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Monday, 28 July 2014

two sisters running a bakery in a desert

Posted On 07:13 0 comments

The land in Los Monegros in Aragon in northeastern Spain, is almost as arid as a desert. In the 1960s, it was one of the backdrops chosen for spaghetti western films.

Yet for two twenty-something Spanish sisters, it has become the perfect place for their farming and bread-baking business.

Ana Marcen, the elder of the two, says she had no previous experience in agriculture.

"I studied Greek and Latin and used to work in an orchestra as a singer."

Her younger sister Laura used to work as a waitress and studied engineering.

Their business idea grew out of something their uncle told them - that in times gone by, the bread in this part of Spain tasted different.

It was a flavour he missed.

From seed to loaf

'For the seed we grow, the climate is perfect', two sisters explain why they started a bakery and are growing wheat in a Spanish desert.

The sisters say their uncle was "a very curious person, he used to ask himself why bread didn´t taste any longer as it used to."

They discovered that a type of wheat seed, known as Aragon 03, had been the secret behind the region's distinctly-flavoured bread.

They found an elderly couple who still had a small quantity of the Aragon 03 seed. The Marcens bought two bags of the seeds - and from that their business has grown.

The concept of their business is to control the entire bread-making process.

They grow the wheat, mill the flour and bake the bread, muffins and other bakery snacks.

"Unlike other traditional bakeries that just sell organic products, we control the whole process", says Laura.

A combine harvester in a wheat field Los Monegros may be very dry - but the Marcen sisters' wheat is well-suited to these conditions

'You must be mad'

They set up their business in 2007, just before Spain's economic and financial crisis hit.

They were able to get a bank loan of €250,000, ($335,000; £200,000) which they think would be harder to come by in today's post-recession climate.

In the first year, their business lost lots of money, but by the third year they broke even.

Now, seven years after they first started farming and baking, they own two bakeries and sell their products in eight others.

Whatever profit they make, they reinvest in their business as they want to expand and sell online.

"Many people told us we were crazy for trying to run a business like ours in a (dry) place like this. But we found out that the seed we grow is perfect for this climate", says Laura.

"People think that there is no life in Los Monegros, but in reality the region is rich in plants and wildlife.

"As my uncle used to say, you have to bend your knees and look closely. For example, I see opportunities where others don't."

A man buying baked goods in the company shopThe niche product has a loyal clientele which has been the key to the business turning a profit

Family idea, family business

From the very start, this was a family-run business.

Their father Daniel harvests the crop, their mother Mercedes, works in one of their shops, and their younger brother, Jesus, mills the flour and bakes the bread.


Sunday, 27 July 2014

Spain: Royals' plane food budget to double

Posted On 08:45 0 comments

The Spanish Ministry of Defence has doubled its catering budget for a fleet of seven planes carrying Spanish royals, ministers and other senior officials, it seems. The government's congressional record has said the annual budget is going up to 133,000 euros (£105,000) from 65,000 euros the year before, news website 20minutos reports, adding that it's not unusual for officials to end up exceeding the budget. The website suggests the final bill for 2014 could come in at around 414,000 euros. Trays of peeled seasonal fruit, sirloin steak, Segovia suckling pig and Bilbao sea bass are among the 29 dishes on the menu - although it's reported that alcohol hasn't been served on board since 2012. Prices will be capped for some individual items - for example, the government won't pay more than 35 euros for a kilo of pecorino cheese - and some of the most expensive items have been taken off the menu altogether. The new budget comes amid a defence department review of the fleet's maintenance procedures following two recent breakdowns, and may consider renewing some of the aircraft in the fleet.


Saturday, 26 July 2014

Colombian cocaine smuggler gets 15 years

Posted On 19:20 0 comments

A federal judge in Tampa sentenced a cocaine smuggler on Friday to more than 15 years in prison. U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr. sentenced Luis Alberto Urrego-Contreras to 15 years and six months in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine. In January 2005, Urrego-Contreras, who was known by the nickname “Bacon,” bought a Beechcraft King Air airplane from a St. Petersburg business. He bought the plane on behalf of Colombian cocaine trafficker Fabio Enrique Ochoa-Vasco, according to the federal court. In June 2005, the plan was for the plane to fly from Venezuela to Colombia to retrieve 2,000 kilograms of cocaine. But when the pilot saw the Colombian Air Force was monitoring the Colombian airstrip, the pilot flew back to Venezuela where the pilot and co-pilot were arrested, according to the federal court. In October 2010, Urrego-Contreras was arrested at the American Embassy in Bogota, Colombia, according to the federal court. He agreed to speak to agents where he identified Ochoa-Vasco in several photographs and others involved in the smuggling conspiracy, according to the federal court. Urrego-Contreras told investigators that he was paid $50,000 to $100,000 for each cocaine load. He admitted to investigators that he was responsible for 1,000 kilograms of cocaine that was flown from Colombia to Mexico and later distributed in the United States by Ochoa-Vasco, according to the federal court.


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Dream Warrior Recovery: Individual selfhood is expressed in the self's capacity for self-transcendence

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Dream Warrior Recovery: Individual selfhood is expressed in the self's capacity for self-transcendence

Individual selfhood is expressed in the self's capacity for self-transcendence and not in its rational capacity for conceptual and analytic procedures." Reinhold Neibuhr - Theologian/Author of the "Serenity Prayer"


Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Tramps bikie club loses appeal to get back its guns because of link to Hells Angels Motorcycle Club

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MEMBERS of a small-town motorcycle club linked to the Hells Angels have failed in their appeal to retrieve their confiscated guns. A decision was handed down today by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal upholding a decision to cancel four Tramps bikies’ gun licences because of their membership and social associations with other gangs. The verdict comes almost a year after nine current and former members of the Tramps MC fronted the Firearms Appeal Committee, one of which is a mobile butcher, arguing that Victoria Police had no right cancel their licences. Club head Ronald Harding, who took leave to withdraw, butcher Michael Oxenham, Malcolm Dinsdale and David Windsor are now considering appealing the decision to the appeal court of the Victorian Supreme Court. In August 2012, Chief Commissioner Ken Lay made a controversial decision to seize more than 100 registered guns from members of “outlaw’’ bikie gangs across the state. The VCAT appeal, taken on by four Tramps members, was seen as a test case for other “outlaw’ bikie members who also had their gun licences cancelled. The guns were seized under the test to whether the licence holder was a “fit and proper’’ person.


Sunday, 20 July 2014

Spanish police have arrested a Colombian drug boss dubbed ‘The Mouse’, the alleged leader of a major cocaine smuggling gang accused of 400 killings

Posted On 20:31 0 comments

Spanish police have arrested a Colombian drug boss dubbed ‘The Mouse’, the alleged leader of a major cocaine smuggling gang accused of 400 killings, officials said on Saturday. Officers arrested the 40-year-old, whose real name is reportedly Hernan Alonso Villa, in the eastern seaside city of Alicante on Friday, according to a police statement. He is considered ‘the top leader of the military wing of the Oficina de Envigado, a Colombian criminal organisation accused of 400 killings as well as drug-trafficking, extorsion and forced displacements of Colombian citizens’, it said. ‘He is one of the criminals most wanted by the Colombian authorities. He had more than 200 people under his command and was responsible for exporting cocaine to Spain, the United States and Holland,’ the statement said. Spanish officers arrested him under a Colombian extradition warrant for charges including alleged homicide and arms offences. He was carrying 40,000 euros ($54,000) in cash when he was caught, the statement said. Authorities say the ‘Oficina’ gang dates back to the 1980s when it carried out killings for the now-dismantled Medellin Cartel. Spain is one of the main entry points for illegal narcotics into Europe and Colombia is one of the world’s biggest sources of cocaine. Colombia produced 290 tonnes of cocaine in 2013, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.


