Public Safety Continues to Deteriorate Under Realignment

By Criminal Justice Legal Foundation

Libra Tatt2When Realignment took effect in October 2011, many in law enforcement warned of the unavoidable consequences to public safety it would cause.  As the impact of shifting the responsibility for thousands of felons from the state to California counties began to play out, newspapers and television reporters have focused on the issue.  In recent weeks, news reports continue to paint a picture of innocent people fighting for their lives and property against criminals on the street because of Realignment.  The Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation has been compiling reports of crimes committed by criminals free under Realignment for over two years.

 

On February 18, a Central California  woman was luckily able to fight off a criminal who had broken into her home just hours after being released from county jail after conviction for a similar assault.  Patty Guerra of the Modesto Bee reports that 18-year-old Aaron Modisett-Hollie was arrested last December on charges of kidnapping, assault with the intent to commit felony mayhem or rape, and false imprisonment.  He was convicted on the assault charge and sentenced under Realignment to a year in county jail.  The judge reduced the sentence to 89 days after he factored in time served and good behavior credits.  But due to jail overcrowding caused by Realignment, Modisett-Hollie was released on Monday, February 17, after only seven days.

 Aaron Modisett-Hollie

Aaron Modisett-Hollie

According to investigators, hours after his release, Modisette-Hollie saw the woman in her front yard as he wandered her neighborhood and waited until she went back inside her house.  He then broke in through a window and reportedly threw the woman to the floor, but she used a shard of glass from the window to stab him several times.  Injured, he fled the scene and was later arrested.  Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said that the crime was a direct consequence of Realignment, “We house the worst of the worst and we’re forced to release the best of the worst, all due to realignment and jail bed capacity,” he said.  Christianson mentioned that even before Realignment went into effect, his department was struggling with jail overcrowding, and this legislation has only exacerbated the problem.

 

On January 2, Raymond Moreno was arrested in Long Beach and later convicted on charges that include a violation of a gang injunction and being an ex-felon in possession of a loaded firearm, burglary tools and drug paraphernalia.  Prior to Realignment, these charges and Moreno’s prior record would have made him eligible for state prison.  Under Realignment he was sentenced to 180 days in jail and released on February 8 due to jail overcrowding.  On February 9, Long Beach Police report that Moreno approached an unsuspecting victim sitting in a vehicle in the area of 15th Street and Chestnut Avenue and attempted a carjacking, but the victim was able to escape and report the crime.  Moreno was later arrested.  Jonathan Van Dyke of the Long Beach Grunion Gazette Newspaper reports that Moreno is one of many convicted felons whose criminal history represents the dark side of Realignment.  The Long Beach Police Department reports that during 2013, there were more than 800 arrests from Realignment offenders.  Two were for murder, ten were for assault with a deadly weapon, and the rest were a host of other serious felonies.

 Erik Dean Boettcher

Erik Dean Boettcher

A February 20 story by Melissa Pinion-Whitt of the San Bernardino Sun reports that police in Riverside have arrested 34-year-old Erik Dean Boettcher, who was free on probation under Realignment.  Authorities say he abducted and sexually assaulted an 11-year-old girl who ran away from home.  On February 14, the victim told police of the attack and officers were able to arrest Boettcher days later.  Investigators say he picked the girl up and drove her to a secluded area where he sexually assaulted her before driving her to a motel where he gave her drugs and proceeded to sexually assault her again.  He is currently being held in county jail without bail.

 

Residents of the Northern California city of Fairfield are being victimized by increasing rates of robberies and violent crimes.  The city’s police captain believes a big contributor to the increase is Realignment.  On February 14, Ian Thompson of the Daily Republic reported that along with increases in violent crimes, the city has also been afflicted with a 43% increase in arson, a 25% increase in auto theft, and a 10% increase in burglary.  City police have partnered with county sheriff’s officers to keep tabs on felons that have been released from state custody, noting that the large majority of people arrested last year were individuals released under Realignment.

 

These stories and new reports indicating that probation officers in Los Angeles, tasked under Realignment with keeping track of thousands of sex offenders, are being overwhelmed and cannot respond to alerts from GPS monitors that have been cut off or otherwise disabled, should be a serious concern to the Governor and the California Legislature.

 

“But Governor Brown’s response has been to set a new record for granting parole to life sentenced murderers, rapists and kidnappers and cut a deal with federal judges to weaken California’s Three Strikes law so that more habitual felons can be released early from state prison,” said Foundation President Michael Rushford.  “How many law-abiding Californians have to become crime victims before those supposedly representing them in Sacramento take action to change this terrible law,” he added.

