Houston Constable Walker Implements great Idea to Reduce Crime

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Part of the Precinct 7 Theft Reduction Program, Constable May Walker and team hand out report cards to help deter crime. Story includes my interview with Constable Walker and Chief Goree Anderson.

with Constable Walker2

I haven’t had a report card since the 12th grade (in college we were given our grades online), so I was stunned yet excited to see a report card being handed out by Constable patrols in Houston Midtown. The report card (shown below) is a creative idea first implemented by HPD, but enhanced by Constable May Walker. Adding onto the Vehicle Inspection checklist (vehicle left unlocked, window cracked or opened, valuables left visible in car, etc), the Constable added a Home Inspection section that calls out items related to Home Inspection (home looks empty and unlived in, shrubs over grown and lawn uncut, curtains opened and personal items in plain view, etc).

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Intrigued by this smart and great crime prevention idea, I sought out to meet with Constable Walker and Chief Goree Anderson. Below is the interview that was held in December 2012.

Eric: Out of all the inspection points listed on the report card, is there one that stands out?

Chief Anderson: Car unlocked and purse on the seat visible for everyone to see.

Eric: Name one thing about yourself that most people don’t know?

Constable Walker: I attended a convent when I was younger. I had wanted to be a nun, but I didn’t stay there long.

Chief Anderson: I love motorcycles. I have a Harley and I ride with a law enforcement group. (In case you are wondering, Chief Anderson said group and not ‘gang’).

Eric: Constable Walker, you were the first female patrol officer in HPD, Executive Assistant to Mayor Brown, wrote a book “The History of the Black Police Officer in the Houston Police Department 1888-1988,” and also are a Constable. Which of these careers has brought you the most joy?

Constable Walker: Working as Constable and writing the book have brought me lots of joy.

Eric: What causes you the most anxiety about working as Chief?

Chief Anderson: Officer Safety. I want my guys to come home in peace.

Eric: Imagine you are Chief of Police of the largest city in the world. What kinds of tactics would you implement to help fight crime?

Constable Walker: It doesn’t matter if the city is big or small. It’s all about keeping the community safe and making sure police officers don’t get complacent.

Eric: Is there anyone past or present that you admire?

Chief Anderson: Lee Brown as well. He was one of the most intellectual and fascinating people I have ever met. The idea of community oriented policing was developed by him and is still practiced today.

Constable Walker: Lee Brown. He was Chief of Police in Atlanta and Houston, Drug Czar for President Clinton, and Mayor of Houston. One day he called me into his office and told me that he wanted me to write a book. I said, “I don’t know how to write a book.” He said, “I believe you can.”, and he was right.

Constable Report Card

How Gun Buyback programs affect Crime

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39 percent drop in gang crimes, 33 percent drop in shots fired calls, 241 fewer people shot.

 

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Every year in LA, the Los Angeles Police Department hosts a gun buyback program which allows residents to turn in weapons with “no questions asked”. Since inception in 2009, there has been a 39 percent drop in gang crimes and 33 percent drop in shots fired calls, translating into 241 fewer people shot in the city, according to the Mayor’s office.

So what do you get for turning in firearms?

The city of LA is offering up to $100 Ralph’s gift cards for handguns, shotguns and rifles, and up to $200 gift cards for Calif. classified assault weapons. Not bad. So far authorities have recovered 53 assault weapons, 791 handguns, 527 rifles, 302 shotguns and one anti-tank rocket launcher. Yes, one anti-tank rocket launcher..

This Gun Buyback program sounds like a no brainer to me and I profoundly recommend that it should be implemented in all cites.

Original Story “LA Gun Buyback Event Pushed Up After Conn. Tragedy” featured in LosAngeles.CBS.local.gov. on Dec. 17, 2012.

 

 

 

Lessons Gun Dealers can Learn from DOT

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In the past few years, 51 lives have been lost at the hands of three mentally ill young men. Can anything be done to prevent guns from getting in the hands of the mentally distressed?

It’s very easy for a person with a documented psychiatric disorder to access a gun. So how can licensed dealers prevent firearms from getting in the hands of the mentally ill? Well, we can take a page out of the Department of Transportation screening process. When a truck driver wants to get a license to operate an 18-wheeler in Texas (which is equally deadly if used irresponsibly), they have to provide medical records. These records are detailed and include vital signs, lab work and medical conditions. After the DOT reviews the medical records for each patient, the DOT deems if that person is capable of driving a truck. This careful scrutiny of truck drivers is intended to protect our roads from the dangers of these big rigs when operated improperly. Should we not do the same thing for would be gun owners?

In the past 5 years, 51 people have been killed by three mentally distressed people. The deaths are irreversible, but gun legislation is not. In 1791, the simple idea that it was the citizen’s right to use a gun to hunt and protect himself led to the Right to Bear Arms. Maybe today, adding a few clauses such as mandating states to upload mental health records onto a federal database, educating gun retailers about proper screening for mental health and prohibiting gun sales to all psychiatric patients wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Original story “Time to make it harder for mentally ill to get guns” by Monica Ghosh Kalra featured in the Houston Chronicle on August 31, 2012.

An ID is required to get on a Plane but not to Vote?

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I was shocked to hear that I did not have to show my ID when I went to go vote in the 2012 election.

In this year’s election, I was happy to take advantage of early voting and head to one of the voting centers here in Houston. Fantastic, did not have to wait in line and had my drivers license and voters registration card in my hand ready to show. When I offered both documents to the lady behind the desk she said, “I don’t need to see your ID, the voters registration card will do”. What??

How does this lady know that I am the person listed on the registration card? What if I had dropped this card in my building and some stranger picked it up? What if it got lost in the mail and some person who may not even be a US citizen received it? Who is to say that I really am the person listed on the voters registration card?!