Saturday, 12 July 2014

Alleged gang members in Santa Monica shooting charged with murder, accessory

Posted On 23:01 0 comments

Two alleged gang members were charged with murder and attempted murder and a third was charged with being an accessory in a shooting near Santa Monica College on Tuesday that left one man dead and another hospitalized, according to the District Attorney's Office. Christopher Chonan Osumi, 19, and Meliton Lorenzo Lopez, 23, were charged with one count each of murder and attempted murder with gang allegations and could face up to life in prison if convicted. Noah Jason Farris, 32, was charged with being an accessory and faces up to seven years in prison, according to a statement released by the D.A.'s office. Osumi pleaded not guilty at an arraignment on Thursday afternoon. The arraignments for Lopez and Farris were continued to a later date, said Jean Guccione, a spokesperson for the D.A. Osumi is alleged to have shot two men multiple times with a handgun around 8:15 a.m. Tuesday in the 1500 block of Michigan Avenue. One of the victims, 29-year-old Santa Monica resident Gil Verastegui, died from his wounds. The other victim remains in the hospital. Bail was set at $3 million each for Osumi and Lopez and $500,000 for Farris. The next court date for all three is June 20 in Department 144 of the Los Angeles County Superior Court's Airport Branch. Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Barnes with the Hardcore Gang Division is prosecuting, according to a statement from the D.A.'s office.


Thursday, 26 June 2014

Mongol hordes descend on the Gold Coast as more patched bikies hit Glitter Strip

Posted On 19:44 0 comments

ONE of America's most feared bikie gangs is eyeing off territory on the Gold Coast. The Gold Coast Bulletin captured exclusive images of patched members of the Mongols in Southport and the club is rumoured to be planning an audacious move to push into the lucrative Glitter Strip. Police fear another club muscling into the city limits could finally tip an already tense environment, with 10 clubs now vying for a slice of the party strip. Zero-tolerance or bikies will own the Coast Of the 10, seven have fortified clubhouses protected by elaborate security. The number of outlaw motorcycle gang members on the Gold Coast has skyrocketed, with up to a third of Queensland bikies now having a Gold Coast address. Queensland police union president Ian Leavers condemned the Mongol push, saying they "simply cause an increase in crime and scare away tourists". "As a community we need to tell these bikie thugs they are not welcome on the Gold Coast," Mr Leavers said. Tensions between clubs are high, with the brawl between the Finks and Nomads at last week's Cooly Rocks On festival the latest in a long run of violence. The two clubs insist there is no issue between the gangs, only "personal rivalries". A series of recent tattoo parlour fire bombings and an alleged drug-fuelled rampage have added to the outlaw friction. Senior police sources say the Mongols, sworn international enemies of the Hells Angels, have established a temporary base at Carrara, the heart of Rebels territory. The Rebels claim to be Australia's largest and strongest outlaw motorcycle gang and will not welcome any attempt to push into their turf, police said. Their clubhouse is based in Lawrence Drive, Nerang, close to Mongol-owned business interests. "The Mongols are a serious bike club," police said. "Look at their history. This club means business." Outlaw sources estimate the Mongols have about 70 patched members in Australia, with the NSW Central Coast being the club's stronghold. The Mongols MC website claims the club has several chapters in NSW, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. Their push into the Coast coincides with moves to have the Finks declared a criminal organisation. It will be heard in the Supreme Court in October. The Gold Coast Bulletin forwarded the images to police bikie squad Taskforce Hydra, which refused to go into the Mongols' public presence for "operational reasons". The Mongol push into the Gold Coast follows the Hells Angels' move into Burleigh after years of aborted attempts. The Angels' low-key base in Lemana Lane, Burleigh, and other business interests were firebombed, but they have otherwise gone unchallenged. Neighbours said gang members were quiet and kept to themselves. It is believed previous efforts by the club to break into Australia had failed. "They have tried to push into a number of cities without much luck," outlaw sources said. "They seem to get a few members and then they go nowhere. They aren't much of a force in Australia, especially when you consider the size of the clubs in Australia." However, police fear the bitter enmity between the Mongols and Hells Angels could increase friction. "The Mongols are sworn enemies of the Hells Angels. In the US the club has a shoot-on-sight policy for any Hells Angels," police said. Violence between the two international clubs erupted at a casino in Nevada in 2002 in circumstances eerily similar to the Ballroom Blitz fracas on the Gold Coast in 2006 between the Hells Angels and Finks. The confrontation in Laughlin, Nevada, left three bikers dead and prompted a massive crackdown in the US. Mongols claim on their website they have received "massive support" in Australia. "We as a club have gone back to the true basic values of what a motorcycle club is and should be and that reflects on our brotherhood that we have with our support, love and respect for one another and for our passion of motorcycles is unheard of," the website states. "Mongols MC Australia would like to thank you for visiting our website and for your support and welcome you to the Mongol nation."


Friday, 1 March 2013

Gilbert Spiller operated from a South Side Chicago neighborhood that he and fellow gang members of the Black P Stone Nation called "Terror Town." Within the gang, he held the rank of "general."

Posted On 23:05 0 comments

The 37-year-old pleaded guilty last year to two counts of selling crack cocaine and one of illegally selling a firearm. U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras sentenced Spiller in Chicago on Wednesday.

Prosecutors say Spiller has a criminal history that spans two decades. They say he joined the Black P Stone Nation in grade school and went on to become involved in at least a half-dozen shootings.





Friday, 21 September 2012

The four are young Indian Posse gang associates who conspired together to carry out the robbery, while making careful efforts to avoid detection by disguising themselves and wearing socks over their hands to not leave behind fingerprints.

Posted On 10:39 0 comments

The general public would be shocked and its confidence in the justice system undermined if a 13-year-old street gang member accused of being the “planner” in an alarming robbery-conspiracy case were granted bail, a Manitoba judge said Tuesday.

“I’m satisfied the Crown has a pretty strong case against you,” Judge Carena Roller told the boy, who appeared close to tears after learning he wasn’t getting out.

“You explained to police that this was your idea,” Roller said in assessing the circumstances of the case against him.

“There is potential for a lengthy jail sentence,” Roller added.

Roller’s decision to keep the boy locked up represents a major legal win for Manitoba Justice.

Prosecutor Sheila Seesahai advanced a rarely used argument that bailing the boy out would undermine public confidence in the justice system.

The youth has no prior criminal record. He is presumed innocent.

