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George Soros Funds the Fight to Lie About California’s So-Called Three-Strikes Laws

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First, a controlling fact.  California’s much-reviled “three-strikes” law bears no resemblance to what you’ve read about it in the news.  How much no resemblance?  Lots of no resemblance:

  • Prosecutors and judges have discretion in applying the law.  Discretion means “not draconian.”  Discretions means that it isn’t really a “three-strikes” law but merely a recidivist statute that permits, but in no way requires, application of its sentencing guidelines.  Someone can have 20 strikes and the law still won’t necessarily be applied.  Someone can rape and molest dozens of women and children and still not get three strikes sentencing.  The reality of criminal prosecution is that, in virtually all cases, when people face multiple charges (barring a few such as murder) those charges are telescoped down to one or two, and the others offenses are simply not prosecuted.  The tiny number of people facing three-strikes sentencing are extremely flagrant offenders who have committed dozens or hundreds — not two-and-a-half — violent crimes.
  • There are no people serving life sentences “merely” for stealing Cheetos or a VCR tape.  Those are myths.
  • Prosecutors use this recidivist sentencing law so rarely that most apply it just a few times a year, and even then, it frequently doesn’t lead to 25-to-life.  But media reporting frequently stops at the original charge.
  • The lies the media tells about “three-strikes” are legion.  The word” strike” better describes the media’s flailing confabulations about recidivism sentencing than any aspect of sentencing itself.

There is a great website by Mike Reynolds, an expert on California’s three-strikes law and its application (application being 95% of the law, no matter what they tell you in school).  I urge you to read his site and support his efforts:

Three Strikes and You’re Out: Stop Repeat Offenders 

Mike Reynolds debunks myths about three-strikes laws increasing costs for the state.  He proves that prison growth did not occur because of three-strikes laws; he explains who does and does not get enhanced sentencing, and he factors in the financial savings arising from reduction of crime arising directly from the prolific offenders who are sentenced under these laws.  In other words, he does what journalists and politicians ought to be doing, but do not.

From Mike’s site:

What is sometimes mistaken (or misunderstood) is the level of violence and brutality, as compared to the value of something rather minor. My daughter, Kimber, was murdered over a “minor” purse snatching. In fact, most murders are over little or “minor value” issues. Keep in mind, every “Three Strikes” case is closely reviewed by prosecutors who must prove the prior convictions in court. In the event that the defendant is found guilty of the current felony offense, the judge can, and does, review the merits of the case to decide whether or not to apply the full “25 to Life”, or reduce the case to a second strike.

On average, only (1) out of every (9) eligible third strikers gets a “25 to Life” sentence. The average third striker has (5) prior serious or violent felony convictions.

Read Mike’s site!  

~~~

Meanwhile, anti-three-strikes activism is an astroturfed social movement funded for years through various channels by billionaire financier George Soros.  The Los Angeles Times reports that Soros just gave $500,000 to the effort to get an anti-three-strikes measure on the California ballot in November.  The other major funding of the ballot initiative is Stanford Law Professor David Mills.  I wonder if anyone’s done an audit to see how much educational taxpayer money (even private schools rely largely on public funds) Professor Mills has used for his political activism.  His “academic” website is basically an advertisement for activism.  Why do California residents put up with paying for this guy’s hobbies?  Can’t he take his druggie-yellow sunglasses off for a photo for his law school?  Is that too much to ask?  What is that, a denim shirt?  Would a suit kill him?

“Professor” David Mills, Stanford University, Photographed on a Sunny Day.

Maybe he dresses this way to conceal the fact that he made a fortune in private investment firms before picking up a starring role at the previously dignified Stanford Law posing as a denim-wearing soldier for the right of thugs, rapists, and home invaders to continue their prolific criminal careers against non-investment firm types who can’t afford personal security like Mills’ and Soros’.

David Mills doesn’t even have a real vitae.  He’s published four editorials (one, risibly, in Slate; one, risibly, in MSN Slate) and one law review article in his own school’s law review, co-authored by a real scholar.

My goodness, the things that get you a law professorship at Stanford these days!

~~~

 Anyway, back to the three-strikes campaign.  Below you’ll find some articles I’ve written on the real criminal careers of the more famous poster-children of Soros’ and Mills’ cause.  It took decades for ordinary people and crime victims to create enough traction in the justice system to merely punish a small percentage of prolific criminals.  Now we stand to lose such progress.  These men — sheltered by their extreme wealth, capable of avoiding the consequences of their actions, are trying to empty the prisons in order to make themselves feel virtuous while spitting in the faces of law abiding Americans.  It’s a consequence-free titilation for them, on your backs and the safety of your loved ones.

If you’re in California, the time to push back is now.  George Soros and David Mills merely have money.  We have the truth.  We need letters to the editor every time someone makes a false claim about saving money on prison costs, or cries alligator tears about Supermaxes cluttered with Cheetos-stealing Jean Valjeans and other nonsensical lies.

Here are links to just a few of my posts on three-strikes laws and other recidivist measures under attack by George Soros:

Jerry DeWayne Williams: The original “pizza slice” poster boy for the anti-three strikes movement . . . and his real record

Robert Ferguson: “Bag of cheese” poster boy for the anti-three strikes crowd; of course there’s more to the story

Rodney Alcala: California serial killer and sexual torturer (worked for the LA Times after he racked up a horrifying record)

Russell Burton: 20 years of serial leniency for horrific recidivist sexual assaults in California and Georgia 

Lavelle McNutt: Prolific serial rapist with 36-year record of leniency in at least two states

Chicago Weekend: Is Crime Down, Or Are Neighborhoods Emptying?

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Is crime really dropping in Chicago? Not long ago, the public would have been forced to rely on some pretty unreliable sources for an answer:

  • academicians who worship at the ‘the public’s crime fears are overblown‘ altar
  • mainstream reporters who worship at the “academicians who worship at the ‘the public’s crime fears are overblown’ altar” altar
  • Chicago politicians

From sources like that, you get contradictory numbers like this, in the Chicago Sun-Times:

Five men were killed and at least 19 other people — including two children — were hospitalized after violence in the city this weekend.

Despite the violent weekend, Chicago Police announced Sunday that violent crimes have decreased for the 30th consecutive month and there have been 31 fewer murders this year than through June of last year, a 14.4 percent decrease. The crime stats also indicate a decrease in aggravated batteries, aggravated assaults and criminal sexual assaults.

