Category Archives: Crime Rates

The Great Safety Distraction

In December 2015 the Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau issued an update on “Nevada Crime and Corrections.” (pdf)  What we discover from this brief table of statistics is that between 2009 and 2013 the percentage change in the number of crimes committed dropped by 4%.  We had a relatively high rate of violent crimes per 100,000 persons (4th nationally) but the violent crime rate in Nevada between 2009 and 2013 declined by 16.2%, while the national violent crime rate declined by 14.8%.  Somehow these numbers make the drumbeat of references to violent criminal immigrants ring a bit hollow.  Street  gangs are a problem, but the problem may not be as dramatic as proponents of immigration restriction infer.

The Las Vegas Sun published an article in June 2015 with the dramatic headline that there were approximately 20,000 street gang members in the Las Vegas metropolitan area.  The population total for the Las Vegas area in 2015 was estimated at 2,111,000.  [data]  The Las Vegas economic agencies inform us that 45% of the Clark County population is white, 10.3% is African-American, and 30.9% are Hispanic/Latino, and another 9.3% are of Asian descent.  However, as the Sun article suggests it’s hard to equate gang membership to immigration or ethnic status in any definitive way, because each demographic group has its own gangs.

The street gangs identified in Las Vegas tend to be associated with the old standard Crips and Bloods — the Crips having developed in Los Angeles between the mid 1960’s and 1971.  The Bloods developing in response to the increasing influence of the Crips.  White gangs are more difficult to track in terms of membership because they dislike calling themselves a gang, although it’s hard to differentiate their violence and drug trafficking from that of their African American cohorts.  The Hispanic street gangs show a similar connection to California as those of the African American gangs.

The major group appears to be the Surenos (Southerners, as in Southern California) opposed by the Nortenos (Northerners, also from California), and their associated;  added to by a Las Vegas oriented group the Barrio Naked City gang. [Sun]  Notice that MS-13, the group often cited by the current President is not among these major gangs in the Las Vegas area.  One reason may well be that law enforcement has depleted their  leadership. [LVnow]  They’ve been a target of Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice for the past two years.  The most recent estimate indicates that there are about 150 MS 13 gang members in the Las Vegas area.  We now enter the realm of conflation.

It is extremely difficult to definitively state that US immigration policy has a direct correlation to gang activity, especially in terms of minors and young people entering the country.  DHS has been asked for statistics/data on unaccompanied minors who are found to be gang members, but did not respond (Politifact).  A person who has been charged with a crime in a foreign country is not eligible for asylum in the U.S. Another issue is that the officials aren’t breaking down what is meant by “gang members or suspected gang members.” Some instances of the gang label have not been substantiated by immigration enforcement.  [See the Savaria v. Sessions case.  Also: ACLU, and ACLU petition pdf]  If we conflated “confirmed” and “suspected” memberships then the problems associated with gangs are automatically exaggerated. [Politifact] Yet another problem with the conflation is that no one appears certain that minors who came to the US came as gang members or were recruited after they arrived.   [Politifact]  The Politifact article summarizes the conflation problem:

“DHS, Sessions, and Trump are trying to shift the focus of immigration enforcement to MS-13 in order to repeatedly drill in the message that immigrants are dangerous criminals,” Ahmed said.

But many gang members were born in the United States, and gangs form in conditions of marginality, which also exist in other countries, said Wolf, the researcher with CIDE in Mexico.

“There is no doubt that MS-13 has engaged in serious and heinous forms of violence, devastating families and communities. But the emphasis on immigrants as the source of the gang problem in the United States is misguided,” said David C. Pyrooz, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Colorado Boulder, whose research includes gangs and criminal networks.  [Politifact]

Of course one of the other dangers in the continual ‘calling out” of a particular (and particularly violent) gang is that public attention is diverted from gangs with larger memberships and which are homegrown.

MEANWHILE!  We have a President who categorically refuses to acknowledge the dangers presented to this country by Russian interference in our political institutions and processes. Who will not acknowledge the warnings given by our CIA, FBI, and national security experts. Who will not enforce the sanctions enacted by the 115th Congress. Who would prefer we focus our attention on the 150 MS 13 gang members in Las Vegas than the KARYN Network pushing the social media “news” on behalf of Russian interests.