The teen is jointly accused with three other youths aged 14, 15 and 17, with hatching what was described to Roller as a “chilling” criminal plot to knock over a Mountain Avenue convenience store on Aug. 1 for drug money using a stolen sawed-off shotgun.

Police and the Crown allege the four are young Indian Posse gang associates who conspired together to carry out the robbery, while making careful efforts to avoid detection by disguising themselves and wearing socks over their hands to not leave behind fingerprints.

The heist was foiled just moments before it was set to unfold after a passerby — dubbed a “Good Samaritan” by the Crown — called 911 after growing suspicious about seeing the group of youths huddled outside the store wearing extra garments on a very hot night.

The 13-year-old admitted to police the gun was his, telling them it was stolen from a break and enter on Selkirk Avenue earlier in the summer, the Crown said at a previous hearing.

Despite his age, he managed to keep the weapon in his mother’s home while modifying it into an easily concealed sawed-off firearm, Roller was told.

His defence lawyer, Scott Newman, fought the Crown’s opposition to bail and an appeal of Roller’s decision to a higher court is possible.

Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the maximum sentence he faces is three years of custody and community supervision. He cannot be sentenced as an adult given his age.

The 14-year-old co-accused withdrew his bail application prior to Roller giving her decision Tuesday. He may re-apply at a later date.


Arrested three members of the Diamond Cut street gang

Posted On 10:23 0 comments

Arrested three members of the Diamond Cut street gang and are searching for two more, following Wednesday’s raids at five area houses, according to Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer.

The gang members have a “deep history of narcotics trafficking, gun violence and conflict related to rival gangs in the area,” Plummer said Thursday afternoon.

Arrested were Brandon “Ace” Smith, Quentin “Big Mike” Clemons and Leo “Butter” Boykins, Plummer said. Investigators were still searching for Marcus “Rosco” Ross and Quentin “Q” Robinson. All five face federal charges related to narcotics trafficking, Plummer said.

As of late Thursday, no federal indictments had been unsealed concerning the five defendants, according to U.S. District Court records.

The raids were done by the Montgomery County Regional Agencies Narcotics and Gun Enforcement Task Force (RANGE) and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and were the result of a seven-month undercover investigation.

The raids were at houses on Heatherstone Drive, Ethel Avenue, Anna Drive, Alder Avenue and Greenwich Village Avenue, all in Dayton.

The gang members had been active across Montgomery County, Plummer said, selling drugs in Trotwood, Miamisburg, Miami Twp., Englewood and Huber Heights, Plummer said.

“They play by their own rules,” Plummer said. “They all have histories of gun violence.”


Cellphones, prostitutes, drugs, plasma TVs, you name it. If you have enough money, you can live inside the prison as you would outside the prison

Posted On 10:21 0 comments

Needing to replenish its ranks, Mexico’s brutal Los Zetas crime gang has refined the tactic of springing hundreds of its members in mass jailbreaks. But unlike the Hollywood version, the jailbreaks don’t involve overcoming guards, crawling through dingy tunnels and scattering once outside the fence. Instead, scores of dangerous inmates simply walk or drive out the gates in cahoots with wardens and prison guards.

The jailbreaks, including one this week in which 129 inmates fled a state prison near Piedras Negras, across from Eagle Pass, Texas, lay bare Mexico’s broken penitentiary system, where wardens either bend to organized crime or face death.

Prosecutors Wednesday arrested the warden, the security chief and 14 watchtower and cellblock guards for allegedly letting the prisoners escape on Monday.

A crude 23-foot-long tunnel was found in the prison’s woodworking shop leading outside the wall. But prosecutors say the tunnel was just a cover and that inmates walked out or were driven out of the prison in connivance with guards.

“It is impossible that they all left through the tunnel at once, as the (prison) authorities argue,” said Homero Ramos, the attorney general for the surrounding state of Coahuila. “They’d probably been leaving for days until this blew up and they couldn’t hide it anymore.”

“They definitely didn’t leave through the tunnel,” echoed Jorge Luis Moran, the state’s public security chief, adding that the escapees are believed to have gone to neighboring Tamaulipas state, a stronghold of Los Zetas.

Los Zetas have regained hundreds of gang members in jailbreaks in recent years. El Economista, a Mexico City newspaper, said it had reviewed prison records and found that 546 accused Zetas gangsters or sympathizers have gone free since May 2008.

“The risk is very low and the benefits are very high for Los Zetas,” said Alberto Islas, a security analyst at Risk Evaluation Inc., a Mexico City consulting firm. “You’re getting people out of jail who . . . are already trained.

“This is a way for them to regain and reinforce their movement.”

Law enforcement authorities rarely recapture fugitive inmates. Four days after the Piedras Negras incident, agents have recaptured three of the fugitives, despite a reward equivalent to $15,500 each offered by the Coahuila state government.

One of those captured, Pablo Sanchez Campos, who was awaiting trial on robbery charges, told authorities that he saw other inmates leave through the prison’s main gate and decided to join them.

 

Analysts describe the situation in some of Mexico’s state and federal prisons as “self-government,” with inmates in charge and guards entering at their own risk.

In the Piedras Negras prison, said Raul Benitez Manaut, a political scientist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, inmates “had total control” and had gained “the support of the guards and the warden.”

“It was really a center of operations for Los Zetas,” Benitez said.

The prison had no functioning closed-circuit television system, and unauthorized vehicles were seen entering the prison earlier Monday.

 

At least 23 significant prison breaks have occurred since President Felipe Calderon came to office in late 2006. All have been at state prisons.

Monday’s was the largest jailbreak since 141 inmates broke out of the prison in Nuevo Laredo on Dec. 17, 2010.

Serving as prison warden is one of the most dangerous jobs in Mexico, and numerous wardens have either been assassinated or bent to the will of gangsters.

In the past two years, hit squads have killed prison wardens in Hermosillo (Jan. 3, 2011), Nuevo Laredo (March 15, 2011), Lazaro Cardenas (March 18, 2011) and Saltillo (Dec. 13, 2011), as well as slaying family members of wardens in several other cities.

A month ago, the warden of a prison in Zacatecas, Fabiola Quiroz Zarate, ordered the transfer of dozens of dangerous inmates to other jails. A day later, gunmen broke into her house and kidnapped her and two family members. Neither the 43-year-old Quiroz nor her family members have been seen since.

Unable to bear the threats, or enticed by bribes, or both, some wardens go to the dark side. Perhaps the most extreme case occurred in July 2010, when prosecutors said a prison warden in Durango state allowed inmates to go free at night, handed over weapons and official vehicles and allowed them to carry out three contract killings that left 35 people dead.

 

Claudia Rodriguez, a columnist for the Quadratin digital news website, wrote Thursday that events this week “reveal to us and confirm that prisons rehabilitate criminals by day while at night they are allowed to leave and, without doubt, are even given guns so they can be paid killers.”

Benitez said the faltering penitentiary system would be one of President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto’s challenges when he takes office Dec. 1.

Since federal prisons cannot hold all those charged with federal crimes related to drug trafficking, thousands of dangerous inmates are handed down for incarceration in less-secure state prisons, he said.

The lax security is evident in periodic news reports about jails with cellblocks equipped with cantinas and apartments with creature comforts.