Five people blown away, 19 others shot or otherwise injured, in one unremarkable weekend that featured the sort of bad weather that tends to drive people off the streets, so that’s good news: crime is down!  (**Update: 11 more shot overnight Sunday, ten homicides total)

Sure, murders are down.  They don’t say how much agg. assaults and batteries dropped, nor do they offer what might be the most accurate measure of non-safety — the number of shootings, as oppose to the number of entirely successful gun murders.  Let’s not reward bad aim, or good doctoring.

At least the public has alternative sources of information, now that cops are blogging.  Second City Cop speculates about other possible explanations for the alleged “drop in crime”:

Are there any actuaries out there who can determine the per capita rate of homicides? We lost at least 200,000 people in the recent census, and since rates are measured in terms of crimes per 100,000, is this a real drop in crime or just a statistical equivalent? And are we still doing that thing with people shot during robberies? And the other thing that negates the FBI ever using Chicago numbers in their crime stats because they’re so hinky?

SCC’s commenters (also cops) knock a little more gild off the lily:

What about property crimes? Criminal damage reports? Thefts? And what of the clearance rates, esp. for violent crimes, like robberies? Oh, I forgot, robberies are property crimes, acc. to Cline.

Crime has gone down for over 30 straight months with the shortage of cops? We don’t need any more cops. In fact lets get rid of all of them and let the animals run the asylum.

With severe police shortages, crime reports fall through the cracks.  So is the public “over-reacting” or is crime under-reported?

It also appears from the cop blogs that Chicago authorities are camouflaging crime numbers by classifying gun robberies as “property crime” instead of violent crime.  I imagine this sort of free pass gets carried over to Chicago courtrooms, where felons who stick guns in peoples’ faces get off easy because it’s just a “property” offense.  And remember all the criminals robbing other criminals who aren’t about to call 911, and the residents intimidated into silence.

Remember too the nine-year olds and eight-year olds and 12-year olds caught in the crossfire.  I don’t even think that’s a complete list from the past week.

How many violent crimes go unreported in a city like Chicago?  This demoralizing Chicago Tribune must-read offers some insights:

Whatever you do, don’t use my name, said the 83-year-old widow, and the fear in her voice was palpable. . .

We [the reporters] met a lot of longtime residents on many blocks fighting to hang on to and regenerate their communities. We wanted to tell their stories, but more often than not they would not let us if we used their names. They are terrified of retribution by the criminal elements — gangs and drug dealers — whose activities mushroomed in the newly vacant houses around them. . . ”It’s like young people are berserk around here,” said the elderly widow. “It’s like they’re destroying themselves. Practically every other night or so, we hear shooting just west or east of us, or in the alley. It sounds so close, it scares you.”  She has lived in her house for 54 years, one of the early black families to move into the community. . . After years of watching, [the elderly residents] know by sight most of the players in the nightly drama. The one they fear most is a soft-spoken boss of street crews selling drugs.  ”He is just an ordinary-looking person,” said one of the block club’s men. “He doesn’t dress fancy or drive flashy cars. He is very quiet and usually very courteous with people on the street. But he is a vicious killer who is all business.

“Everybody knows who he is.”

If the drug boss knew people were reporting his activities to the police, club members agree he would strike back at them. It’s a frightening prospect because they say he calmly shot a man to death in front of witnesses near their block several years ago and walked away free. The fear of reprisal for reporting criminal activity seems well-founded. Police recognize that gangs and drug dealers plant their own people into community meetings as spies, taking notes on which residents speak out against illegal activity. Community policing experts tell residents to report crimes in strict privacy, not in public forums.

Does any of this sound like good news about the crime rate?  Is Chicago really getting safer, or is the opposite true, despite any temporary drop in murder stats?  The reporters here lay too much blame on the “subprime mortgage crisis,” instead of on the thugs or the justice system that allows them to get away with murder, empty houses or no empty houses.  But, otherwise, the story serves as a fierce corrective to the “crime is down” boosterism coming out of city hall.  For the senior citizens trying to hold their neighborhoods together for the uptenth time in fifty years, it’s horror show:

They are terrified of retribution by the criminal elements — gangs and drug dealers — whose activities mushroomed in the newly vacant houses around them . . . crime problems didn’t seem epidemic, block club members say, until the recent foreclosures as a result of the subprime mortgage crisis.  According to the census, Englewood and West Englewood lost nearly 20,000 residents in the last decade. Now, 3,500 boarded-up houses and empty lots dot the communities

This actually confirms Second City Cop’s musing about population and statistics: high-crime areas experienced large population losses during the recent mortgage crisis.  So it might be that crime rates, adjusted for population, have not dropped at all.

Gee, you’d think some city statistician or publicly funded academic would have caught this.  No, they’re all far too busy denying the existence of crime and lobbying to empty the prisons.  Meanwhile, back on the block:

Because their street is quieter than nearby streets, the longtime residents say police don’t patrol their block as frequently as they do adjoining ones.  ”The drug dealers and addicts know that,” said an 80-year-old woman who is also a longtime block club member. “The addicts buy their drugs around the corner and then park in their cars on our block to use their drugs and have their sexual encounters (to pay for drugs). At night, you know they are smoking crack from the blue flame that flares up.”

She talks despairingly of how the crime surge has changed her life.

“I don’t want shooting outside my house or out in the alley. I just want to go to the store and not be afraid, and to get on the bus without fear.”

Is crime really down? Or have the official statistics merely been pummeled by fear of reprisals and thinned by the cop shortage . . . then massaged by statisticians, pled down by attorneys, and shiatsu-ed again by academics, until that hard metal barrel pointed at someone’s face has metamorphosed into a property crime, or maybe just drug possession, if victims are too afraid, or too felonious, to come forward?

Then the anti-incarceration activists can claim that we need more “alternatives to prison” for all those “drug and non-violent offenders” who fill cells.  And the cycle starts over again.

Englewood Neighborhood, Chicago (Terrence Antonio James, Chicago Tribune / July 10, 2011)

Media (Un)Ethics: Using the Anniversary of Jessica Lunsford’s Murder to Advocate For Sex Offenders

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Last week marked the fifth anniversary of Jessica Lunsford’s murder. Nine-year old Lunsford was kidnapped, raped, and buried alive by her neighbor, a convicted sex offender.

