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Archive for June 18th, 2014

Pennsylvania Attorney General Launches Innovative Program Around the State to Battle Heroin Tied to Mexican Cartels

Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane

By Jeffrey Anderson

An emerging crime initiative by Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane is deploying mobile street crimes units to small cities and towns in her state to tackle an escalating heroin problem tied to Mexican drug cartels.

The strategy, quietly launched last year with the help of a $2.5 million state appropriation, is based on street-level busts by agents with the Bureau of Narcotics Investigations who are embedded for months in a single location, where they build from the ground up a database that allows them to go after larger, more organized criminal elements that have taken over struggling, post-industrial municipalities along the I-80 and I-81 trucking corridors, conveniently located to major drug hubs such as New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore.

After a 5-month deployment in Hazleton, PA, that concluded in February, the Mobile Street Crimes Unit, which received cooperation from the DEA and the FBI, netted 35,000 bags of heroin, 120 arrests, 97 criminal cases and confiscation of guns, vehicles, cash, and jewelry – in a town of 33,000 which has just 38 police officers.

Before decamping for a new location to work with another set of local law enforcers, the unit, identified on their vests only as “POLICE,” leaves behind the criminal database it has built along with its more sophisticated drug enforcement strategies for the locals to employ.

Congressman Lou Barletta,  a Republican from Pennsylvania’s 11th District — and former mayor of Hazleton —  who is on the House Homeland Security Committee and the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, predicts that Pennsylvania could be the vanguard for a new way of thinking about the use of state resources to confront what is ultimately a national — if not international — problem.

“For anyone in Congress who has been a mayor, they understand very well how these things are tied to drug cartels,” Barletta says. “They know damn well that it’s an endless battle, and that if you take a drug dealer off the street there’s three more waiting to take his place. It’s like drinking water through a firehose.

“The biggest challenge now is to give the local chief of police the resources he needs to keep going, because these cities are cash-strapped,” Barletta continues. “That’s where the feds can play a role. I think we can do a better job there. The unit is going to get attention. And when other states see what is happening they’ll want to replicate it.”

State Senator John Yudichak, a Democrat who represents Carbon County and parts of Luzerne County, says that in 2013, just 60 percent of the 99 cities in the area with a population less than 5,000 had a full-time police force. Today just 6 percent of those same cities do.

“It’s perfectly suited for a drug distribution network, with such a limited presence of law enforcement,” says Yudichak, who championed the initiative in the State Capital with support from Rep. Barletta and others. “We wanted to take the ‘D’ and the ‘R’ of politics out of it and we needed state and federal assistance. We needed to break down silos and get the community engaged. People were in a bed of denial.”

The force behind the initiative is Attorney General Kane, a former street level prosecutor in Lackawanna County, who came into office promising a fresh approach to beating back the ravages of heroin that had overcome towns such as Hazleton.

With 2,500 municipalities splashed across a mostly rural state of 12.7 million people, Kane describes Pennsylvania as a “good place for drug cartels to do business.”

Early on, however, she saw a lack of coordination between local and federal agencies that had created a vacuum for those cartels to exploit.

“No one played well together,” she says. “It was like a T-ball game, where everyone jumps on the ball and parents are cheering with delight. Those days are over. We’re cultivating an environment that puts ego aside. It’s not about credit for a bust. We can’t go on simply chasing dealers off the street then stop.”

While neither a typical drug task force nor simply a community-based approach, the unit nonetheless is a grassroots idea that Hazleton Police Chief Frank DeAndrea says cuts against the grain of “what everyone else is doing.”

DeAndrea says that in the past, the DEA and FBI have utilized his officers as members of a task force that generates proceeds from seizures to fund future investigations, all while his city is drowning under a wave of heroin being fed by cartels and powerful street gangs.

“We have 39 gangs and 38 officers,” he says. “We’re broke, and overmatched. It’s like a high school team going up against an NFL team.”

DeAndrea insists that he wasn’t “seeing the ball move” with the FBI and DEA – until Kane and the Mobile Street Crimes Unit came into the picture.

The feds have expressed support for the idea and have collaborated with the unit, but any partnership is still a work in progress. A Washington-based spokesman for the DEA says, “We don’t have the resources to focus on small-time local yokels that produce limited impact. Our resources are limited too. We have to be careful when evaluating a potential investigation to get a bang for the buck.”

The full story is posted on Lawdragon.com. Click here to read.

 About the author: Jeffrey Anderson is a veteran feature writer and award-winning investigative reporter from Washington, D.C. He previously has worked at the Los Angeles Daily Journal, L.A. Weekly, Baltimore City Paper and The Washington Times. He can be reached at byjeffreyanderson@gmail.com.

Jackson FBI’s First Black Special Agent in Charge Daniel McMullen Plans Retirement Just Short of Office’s 50th Anniversary

Daniel McMullen/FBI photo

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Daniel McMullen, the first black special agent in charge of Jackson’s FBI office, has announced his retirement.

“As a person with an interest in history itself and the history of the civil rights movement and an understanding of where Mississippi was in the history of civil rights, I find it very interesting now that I am where I am,” he said recently, according to the Clarion-Ledger.

The Jackson field office, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in July, was reestablished following the deaths of civil rights workers James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner.

“From being a student of history, reading about these historical figures, and then to meet them,” McMullen said. “Charles and Myrlie Evers, Gov. William Winter, James Meredith. Some of the Freedom Riders I’ve met — there are so many folks that lived it, and to hear what the world was like back then, and the multiple narratives about the role of the FBI. Where you stand on the issues definitely depends on where you sit.”