How the Amber Alert Failed Hailey Owens

Hailey Owens Amber Alert_1392781921519_3030674_ver1.0_640_480

Hailey Owens is the victim of a broken Amber Alert system. Hailey was kidnapped in front of witnesses in the 3200 block of West Lombard St., in Springfield, MO at 4:48 p.m. on February 18, 2014. By 5:00 p.m. the witnesses had provided local law enforcement with the suspect’s description, vehicle make, color & license plate. Based on eyewitness accounts and the information provided to law enforcement, the Amber Alert should have been issued in minutes. Unfortunately, Springfield PD is not authorized to issue Amber Alerts. That is the responsibility of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

 

At 6:00 p.m. the Springfield PD issued a news release and posted information about the abduction to their social media sites. Unfortunately, a news release carries neither weight no the sense of urgency of an Amber Alert. A statewide Amber Alert was issued at 7:07 p.m., two-hours and nineteen-minutes after Hailey was kidnapped. Information was distributed to all area law enforcement agencies and media outlets. The suspect’s description, vehicle make, color & license plate were finally released to the public.

 

The National Amber Alert program was broken upon conception. Like all state Amber Alert systems, the Missouri plan was conceived and created by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). I know because I attended one of their steering committee concept meetings and argued against their old technology and their bureaucratic approach. My ideas were rejected by the architects of the plan at NCMEC.

 

Amber Alert should be a local, not statewide system because kidnapping is a local crime. When children are murdered the distance between where the child was last seen and their body was recovered was less than 1.5 mile in 46% of cases and less than 12 miles in 76.5% of cases. The same study clearly demonstrates that missing children are killed within a very short time after they are abducted. 46.8% are dead within an hour, and 76.2% are dead within three hours. Had the Amber Alert been issued within minutes, not hours of Hailey’s abduction, she might very well be alive today. Clearly, in the most desperate cases like Hailey Owens, time is of the essence. We need action, not red tape.

 

The rationale for this cumbersome approach to the Amber Alert is to guard against ‘cry wolf’ scenarios. I have never seen evidence of ‘cry wolf’, but I have seen plenty of kids die because it took too long to issue an Amber Alert. I believe that ‘cry wolf’ is nothing more than a fiction created to justify a broken system. We trust cops with guns, why not trust them to issue Amber Alerts?

 

NCMEC there is blood on your hands. That the Amber Alert failed to save Hailey Owens is not the fault of Springfield PD or the Missouri State Highway Patrol. They were simply following a protocol created by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Appointment with Destiny

Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act

Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act

Like most of the important events in my life, this story begins with the kidnap of my daughter Polly.

 

That I found myself sharing the world stage with the President of the United States should have filled my heart with pride. Instead depression and sadness informed my state of mind and directed my emotions during the first years after Polly’s tragedy. The result was that I spent that time in a semi-fugue state: devoid of joy; wishing that I were dead; and with little memory of the details of my life.

 

Polly’s tragedy captured America’s imagination like few crimes had before. Because it evolved over a sixty-five day span there were infinite opportunities for speculation, innuendo and predictions to run rampant. Millions of images of her pretty face and clear eyes stared back from telephone poles, television screens, computer monitors, and newspapers. The kidnap, rape and murder of Polly Klaas crossed a Rubicon and our collective consciousness demanded resolution. America’s obsession with her fate finally exploded in outrage when the scope of the tragedy was finally revealed on December 4, 1993.

 

Polly became the symbol of a crime epidemic that spread from Main Street, to Broadway, to Pennsylvania Avenue. California’s fledgling 3-Strikes & You’re Out initiative immediately secured twice as many signatures as it would need to qualify for California’s 1994 ballot. Governor Pete Wilson of California ordered a special legislative session to focus on crime. The Republican Party’s Contract with America would include an aggressive anti-crime agenda. President Clinton was promoting a Crime Bill designed to reinforce our law enforcement community as it held criminals accountable for their actions.

 

Shortly after Polly’s killer was arrested I was invited to appear on the Today Show. Katie Couric asked me if I had spoken with President Clinton. I told her that I had not, but would love the opportunity. By the time that Violet and I returned to the hotel later that morning there was a call waiting from the White House. On December 20, 1993 I was sitting in the Oval Office discussing crime with the president of the United States.

 

Among other topics of conversation the president enlisted me to lobby on behalf of his crime bill, which I was happy to do. That resulted in subsequent trips to Washington to testify before Congress, lobby individual members requesting their support for the Crime Bill, as well as numerous opportunities to promote the measure in media and other public forums. In return, President Clinton invited me to attend the ceremony where he would sign the largest crime control bill in America’s history on September 13, 1994.

 

I came up during a time when American politics was dominated by one family, and the name was neither Clinton nor Bush. In 1960 I campaigned for Jack Kennedy in his bid for the presidency. In 1963 I cried when I learned that he had been assassinated. When Bobby Kennedy ran for President in 1968, I enthusiastically hung my hopes on his candidacy and was devastated when his life was taken by an assassin’s bullet.

