to Verizon's server within 16 seconds.
Verizon Wireless spokesman Chuck Hamby said the company would investigate the matter at the state's request. The Corrections Department, meanwhile, is conducting its own investigation.
Chapin said cases like _____'s illustrate the exception rather than the rule.
"Electronics are not absolutely perfect," Chapin said. "They're very, very, very good."
- And they make you very rich, by pretending to protect people and prevent crime, when they do neither.
Twenty-eight staff engineers help. So do 28 backup servers and multiple power supply options. Wires enter the building on three sides to prevent any backhoe-related interruptions.
Today's ankle bracelet transmitter weighs a slight 2.5 ounces. Pro Tech gets notified when the battery dies, the strap is cut or the entire thing snaps off.
The bracelet uses wireless technology to communicate with a portable box called the SMART Active tracking unit, the instrument's brain, which uses GPS signals to locate and report an offender's every move.
The box, once a clunky 4 pounds, now weighs 15 ounces.
The lighter version includes an LCD screen that enables Pro Tech or the probation officer to send text messages directly to offenders, ordering them to return home or call the Corrections Department.
When an offender leaves home — to go to work, for instance — the box goes, too. Pro Tech is alerted if the offender nears a hot spot, like a school zone, a church or a victim's residence.
Pro Tech applies the same concept to a product sold in Spain that creates an electronic hot zone around domestic violence victims. By carrying around a cell phone-sized instrument wherever she goes, the victim can receive alerts when her attacker nears.
In the 13 years since Florida adopted GPS technology to follow offenders, the results have occasionally drawn criticism.
It didn't go without notice, for example, that Florida serial rapist _____, now serving a life sentence for murder, was wearing an ankle monitor when he attacked at least two of his victims, killing one.
When asked about such stories — and what happened in Tampa on New Year's Day — Chapin points out that his company promises monitoring, not crime prevention.
Technology can do only so much. "It doesn't mean that the system failed," he said. "It means that the bad guys are being bad guys."
Two young brothers have been jailed for at least five years for a "sadistic" attack on a pair of fellow youngsters that shocked Britain and fueled a political row.
The brothers, aged 11 and 12, were convicted of torturing and assaulting a nine-year-old and an 11-year-old boy in the south Yorkshire town of Edlington in northern England last April.
The court heard harrowing details of how the pair lured their victims to a secluded spot before forcing them to strip and sexually abuse each other, attacking them with bricks, strangling them, and making them eat nettles.
"The fact is this was prolonged, sadistic violence for no reason other than that you got a real kick out of hurting and humiliating them," said the judge, sentencing them to an indeterminate jail term, but of at least five years.
"Your crimes are truly exceptional," he said at Sheffield Crown Court, adding: "The bottom line for the two of you is that I'm sure you both pose a very high risk of serious harm to others."
Neither the attackers nor their victims can be named.
The case - which has been compared to the 1993 murder of two-year-old Jamie Bulger by two 10-year-old boys in Liverpool - has fuelled debate about youth crime and social policy in Britain.
The court heard how the brothers watched ultra-violent movies as part of a "toxic home life" of "routine aggression, violence and chaos", while one of them smoked cannabis from the age of nine and drank cider.
Opposition Conservative leader David Cameron raised the case with Prime Minister Gordon Brown in the House of Commons earlier this week, calling for a serious case review into the attacks to be published in full.
Mr Brown, fighting to avoid ouster in elections due by June, insisted that authorities would learn the lessons from the case.
While calling the attacks "one of the most tragic cases we could see", the prime minister said: "I do not want Britain to be defined by the appalling violence and irresponsibility that's been shown to the youngsters by two other youngsters."
Sex Offenders are big money makers, that is obvious! For a "non-profit" he sure is raking in the dough!
By Susan Taylor Martin
In many ways, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is a quasi-government agency.
Mandated by Congress, the center has access to the FBI's missing, wanted and unidentified persons files. It operates tip lines for the Justice Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It gets more than half of its money from U.S. taxpayers.
Yet the Virginia-based center, with regional offices in Florida and three other states, is a private nonprofit organization exempt from federal salary caps. And that has enabled the center's president, Ernie Allen, to command a salary among the highest in the nonprofit world.