You would think the anniversary of Lunsford’s horrific murder would give rise to thoughts about our failure to protect her and other victims of violent recidivists.  You would think reporters would cover stories about early release of sexual predators, lax sentencing of sexual predators, and failure to punish sexual predators.  You would think that, but you would be wrong.  In Florida’s “prestige” media, the St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald,  Lunsford’s death is treated as a cautionary tale — not cautioning against the fatal practice of going easy on child rapists, mind you, but scorning those who are trying to prevent similar crimes from happening again.

The problem, according to John Frank of the SPTimes, is not that John Couey was free to kill Jessica five years ago: the problem is that public, thoughtless brutes that we are, reacted to the murder of Jessica by lowering our opinion of sex offenders:

The brutal killing of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, which happened five years ago today, fueled the creation of a boogeyman in Florida politics: the sex offender.

Never mind that the “boogeyman” in this case and countless others was not an imaginary threat but a real one, thus not technically a boogeyman at all.  This is the breathless first sentence of a breathless denunciation of any and all efforts to keep track of sex offenders, from stricter sentencing, to registration laws, to living restrictions, to simply not feeling warm and fuzzy enough towards that convicted child molester who wants to lead your son’s scout troop.

I say “denunciation” instead of “reporting” because reporting signifies a veneer of objectivity.  At least the Times refrained from attacking Jessica’s father, Mark Lunsford, this time.   That must have been hard for them, for attacking Mark Lunsford over everything from his educational background to the type of car he drives has become a sort of newsroom sport among Times staffers.

I wrote about Lunsford-bashing here and here.

Lunsford has been unforgivably smeared, and now the anniversary his daughter’s death is being used to slyly advocate for rapists and killers under the guise of “reporting.”  If only the St. Petersburg Times had an institute for journalistic ethics or something: maybe they could visit it and learn to reign in such ugly behavior.  Instead, because Mark Lunsford is a crime victim advocate, rather than an advocate for criminals like the man who murdered his daughter, he’s fair game to the so-called reporters who hound his every move.

A Truly Offensive Effort to Whitewash the Crime Problem

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What’s the matter with the Atlanta Journal Constitution?

In the last year, the residents of Atlanta stood up and declared that they do not want their city to be a place known for crime, where murders and muggings are taken in stride.  They declared that one murder, one home invasion, is one too many.  They partnered with the police — ignoring the headline-grabbing anti-cop types who perennially try to sow divisiveness.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution stubbornly failed to grasp the significance of these events.  They mocked the anti-crime activists and denied the crime problem with a scorn they would not dream of directing at other types of community leaders or social movements.  They sought out the usual political operatives to feed them quotes denying the seriousness of crime.

They didn’t understand that the public had long-ago grown tired of these condescending tactics.  The newspaper of record especially didn’t understand that the internet gave citizens powerful new ways to see precisely how much their lives and pocketbooks were being affected by crime — whether it was sharing information about the ten-time recidivist standing in their driveway or finding out how many other people got put on hold when calling 911.

Atlantans began to demand a healthier, saner, safer status quo.  They set out to change the culture of the city in ways that will benefit every single person, from the well-off to the poor to criminals themselves (for criminals are not helped by a system that allows them to destroy their own lives).

Now, less than a year later, anti-crime activism has brought about a sea change in the political culture of the city.  Several candidates are running in this election on solid platforms of public safety — notably Adam Brackman, a leader in the volunteer court-watching movement that pressures judges to remove repeat offenders from the streets.

Every politician in this election is on notice that they dismiss public concern about crime at their peril.

And by the time the next election rolls around, I suspect that some of the judges who are failing to uphold the law and siding with offenders rather than law-abiding citizens will be folding up their black robes.  Pressure on the courts, and pressuring the city to end the police furloughs, has already set the city on the path to reducing crime, though it will be a long road.

So why did the AJC choose this moment to retreat to the “crime is a perception thing” debate again?

“People are scared,” said Kyle Keyser, founder of Atlantans Together Against Crime. The group formed in January, in a near-spontaneous reaction to a perceived crime wave that crested with the killing of a restaurant worker near Grant Park.

“Near-spontaneous.”  “Perceived crime wave.”  “Crested.”  Could the reporter wedge in a few more diminutives?  I lived in that neighborhood for decades, and in reality, crime has always been unacceptably high there.  It would be a lot higher if residents weren’t paying through the teeth for security patrols and motion detectors and cameras inside and outside of their homes, a veritable self-imposed police state that reflects the failure of city leaders and especially judges to behave as if all crime matters.

So why is the newspaper still hammering away at the theme that it is the perception of crime that is the problem?  Even when they acknowledge that crime is up alarmingly, from a base rate that is alarming enough, they feel the need to remind people that such things are normal, you know, in urban places:

Residential burglaries are a key component of the property crime category. But while all property crime decreased, reports of residential break-ins grew by 65 percent from 2004 to 2008. This year alone, home burglaries in southeast Atlanta are up 52 percent.

Larcenies have steadily decreased, as well. But thefts from automobiles, a frequent grievance of in-town residents, rose 30 percent in five years.

Criminologists say a high crime rate is inevitable in Atlanta, where widespread poverty and an influx of commuters, conventioneers and tourists create an atmosphere conducive to illicit activity.

Yeah, that pickpocket’s trade show sure brought a bunch of pickpockets to town.  The problem isn’t poverty: it’s profound social dysfunction, and the primary targets of crime are not conventioneers in the security-heavy downtown business district but residents going about their lives.  Some criminologists will say anything, however, in the service of rejecting legitimate worries about criminal behavior:

How well a police department performs its most basic job — preventing crime — can be assessed three ways, said Robert Friedmann, a professor of criminal justice at Georgia State University.

“One is the numbers,” he said. “Two is the numbers. And three is perception.”

Is it?  “Perception” is criminologist-code for “hysteria.”  The argument that Atlanta’s crime problem is merely the “perception” of paranoid whiners was rejected by the public months ago.  Yet here comes the AJC, once again, scolding people for failing to lower their expectations to meet the “inevitable” reality of violent urban crime.

The reporter doesn’t stop there, however.  The end of this article, an article that purports to investigate “dysfunction in the police department,”  is instead dedicated to dismissing the seriousness of John Henderson’s murder and by extension the legitimacy of the entire anti-crime movement.