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Filed under Crime Rates, Immigration, Nevada politics, Politics

Spooks, Haunts, and other Scary Things in the Nevada Legislature

Nevada Legislature Scary Things

The GOP controlled Nevada Legislature is haunted. Specters and spooks dog the steps of the members of the Assembled Wisdom, wraiths point toward things of which we must be afraid, very afraid.

We must be afraid of voter impersonation fraud.  The fact that it hasn’t happened doesn’t mean that we ought not to writhe in terror at the prospect.  Speaking of ghosts of elections past, we have Sharron Angle to add her wail to the cries of alarm:

“Former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, who lost the 2010 U.S. Senate race to Harry Reid, testified for the bill, saying “we do have a voter impersonation problem across the country.”  Anderson asked if she has found examples of voter impersonation in Nevada in her investigations. Angle said no, but that there is “anomalous activity that goes on in Nevada elections that is not easily explained.” [LVRJ]

One might reasonably guess that “anomalous activity” is one of those terms which might be analogous to the Spectral Evidence allowed in the Salem Witch Trials?   However, we might just as well place this within the glossary of meaningless phrases, which while sounding erudite, mean almost nothing, such as “stocks are down on profit taking,” or “there’s lots of cash on the sidelines.” [Ritholtz] Or, such unverifiable and empty notions like “highway miles.”  Or, those gratuitous and equally meaningless phrases which appear in job opening announcements, “self starter,” “team player,” and “highly qualified.”

The point being is that bills like SB 169 (photo ID) are necessary to solve the Republican problem of not being able to win elections if lower income, non-white, young people, and the elderly are allowed to vote.

We must be very afraid of criminals.  Not only must we quake in alarm, according to the GOP Gun Club we must arm ourselves and await the day when we will be called upon to open fire on the evil-doers in our midst. Unfortunately, this serves to remind us that one person who tried this at the Las Vegas Wal-Mart ended up as a victim. [SFgate] No matter, by the lights of the Gun Club we must all be allowed to carry concealed weapons – anywhere – unless maybe not on school grounds.  (AB 148) 

As of 2013 there were 2,790,236 people in the state of Nevada.  There were 16,496 violent crimes reported.  We should put this in some perspective.  First, if we divide the number of violent crimes (victims) by the total population the result is 0.00591.  Shift the decimal to create a percentage and we have 0.59%. [TDC]  Is the likelihood of victimization in a violent crime in Nevada so high that all the dangers associated with carrying a concealed weapon worth the effort? Secondly, there were 163 murders, 1,090 rapes, 5,183 robberies, and 10,060 assaults in Nevada as of the 2013 reporting period.  [TDC]   The numbers don’t suggest a need for a proliferation of arms among ordinary citizens.

But but but… What if the criminals think there will be armed opposition to their nefarious endeavors! That will prevent them from carrying out their heinous designs! Really?  The armed robber already has his or her gun in position, ready to fire. The gun in my purse or holster is going to take a moment to get “into position.” Thus, the obvious outcome is that the robber gets the money, and the firearm.  Then there is the “collateral damage” consideration.  What if the “burglar” isn’t a criminal after all, but some family member who has lost a key?  In public spaces, how does Our Concealed Carry Hero determine if another Concealed Carry Hero is, or is not, a perpetrator of the shooting? The questions go on, but the bottom line is that in the fanciful world of the gun enthusiasts every hero can make practical decisions at 2 in the morning, make every shot count, and insure that every shot is aimed at and will hit the criminal.  It’s a scenario right out of the made for TV melodramas. Legislation should be crafted upon a foundation of facts and rationality, not the fevered imaginings of the frightened.

We must be afraid that someone somewhere is taking money away from us, and that every accumulation of government revenue is robbery, and every public service employee is unworthy.  Those comfortably ensconced in the upper 0.01% of income earners may very well be able to buy all the books they want (therefore there is no need for public libraries) or to spend a vacation on a private island or in a private resort (therefore there is no need for any public parks), and they may elect to spend money on private security, or pay for service firefighting, or pay the tolls on roads and highways, or send the kids to private schools.  When money is no object, other people’s money is little more than a object of attraction. 