In 2008, the latest year for which records are available, Allen made $511,069 as head of the center and its international affiliate. He also received $787,126 in deferred compensation and underfunded retirement benefits, as well as $46,382 in nontaxable benefits — a total of $1,344,567.
Allen's base salary was higher than that of the top executives of two other nonprofits — the American Red Cross and Smithsonian Institution — that also get substantial funding from the U.S. government. Both have budgets many times greater than that of the missing children's center.
Allen's compensation "does appear quite high," says Daniel Borochoff, president of the American Institute of Philanthropy.
Of the more than 500 nonprofits the institute rates, Allen's total compensation ranked third highest — exceeded only by that at the Boy Scouts of America ($3.97 million) and Memorial Sloan-Kettering ($3.67 million), one of the world's top cancer centers.
Borochoff says there is "no easy formula" for determining executive compensation in nonprofits.
"You really have to look at the facts and circumstances and what kinds of skills are needed," he said. "If he (Allen) was running the Red Cross where he was in charge of half the blood supply and major disaster relief, you could make a bigger argument (for his compensation)."
Charity Navigator, a watchdog group that evaluates 5,400 nonprofits, ranks Allen's salary as 47th highest and almost twice the average for chief executive officers of similar size organizations. Most of the CEOs paid more than Allen head major universities or research centers.
"I think it doesn't pass the smell test with donors," Sandra Miniutti, Charity Navigator's vice president, says of Allen's compensation. "It's very hard for people to wrap their arms around huge salaries, especially right now when we're in a recession."
Although Allen's salary is high by nonprofit standards, Charity Navigator and the philanthropy institute list the center as "top-rated" because most of its revenues go for programs, not fundraising costs.
Allen, a lawyer, said the board of directors set his compensation based on a study to ensure it was "comparable, appropriate and reasonable." He said he won't receive some of the money for years, although Internal Revenue Service rules required it to be reported on the center's annual IRS return.
"I am one of the nation's leading experts on the issue of missing and exploited children," Allen said in an e-mail to the St. Petersburg Times. "I am always on call and have little time off, including nights, weekends and holidays. I receive no bonuses or perks that many other nonprofit executives receive."
Allen said none of his compensation comes from U.S. taxpayers ---$25.4 million in 2008 — but is paid out of "private funds" like donations. Total revenues in 2008 were $42 million.
The center's 350 employees include 11 who are paid more than $125,000. And in 2006 and 2007, the center paid medical claims totaling $76,572 for co-founder John Walsh, whose son Adam was murdered in South Florida in 1981. Although Walsh is no longer an employee, his wife is an unpaid board member and their family is covered by the center's health plan.
Walsh, host of America's Most Wanted, still acts as a spokesperson for the center and is a "key person...whose knowledge, work, and overall contribution is uniquely valuable," Allen said.
President Reagan announced the creation of the center in 1984 and Congress designated it as the national clearinghouse for information on missing and sexually exploited children.
Missing kids are located by way of a 24-hour toll-free phone line, a photo distribution system and a team of forensic artists, who create age-progressed photos showing what a child abducted at, say, 2 might look like at 13.
The center says it has helped recover more than 135,000 missing children, though it acknowledges that many reported kidnapping victims are actually taken by parents in custody disputes.
As use of the Internet grows, the center has also become a key partner with law enforcement in identifying online sexual predators. It operates a CyperTipLine for reporting suspected cases of child pornography. Its Child Victim Identification Program analyzes pornographic pictures and videos in an attempt to identify the children.
As a nonprofit organization, the center gets far more support from the business world than it would if it were a government agency, Allen said. Among its major benefactors is Boca Raton entrepreneur Hank Asher, who has donated millions of dollars to the center as well as some of his people-finding technology. He also sits on the center's board.
- Hank also has had criminal issues in the past, who is also exploiting peoples fear to make himself rich.
As the St. Petersburg Times recently reported, Asher and the center were involved in a project to develop a system for tracking children in the custody of the Florida Department of Children and Families. But as the scope of the project broadened, raising privacy concerns, DCF and other agencies backed away.
DCF still deals with the center on children's issues, and praises its work.
"I was blown away by the national center," said DCF Secretary George Sheldon, who has visited the Arlington, Va. headquarters. "They have housed at the center (agents) from homeland security, the FBI, several of those kinds of entities."