He does this by claiming, again, that John Henderson’s death was probably just “an accident,” foolishly valued and misapprehended by those who reacted to it:

The case featured many archetypal elements of the high-profile urban crime story: the neighborhood’s historic poverty contrasted against the Standard’s hipster scene; the free-roaming young killers, possibly gang members; the overmatched police force, struggling to keep pace with crime. To many, the case seemed to be a metaphor that captured Atlanta as a growing threat.

Except it wasn’t.

It wasn’t?  It wasn’t what?  The bullet that entered John Henderson’s head was neither an archetype nor a metaphor nor a plot twist: it was a chunk of metal that ended an innocent man’s life, fired from a gun by malicious thugs who displayed murderous contempt for other people’s lives.  To point to the dead body of that young man and say “those who have reacted to this loss are making too much of a big deal about it: it’s just routine, the sort of thing that happens is the big city,” is utterly, starkly, reprehensible.

It smacks of telling people that if they’re “hipsters” who choose to live in-town, they must accept a certain body count among their friends and loved ones, and to complain about that is the real crime.  The reporter backs up this sleazy assertion by insisting that the murder wasn’t as bad as people thought.  Get it?  The murder wasn’t all that bad:

Much of what was reported about Henderson’s killing turned out to be false. He was not shot execution-style. Nor was he wounded four times. He was hit once in the leg during the robbery and once again in the head, maybe by accident, as the robbers fled. One of the bullets came from a handgun the robbers took from Henderson’s co-worker.

“He was hit.”  “Hit,” not shot, a softer word.  “Once in the leg during the robbery.”  Only once, not four times, so why complain about it?  “Once again in the head, maybe by accident.”  Accidentally shooting someone in the head?  What is motivating the AJC to keep bluntly denying the horror of this crime?

I’d interject here that this is not the way the AJC reported on Vernon Forrest’s death.  Forrest chased his robbers with his own gun.  He was no less a victim for it, and the AJC took the right line on that murder, as they did on that family’s demands for justice (as did the Chief and the Mayor, who leaped to action, in stark contrast to their response to Henderson’s murder).  And yet, even after finally doing the right thing, the AJC has now returned to Henderson’s murder to throw a little more dirt.

This is selective policing of the public’s reaction to a cold-blooded murder.  Cold-blooded, no matter where the killer was standing when he fired the bullet.  When you shoot a person through a door, you are as legally and morally as responsible for killing them as you would be if you stood over their body and fired the gun.

The reporter, not the public, is the one wallowing in metaphor and fiction here.  John Henderson is just as dead as he would be if the killing were expertly choreographed.  The public understands this.  They understand that adolescent killers waving guns are just as dangerous as — maybe more dangerous than — seasoned thugs who control their firing range.   Why is the AJC so obsessed with diminishing the responsibility of the killers in this case?  Why do they seem more outraged by the public reacting than by the killing itself?

[T]he area around the Standard was hardly unprotected before the robbery.

From 2:55 to 3:05 a.m., police dispatch records show, the officer assigned to the neighborhood was checking on a gas station at Memorial Drive and Hill Street — 500 feet from the Standard. The officer resumed patrol moments before the robbers smashed the bar’s door.

Short of standing guard at the Standard, it appears the officer could have done little more to prevent the crime.

“There’s a limit to how much officers can impact,” said Friedmann, the Georgia State criminologist. “If someone wants to commit a crime, they’ll commit a crime.”

Well, thank you for clearing that up.  Let’s just forget about it, then.  What’s the big fuss?  The police can’t be everywhere at all times.  This isn’t, like, The Matrix, dude.  So you should forget about complaining when your friends get gunned down.  It’s just life in the big city, after all.

And if it’s the right kind of crime, one involving a victim or location presumed immune from violence, news coverage often implies a broad menace, Friedmann said.

Memorial Drive is presumed immune to violence?  Since when?  Bartenders closing shop are presumed immune to violence?  Sometimes I think criminologists will say absolutely anything to whitewash the reality of crime.  Maybe Fridemann was quoted wildly out of context, because this makes absolutely no sense: he is saying that crime is omnipresent and unavoidable but that a bartender working late at night on Memorial Drive is an utterly unlikely potential victim of crime.  Say anything, in other words, so long as it ineluctably reinforces the conclusion that crime is just a “perception” problem:

“You have a story, people pay attention to it,” he said. “You don’t have a story, people don’t know about it, and it’s as if it didn’t happen.”

I speak fluent Hackademese, so let me try to translate.  Dr. Friedmann is saying that it’s not the murder that is the problem: it’s the fact that people made a big stinking deal about the murder that’s the problem.

Now, to mix things up, back to the reporter denying the severity of Henderson’s murder:

In this case, all that followed — protests over police furloughs, a property tax increase to put officers back to work full time, the “City Under Siege” media frenzy over later crimes — was based on inaccurate information provided by a police detective the day of Henderson’s killing.

Keyser now knows the story was exaggerated.

Does he?  I know Kyle Keyser, and he is committed to ignoring the media’s relentless claims that crime doesn’t matter — the reporter’s insinuation here flies in the face of Keyser’s message and actions.   Playing “gotcha” journalism with a person’s death is pretty ugly stuff.

Sadly, reports of John Henderson’s death were not exaggerated.  Thus, claiming that all that followed — a young man’s funeral, a city coming together to confront the problem of violent crime, more murders, more funerals — hinges on precisely how the gun was held when the bullet entered Henderson’s brain is setting up a straw-man of peculiarly grotesque intent.

The AJC really ought to be ashamed of peddling this type of underhanded opinion-mongering as news.   Nobody in touch with reality cares whether John Henderson was shot by somebody standing over him or shot through a door after being shot once already.  Nobody with a shred of decency would obsess over that distinction and conclude that public outrage over the murder and other crime is just “hype.”  Nor crack a joke about it, as the reporter does:

Pennington has a chance to try to turn the hype to his advantage, to convince Atlantans they’re safer than they think. On Tuesday, the chief is scheduled to address an annual breakfast sponsored by the police foundation.

The event’s theme: “Crime is toast.”

Get it?  Just stop worrying about crime, you ignorant hysterics, and it will all go away.