Unfortunately, the upper 0.01% has been effective over the last three decades in convincing ordinary people earning $50,000 per year that a public school beginning teacher earning $37,000 is a Pig At The Public Trough.  The median wage of an employee of the State of Nevada is currently $46,590.  Hardly a figure, when agency heads are included, to describe an opulent living.   Yet, public employees are taking fire in this edition of the Legislature.

However, it’s not just the public sector employees who are drawing the attention of the Needy Greedy.   State Senator Joe Hardy (R-Boulder City) wants to repeal the state’s minimum wage.  Hardy’s SJR 6 (pdf) would repeal Nevada’s minimum wage provisions and let the legislature determine if an employer is providing health insurance if the cost is not more than 10% of the employee’s gross taxable income.  Here’s a thought – How about, instead of allowing more employers to pay less than $8.25 per hour, Nevada enacted an increase in the minimum wage? Period.

Want to see fewer people have to rely on housing subsidies to keep roofs over their heads? Raise the minimum wage.  Want to see fewer people have to resort to the SNAP programs? – raise the minimum wage. Want to see fewer individuals have to avail themselves of Medicaid assistance? Raise the minimum wage. 

For too many years we’ve been told the people (including the disabled and the elderly) aren’t working hard enough.  They should get more education (despite the costs and time involved), get more gumption (this in the face of a 5% multi-job rate), work more hours… take individual responsibility!  This is all lovely palaver from the heights, the concepts tend to disintegrate when applied in the real world.  The question could as easily be reversed. For example, the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, with sales and revenue reported as $14.58 billion in 2014, and net income of $2.84 billion, couldn’t spring for more than a paltry $8.25 per hour?  The question ought to be why can’t employers pay more than $10.10 per hour, or a living wage of $15.00?

In the real world most employers do pay more than the minimum already.  Minimum wage workers comprise about 4.7% of the total employed workforce.  The chart shows national trends for minimum wage workers:

Minimum Wage workers

“Leisure and Hospitality,” where have we seen that category before? L&H is the largest employer in the state, accounting for approximately 398,000 jobs earning an average annual wage of $31,600 (net of benefits.)  So, here we sit in a state in which most employees are engaged by a sector most likely to pay earnings at or below the federal minimum wage – and we can’t figure out that those who need housing or SNAP assistance might not fall into those categories if the wages were increased? So, let’s ask again: Why are Nevada employers unwilling to pay wages which would support their employees above the rate at which they are eligible for public assistance?

There are some things about which we should be legitimately concerned, those just don’t seem to have made it into the consciousness of the Legislature’s majority. Here are two examples:

Nevada has an income inequality problem.

“The states in which all income growth between 2009 and 2012 accrued to the top 1 percent include Delaware, Florida, Missouri, South Carolina, North Carolina, Connecticut, Washington, Louisiana, California, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Idaho, Massachusetts, Colorado, New York, Rhode Island, and Nevada.” [EPI] (emphasis added)

This situation is economically unsustainable.  As middle income and lower income earners tighten their belts and shave their budgets, there are simply not enough high income earners to create the demand for goods and services over time.

Nevada has infrastructure issues.  Only in the categories of waste water and solid waste does the state of Nevada get a ‘good’ grade, a B, from the ASCE.  We seem to be handling the excremental elements of our state rather better than our school buildings and our dams.

If the Legislature can move past Guns Galore!, Labor Bashing, and Vote Suppressing, we might want to address these and other pressing issues in the Silver State.