Unlike the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, the center is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. But it should be subject to the act because of its quasi-governmental status, contends a medical researcher who was labeled an "abductor" on the center's Web site in 2005 after he left the United States with his daughter during a bitter custody battle.
Emmanuel Lazaridis, thought to be in Greece with the child, sued the center last year after it declined to turn over records he requested. There is a Michigan arrest warrant for Lazaradis for custodial interference, but he has never been convicted.
The center is "intimately entwined with agencies of the executive branch of government," the suit says. "Because even their simplest statements about a person are accorded substantial weight, any abuse of their vaunted position can cause to the plaintiffs irreparable harm."
The center publicizes family abductions only at the request of police, Allen said. He did not directly address the issue of whether the center should be subject to Freedom of Information queries, but said the organization "receives extensive oversight from various charity regulatory bodies."
Some experts agree with Lazaridis' position.
"If the center is going to continue playing the role it does today, there's not a question in my mind that it should be subject to accountability and transparency through the FOIA process," says Berin Szoka of the Progress and Freedom Foundation in Washington, D.C.
"It could very well be that Ernie Allen is the best possible person to run the organization and that (the center) is the best strategy you could possibly come up with for protecting children. But I don't have any idea and I don't think anybody outside (the center) and a handful of people outside of law enforcement do either."
COLUMBUS - Police said a 14-year-old girl's report that she was sexually assaulted near a school bus stop on Jan. 14 was false.
Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren urged residents to consider some of the "positives" Friday that came out of the ordeal, such as neighbors working together to protect their children.
- And what about the negative? Someones life could have been ruined over a false accusation. So is this girl being charged with a crime? If not, why not?
Boren said residents always should be wary of crime, but police now do not believe another man is stalking school children here.
The 14-year-old's report was particularly disturbing because a 12-year old was abducted while walking to school on Jan. 6 and sexually assaulted in a park restroom.
Investigators arrested a 20-year-old man in that case, and they are following up on other reports in which he could have been involved.
By Layla Bohm
At some magical age, human beings cross the threshold from "children" to "adults."
One day before their 16th birthday, teens can be cited if found driving. On the eve of their 18th birthday, they still have many limits. But the next morning they can suddenly buy cigarettes and lottery tickets, and they can be drafted into the military — though they can't drink alcohol for another three years.
In the midst of these jumbled laws comes the matter of sex. At what point is a person old enough and mature enough to consent to engage in sexual activity? Is it before or after they are given control over a 2,000-pound vehicle?
The answer can be summed up in two words: It depends.
As if teens and parents don't have enough confusion, each state has different laws regarding the age of consent. If you live in Nevada, the age is 16. If you're across the border in California, you must be 18.
"I really assumed the laws would be similar, and they are not. There's an insanity to them," said Robert Epstein, a psychologist, professor and author of a number of books about teenagers. His latest, "Teen 2.0: Saving Our Children and Families from the Torment of Adolescence," will be released in April and includes a chapter on the age of consent.
Epstein noted that President Andrew Johnson was 18 when he married a 16-year-old, that Barbara Bush started dating the elder George Bush when she was 16 and got engaged when she was 17, and that Mary was in her early teens when she gave birth to Jesus.
Now, if you're 19, live in California and have a 17-year-old girlfriend or boyfriend, you could be prosecuted for statutory rape and even face the possibility of lifetime registration as a sex offender. Wait a little while, though, and if you're 45 and have an 18-year-old significant other, that's no problem.
Or, if you're 32 and strike up a relationship with a 17-year-old, you can be found out and prosecuted three years later.
That's what happened to Andrew Krienke, who lost his Lodi High School teaching job as part of a plea deal. He pleaded guilty earlier this month to statutory rape; in exchange, prosecutors dropped two other such charges, and he does not have to register as a sex offender.
Krienke is now 35. Three years after he started the relationship with a girl in one of his social studies classes, she is 20. They live together with their child, who was born last spring, along with a child she had from a previous relationship.
If they'd lived in a different state where the age of consent was one year lower, Krienke wouldn't have been prosecuted.
Different standard for teachers
Experts agree that the varying state laws are convoluted. They agree that people have different maturity levels.