From the Comments: Matt Podowitz Offers Atlanta Resources for Safety

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http://www.safe-atlanta.org/www.novictims-atlanta…

Tina, thank you for this post and encouraging people to consider how to react to something BEFORE it happens. I wanted to share with you two free, non-commercial resources located in the very neighborhood where those incidents take place that can help people take constructive steps to secure their homes, protect their families and live their lives:

Safe Atlanta For Everyone (SAFE) – Founded in East Atlanta in response to a crime wave in the summer of 2008, this organization now operates five innovative programs (SAFEWatch, Graffiti Removal, Safety Tipsheets, Cookies For Cops/Food For Firefighters and Refuse To Be A Victim Seminars) across many neighborhoods in Southeast Atlanta. SAFE’s mission is to create positive ways for individuals to make their neighborhoods stronger and safer. All of SAFE’s programs are designed for “export” to other communities that want to be stronger and safer too. More information is available at http://www.safe-atlanta.org.

No Victims – Started in early 2009 by a Southeast Atlanta resident in response to a demand for impartial, objective and effective crime-prevention and firearms safety information, No Victims publishes new articles every week designed to inform and educate readers about ways to secure their homes and protect their families based on real experience and careful research. All original No Victims content is available for syndication or reproduction under a Creative Commons license to allow community organizations, houses of worship and other noncommercial entities make this important information available to their members directly. No Victims’ founder is a certified Refuse To Be A Victim(R) crime-prevention seminar and Home Firearms Safety instructor and offers to teach these classes for no charge except the cost of the mandatory student materials. More information is available at http://www.novictims-atlanta.info.

What a Difference Seven Months Makes?

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Remember this?

Well, according to the data that we have, there are some neighborhoods where the data don’t go along with what has actually transpired in their community.  We’ve had reductions [in crime] in a lot of those neighborhoods.  And then, some of the neighborhoods that we’ve had an increase in burglary and property crimes, those neighborhoods haven’t had a large outcry. . . I think they just respond to what they hear.  And a lot of times, perception to them is reality.

That was Chief Pennington in late January, saying that residents were over-reacting to crime, that it was just in their heads.

Here is Pennington August 7:

“In 2009, crime is down 10 percent . . . Since I joined the force [in 2002] crime is down 25 percent.”

Ben King, a graduate student at Georgia State who has an excellent blog called Terminal Station, writes:

We’ve all noticed that the police department’s contention that crime is down doesn’t seem to match what we see for ourselves.  I decided to do a little data project to figure out if the official police stats can help shed any light on what is going on.

My first post looks at residential burglaries, but I’ll also be looking at a lot of other types of crime and doing a some different types of analysis than just this first post.

What King found was a 65.1% increase in residential burglaries from 2004 – 2008.  I urge you to read the entire report at Terminal Station, which explains his methodology and includes easy to understand break-outs by Neighborhood Planning Units.  Here is his “short version”:

  • Residential burglaries are up significantly across the city
  • Southwest Atlanta has seen the highest increases in burglaries
  • East Atlanta and Grant Park had high levels of burglaries, and they’ve only gotten worse
  • Mild improvements in 2009 aren’t enough, given the increases of the last three years

Residential burglaries are up across the city

One thing that is lost in the overall numbers that get reported is how specific categories have performed. Residential burglaries are up significantly, both city-wide and even more in certain NPUs. From 2004-2008, the number of home burglaries increased 65%.


It is no surprise, then, that people feel less safe. Their homes are being violated at an alarming rate. This also places the statistics from 2009 into better context than I reported earlier. Through the first six months of 2009, residential burglaries are actually down slightly:


The fact that burglaries are down by 2% so far doesn’t negate three years of double-digit increases from 2006-2008. When it comes to residential burglaries, the city gets a big, fat, FAIL.

To summarize:

Chief Pennington says crime is down.

Ben King says burglaries are up 65% in just the past four years.

Pennington is particularly insistent that crime has not increased in certain neighborhoods with active neighborhood associations and e-mail notification lists, such as East Atlanta and Grant Park.

Ben King says this is certainly not true of burglaries:

NPU W, which includes Grant Park and East Atlanta, saw moderate increase in 2005 and 2007 before also exploding in 2008.  2008 was a bad year for the city as a whole, but particularly bad for NPU W – it brought them in to position as the #1 NPU in the city for residential burglaries for the year.