“Cellphones, prostitutes, drugs, plasma TVs, you name it. If you have enough money, you can live inside the prison as you would outside the prison,” Islas said.


Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Griselda Blanco, gunned down in Medellin, Colombia Two armed riders pulled up to Blanco as she was leaving a butcher shop in her hometown

Posted On 16:34 0 comments

Florida Department of Corrections

Griselda Blanco in 2004.

The convicted Colombian drug smuggler known as the “Godmother of Cocaine,” Griselda Blanco, 69, was gunned down by a motorcycle-riding assassin in Medellin, Colombian national police confirmed late Monday, according to the Miami Herald.

Blanco spent nearly 20 years in prison in the United States for drug trafficking and three murders before being deported to Colombia in 2004, the Herald reported.

Two armed riders pulled up to Blanco as she was leaving a butcher shop in her hometown, and one shot her twice in the head, the Herald reported, citing a report in El Colombiano newspaper.

Family members said Blanco had cut her ties to organized crime after returning to her country, the BBC reported. Police said they were investigating the motive.

Blanco was one of the first to engage in large-scale smuggling of cocaine into the United States from Colombia and set up many of the routes used by the Medellin cartel after she was sentenced in the United States in 1985, the BBC reported.

Investigators told the Herald that they estimate conservatively that Blanco was behind about 40 slayings. She was convicted in connection with three murders: Arranging the killing of two South Miami drug dealers who had not paid for a delivery, and ordering the assassination of a former enforcer for her organization, an operation that resulted in the death of the target’s 2-year-old son, the Herald reported.

Three of Blanco’s husbands were killed in violence related to drugs, the Herald reported, and one of her sons was named Michael Corleone, a reference to “The Godfather” movies.

Blanco is credited with originating motorcycle assassinations, the Herald reported.

“This is classic live-by-the-sword, die-by-the-sword,” filmmaker Billy Corben, who with Alfred Spellman made two “Cocaine Cowboys” documentaries, told the Herald. “Or in this case, live-by-the-motorcycle-assassin, die-by-the-motorcycle assassin.”


Monday, 27 August 2012

Bikie gang suspects in brawl arrests at Penrith shopping centre

Posted On 14:05 0 comments

FOUR men with alleged links to outlaw motorcycle gangs were arrested last week after a brawl at a Penrith shopping centre. Police officers from the gangs squad and Penrith local area command had been investigating the brawl, which forced shoppers to flee for their safety about 2.45pm last Monday. Police will allege a man was leaving the shopping centre when he was confronted by a group of nine men and fighting began. A number of people tried to intervene, including an unknown male who was assaulted. All involved in the brawl then left the scene. At 7am last Thursday, police simultaneously raided four homes at St Marys, Emu Plains, South Windsor and Freemans Reach. Three men with alleged links to the Rebels were arrested at St Marys and Emu Plains, while an alleged senior Nomads member was arrested at Freemans Reach. During the search warrants, police seized distinctive gang clothing, quantities of anabolic steroids and prescription drugs and a set of knuckledusters. A man, 29, of Emu Plains, was charged with affray, participate in a criminal group and two counts of possess prescribed restricted substance. A man, 44, of Freemans Reach, was charged with affray, possess prohibited weapon, and two counts of possess prescribed restricted substance. A man, 25, of St Marys, and a 23-year-old New Zealand man were each charged with affray and participate in a criminal group. Penrith crime manager Detective Inspector Grant Healey said further arrests were anticipated.


27 charged in California-Mexico methamphetamine ring

Posted On 11:38 0 comments

 Local and federal authorities moved Thursday to break up an alleged drug trafficking ring connecting a major Mexican cartel and San Gabriel Valley street gangs, arresting 17 people in a pre-dawn sweep. A federal indictment unsealed Thursday charges 27 defendants with making, possessing and dealing methamphetamine imported by La Familia Michoacana, one of Mexico’s most violent cartels, to two Pomona gangs: Los Amables and Westside Pomona Malditos. Seven law enforcement agencies, including the Pasadena and Pomona police, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration, were involved in the sweep. Thursday’s crackdown is the culmination of a probe called Operation Crystal Light, a 16-month investigation by the San Gabriel Valley Safe Streets Gang Task Force. The investigation was launched after a 2011 kidnapping among suspected gang members in Southern California. Officers said they seized nine weapons, an undisclosed amount of methamphetamine, other drugs, and paraphernalia in Thursday morning raids in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The probe involved about 200 law enforcement officers and several undercover purchases. “The goal of the federal task force is to disrupt the network so it’s disrupted permanently,” Timothy Delaney, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Criminal Division in Los Angeles, said. “Today’s arrests took some very serious players in the methamphetamine world off the streets.” The methamphetamine came into the country in liquid form via airplane, boats and cars, officials said. The drug was recrystallized at an Ontario home before local gangs would sell it and funnel money to the Mexican cartel. Most of the drugs were being sold in Pomona and Ontario, according to Assistant U.S. Atty. Shawn Nelson. Dealers were selling multiple pounds a day and making up to $9,000 per pound, Nelson said. He described the arrests as “a good dent” in the Mexican cartel’s local drug network. Three suspects were in custody before the raid and seven remain at large, federal authorities said. The indictment alleges that a La Familia Michoacana associate named Jose Juan Garcia Barron oversaw the transport of the meth between Mexico and Los Angeles County. Delaney said Garcia Barron is among the suspects who have not been apprehended. The 17 arrested Thursday were expected to make their first court appearance Thursday afternoon at U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles.


Police think Ogden drive-bys are tied to gang's power struggle

Posted On 11:34 0 comments

Police believe drive-by shootings at an Ogden home Tuesday night and Wednesday morning may be related to a violent power struggle within a street gang over control of leadership, drugs and money. Ogden Police Lt. Scott Conley declined to identify the gang, but said members are not affiliated with the Ogden Trece. On Monday, 2nd District Judge Ernie Jones issued a permanent injunction against Trece members, banning them from associating with each other in public and being in the presence of guns, drugs and alcohol. The injunction also places Treces under an 11 p.m. curfew. The drive-by shootings at a home in the 500 block of 28th Street are signs of in-fighting among members of a local gang who are attempting to resolve their differences through escalating violence, Conley said. “They are in the same gang and are arguing back and forth,” he said, noting police have gathered intelligence on the dispute. “We are taking enforcement action to eradicate the problem or get the individuals involved incarcerated.” Six to eight gang members are believed to be involved in the dispute.


Saturday, 25 August 2012

The nine people believed injured by stray police gunfire outside the Empire State Building were not the first to learn how dangerous a crowded street can be in a gunfight.

Posted On 11:13 0 comments

 Civilians occasionally find themselves in harm's way when officers use deadly force, though usually only a handful of times annually. When that happens, a rigid process of investigation is set in motion — and the police department can reasonably expect a lawsuit. The latest episode came when police say a man disgruntled over losing his job a year ago shot a former colleague to death and pointed his weapon at two police officers in the shadow of a major tourist attraction. He apparently wasn't able to fire before police killed him, one firing off seven rounds and the other nine. Bystanders suffered graze wounds, and some were struck by concrete gouged from buildings by the bullets, authorities said. At least one person said he was actually hit by a bullet. Robert Asika, a 23-year-old tour guide who was hit in the right arm, said he was "100 percent positive" he was shot by a police officer. A witness told police that laid-off clothing designer Jeffrey Johnson fired at officers, but ballistics evidence so far contradicts that, authorities said.