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Filed under Crime Rates, Gun Issues, Nevada economy, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, Vote Suppression, Voting

>Rep. Berkley Has Good News For Southern Nevada Law Enforcement

>Representative Shelley Berkley (D-NV1) has some good news for southern Nevada law enforcement, the announcement of a much needed $5.3 million headed their way from the federal CHP hiring program. “Congresswoman Shelley Berkley today welcomed more than $5.3 million in funding for Nevada law enforcement as part of the federal Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant program.  The funding, which was provided through the COPS Hiring Program (CHP) will allow North Las Vegas Police to fill 16 public safety positions.  “At a time when local budgets are tight, this funding will provide $5.3 million to North Las Vegas to help cover the cost of adding 16 officers to the force.  The men and women of law enforcement serve our community and help to keep all of us safe and I am very pleased that Nevada is receiving this funding through the COPS program, which I strongly support,”  CHP grants go directly to law enforcement agencies to hire new and/or rehire career law enforcement officers in an effort to increase their community policing capacity and crime prevention efforts.  CHP also provides 100 percent funding for approved entry-level salaries and benefits for three years (36 months) for newly-hired, full-time sworn officer positions (including filling existing unfunded vacancies) or for rehired officers who have been laid off, or are scheduled to be laid off on a future date, as a result of local budget cuts.” [Berkley, 9/30/10]

There is a string attached to this program funding, according to Department of Justice guidelines for the COPS program “At the conclusion of 36 months of federal funding, grantees must retain all sworn
officer positions awarded under the CHP grant for a minimum of 12 months. The retained CHP-funded  position(s) should be added to the grantee’s law enforcement budget with state and/or local funds, over and above the number of locally-funded positions that would have existed in the absence of the grant.  Applicants are required to affirm in their CHP grant application that their agency plans to retain any additional officer positions awarded following the expiration of the grant and identify their planned source(s) of retention funding
.” [DoJpdf] The COPS grants do not permanently subsidize personnel expenses in law enforcement agencies.

If southern Nevada law enforcement would like to continue the trends included in its 2009 Annual Report (pdf) this additional funding, even with the string attached, should be welcome news. The overall crime rate, or Crime Index Total, is down 27% during the past five years, murder and non-negligent manslaughter is down 29%, burglary is down 21%, larceny/theft down 28%, and auto theft is down an impressive 54%.  There are, however, some numbers that could use improvement.

Forcible rape, for example, is down, but only by 4%. Aggravated assaults have actually increased over the past five years by 21%, and the robbery rate remained unchanged. In short, there is good reason to applaud the efforts of southern Nevada law enforcement, and to acknowledge that more could be done in specific areas.

According to the 2009 Annual Report, authorities handled 6,789 missing persons cases, 873 fugitive arrests, 82 repeat offenders target arrests, 25,680 domestic violence incidents, and 40 drive by shootings. 24,475 traffic accidents were investigated, and 223,813 traffic citations were written. There were 7,650 DUI arrests made. 1,877 drug arrests, 5,035 K-9 assistance requests filed, and 5,650 arrests classified as relating to vice.  Most special operations categories show a decline from 2008 statistics.

The good news is that the Federal dollars will help keep this progress on track, the bad news is that the Federal funding is not supplantal and a revenue “challenged” southern Nevada law enforcement community will be expected to maintain the declining crime trends with ever more budget constraints.

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Filed under Berkley, Crime Rates, Nevada

>Vote fraud more important than rape? Gonzales Department of Justice replaced attorney trying to reduce reservation crime

>When is it more important to prevent voter fraud than rape? Very possible answer: When you’re in the Bush Administration Department of Justice managed by AG Alberto Gonzales.

In 2004 Congress enacted a budget a section of which required the Department of Justice to submit quarterly reports on its efforts to reduce murder rates, domestic violence, child abuse and other violent crimes committed against Native Americans. [Indianz] $2.75 million was dedicated to the FBI Indian Country unit to assist with crime prosecution efforts. $7.55 million was to be used for the creation of a liaison office to help Native communities eliminate domestic violence.

There was a reason for this legislation. Between 1992 and 2002 the rate of violent crime victimization among Native Americans aged 25-34 was more than 2 1/2 times that for all other persons of the same age. The rates of violent crime victimization for both Native American men and women were higher than for all other races. [DoJBJS]

And, for trying to carry out the Congressional mandate to help Native Americans improve law enforcement activities to reduce these statistics — former Minnesota U.S. Attorney Thomas Heffelfinger was one of the 30 prosecutors the Bush Administration wanted to fire. He was also one of the U.S. Attorneys Monica Goodling thought should be removed for spending “an extraordinary amount of time” prosecuting crimes against Native Americans. [TP]