King and his colleagues are going to crunch the numbers on muggings and car break-ins next.  This is exciting work, and it shows the power of internet-accessible data.  It’s too bad, however, that it takes the volunteer labor of private citizens to do the type of work that ought to be done with the money we pay in taxes.

~~~

8,133 residential burglaries in 2008 is a lot of invaded homes.  Now if only we had on-line access to court dispositions, we would be able to see what percentage of those cases resulted in anyone being convicted of a crime and how many of those convictions resulted in incarceration, however brief.

Then you would know what your government is really doing, or not doing, to stop that guy crawling in your bedroom window.  I think those facts would shock people.

My sense of the way it washes out in the courts is this: juveniles need not worry too much about burglary charges.  They are generally given a pass the first time they get caught, unless violence is involved.  Even their second or third arrests rarely get them time in a juvenile facility (then, when they age out of the juvenile system, those records are sealed).

Once a burglar has “aged out” at 18, he gets another free bite of the apple with his first (the famously abused “first-time offender” category), and sometimes second and third burglary charge, if nobody is paying attention.  After that, his defense attorney counsels him to plead down to drug charges and request community treatment in lieu of incarceration.

It’s sort of like an apprenticeship, you see.  We should charge them tuition.

That “Perception of the Crime Rate Dropping” Perception Thing: One Statistic That Would Count

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It is good to see politicians in Atlanta responding to (as opposed to studiously ignoring, or denying) the crime crisis.  But now that we’ve gotten their attention (no small accomplishment), how does the city really move forward to make residents safe?

The Atlanta Police Department has a fascinating series of charts on their website, showing fifty years of statistics for various crimes in the city.  Go to this page and click on “Part I Crime: A Fifty Year Retrospective.”   Immediately, what jumps out is that crime is down since that horrible time in the early 1990′s, when crack cocaine was burning a fat fuse through certain neighborhoods — especially the housing projects.  If you compare 1989 to 2009, it is easy to say, yes, crime in the city limits is not as bad now as it was then.

But numbers are not the whole story.  Sometimes, they are not even a substantial portion of the story.  My neighborhood in southeast Atlanta was a safer place in 1997 than it was in 2007, when I moved away.  In 1997, I didn’t worry about walking my dogs after dark.  In 2007, I worried about walking them (well, him) in daylight.  I even worried about leaving the dog alone in the house when I took the car and went to the store.  Was it my “perception” of danger that had changed?  Did I simply grow more paranoid as the neighborhood actually grew safer, as it appears to have done, if you just look at the official, city-wide statistics?

No.  The neighborhood became less safe.  Starting around 2003, there were more break-ins, and attempted break-ins, and violent incidents, and threats of violence, a situation that worsened considerably after 2005.

I should note this was not merely a case of the internet making it easier for people to hear about crimes that had already happened, for the neighborhood’s long-standing nosy-old-lady-on-the-porch-net certainly rivaled the crude electronic social networking technologies of today.

No, crime grew worse, more omnipresent and more threatening.  One reason this is not clearly reflected in recent statistics is because people started spending vast amounts of time and money on video cameras, motion detectors, alarms, gated housing, and private security patrols.  The political class took the taxpayers for suckers, and so the taxpayers were forced to take it upon themselves (paying twice) to prevent crime.

Such privately-funded crime-fighting efforts probably account for much of the positive difference between crime rates today and the rates from five or eight years ago.

I would like to see a statistic comparing the number of “suspicious activity” calls made to the police in 2000 and 2007 from different precincts in the city.  That statistic would offer a better sense of the real prevalence of criminal activity, though it still would not offer a complete picture of crime.  People don’t call 911 every time they chase a suspicious teen from their neighbor’s porch or yell at some guy peering into car doors.

Yet those are the incidents that wear away at one’s sense of safety, day-in and day-out.

Make that actual safety, not just the sense of it.  People are not fools and will not be taken for fools anymore.  That message appears to have stuck.  Now, where does Atlanta go from here?

What Works? Overcoming Fatalism by Fixing Broken Glass: New York City

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Back in the 1980′s, when I was living in upstate New York and deciding where to go to college, New York City beckoned as an obvious choice: the schools, the libraries and bookstores, the Village.  I went down to Fordham for a campus visit.  The next day, I returned home, appalled.  The grounds were beautiful, but the neighborhood was so dangerous that security guards would not allow students to leave campus in groups smaller than 12.  Fordham was gated and patrolled like an embassy on enemy soil.  The streets a few blocks away looked like a war zone, and the subways surrounding it were filthy, subterranean toilets filled with more or less aggressive lunatics trying to catch your eye.

I know, I know: I was a wimp for not wanting to become one of those tough city denizens, Blondie-tough, the type who didn’t blink as they negotiated the human detritus piled up in the streets.  I was also a serious long-distance runner, and I couldn’t imagine living in a place where you needed to recruit 11 other people just in order to walk down the street.  And then, parks were off limits for runners at any hour of the day.  Even in the nicer parts of Manhattan, normal people went about their business only by studiously pretending they were not stepping over some zoned-out junkie passed out in a pool of vomit as they made their way from the subway to the street.

People prided themselves on surviving this, but it was not as if they had a choice, unless they had the choice I made, which was to live somewhere else.  Many people made that choice in the Eighties and Nineties, just as they had done in the Sixties and Seventies, fleeing the growing violence of the city.  Back in the 1940′s, my grandparents had made the same choice for the same reason: crime threatened their daughters’ safety.  If you had tons of money, you could live well in the city and insulate yourself and look down your nose at those lesser types fleeing to the suburbs, but for everyone else, living in the city was a matter of narrowing your horizons, watching your back, and lowering your standards to accommodate the chaos.

By the time New York City “hit bottom” in the late 1980′s, it was astonishing how much abuse the dispirited public could absorb.  The few times I traveled through the city in those years, I found Port Authority Station to be a claustrophobic Habitrail of crime.  Betraying surprise at the Hogarthian spectacle merely singled one out.  This passage from an academic study nicely captures the zeitgeist:

“Inside the bus station, people had sex, shot heroin, gave birth and died.”

Less picaresque were the city’s murder statistics: 2,262 dead in 1990.

The people who rescued New York City realized they would have to change the behavior of two entirely different subsets of the population: those who were causing the problems and a public who had trained themselves to silently submit to them.  Much has been written about the “Broken Windows” model of crime fighting, in which quality-of-life violations such as loitering and graffiti and toll-hopping are no longer tolerated, with the goal of raising community standards and entrapping chronic offenders.  I don’t know of any study that tracks the effect of Broken Windows enforcement on the law abiding, but I imagine their tolerance for social disorder must have dropped as the levels of disorder dropped around them.