But McMullen, who also worked in New York, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles, went far beyond civil rights issues. One case involved the kidnapping of Alexandria and Kyliyah Bain in 2012 and tracking down the man responsible – Adam Mayes.

“He was one of our top 10 fugitives,” McMullen said. “That provided a tremendous example of how law enforcement can cooperate in response to a critical incident.”

Correction: In an earlier version, Daniel McMullen’s name was spelled incorrectly.

FBI Director Comey Reaffirms Commitment to Cracking Down on Public Corruption in Maryland

James Comey

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Although counterterrorism remains the FBI’s top priority, public corruption isn’t far behind, FBI Director James Comey said during a visit with local law enforcement in Baltimore.

WBALTV.com reports that Comey addressed concerns among officials that public corruption remains a problem.

“Public corruption has long been one of the FBI’s top priorities, one of the things we do well. I wish it was work we didn’t have to do, but we do it all over the country,” Comey said.

An elected official hasn’t drawn federal attention four four years, WBALTV reports, citing Prince George’s County state Sen. Ulysses Currie and Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson, both of whom were indicted in 2010.

“It tends to run in waves and cycles,” Comey said of corruption. “As I tell folks when I am in different communities that have seen prominent cases recently, everybody will have their turn at some point just given the nature of human beings.”

Border Patrol Union: Agency Violated Guidelines with Ban on Agents’ Cell Phones

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Border Patrol’s ban on bringing cell phones or electronic devices to work following the leaked photos of an overcrowded processing center in Texas violates collectively-bargained guidelines, a union representative insists.

The Blaze.com reports that the agency also is threatening employees who speak to the media.

Prior to the release of photos at the Nogales center, agents were allowed to bring cell phones to work in case radio communications shut down.
Shawn Moran, spokesman for the National Border Patrol Council, said a patrol agent in charge doesn’t have the authority to to ban cell phones. That responsibility lies with the sector chief.

“If the Tucson local feels there’s a violation of our collective bargaining agreement then they can file the appropriate grievance,” Moran told TheBlaze. “If there’s a violation I hope they do, our locals are not afraid to litigate these matters.”

A Dec. 2, 2008 memo to all station chiefs states that the “policy does not prohibit personal wireless communication devices while performing official duties, but limits the usage.”

Wedding Crasher Impersonates Homeland Security Officer, Takes Off with Gifts

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The 25-year-old walked into a wedding reception in Louisiana with law enforcement attire and said he was with Homeland Security.

Apparently that was enough for family and friends of the bride and groom to trust him, the Times-Picayune reports.

When everyone departed and the newlyweds left for their reception, the suspect loaded the gifts into his car until he was spotted by the town’s fire chief. The family had planned to return the next day for the gifts.

The suspect was arrested and booked with theft and impersonating a law enforcement official.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

OMG! FBI Maintains 83-Page Glossary of Shorthand Internet Slang

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

BOGSAT. DILLIGAD. SOMSW.

Those are three terms – or acronyms – that the FBI considers serious enough to add to its 83-page glossary if Internet slang.

And the reason for adding the nearly 3,000 terms may be as confusing as the terms themselves, the Washington Post reports.

The glossary is called “Twittter shorthand,” although it’s not limited to Twitter; it’s designed to familiarize agents with shorthand used on the Internet.

So what does BOGSAT mean? Bunch of guys sitting around talking.

DILLIGAD? Does it look like I give a damn?

And SOMSW? Someone over my shoulder watching.

“So while I might wanna (want to) LMSO (laugh my socks off) over this glossary, it’s actually kind of serious, when you TOTT (think on these things),” Washington Post writer Caitlin Dewey concludes.

“Austin Powers” Star Verne Troyer Complains About TSA Treatment at LAX

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

“Austin Powers” star Verne Troyer posted a photo of TSA agents conducting what many fans considered to be an invasive search, the New York Daily News reports.

Troyer, who has a dwarfism disability and rides a scooter, posted the photo on Facebook entitled, “TSA Struggles.”

It shows a TSA agent conducting a patdown while Troyer is in his scooter at the Los Angeles International Airport’.

The TSA said nothing unusual happened during the search.

“The screening process for a passenger who uses a wheelchair or scooter is determined by their ability to stand and walk,” Ross Feinstein, press secretary for TSA said in a statement to the Daily News Monday.

OTHER  STORIES OF INTEREST

 

FBI Fears Doomsday Man May Have Stashed Weapons While Manhunt Continues

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A Florida man who is accused of building explosive devices as part of an end-of-the-world plan to kill federal agents may have stashed weapons in a hidden bunker, the FBI said.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that Martin Howard Winters, 55, remains at large and is considered armed and dangerous.

The FBI on Tuesday announced a $5,000 reward for information leader to his arrest.

“Mr. Winters is very familiar with this area, especially wooded areas,” FBI spokesman David Couvertier said Tuesday. “He knows the terrain. He knows the best places to hide, the best places to track, to move, when to move. So we suspect that he does have specific sites that he’s very comfortable with, and he may have supplies there or know the terrain so well that he can hide.”

Agents were close to capturing Winters Monday, when the suspect was able to elude police following a high-speed chase.

“The way it was described — there was steam coming out of the engine, so that tells you how hard he was pushing that vehicle,” Couvertier said.