Tag Archive: crime

National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in Trenton

It’s probably not on your calendar, but today is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. In Trenton, the day was observed with a rally in front of the State House, and a program which featured officials from several different agencies working to combat this scourge.

Crime is not a partisan event, and supporters of stronger measures come from all sides of the political spectrum. At the rally speakers ranged from Progressives like Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle to Tea Party sympathizers like Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose. Congressman Chris Smith’s appearance reminded us that it’s not just a state, but a federal issue. And big events like the 2014 Super Bowl in New Jersey tend to attract the perpetrators of these crimes.

Human trafficking, while it has a negative connotation, does not adequately describe the problem. In reality, it’s slavery. Slavery that is just as disgusting as the slavery that was supposed to have ended 150 years ago with the Emancipation Proclamation. There are estimates that over 10,000 boys and girls in New Jersey are trapped in this horrendous activity.

After the rally, I spoke with two sponsors of legislation to help address the problem – Senator Nellie Pou and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (below). Below the fold are comments from Attorney General Jeff Chiesa. Some additional video from the rally will be posted on the sidebar over the weekend.

If only an armed teacher had been there…

Terrible news out of Gloucester Township in Camden County, where an arrested man grabbed a gun, and shot three officers before being killed in a police station. Fortunately all the police survived.

You may have seen someone running around on TV saying that mass shooting only happen in public places where guns are banned. It’s easy to get a “scientific” result like that — shooting three people in a police station by definition is not a mass shooting, it’s just some other sort of shooting.  

The Forgotten Victims of Violence

When 20 children were viciously murdered, the nation simultaneously grieved and initiated a call to action. Yet, the reaction was quite different when 67 people were viciously murdered. For the most part, those victims were ignored, and very few people are addressing the root cause of that violence.

Those 67 victims are the latest count (and may be higher by the time this is posted) of the people murdered in Camden this year.

The situations are, of course, different. The Connecticut murderer was a single deranged individual whose motive will never be known for sure. The Camden murders have come from a variety of motives from domestic violence to drug deals gone bad.

Stricter gun laws are essential and would have reduced the number of people killed in Camden and Connecticut. Maybe the Connecticut murderer’s death count would have been less if he was only able to purchase magazines with five rounds. Maybe some of the carnage in Camden could have been reduced if vengeance were taken out by knife attacks instead of the more lethal and efficient guns. So the push for more effective gun control is necessary. But it is not sufficient.

Pretty Little Blond Girl Goes Missing

Pretty little blonde girl, just 12, petite and with a name – Autumn – that marks the season she was murdered, hops on her bike in the early afternoon and never comes home.

And now we know. The bike was found. Then she was found, and it was awful. I know somebody who lives in that town, and is deeply affected, so I’ve been tracking the story all day, along with a lot of other folks.

Newspaper accounts are factual, TV reports more or less direct. What fascinates me today, though, are the comments after the stories, and the Facebook remarks following postings of the awful details of Autumn’s death.

The boys now charged with Autumn’s murder are black. She was white. And the bloodlust that has risen up since that fact – and their picture in cuffs – is in evidence is frighteningly racist, and worked-up in a way that singularly seems tied to the loss of a blond girl and the guilt – alleged – of young black men.

No, I won’t be linking. But along with the community’s heartfelt sympathy and expressions of sadness for her, and fear for their own kids, there are discussions of stringing the boys up. “Lynching them old-school.” “Pitchforks and torches.” Suggestions there should be “retroactive abortion”.

I can only wonder at the shadow-streak of sadness across Clayton, NJ tonight. There’s a community church service going on right now; it must be both awful and beautiful to be there in her memory.

When little blond kids go missing, the world takes notice in ways we don’t all take stock of. I’m not immune. When I was 16, I might have saved a little blond boy – it happened fast and I’ll never know. When I was 22, I searched Manhattan for a little blond boy; Etan Patz. Was that because he was a neighborhood kid? Or a photogenic little white face whose heroine I wanted to be? I’ll never know.  

But not too far from where I live, the threat to little kids is constant. And I confess: I hardly ever touch on it in my mind. But it’s inescapable in some houses, for some families, in some neighborhoods. In my town, which used to be white and well-off and is less those things now, some of my neighbors have lost some of the neighborliness that should define small towns like this one, and maybe like Clayton. The crumbling facades and empty stores aren’t about the economy, a rerouted road, local Wal-Mart or anything random for these people. No, these people are most comfortable seeking scapegoats among their neighbors. Impossible not to notice that the neighbors my neighbors hate are darker than they are. And the terms they use to describe them are awful.

Autumn Pasquale’s death is awful, and will and should be felt deeply. But I’m troubled by the fact that too many of us only raise our heads and open our hearts when the randomness of the horror – girl killed for bike parts – seems so improbable and the victim so attractive to us that it consumes us. When the violence is everyday, when the conversation is about spiraling murder rates and walks to school are scary, drive-bys take the boy next door, and the one down the street, is the currency of young lives lost somehow less? I know we would never say so. But don’t we act as though it’s true?

When we see TV, radio and social media light up for a pretty white child gone missing, and barely take note when another child is taken, exploited, killed randomly or killed with intent, aren’t we valuing one life above others? And what are we saying to those parents?

My neighbors speak about their neighbors like their parents don’t worry about them, as though

Blue Jersey Focus – Assemblyman Joe Cryan

“The Courage to Speak Out”

That’s an attribute Assemblyman Joe Cryan says he admires. But he’s also the epitome of this philosophy – often paying the political price. Once part of the Democratic leadership in Trenton, he’s now somewhat of a pariah within his own party because he insists on adhering to Democratic principles rather than political expediency.