Nowadays, despite displays of nostalgia in some circles, I doubt very many New Yorkers would tolerate a return to 2,000+ murders a year, or the spectacle of seeing a homeless schizophrenic women wash her privates in the next sink when they’ve taken the kids downtown to see Nutcracker Suite.

It could be said that New York City triumphed over crime simply because the people in charge decided to stop tolerating any more of it.  This seems like an obvious stance, one that any sane elected official would take, but it is not: it took generations of city leaders openly tolerating crime and anti-social behavior for New York City to crawl as far down as it did into the gutter.  Even during the bloody years of 1989 – 1993, many of these same people vehemently objected to any effort to raise the social bar on everyone’s behavior, arguing that criminals and drug addicts and homeless people are both incapable of changing and should not be told to change.  But despite these naysayers, the evidence keeps rolling in that the Broken Windows philosophy of policing did work and was responsible for New York City’s astonishing turn-around on crime.

Atlanta is not New York City: people in sprawling southern cities do not live heel-to-chin on top of each other, and crime is more dispersed as well.  It is therefore impossible to achieve the density of police presence that Mayors Dinkins and Giuliani were able to muster in the early 1990′s.  Nor, significantly, do a critical mass of residents use public transportation in Atlanta, whereas in New York, people from all social strata rely on public transportation, so Police Chief William Bratton was able to demonstrate to the public that cracking down on minor crimes in the subway could transform the city itself.

Still, there are lessons for Atlanta to learn from New York’s Broken Windows success.  The most important lesson might be that charismatic leadership firmly on the side of zero tolerance matters.  Broken Windows is often portrayed as a bottom-up approach because that is what officers are tasked to do.  But it actually requires a much higher level of coordination and involvement from police brass than ordinary policing.  And given the array of activists aligned against quality-of-life laws, it also requires a police force that knows that City Hall, and their own commanders, firmly have their backs.

Atlanta currently has none of these things.

As George Kelling, one of the main advocates of Broken Windows policing, writes in this article in City Journal, New York City’s crime turnaround also took tremendous cooperation between police and the mayor’s office, parks and public transportation officials, city planners, and especially, the courts.

Atlanta currently has none of these things.

In Atlanta, the district attorney is still talking about “understanding” gang members and excusing their crimes, and some judges in the Superior Court have not yet gotten the memo about actually punishing criminals for shooting people, let alone jumping turnstiles.

But Atlanta has one thing that New York City did not have in 1989, or even 1993. It has scores of citizens who are taking leadership roles in the fight against crime, who believe that technology and cooperation and their own efforts can turn the city around.  The public in Atlanta in 2009 is playing the role that a small band of law enforcement visionaries played in New York City twenty years ago.  They are approaching the crime problem with energy, good intentions, and open minds.  They are networking using new forms of communication, demanding zero tolerance for crime victimization, and livable streets, even as their leaders lag behind them.

Atlantans are not New Yorkers: they are not jaded.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Two recent articles on New York City’s crime turnaround:

How New York Became Safe: The Full Story, George L. Kelling

New York’s Indispensible Institution, Heather Mac Donald

The New Normal: Detroit

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Seven teens were shot last week outside a school offering summer classes in Detroit.  Three were in critical condition.  A week earlier, another girl was shot in the chest outside another school.

Now the police are having trouble getting anyone to cooperate with them.  “The taboo against snitching is worse than the taboo against shooting,” the Detroit Free Press reported yesterday.

In response to the shootings, ministers in Detroit have invented another “community outreach” initiative.  It has an unfortunate name: MADE Men (Men Affirming Discipline and Education), and it probably has a fund-raising initiative up and running.  Such are the economics of outreach.  An identical effort started a few years ago after another round of school shootings folded not long after it was announced.

I’m sure the ministers mean well, and it is hard to imagine what else they could do under the circumstances, but I wish, for once, the adults would forgo the whole clever naming thing and just start doing what they say they’re going to do: get more involved in the schools.  When you create an organization and hold a press conference, that’s just time you’re not spending actually working with kids.  That’s making it all about you, and your organization, and your leadership.  And, frankly, there have been decades and decades of such failed efforts.  People are weary of the rigmarole: crisis — press conference — fund raising — then nothing.

Just start volunteering for the P.T.A. already.

It’s worth noting that, as I wrote about here, the AAAC (Academic/Activist/Advocacy Complex) has invented a formula mathematically proving that crime is not all that bad in Detroit because Detroit has the type of population that actually ought to be committing even more crime.  I’m sure that’s a comfort.

Is Detroit a terminal case of the logical consequences of the academic anti-incarceration ethic (AAIE!!!) that is currently sweeping the federal government?  On the backs of the seven youngsters shot outside school last week, and in the face of the many people who must know something about the crime but refuse to “snitch” to the police, yes, it is.

Blogging Crime Versus “Disappearing” It: Chicago and Atlanta

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Chicago:

In Chicago, something interesting is happening as “twittering” and blogging and e-mail bring in first-hand reports that deviate from official versions.  It is hard to whitewash incidents of violence and rioting when people are reporting them in real time and police are going back over their incident reports to compare notes later.

Take a look at two different sources discussing the Taste of Chicago event.  First, there is the official statement, reported in the Chicago Tribune:

The volatile vibe remained at this year’s holiday fireworks and food festival along Chicago’s lakefront, and authorities Saturday detailed the arrests of eight people accused of carrying guns or knives and several fights that triggered stampedes for the exits Friday evening.

Unlike last year’s pre-July 4 celebration — when one person was killed and several were injured — police said no one was shot in the vicinity of the Taste of Chicago on Friday.

“No Shootings This Year,” reads the headline, a low bar to set.  But is it true?  Here is Mike Doyle, reporting from the blog Chicago Carless:

To compare the stories, I jotted down a thumbnail list of each version of events–the official, and the insider. Here’s what I found:

Events Reported to News Media by City Officials

–One gun-related arrest in afternoon (gang member with shotgun in bag.)
–Arrests for unspecified reasons at Buckingham Fountain at 8:30 p.m.
–No mention of early fireworks start.
–One major fight at 9:45 p.m. (30-person gang melee at Michigan and Congress.)
–Various small, unspecified incidents.

Events Reported by Second City Cop Blog

–Gang members “take over” Buckingham Fountain area and by one account officers are told by police commanders (“Gold Stars”) to “leave it alone, let them have it.”
–911 dispatchers report two people shot at Buckingham Fountain.
–A potential effort (noted here and here) to silence radio reports of shots fired or gang fights.
–Gangster Disciples “50 deep” walking through Taste grounds and throwing gang signs.
–Latin Kings platooning along Roosevelt Road and heading towards Taste grounds.
–Multiple gang fight calls (10-1s.)
–”Numerous chases” and “multiple weapons recovered.”