Thursday, 23 August 2012

Tracking a Rare Tattoo-Related Infection

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A Trail of Ink: Tracking a Rare Tattoo-Related Infection

PHOTO: Tattoo ink skin infection
An uncommon skin infection led to a doctor's investigation into tainted tattoo ink. (Monroe County Health Department)
The reddish-purple rash, seemingly woven into the tattoo on a 20-year-old New Yorker's forearm, was strange enough to have doctors scratching their heads.

This trail began when the man received a tattoo in Rochester, N.Y. in October 2011. A short while later, he noticed the raised, bumpy rash. He called his primary care physician.

Doctors initially treated the man's arm with topical steroids, thinking that the rash was allergic-contact dermatitis. But that only made the problem worse.

By the time dermatologist Dr. Mark Goldgeier saw the patient, it was clear that this was no simple allergy.

He performed a skin biopsy so he could take a closer look at the rash under a microscope. What he saw was startling: the sample was riddled with a wormlike bacterium related to tuberculosis.

"I explained [to the patient] that he had TB, and he had a look of horror on his face," Goldgeier said.

For the patient, the finding meant a trip to an infectious disease specialist to start up to a full year of treatment.

Goldgeier, meanwhile, called the Monroe County Health Department.

"As soon as biopsy came back," he said, "I knew something in the process of tattooing was involved -- the ink, the water used for dilution, the syringes, the dressings."

And so began a nationwide medical mystery.

An article published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine describes how this one dermatologist helped connect the dots in an outbreak of tattoo-related atypical skin infections.

Dr. Byron Kennedy, public health specialist at Monroe County Department of Public Health, took over the case from Goldgeier. Kennedy first confirmed the results by repeating a skin biopsy on the patient. Once again, tendrils of mycobacterium chelonae, a type of tuberculosis-related skin bacteria, showed up in the sample.

Mycobacterium chelonae is a rapidly growing bug found in soil, dust, water, animals, hospitals, and contaminated pharmaceuticals. This family of bacteria does not commonly affect healthy individuals, but in patients with suppressed immune systems -- like those with HIV or on chemotherapy -- these bacteria can cause serious disease, often resulting in death.

The finding sent Kennedy and his associates to the tattoo parlor where the patient had been inked. Everything in the clinic was sterile, which made it unlikely that the infection had arisen there. But the tattoo artist, they learned, had been using a new gray premixed ink purchased in Arizona in April 2011; he used the ink between May and December 2011.

The ingredients of the ink -- pigment, witch hazel, glycerin, and distilled water -- seemed innocuous enough. But further examination revealed that the distilled water in the pigment was the likely culprit of the contamination.

The finding raised a number of questions -- not the least of which was how the bottles of premixed ink passed U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledged this gap in regulations Wednesday in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly report.

"Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, tattoo inks are considered to be cosmetics, and the pigments used in the inks are color additives requiring premarket approval," the report says.


Armed gang fight breaks out in Venezuelan prison

Posted On 11:57 0 comments

Twenty-five people were killed and 43 others hurt in a prison battle in Venezuela as two armed gangs vied for control of a penitentiary near Caracas, authorities said on Monday.


Sunday, 29 July 2012

NYPD detective suspended after kidnapping victim found in his garage

Posted On 15:47 0 comments

17-year veteran of the New York Police Department has been suspended without pay after a kidnapping victim was found tied up in his garage. The New York Post reports Ondre Johnson, a detective with the Brooklyn north gang unit, was being questioned in connection with the incident and was forced to surrender his gun and badge. A source tells the Post the 25-year-old victim was snatched off the street on July 26. The victim's friends then got calls demanding $75,000 for the victim's release. The call was traced to Johnson's home, MyFoxNY.com reports. When authorities arrived Friday afternoon, Johnson answered the door and identified himself as a detective with the NYPD. Investigators then found the victim tied up in the garage. Four men have been charged in the apparent kidnapping scheme, MyFoxNY.com reports. 30-year-old Hakeem Clark, who lives in the same building as Johnson, was charged with kidnapping and weapons possession along with 27-year-old Jason Hutson and 27-year-old James Gayle. 24-year-old Alfredo Haughton was charged with kidnapping.


Jamie Stevenson was the first Scots gang boss brought down by secret bugs.

Posted On 14:19 0 comments

Jamie Stevenson

The 3500 hours of taped calls and chats – including recordings made while he was lying low in his flat in Amsterdam – were crucial in forcing him to strike a deal to plead guilty.

Transcripts revealed Stevenson and his mob speaking in code about drug consignments and laundering 
millions of pounds.

While Stevenson’s prosecution was the first in which bugged conversations were used as evidence, “intrusive surveillance” techniques have now become a common tool in the fight against organised crime.

They were used in 151 cases in Scotland last year – 95 of which involved drugs and 30 murder, UK chief 
surveillance officer Sir Christopher Rose said.

Bugs were also used to convict Daniel mob hitmen Raymond Anderson and James McDonald for the murder of Michael Lyons, 21.


