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Archive for June 20th, 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.

Former Chicago Worker Sues City, Says She Was Fired by Alderman for Cooperating with FBI

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A former 12th Ward employee is suing the city and her former boss, Alderman George Cardenas, after she said she was fired for answering questions from the FBI about “illegal hiring practices and other illegal operations,” The Chicago Sun-Times reports.

The whistleblower lawsuit claims she was illegally terminated after cooperating with federal authorities on an investigation.

Cardenas fired back, saying he is not the subject of an FBI probe.

“This is nothing more than a smear tactic,” he said of the lawsuit. “ I am not, nor have I ever been, part of any federal investigation, ever.”

Alderman’s office was under investigation by the city’s Inspector General following complaints that Cardenas was using city resources, including employees, to handle election-related activities.

FBI Agents in Chicago Give Seriously Ill Boy a Memory He’ll Never Forget

photo from SammysSuperheroes.com

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

FBI Special Agent Michael Rees was so saddened by a newspaper article in April about a seriously ill boy that he sprang to action.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the boy, Sammy Nahorny, was undergoing a unique high-dose radiation therapy for neuroblastoma, a deadly pediatric cancer that required the Nebraska child to be alone in a hospital room for nearly a week because he was so radioactive.

“My wife insisted I read the story … it touched her because of the isolation, because our son had a short stay at Comer and because Sammy wanted to be in the FBI,” Rees said.

Sure enough, the FBI planned a day for the boy and his family at the training facility in North Chicago. They viewed an FBI helicopter and a SWAT team demonstration. They also explored a gun vault and dined on pizza.

By day’s end, Sammy received a special junior agent credentials.

“This touched a number of us,” Rees said, “and people fell all over themselves to help. We’re moms and dads, too … and this was something we could do, to share some of the blessings we have.”

Baltimore Prosecutor: FBI Agents Won’t Be Charged in Fatal Owing Mills Shooting

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

FBI agents won’t be charged after opening fire on a suspected gang member in Baltimore, according to a report on the fatal shooting, the Baltimore Sun reports.

The decision was made by the Baltimore County state’s attorney’s office, which decided that the agents were acting in self-defense.

Agents fired 19 rounds, striking Jameel Kareem Ofurum Harrison, 34, six times.

The report states that Harrison “put the vehicle in reverse, accelerated past two witness vehicles, then struck a third witness vehicle. At that point the driver made a movement that placed three agents in fear of death or injury, causing them to discharge their weapons.”

Harrison died at the scene.

Texas Dispatches State Agents to Mexico Border to Help Growing Crisis Over Immigrant Children

Tex. Gov. Rick Perry

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

To address the growing humanitarian crisis along the Texas-Mexico border, Texas officials are dispatching more state law enforcement officials to the southern border as immigrant children are forced to stay in cramped, squalid conditions, the USA Today reports.

Gov. Rick Perry said the plan is to deploy more Department of Public Safety agents to assist overwhelmed federal Border Patrol agents.

“Texas can’t afford to wait for Washington to act on this crisis and we will not sit idly by while the safety and security of our citizens are threatened,” the

Republican governor said in a statement. “Until the federal government recognizes the danger it’s putting our citizens in by its inaction to secure the border, Texas law enforcement must do everything they can to keep our citizens and communities safe.”

Since October, border patrol officials have apprehended more than 47,000 children – nearly twice the number captured this time last year.

U.S. Senate Mulls House Measure That Would Crack Down on DEA Raids of Medical Marijuana

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Senate is considering a measure already approved by the House that would ban the DEA from using its budget to target marijuana users in states where cannabis is legal for medical purposes, the Huffington Post reports.

The amendment to the Justice Department’s budget was introduced by Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, who is calling for the feds to back off their zealous pursuit of pot in the 22 states where medical marijuana is legal.

Huffington Post writes that the amendment is gaining steam, with Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., signing on as a co-sponsor.

“Poll after poll shows 70-80 percent of Americans support medical marijuana,” Marijuana Policy Project’s Dan Riffle said. “Even among conservatives, most oppose enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states where marijuana is legal for some purpose. Having two rising stars like Rand Paul and Cory Booker team up to introduce this amendment just shows how popular the issue has become, and that our outdated federal marijuana laws are inevitably going to change.”

The House last month voted 219-189 in favor of a similar amendment.

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