What kind of bizarre country do we live in where no identification is required to vote, yet we must have ID in order to:

  • Get on a plane
  • Cash a check
  • Get back in the country
  • Get utility service

It’s not like the Government is asking to show proof that you paid taxes and are a law abiding citizen along with an ID card (though that wouldn’t be a bad idea). So obviously I was intrigued to do a bit of research to find out why an ID is not required, at least not here in Texas. It turns out, a Federal Court blocked a Texas law that would require photo identification on the grounds that such a law would impose a “financial  burden” on poor minority voters. Excuse me? The only people who buy this excuse are those that have their head in the sand.

Why is our City Controller associated with a Convicted Felon?

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Original story “Controller and the Con Man’ by Chris Moran and Lise Olsen, Houston Chronicle, Aug. 12th, 2012.

It is much regret to hear that Ron Green, our City Controller, is associated with a five time convicted felon and contractor who is responsible for executing an elaborate real estate and forgery scam targeting Houston neighborhoods. Dwayne Jordan, the con man, has been indicted on the count that he snatched 23 Houston properties from different owners and then duped unsuspecting buyers into purchasing homes built on stolen ground.

I can understand how bitter and painful it must be to anyone whose property is claimed to be owned by someone else. Yes folks, land thefts, mortgage frauds and deed scams do happen and Dwayne Jordan is a master at executing them.

How is Ron Green associated with Dwayne Jordan? While Harris County prosecutors want to sentence Jordan, who has a long string of prior convictions including kidnapping, armed robbery and illegal possession of drugs and firearms, Ron Green is asking the Judge probation for his friend. According to Green, Jordan deserves his freedom and a chance to repay his victims. Although Green is at full liberty to choose who he is friends with, it does not give me pleasure nor confidence to see Houston’s City Controller stand up for a man who ripped off people Green was elected to protect.

In addition, not only is Green associated with felons, he is having problems with the IRS. In 2009, the IRS filed three tax liens claiming Green owed $260,000 in unpaid income taxes from 2002-2008. I think there is much here, to put it mildly, to cause alarm as to who Houston’s elected money manager really is. I think it would be well for the Controller to give a fuller account on the reason why he is supporting Jordan. The excuse “Jordan buys turkeys for the poor and works very hard to try and change the face of the Sunnyside community” just doesn’t cut it.

Envision the Houston Police Department in the Future

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Police departments throughout the country are adopting a statistical approach to policing that can help predict when and where crimes are likely to occur. Utilizing public data sets on everything from school schedules to home foreclosures and correlating them with crime stats, analysts can spot surprising patterns that help departments anticipate problems and identify emerging hot spots. Here is a look at 4 cities that are using the latest technology to get a jump on the bad guys.

Memphis

University of Memphis criminologists and local police combined business-analytics software with geotagged data to create a tool they have called Blue Crush. It takes in crime reports and layers in variables like weather, lighting conditions, and proximity to concert venues, along with reporting from PDA-equipped beat cops, to find connections. For example, the system noticed that colleges’ spring-break week reliably spawns a rash of burglaries.

Los Angeles

The LAPD uses ‘reaction-diffusion’ models to predict actual crime patterns and suggest preventive strategies as well as figure out where to deploy extra patrols. According to UCLA anthropologist Jeffrey Brantingham, reaction-diffusion modelling can explain the incidence of opportunistic crimes like burglary and car theft.

Minneapolis

A crime analysis unit identifies locations where gun crimes have been reported – not just robberies and shootings, but also gun thefts and illicit possession. Afterwards, it factors in geographic details on things like bus routes and proximity to parks, liquor stores, and public libraries. (Gang bangers frequent libraries for free internet access). Combining all that data helps the unit predict when certain parks will become trigger points for gun violence.

Arlington

Police in Dallas mapp residential break-ins against building code violations and found that crime skyrockets around building structures in need of major repair. For every ‘unit’ of physical decay – even cosmetic things like broken windows, graffiti, and abandoned cars – there were six burglaries. Police have begun working with other city agencies to clean up areas that the maps flag as “fragile neighborhoods”.

Original story appeared in Wired, “Criminal Intent”, December 2011.

How Texas Firearms Laws Aid Mexican Cartels

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If the Federal law banning sales of assault weapons had not expire in 2004, the blood shed between Mexican cartels over the past several years might not have risen so dramatically. Such assault weapons cannot be bought legally in Mexico. Thus, the cartels rely on gun traffickers to supply them with high power guns such as M-16s and AR-15s that are bought in the States, particularly in Texas.

Since President Calderon began a military offensive aimed at topping cartels, 40,000 lives have been claimed and about 90% of guns submitted for tracing by Mexican authorities that were used in the killings are from the US. These guns aren’t being used as ‘modern sports rifles’ – a name Firearms industry trade groups like to use when labeling rifles such as AK-47s. So how are Texas Firearms laws help contributing to this chaos more so than other states?

In California for instance, there is a low total to strict state firearms laws that severely limit sales of  military style weaponry. In other words, you cannot go into a gun shop and purchase 20 AK-47s at a time like you can in a Houston gun shop. That’s right. You can walk into a gun shop in Texas and purchase 5, 10, 20 .223 caliber AR-15s at a time in cash. Who the hell needs 5 M-16 like guns much less one?

After purchase, Texas gun brokers make a deal with gun traffickers who sell the guns to cartels at 3-4 times the price. Gun advocates insists that the laws are sufficient to control such trafficking – a hell of a statement given that bloodshed, decapitated heads, and innocent killings are now part of the daily life in Mexico.

Original story ‘Drug Gangs Match Police Power’, Houston Chronicle, Sunday, May 29, 2011, A18.