Jamie “Iceman” Stevenson is back on the streets

Posted On 14:16 0 comments

Jamie “Iceman” Stevenson is back on the streets – less than halfway through his prison sentence for laundering £1million of drugs cash. Scotland’s most powerful mobster has been enjoying meals at expensive restaurants and socialising with pals after being allowed home for a week each month. Stevenson – who was also accused of shooting dead his best friend in an underworld hit – was put behind bars in September 2006 when he was arrested after a four-year surveillance operation by the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency. He was later sentenced to 12 years and nine months for money laundering. But, we can reveal, he is now allowed out of Castle Huntly open prison near Dundee – just five years and 10 months later. A source said: “He seems determined to show his face all around town to deliver the message that he’s back and, as far as he’s concerned, nothing has changed. “A lot of people are surprised that he’s being allowed out so early. Some are not too pleased about it for a number of reasons.” Stevenson, 47, has been spotted at Bothwell Bar & Brasserie, which is run by his friend Stewart Gilmore. He and his cronies have also dined at upmarket Italian restaurant Il Pavone in Glasgow’s Princes Square shopping centre. And Stevenson has joined friends at various other restaurants and hotels, including Glasgow’s Hilton Garden Inn. A Sunday Mail investigation can today reveal that the Parole Board for Scotland could recommend Stevenson’s total freedom as early as February next year. However, the final decision on his release will rest with Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill. Yesterday, Labour justice spokesman Lewis Macdonald said: “I’m surprised to hear this and that anyone in these circumstances should get out of jail before the halfway point of their sentence – far less so when the conviction is of someone involved in organised crime. “The only circumstances where that would be conceivable would be if someone completely changed their lifestyle. But even then that should not be before they’ve served half their sentence. “I’m sure the victims of these crimes – and with drugs there are direct and indirect victims – will also be surprised at this.” To prepare Stevenson for his release, prison bosses have allowed him to stay a full week each month at his modest flat in Burnside, near Glasgow. On Friday, we watched him leaving the property with his wife Caroline and driving off in a silver Audi. A prison service insider said: “The Parole Board expect the prison authorities to have allowed home visits to test suitability for release ahead of the first eligible parole date. In Stevenson’s case, that’s next February. “There are conditions attached which vary but usually include the obvious ones like not mixing with other criminals and staying only at the designated address. “For prisoners sentenced to more than 10 years, the Parole Board make their recommendations to the Justice Secretary, who then decides whether to release on licence. “Stevenson is trying to keep his nose clean to convince the Parole Board that he poses no threat to society. “But, given his high profile and significance, it’s inevitable that the authorities will be careful before making any final decision.” Stevenson headed a global smuggling gang with a multi-million-pound turnover when he was brought down by the SCDEA’s Operation Folklore, which seized £61million of drugs. He faced drug and money laundering charges along with eight other suspects, including his 53-year-old wife. But his lawyers struck a deal with the Crown Office to admit money laundering in exchange for his wife’s freedom and the drugs charges being dropped. Stevenson’s stepson Gerry Carbin Jr, 32, was also jailed – for five years and six months – but was freed in 2010. Stevenson was previously arrested for the murder of Tony McGovern, 35, who was gunned down in Glasgow’s Springburn in 2000. But prosecutors dropped the case through lack of evidence. A gangland source said: “He does not fear any kind of reprisal from Tony’s brothers, nor does he regard any other criminals in Scotland as a threat or even as rivals. He did not fear any other operation in Scotland before he was jailed. Why would he now?” Two years ago, the Sunday Mail exposed a backdoor deal when the Crown handed back Stevenson’s £300,000 watch collection, which had been seized under proceeds of crime of legislation. Last June, he was sent back to high-security Shotts jail in Lanarkshire from an open prison after a major SCDEA drugs probe, Operation Chilon. Detectives believed that the gang they investigated was controlled by Stevenson. Haulage firm boss Charles McAughey’s home was one of 11 targeted in raids. In 2009, we revealed that French police had found 684kg of pure cocaine worth £31million in a lorry owned by McAughey. Chilon resulted in the SCDEA seizing 242kg of cannabis worth £1.21million and the jailing of three men for a combined 15 years.


Four Dead in Gang Related Shooting

Posted On 13:54 0 comments

Police in Alice are investigating a shooting that occurred near Reynolds Street. According to investigators, it all started on South Nayer Street where police say Isaac Vela was standing on the side of the road waiting for a ride. A vehicle -- with four people inside passed by. One of the passengers, police say, shot Vela in the face. The vehicle fled the scene, but the driver only made it a few blocks before he lost control of the vehicle. It smashed into a nearby school. Three of the four people inside the car died. The other is in the hospital...where investigators will interview him tomorrow. Police say all of the men involved are known gang members.


Saturday, 28 July 2012

Tulisa's Friend, 21, Shot Dead In Gangland Hit

Posted On 08:52 0 comments

Reece James, 21, a close friend of Tulisa Contostavlos has been shot dead in a reported gangland attack. The 21-year-old, who appeared with Tulisa in a video for rapper Nines, was shot in the head in a "pre-planned and targeted" hit, 100 miles from his home in London, reports the UK's Sun newspaper. Police found James' body in Boscombe, Bournemouth, at around 2.30am near where Somali drug gangs are said operate. A 22-year-old man was arrested. Reece was said to have been in the area with some friends for "a couple of months", though had filmed the video earlier this month with Tulisa and rapper Nines on the Church End Estate in Harlesden, North West London. The former N Dubz star caused controversy at the time, making a "C" symbol to the camera - the same sign that is used by Harlesden's notorious Church Road Soldiers gang. Tulisa claimed it was a reference to Camden, where she was born. Twitter tributes began flooding in last night, with one user writing, "RIP Reece James. Thoughts are with him and his family and friends". Local MP Tobias Ellwood described the killing as "a spill over from the drugs turf war in the capital", adding, "This was one London gang chasing down another, carrying out a professional hit and then going back".


Tuesday, 24 July 2012

As the alleged "enforcer" of the Latin Kings, Raymon "King Snappy" Gaytan Jr. would be "the face of the gang,"

Posted On 17:14 0 comments

As the alleged "enforcer" of the Latin Kings, Raymon "King Snappy" Gaytan Jr. would be "the face of the gang," an investigator testified in federal court this morning.

Gaytan and three other alleged gang members are in federal court today in Grand Rapids for detention hearings. They were arrested during a sweep in which investigators allegedly found several firearms and rounds of ammunition in their homes.

Holland's Latin Kings branch is a sophisticated organization, according to testimony by Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Special Agent Geoffrey Yendl.

Members attend regular meetings, pay dues and follow a manifesto adopted by other Latin Kings gangs across the country, Yendl said.

They also follow a hierarchy system in which the enforcer relates information from the gangs members to a president and vice president, he said.

Gaytan is one of a handful of men arrested during last week's sweep.


Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Gangsters in the St Andrew North Police division appear to again be at each other’s throats, having killed three persons and injuring three others in a bloody trail of events over the weekend.

Posted On 23:29 0 comments

The killings occurred in the communities of Grants Pen and Sunrise Crescent, off Red Hills Road, driving fear into residents and causing police to beef up security in the two ‘hotspot’ areas.

“The activities that we have been seeing in these two communities are between two rival gangs. It has nothing to do with the residents or persons traversing in and around the communities,” Deputy Superintendent of Police George McFarlane told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

In the most recent case, around 12:30 pm in the vicinity of Sunrise Crescent yesterday, gunmen ambushed 32-year-old Ava-Gaye Ward and sprayed her with bullets even as she ran for her life.

Ward, a higgler, was shot in the back, hip, abdomen, and right palm. Police suspect that her attackers were avenging the July 5 murders of Denver Pink, 38, and Latisha Rich, 23, who were both cut down at premises in the same community.

Investigators from the Major Investigation Taskforce said four 9mm spent shells and one live round were taken from the scene.

Ward’s killing followed that of Paul Jackson, 49, who was also chased and shot, allegedly by a lone gunmen as Jackson attempted to flee onto premises on Grants Pen Avenue, not far from Sunrise Crescent. That attack took place about 10:00 am.

Detectives believe that incident may have been linked to the death of 26-year-old Dwain Rodman who, along with three other men were shot at a nearby bar about 10:45 Friday night. They said gunmen travelling in a Silver Toyota motorcar alighted from the vehicle, entered the premises and fired.

The three other victims, which included a 17-year-old, are said to be in serious condition at hospital.

The chain of events has again placed the St Andrew North Police division — which is littered with criminal ‘hotspots’ — in the spotlight. A curfew has since been imposed in the Grants Pen community as police compile a list of persons of interest and police operations have also been bolstered in the Sunrise Crescent Area, McFarlane said.

“These are gang members who are killing each other and who are shooting at each other; it has nothing to do with the residents themselves. So we just want to reassure persons that we will do everything possible to deal with these gang members,” he said, noting that heavy police presence in the area should bring some reassurance that the police are “on top of things, and that we will deal with it accordingly”.