–Fireworks start at least half-an-hour early.
–At least ten significant gang fights along Michigan Avenue in addition to the large melee as crowds left the southern end of the Taste grounds.

Next, I checked in with my Twitter followers and performed several searches of Twitter’s public timeline to look for tweets that might bear out the Second City Cop version of events. Here’s a sampling of what I found:

“my first year at the taste of chicago fireworks and go figure a shooting occurs 10 ft away from me!” (@chibookgrl, 7:00 p.m. Jul 4th)

Doyle’s appeal for more information bring in detailed accounts of fights and even a possible shooting.  Cops are under enormous pressure to downgrade crimes.  Prosecutors are under enormous pressure to write off charges.  How much crime gets “disappeared” these ways?

Atlanta:

Meanwhile, in Atlanta, the activity of court-watching is providing residents with criminal-by-criminal details of crimes that could have been prevented, if only some judges would actually incarcerate some offenders at some point in their fulsome careers.  Here is only the latest career criminal, finally put away, thanks probably to the mere fact that, this time, somebody was watching when he walked into the courtroom, as reported by intrepid IntownWriter and court-watcher Marcia Killingsworth:

Arrested over 27 times and with three prior felony convictions, Andre Keith Grier returned to Fulton County Superior Court Judge Wendy Shoob’s courtroom this week. This time, he came to enter guilty pleas to negotiated charges. . . .

Here’s the final outcome on the three cases:

  1. Robbery and Burglary:  15 years to serve 10 years; balance probated. The conditions of his probation are a drug evaluation and treatment, a job, and to stay away from Zone 6.
  2. Theft by Receiving Stolen Property:  10 years to serve
  3. Entering Automobile:  5 years to serve
    Theft by Taking:  10 years to serve to run concurrent
    Possession of Tools:  5 years probation consecutive with the same terms as Case 1 and restitution to the victim.

“All of cases run currently, so the total sentence is 15 years to serve 10 years with balance on probation,” Schwartz says. “Although he is parole eligible, with his record and the robbery charge he is not likely to be paroled until he has completed the majority of his sentence.”

Make that armed robbery charges.  Holding a gun to somebody’s head ought to be enough to get you sent away for ten years, no questions asked, but that does not always turn out to be the case.  I am hesitant to criticize judges at precisely the juncture when they being to respond to citizen demands for real incarceration for serious crimes, but I still have to ask — what happened in court the other 24 times he was arrested?

And that leads to another question: whither those other 24 alleged crimes?  What becomes of them, statistically?

Killingsworth reminds readers:

Fulton County Senior Assistant District Attorney Andrew Schwartz says he believes the presence of neighborhood representatives made a difference. “In my opinion, the reason Mr. Grier received this sentence is because of your community’s involvement and willingness to come to court.”

Here is a notice from the Fulton County CourtWatch about a pending case involving another serious repeat offender.  Several things about his record stand out:

–Demetrius Lester is an 17-Time Convicted Felon.*
–Lester is charged with 3 Felonies – Theft by Receiving (Auto), Criminal
Damage to in the Second Degree and Fleeing & Attempting to Elude.
* The previous notice stated that Lester had 18 prior felony
convictions.  Another review showed that one Burglary case had been
reduced to Theft by Receiving (Misdemeanor).  Therefore, he has 17 prior
convictions.

Seventeen convictions.  What on earth were the sentences?  There are repeat offender laws in Georgia.  If they have so little teeth, or if some loophole is enabling judges to ignore them, why isn’t the legislature doing something about it?

Not to make light of this man’s behavior, but when I looked up his state prison record, I could not help but be amazed by the number of aliases he has accumulated:

KNOWN ALIASES
A.K.A. HAWKINS,DENICO
A.K.A. LESTER,DEMETERIUS
A.K.A. LESTER,DEMETRE
A.K.A. LESTER,DEMETRIC
A.K.A. LESTER,DEMETRIUS MICHAEL
A.K.A. LESTER,DEMETRTIUS
A.K.A. LESTER,DEMETRUIS
A.K.A. LESTER,DEMETRUIS MICHA
A.K.A. LESTER,DEMETRUIS MICHAEL
A.K.A. LESTER,DEMETRUS
A.K.A. LESTER,DEMETTUIUS
A.K.A. LESTER,DEMTRIUS
A.K.A. LESTER,DOMETRE
A.K.A. RACKO,FREDDY
A.K.A. ROOKS,TRAVIS
A.K.A. SMITH,DARRLY
A.K.A. SMITH,DARRYL
A.K.A. VESTER,DEMETRIUS
A.K.A. WOODS,ANTONIO

Freddy Racko? That’s not a very good alias.  If I met somebody named Freddy Racko, I would assume they were doing something illegal.

OK, back to not being amused. Lester/Hawkins/Racko/Rooks/Smith/Vester/Woods has three separate burglary convictions.  Two homes and a church, this man entered.  Four separate convictions for breaking into cars.  One conviction for possession of firearm by a felon.  Not one, but two terrorist threats and acts convictions.  Two obstructions of a law enforcement officer.  One criminal interference of government property.

Eight separate stints in state prison, and who knows how many arrests.  This is beyond revolving door justice.  More from Fulton County CourtWatch:

Facts:  Around 10:00AM on Tuesday June 9, 2009, Officers J. Storno and
I. Streeter of Zone 3 saw the Defendant driving without a seatbelt in
the area of Grant Terrace and Georgia Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30312 (between
NPU-W and NPU-V).  Upon initiating a traffic stop, the Defendant sped
away at a high rate of speed and in a manner that was dangerous to the
public.  At one point, the vehicle flew off the ground and caused a
smoky haze upon landing.  The Defendant finally hit a telephone pole and
fled on foot.  Officers Storno and Streeter were eventually able to
apprehend the suspect after an extended chase.

I have spoken to the victim of the car theft.  He has been left without
a vehicle and has endured a significant financial hardship as a result
of having his car stolen.  His vehicle was a total loss and the
insurance company had to pay off his lien-holder, leaving the victim
without a car. Fortunately, no one was injured during Defendant’s
attempt to elude the police but, according to the officers, he was
driving in a manner that easily could have injured someone.  Defendant
is also suspected in other car break-ins in the Summerhill and Grant
Park neighborhoods.  One incident was caught on video and posted on You
Tube, but a positive ID was not able to be made.

Criminal History:  Defendant has 17 felony convictions, including 5
prior convictions for Entering Auto (all in Fulton County), 3 prior
convictions for Burglary (2 residential, 1 for burglarizing the Georgia
Avenue Presbyterian Church), as well as convictions for Terroristic
Threats, Interference with Government Property and Sale of Marijuana.  I
have obtained certified copies of all of his convictions and will be
presenting them in court.

The District Attorney is asking for the maximum penalty which is 16
years in prison (10 years for Theft by Receiving, 5 years for Criminal
Damage to Property in the Second Degree and 12 months for Fleeing and
Attempting to Elude).  However, under the law, the judge can sentence
the Defendant to anything, including straight probation.  The District
Attorney has recidivised the Defendant under OCGA 17-10-7(c), therefore
the Defendant will have to serve every day of the prison sentence he is
given, if any, without parole.

Community Support is greatly appreciated to keep this repeat offender
incarcerated.

So what is the problem?  It’s called 17-10-7 of the Georgia Code.  It requires people convicted of a second felony to serve their entire sentence.  Sounds good, right?  Except there is nothing in Georgia’s recidivist code that prevents judges from suspending that entire sentence after delivering it.  Thus Freddy Racko can climb into your car, steal it, endanger police and civilian lives, and total the car — yet still walk away without a single day in prison.

Hopefully, it won’t happen this time.  But how many times has it happened with Racko(Lester) before?  How many times, outside those 17 convictions, have charges against him been dropped?  How many charges were dropped in the process of assigning those 17 felonies?  It boggles the mind.

And remember, those are only the times he got caught.