One area where their opinions differ, though, is the matter of a teacher/student relationship.
In Indiana, teachers can be prosecuted for such relationships even if the student is 19, said Laurie A. Gray, deputy prosecuting attorney assigned to juvenile sex crimes in Fort Wayne, Ind. She was quite surprised to learn that California does not have a similar law.
The difference in ages between Krienke and his girlfriend doesn't bother Gray, whose own husband graduated from college the year she was born. She noted, though, that they met when both were well past childhood (both were practicing attorneys when they met).
Cultural backgrounds also play a factor.
Gray recalled a case that had landed on her desk: A 13-year-old girl was pregnant by a 16-year-old boy, which violated Indiana laws. The boy was from Mexico, where the federal age of consent is 12, though individual states can set older limits. The girl was from Guatemala, and her mother wasn't too upset because the boy intended to work to help support the baby.
Rather than prosecute the father-to-be, Gray's office referred the couple to a social service organization to make sure she received proper prenatal care.
Before she changed careers, Gray started teaching high school at the age of 22. She had 19-year-old students, and said she still believes it would have been wrong if she'd had any kind of relationship with them.
"From a public policy standpoint, you just can't send a message to teachers that it's ever OK to have sexual relations with your students," said Gray, herself a parent.
She saw no exception in the Lodi case, because Krienke was the girl's teacher.
Gray noted that most states have laws that bar adult correctional officers from having sexual relations with adult inmates.
"When you have a person with power over a captive audience, it is criminal for that person to use someone from that audience to fulfill his own sexual needs or desires," she said.
'Sometimes you just have a connection'
At a different end of the spectrum is Jennifer Leckstrom, who at age 17 took an internship at a TV station, in hopes of getting a jump start on her future career. There she met a man who was 42 — 25 years her senior.
They clicked, and started a relationship that continued throughout her time in college and beyond. Now about to turn 29, she has been happily married for six years.
Had they lived in California, things could have turned out differently.
But the couple lived in Pennsylvania, where the age of consent is 17.
"Is 18 the right age? That's hard to say, because certainly in other countries the age of consent is younger," Leckstrom said by telephone.
Leckstrom has a successful career in public relations, has two stepchildren, and has no qualms about age differences.
"We joke that we met in the middle — that we were both somewhere in our mid-30s, maturity wise, when we met. Sometimes you just have a connection with someone," she said.
She questioned whether society's best interests are served in having Krienke, a father and supporter of his family, lose his career.
"Undoubtedly there was a boundary that was crossed because he was teacher and she was a student, but falling in love doesn't always happen in the best of situations," Leckstrom said.
A matter of maturity?
Epstein, who has studied the issue for 12 years, maintains that each case is different.
"To assume automatically that the older person in the relationship is coercive simply is not right," he said, noting that teenagers can be just as manipulative as those many years older.
Paul and Mary Onesi married in 1917 and were honored in 1995 by Worldwide Marriage Encounter as the longest-married living couple at that time. What nobody focused on was the fact that when they married, he was 21 and she was 13.
"They were being honored but nobody said, 'Wait a minute that's child abuse' — because it wasn't child abuse," said Epstein, who received his doctorate in psychology from Harvard University, was previously the editor in chief of Psychology Today and currently teaches at the University of California, San Diego.
He maintains that it comes down to maturity.
When Sam Juhl was elected mayor of Roland, Iowa, in 2005, he was 18.
At what point had the high school student become mature enough to take on such a responsibility? Apparently enough voters believed he could do the job, because nobody even ran against him. Two years later, he was re-elected.
Some could argue that people twice Juhl's age are still not mature enough to hold such a position of power.
"The laws assume that under a certain age, based strictly on age, that everyone is incompetent to have sex. And it's even more absurd that, from that age on, everyone is equally competent to have sex," Epstein said.
He likens it to voting laws. When the United States formed, voting rights were only granted to those who were white, male property owners over the age of 21. Now, the voting age is 18, women and minorities can vote and property ownership isn't a factor.
But on the other end of the spectrum, elderly people suffering from severe dementia can still vote, even if they don't understand the issues and simply sign their name on an absentee voter ballot.
Epstein argues against age limits at either end of the spectrum. It comes down to competence, he said, and it should go both ways. He noted that many states, California included, now issue more frequent driving tests to seniors.