According to McFarlane: “The (Grants Pen) murders are the product of a long-standing dispute between two gangs — Top Gully and Bottom Gully — and it was triggered by the murder of one Jermaine Gibson, otherwise called Jerry Springer,” he said. “He was an influential member of the Top Gully gang. He was killed in Castle Heights and as a result of his killing there has been a number of shootings,” he said.

Last night, a senior officer who once headed the St Andrew North division was critical of how the area is being policed in recent times.

“I am convinced that it can be policed better. You see, hotspot policing takes a lot of concentration and it takes dedicated policing,” said the officer. “Certain place police have to park and can’t move or else them lose all them work. If you don’t occupy the spaces where criminals occupy then you must expect that they are going to come and give you trouble.”

In relation to the Sunrise Crescent incidents, the officer said the attacks were being ordered by a well-known don in that area, who is bent on eliminating any threats to his reign.

“Anybody who he feels is an informer or a threat to him he will send someone to kill them; it could even be your relative,” the cop said, adding that the don recently left the island and is ordering the killings from overseas.


Reformed gangster Mikey Giwa was caught with drugs on a prison visit

Posted On 23:27 0 comments

Reformed gangster Mikey Giwa was caught with drugs on a prison visitReformed gangster Mikey Giwa was caught with drugs on a prison visit

A reformed gangster who said his criminal past was behind him is awaiting sentence for trying to smuggle mobile phone sim cards and heroin into prison.

Mikey Giwa was a prominent member of the notorious Don't Say Nothing gang, whose members have been jailed for offences including armed burglary and robbery.

In an interview with the Croydon Guardian in May , he claimed he had turned his back on crime and was working as a mentor with anti-knives organisation Lives Not Knives (LNK).

But the 23-year-old who has served time for affray, now faces another spell behind bars after he was caught trying to smuggle three mobile phone sim cards and a wrap of heroin into a friend he was visiting at Belmarsh prison on November 1, last year.

Giwa of Lancing Road, Croydon, pleaded not guilty to two charges of conveying articles into prison, but was found guilty by a jury following a trial at Woolwich Crown Court last month.

He was remanded in custody until his sentencing on August 9.


Sunday, 15 July 2012

Gang-related shooting injures 2 in Huron

Posted On 22:07 0 comments

Two people were injured Friday afternoon in Huron in what police are calling a gang-related shooting between local Norteño and Bulldogs street gangs, Huron police said. Officers were flagged down by a bystander in front of the Chevron Market, 36700 S. Lassen Ave., around 2:15 p.m. who said a shooting had happened seconds earlier and that the shooting victims were close by, said Sgt. Ronnie Rubalcaba. The two victims, a juvenile whose age was not released and a 19-year-old man, were wounded. The juvenile was shot in the right arm and the back, and the man was shot in the stomach area. Both were flown to a local hospital, Rubalcaba said. Officers tracked down the crime scene to the area around 17000 Myrtle Ave., where they found several shell casings. Police said two men fled the scene westbound on Myrtle Avenue after the shootings.


Terrorised Chicago residents plead for police crackdown as gang war murders soar

Posted On 22:05 0 comments

The cluster of young men hanging out on the porch of the run-down brick home cast menacing stares at the unknown car as a "spotter", a teen on a bicycle, talked into a mobile phone. Beneath a tree across the street, burned red candle wax was the last remnant of an impromptu shrine for a 13-year-old boy, Tyquan Tyler, shot dead two weeks earlier by a killer just a few years older than him. The assailant had run through an alleyway past a boarded-up home, mown down his victim and then disappeared back down the same route into a neighbouring street before the "ATM boys" could respond with their Glock pistols. In the killing zones of Chicago's predominantly black and poor South Side, turf warfare is no longer waged for control of districts but street to street. A splintering of traditional gangs into smaller factions - known as crews or cliques - with ever-younger members desperate to prove their tough-guy credentials is fuelling a murder rate that makes swathes of Chicago more lethal than Afghanistan.  Even as violent crime has decreased in cities such as New York and Los Angeles, the murder rate soared here by 38 per cent in the first six months of the year. There were 259 murders in that period, with another 18 so far in July. "This is a block-to-block war here, a different dynasty on every street," said a dreadlocked young man heavily inked in gang tattoos who calls himself "Killer". "All the black brothers just want to get rich, but we got no jobs and no hope. We want the violence to stop but you ain't safe if you ain't got your pistol with you. Too many friends, too many men are being killed. We don't even cry at funerals no -more. Nobody expects to live past 21 here." The victims and killers are mainly black males aged between 15 and 35, often with gang affiliations - but not exclusively. A seven-year-old girl, Heaven Sutton, was buried this month after being gunned down at her mother's street sweet store. And last week, two girls aged 12 and 13 were shot and badly-wounded as they walked home from a newly-opened community centre. There have also been recent gang reprisal attacks along the city centre's "Magnificent Mile", an impressive stretch of skyscrapers and up-market stores, prompting fears that the violence is spreading. The mayhem, playing out within ambulance siren range of the Chicago home of Barack and Michelle Obama, has not just put a city on edge. It is also unleashing a passionate national debate on policing tactics. For the upsurge in gang killings has followed a decision by the city's mayor Rahm Emanuel and police chief Garry McCarthy, both new in the job last year, to dismantle specialist anti-gang units and instead switch more officers to the beat. But many terrorised locals are now pleading for a return to the aggressive stop-and-frisk tactics of the task forces that were long decried by black community leaders. "Killer" and his friends in the "ATM crew" are only talking after reassurances from Willie Cochran, the city councillor for the Ward 20 district and a well-known figure in the community, who gave The Sunday Telegraph a tour of his district's most-blighted streets. His constituency has the unenviable distinction of the highest number of murders in the city - 20 so far this year, compared with nine at the same stage in 2011. And he knows that his local popularity only provides a certain degree of protection. " "We're only stopping here for a couple of minutes, we don't want to get too much attention," he said at one notoriously dangerous street corner, adopting the same sort of safety measures as war correspondents in Baghdad. In response to the mounting death tally, Mr Cochran recently called a emergency meeting of alarmed residents to discuss the sky-rocketing violence. They overwhelmingly urged a return to the more aggressive policies of stop-and-frisk (known as stop-and-search in Britain), previously used by elite anti-gang squads that would temporarily flood trouble zones. That surprised many, as those tactics had prompted complaints of harassment, abuse and racial profiling in black and Hispanic communities. "People are frustrated and they are feeling terrorised and they are desperate for action," said Mr Cochran. "I asked if they wanted a more aggressive force engaging these terrorists on the streets, whether they understood that might cause complaints and whether they are ready to stand by the police. They said that they did, and they were." Speaking anonymously because she said she was scared of retribution, the grandmother of a South Side murder victim voiced those fears. "We have had enough," she said. "There is too much bloodshed among our young people. The older folks are terrified. We need the police to crack down on them. Responsibly yes, but forcefully." Other city councillors have been delivering similarly desperate pleas for intervention as violence tears their districts apart. Indeed, Carrie Austin, councillor for the district where the two girls were shot and wounded last week, said that if Chicago police could not handle the crisis, then the National Guard should be sent in. The debate on police anti-gang tactics is generating national and international attention in the wake of the switch in strategy introduced by Mr McCarthy following his appointment by Mr Emanuel, President Obama's combative former chief-of-staff. Mr McCarthy disbanded citywide anti-gang task forces, saying that they only managed to tackle gang violence in short bursts; when they left an area the violence returned. Instead, he and the mayor are focusing greater resources on neighbourhood beat policing and targeting hubs of gang operations. As part of their new approach, the mayor and police chief launched two new widely-praised initiatives last week. They will target businesses such as off-licences that have gang links and from where guns and drugs are sold. And on Thursday, they started a programme to demolish derelict buildings that are being used as bases for gangs and drug dealers. The city is also planning to work in tandem with a group called The Interrupters, former gang-members who try to mediate street disputes before they turn violent - although police chiefs remain suspicious that some are still involved in crime and have clashed with them over their refusal to pass on. The controversy is being followed far from the Windy City. In New York, Michael Bloomberg, the mayor, and Ray Kelly, his police chief, are by contrast sticking to a long-standing policy of tough stop-and-frisk operations in crime-plagued districts, despite complaints by critics that it racially targets blacks and Hispanics. While there are deep rifts about how to tackle Chicago's gang killings, there is common agreement on several underlying reasons for the surge in violence. Small ultra-violent breakaway factions with names such as the Insane Crew and Satan's Disciples have proliferated after previous anti-gang initiatives targeted older criminal structures. These new "crews" found a fertile recruiting ground in neighbourhoods plagued by a vicious cycle of unemployment, broken homes, drug, easily-available guns and, since the 2008 crisis, an explosion of repossessed and abandoned homes. Even as Chicago's murder rates soar, Mr Emanuel and Mr McCarthy insisted last week that the new approach was starting to bear fruit. In effect, they asked for more time. Mr Cochran and his residents are, however, pleading for a change in tactics now as the toll of dead and injured mounts weekly. But the South Side's most famous residents have remained silent about the epidemic of violence. Barack and Michelle Obamas live in the affluent oasis of Hyde Park less than two miles from the street where Tyquan was shot dead. The First Lady's ties to the district are lifelong - she was born in the heart of Mr Cochran's ward. And Mr Obama's presidential re-election campaign is run out of offices in Magnificent Mile. Ron Holt is one of many who would like to hear their voices. The police veteran lost his son Blair in 2007 when a "gangbanger" opened fire on a crowded bus in an attempt to kill a rival and the 16-year old was caught by the bullets as he shielded a girl. "Senator Obama, as he then was, called me after Blair's death to express his condolences and asked if there was anything he could do for us," he told The Sunday Telegraph. "Well, I think we need the President and Mrs Obama now. This would be a perfect time for them to start a national debate about the impact of gangs and youth violence, just as the First Lady has done on childhood obesity and healthy eating. "They are Chicagoans and they are South Siders. When will they speak out about the violence that is tearing our communities apart?"