I spoke with Cryan earlier today at a law office in Union. We talked about his joining with Michael Patrick Carroll to vote against the Constitutional amendment to limit judges’ benefits, his political philosophy, the travails of Assemblyman Schroeder, and Cryan’s favorites to challenge Chris Christie in 2013. Cryan excoriates both the Governor and, when deserved, his fellow Democrats.

I’ve interviewed lots of legislators, mostly Democrats, and I like and would support most of them. But Cryan is a more refreshing breed. He doesn’t dance around questions, and is as blunt and to the point as his counterpoint, Chris Christie, but without being obnoxious about it.  If you don’t know Joe, watch this video and be pleasantly surprised.





A Conversation with Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll

To be an effective advocate for progressive causes and social issues, it is important that you know your opponents. Understanding their positions, especially those coming from smart people with whom you may disagree, will help you hone your position and strengthen your arguments.

With that in mind, Joey Novick and I travelled to Morris Township earlier today to have a conversation with Republican Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll. Carroll is a libertarian in the Ron Paul mode, and while most of his views are outside of what we may consider the mainstream, he is firmly entrenched in his principals. Our discussion included slavery, marriage equality, the voting rights act, anti-bullying legislation, medical marijuana, and what to do about Camden’s crime and poverty. Some of Carroll’s thoughts may be surprising or even shocking.

“It wasn’t THAT crime\u2026.it was a DIFFERENT crime”

Right wing New Jerseyan and serial misrepresenter of facts James O’Keefe has decided that what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander, and is suing the Star-Ledger for libel on the heels of his latest “operation” that just may have broken a number of federal and/or New Hampshire laws.  Ironically, O’Keefe is the same person behind the heavily edited and usually recorded without consent videos used to “implicate” Planned Parenthood, ACORN, NPR and the New Jersey teacher’s union (the NJEA) in acts that looked bad mainly because of the deceptive and selective editing.

 

His latest is a lawsuit alleging that he was defamed by the Star Ledger when it reported on the potential voter fraud and non-consent laws for recording conversations that his “sting operation” broke during the NH Republican Presidential Primary.  While the Star Ledger incorrectly referred to O’Keefe’s prior history as including “trying to tap the phone of Sen. Mary Landrieux” – which was a federal felony charge, O’Keefe did plead guilty to a misdemeanor for entering federal property under false pretenses, a different and lesser crime, but most certainly a crime.

 

The misdemeanor charge carried a sentence that included three years’ probation, and it remains to be seen what the impact of the NH actions and investigation by the NH Attorney General will have on O’Keefe’s probation, or his “filmmaking career”.  What is highly ironic here (other than the nature of his suit not even mentioning the NH investigation – just a years’ old different crime that was called a crime of a different name) is that the ACORNs, NPRs, Planned Parenthoods, NH voters and NJ teachers union who were unfairly and misrepresented by O’Keefe and his videos for are really the ones damaged.  The fact that O’Keefe is playing victim for what looks like the Star Ledger calling Crime B “Crime A” seems more like another stunt to get publicity than anything else.

 

This is classic for the right and its noise machine – to hammer away on a relatively minor and sometimes insignificant point to play the victim – all while distorting the truth in the name of whatever endgame they have at the moment.  What would really make things interesting is for the Star Ledger to use its resources to fight back here – a retraction would probably be warranted to the extent it did misrepresent the crime O’Keefe pled guilty to – and maybe it teaches the folks on the Star Ledger Editorial Board to be more careful.  But to push back against O’Keefe, his financial backers and take “disclosure” down a very uncomfortable road for O’Keefe would really be a good thing to see.

Blue Jersey Focus – José Delgado

Camden is a city in trouble and many politicians from Governor Christie to Mayor Redd to Senator Norcross and Assemblymen Wilson and Fuentes are getting a lot of press coverage. No doubt, there are a lot of bad people who are taking advantage of the city’s inbred poverty and the Governor’s cutbacks in public safety and education to the detriment of the law-abiding and struggling residents of that city. But the silver lining is that there are also residents who are quietly working below the radar to incrementally improve the situation there.

One such citizen is José Delgado, a retired investigator for the public defender and former long-time member of the Camden Board of Education. I spoke with Delgado this afternoon about crime, education, and the hopes for Camden’s future.



Culture Shock in the Newark Police Department

promoted by Rosi

In police departments, as in biology, a culture can decide the difference between something that saves your life and something that poisons you.

The culture of a police department determines the extent of misconduct, and this certainly applies to Newark, NJ. After decades of efforts to bring accountability to the long-troubled Newark Police Department, the ACLU of New Jersey last year documented widespread reports of police misconduct, including hundreds of allegations of false arrests, sexual assaults, excessive force and deaths in custody. That thick record of abuse helped bring in the U.S. Department of Justice, which announced in May that it would investigate the Newark Police.

Yet just tallying up the number of incidents fails to illustrate how significantly the attitudes of police brass can reinforce unethical behavior behind the precinct doors. The only way to see the corrosive effects of a dysfunctional culture is firsthand, in the day-to-day operations – such as the ones carried out in this confidential tape recording the ACLU-NJ received.

In this 30-minute recording, a former police officer calls the police department to report that his wife, a current police officer, was sexually assaulted by another member of the force. As we hear the officer who took the complaint report the incident to supervisors, the tone of the conversations range from callous to cruel, but never concerned.

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