Heffelfinger’s reaction: “I did spent a lot of time on it,” Heffelfinger said of the American Indian issue. “That’s what I was instructed to do” by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. Given the higher rates of violence suffered by American Indians, Heffelfinger said, the time was warranted, but it didn’t take away from other priorities. “I had to work hard, but I was comfortable with the mix of my local responsibilities and my Native American responsibilities,” said Heffelfinger, who oversaw his office’s investigation into the 2005 shooting that claimed 10 lives on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in far northern Minnesota.” [KARE]

That Red Lake shooting — in 2005 the second deadliest school shooting in the U.S., now unfortunately the third — the one about which the President had nothing to say until the Washington Post and other media outlets printed reports comparing his response to the Schiavo Case to the Red Lake Tragedy: “The fact that Bush preempted his vacation to say something about Ms. Schiavo and here you have 10 native people gunned down and he can’t take time to speak is very telling,” said David Wilkins, interim chairman of the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota and a member of the North Carolina-based Lumbee tribe.”

The silence from the White House was so obvious that “Jacqueline Johnson, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, called the White House on Thursday to inquire about Bush’s silence. “I wanted to make sure the White House is paying attention to this issue,” she said. “I wasn’t sure.” [WaPo] President Bush eventually commented on the tragedy during a subsequent Saturday radio broadcast.

For spending time dealing with the tragedy at Red Lake, and all the numerous and unrecorded smaller tragedies on Native American lands, the political operatives in the White House and the Justice Department put Mr. Heffelfinger on a list of those to be replaced by the likes of Rachel Paulouse, a close friend of Ms. Goodling.

So, the tragedy continues, compounding itself as the Bush Administration seeks to politicize the Department of Justice and denigrate attempts to solve problems on Reservations. Would it be too much to ask that the Administration spend an “extraordinary amount of time” noting that the BIA law enforcement section is staffed at just 31% of its needs? Or, take action regarding the fact that the violent crime rate in Indian Country is 101 per 1,000 compared to the national average of 41 per 1,000. Or, notice that Native American women are 2 1/2 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted as other women in America. [Helena Ind]

Republican members of Congress may whine that the “fishing expedition” into the firing of U.S. Attorneys is an inconsequential partisan activity. [TPmm] And, the President may groan that the “political theater” is being “drug out.” [TPmm] But, this issue illustrates exactly where the rubber meets the road.

When a competent prosecutor who is attempting to follow the mandate of Congress, and the instructions from the man who hired him (Ashcroft), to make progress toward achieving the worthwhile goal of reducing crime against Native Americans — is “rewarded” for his efforts by being placed on a firing list — then something is, indeed, very very wrong. Unless, of course, one believes that replacing such attorneys with ones more amenable to bringing phony voter fraud cases is more important.

In 2002 while a resident of a reservation was 2 1/2 times more likely to be a victim of a violent crime than the rest of the American population, Republicans weren’t focusing on the murders committed or the rapes perpetrated. They were exercised about the possibility that the Democrats were going to ‘steal’ the election with fraudulent votes from South Dakota Reservations. [TPM] It seems there was some voter fraud going on — six Republican party staff members and campaign workers in South Dakota resigned in October, 2004, over a voter fraud scandal. The GOP reassigned one of them, Larry Russell head of the South Dakota GOP-GOTV operations to Ohio. [TPM]

With this brief history in mind, it’s no surprise that Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison and Rep. John Conyers are asking for communications related to Heffelfinger’s replacement, and for documents about efforts to “enforce” voter fraud and ballot integrity laws in Minnesota. [WCCO] After all, it seems far more important to the Bush Administration to punish so-called voting fraud crime BY Native Americans than to address violent crimes done TO Native Americans.

What’s needed at this juncture, whether the Republican lock-steppers in Congress like it or not, is an “extraordinary amount of time” spent investigating who’s manipulating the Department of Justice into allocating resources to chase the phantoms of voter fraud while Native Americans are waiting all night for a BIA cop to respond to a burglary, rape, or murder 911 call.

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Filed under Alberto Gonzales, Crime Rates, Heffelfinger, Native Americans, Reservations