 

s-TED-KENNEDY-largeSo, as I followed President Clinton onto the podium on the South Lawn of the White House I was neither nervous nor overwhelmed by the rows of dignitaries sitting behind the President’s signing desk. However, I was taken aback when the portly gentleman with eager blue eyes and full head of windswept white hair stood up, extended his hand and said, “Senator Ted Kennedy. It is an honor to meet you”. As I shook his hand, I appreciated the absurdity of the moment and thought, “Everybody knows who you are,” as the first smile in many months finally lit up my face.

Fat Cats & Bureaucrats

Let’s set the record straight.

 

Search - Brad

Brad Dennis & Cheyenne

On February 4, 2014 an FBI press release publicized the recovery of 16 children during a Super Bowl sex trafficking sting. Many of the children traveled to New Jersey from other states specifically to be prostituted at the Super Bowl. The children ranged in age from 13 to 17-years old, including high school students and children who had been reported missing by their families.  Additionally, more than 45-pimps and their associates were arrested during the Blitz the Traffickers sting operation. Arrests were made and victims recovered in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

 

A coalition of grass roots nonprofit organizations (NPO) partnered with law enforcement on Blitz the Traffickers, but the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) was the only NPO mentioned in the FBI release. According to GuideStar, in 2012, NCMEC received a $31,715,505 grant from the United States Department of Justice to pursue their mission of helping to prevent child abduction and sexual exploitation; help find missing children; and assist victims of child abduction and sexual exploitation, their families, and the professionals who serve them. The NCMEC (2012) IRS Form 990 allocates $11,407,540 to, “Provide technical assistance and provide case analysis to assist law enforcement in their efforts to locate and recover missing children and victims of domestic child sex trafficking and to locate and apprehend noncompliant sex offenders”.

 

The NCMEC did not put boots on the ground at Super Bowl XLVIII. Instead, they distributed names and photographs of children they believe might be trafficked to the authorities; and they equipped law enforcement with “hope bags” containing items like flip flops and toothpaste for children rescued from prostitution. This is not a lot of bang for your buck.

Stop Sex Exploitation

Under the leadership of Search and Rescue Director Brad Dennis, KlaasKids, which receives no government funding, has been working with the New Jersey State Police since May 2013 and has participated in several of their sting operations leading up to the big game.  We were embedded with the law enforcement Super Bowl operation from January 28-February 1.  During this time, KlaasKids worked in direct contact with Federal and State intelligence analysts providing information to the operational elements of the law enforcement operation. Our role was two-fold: Providing specific leads regarding online advertisements which had a number of indicators suggesting the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Our most beneficial role was to provide additional analysis to any lead the FBI/NCMEC or other agencies provided to the intelligence unit. Our ability to conduct deep-web searches and scrub the initial ad looking for corroborative information enabled us to provide enhanced intelligence to the undercover operation, as well as, to the interviewers.

In Our BackyardThe KlaasKids Foundation was but one component in a nonprofit coalition that participated in the Blitz the Traffickers operation. For more than a year  Nita Belles worked with the New Jersey Attorney General’s office and local trafficking task forces to overcome operational obstacles and ensure the success of Blitz the Traffickers. The Pensacola based Called2Rescue team provided monitoring services of online escort ads and forwarded over 200-leads to the KlaasKids team in New Jersey. KlaasKids then scrubbed those leads for additional corroboration and submitted 23-specific leads to law enforcement. Several of these leads were in neighboring areas/states and were forwarded to those respective units by the FBI analysts. Free International and StudentReach developed a school assembly program featuring a state-of-the-art 3D multi-media production to prevent child exploitation and features posters of several of the missing children to 30-schools and 6-colleges in New Jersey. Global Child Rescue and Stop Sex Exploitation mobilized local faith based partners to disseminate the awareness posters and missing child books throughout New York and New Jersey.

Free International School Assembly

Free International School Assembly

5000-booklets containing images of 43-regional missing children along with 75,000-football cards featuring 3-missing children were distributed in New Jersey and Times Square, NY.  40,000-human trafficking awareness posters, designed by the Attorney General’s office featuring the New Jersey Human Trafficking Hotline were disseminated. Specific highlights of the Blitz the Traffickers operation included: 16-minors rescued.  27-pimps and/or associates were arrested in New Jersey and 17 in New York.

Global Child Rescue

Unlike the Arlington, VA based NCMEC and Washington, DC headquartered Polaris Project, the Blitz the Traffickers nonprofit coalition did not receive government funding. However, while NCMEC sent pictures and bags full of shampoo and water bottles, and the Polaris Project whined, the Super Bowl nonprofit coalition got busy. They directly assisted in rescuing children, apprehending pimps, and raising awareness about an issue that touches our soul deeply.

Called to Rescue

It seems to me that if American citizens are going to financially support missing child and anti-trafficking nonprofit organizations, they should expect a response that influences policy change through action, dedication and determination. Instead, our national treasure is being squandered on fat cats and bureaucrats.  As a nation we deserve better than that.