He pointed to the Amethyst Initiative, a movement backed by some 100 university presidents seeking to lower the current drinking age of 21. After seeing countless cases of binge drinking because college students are suddenly on their own, they instead support a competence test.
"We don't stop drinking and we don't stop sex when we draw a line in the sand based on age. All we do is make it adversarial between adults and young people," Epstein said.
The idea of a competence test for the age of consent sounds daunting at first, he acknowledged, but he maintains that it's no different than so many other fields. Real estate brokers, doctors and plumbers all have to pass tests, and Epstein said it's no different. By the same token, he opposes lowering the voting age, because it won't help what he sees as a problem of maturity and competent thinking skills.
"To assume that everyone past a certain age is competent really is the greater fallacy," he said. "It's saying that we as a society, which demands competency in plumbing and doctors, will let anyone vote."
Epstein launched www.howadultareyou.com, a site where users take a series of tests to gauge their maturity levels. After analyzing the first 30,000 test-takers, Epstein recently submitted a study to a psychology group. His results: 30 percent of teens between the ages of 13 and 17 scored higher than the median adult age.
In other words, many teens were more competent than adults.
Pressure from pop culture
State laws regarding age of consent vary drastically. Lifelong California residents probably have no idea that many states decree that 16 is the age of consent. In Mississippi, the age of consent is 16, but marriage certificates require parental notification if either party is under the age of 21.
At what point does someone go from childhood to adulthood? Though a California teen is allowed to drive that 2,000-pound vehicle at 65 mph down a freeway at age 16, that teen is not considered mature enough to be able to consent to have sex.
Such consent laws don't solve a bigger problem, said Natalie Wilson, a professor of women's studies at California State University, San Marcos.
"It's a Band Aid that's trying to fix a problem that's much deeper," she said. "The bigger problem is the way we think about sex and sexuality in America. We have a hyper-sexualized culture where we see scantily clad women on TV, but we also have abstinence-only teaching and purity balls."
With all the pop culture focus on sexuality, Wilson says society needs to focus on responsibility. Sex happens, and she says the best way to help young people is to educate them.
Similarly, she noted that men are basically expected to look at women, and that they are glorified for their conquests. That's wrong, she said.
"When you're a 45-year-old and you're lusting over Britney Spears in her schoolgirl uniform, that's kind of weird. I don't think you should be lusting over prepubescents," Wilson said.
And, though she's a self-proclaimed feminist and liberal thinker, Wilson doesn't think teachers should be having sex with their students, regardless of age. It's a matter of power and authority, she said.
Each case weighed differently
Krienke did not respond to a request for an interview. His attorney maintains that the charges should never have been filed, and notes that Krienke still has a relationship with his "alleged victim."
Kristine Reed, a prosecutor who oversees child abuse and sexual assault cases at the San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office, said each case is examined before charges are filed. She said that Krienke's status as a teacher was definitely a factor.
She also noted that the California Legislature has created different laws regarding ages.
If a victim is under the age of 14, that is charged as felony child molestation, which can carry stiff penalties and requires sex offender registration for a conviction. If the child is over the age of 14, then different can laws apply.
In the Krienke matter, he was charged with statutory rape. If the difference in age between him and the student had been three years or less, the charge could have only been filed as a misdemeanor, Reed said.
"If it's an 18-year-old having sex with a 17-year-old, it's different than, say, a 32-year-old having sex with a 17-year-old," she said.
A Pitt Community College student who said she was sexually assault on campus in early December has since retracted the claim, school officials announced Friday.
No criminal charges will be filed against the student, said Susan Q. Nobles, vice president of Institutional Advancement.
“After it was all said and done, the police felt charges wouldn’t be necessary,” she said. The incident is being handled through internal disciplinary procedures, Nobles said. She would not provide details.
The student, whose age and address was never provided, reported on Dec. 1 that a stranger assaulted her between 5-5:30 p.m. outside the William E. Fulford building.
Police initially did not release a description of the reported assailant, saying details were vague. A description followed two days after the incident.
The State Bureau of Investigation was called to assist in the investigation, Nobles said. After several meetings between the student and investigators she told them no assault, sexual or otherwise, or any criminal activity occurred.