Terrorised Chicago residents plead for police crackdown as gang war murders soar

Posted On 22:05 0 comments

The cluster of young men hanging out on the porch of the run-down brick home cast menacing stares at the unknown car as a "spotter", a teen on a bicycle, talked into a mobile phone. Beneath a tree across the street, burned red candle wax was the last remnant of an impromptu shrine for a 13-year-old boy, Tyquan Tyler, shot dead two weeks earlier by a killer just a few years older than him. The assailant had run through an alleyway past a boarded-up home, mown down his victim and then disappeared back down the same route into a neighbouring street before the "ATM boys" could respond with their Glock pistols. In the killing zones of Chicago's predominantly black and poor South Side, turf warfare is no longer waged for control of districts but street to street. A splintering of traditional gangs into smaller factions - known as crews or cliques - with ever-younger members desperate to prove their tough-guy credentials is fuelling a murder rate that makes swathes of Chicago more lethal than Afghanistan.  Even as violent crime has decreased in cities such as New York and Los Angeles, the murder rate soared here by 38 per cent in the first six months of the year. There were 259 murders in that period, with another 18 so far in July. "This is a block-to-block war here, a different dynasty on every street," said a dreadlocked young man heavily inked in gang tattoos who calls himself "Killer". "All the black brothers just want to get rich, but we got no jobs and no hope. We want the violence to stop but you ain't safe if you ain't got your pistol with you. Too many friends, too many men are being killed. We don't even cry at funerals no -more. Nobody expects to live past 21 here." The victims and killers are mainly black males aged between 15 and 35, often with gang affiliations - but not exclusively. A seven-year-old girl, Heaven Sutton, was buried this month after being gunned down at her mother's street sweet store. And last week, two girls aged 12 and 13 were shot and badly-wounded as they walked home from a newly-opened community centre. There have also been recent gang reprisal attacks along the city centre's "Magnificent Mile", an impressive stretch of skyscrapers and up-market stores, prompting fears that the violence is spreading. The mayhem, playing out within ambulance siren range of the Chicago home of Barack and Michelle Obama, has not just put a city on edge. It is also unleashing a passionate national debate on policing tactics. For the upsurge in gang killings has followed a decision by the city's mayor Rahm Emanuel and police chief Garry McCarthy, both new in the job last year, to dismantle specialist anti-gang units and instead switch more officers to the beat. But many terrorised locals are now pleading for a return to the aggressive stop-and-frisk tactics of the task forces that were long decried by black community leaders. "Killer" and his friends in the "ATM crew" are only talking after reassurances from Willie Cochran, the city councillor for the Ward 20 district and a well-known figure in the community, who gave The Sunday Telegraph a tour of his district's most-blighted streets. His constituency has the unenviable distinction of the highest number of murders in the city - 20 so far this year, compared with nine at the same stage in 2011. And he knows that his local popularity only provides a certain degree of protection. " "We're only stopping here for a couple of minutes, we don't want to get too much attention," he said at one notoriously dangerous street corner, adopting the same sort of safety measures as war correspondents in Baghdad. In response to the mounting death tally, Mr Cochran recently called a emergency meeting of alarmed residents to discuss the sky-rocketing violence. They overwhelmingly urged a return to the more aggressive policies of stop-and-frisk (known as stop-and-search in Britain), previously used by elite anti-gang squads that would temporarily flood trouble zones. That surprised many, as those tactics had prompted complaints of harassment, abuse and racial profiling in black and Hispanic communities. "People are frustrated and they are feeling terrorised and they are desperate for action," said Mr Cochran. "I asked if they wanted a more aggressive force engaging these terrorists on the streets, whether they understood that might cause complaints and whether they are ready to stand by the police. They said that they did, and they were." Speaking anonymously because she said she was scared of retribution, the grandmother of a South Side murder victim voiced those fears. "We have had enough," she said. "There is too much bloodshed among our young people. The older folks are terrified. We need the police to crack down on them. Responsibly yes, but forcefully." Other city councillors have been delivering similarly desperate pleas for intervention as violence tears their districts apart. Indeed, Carrie Austin, councillor for the district where the two girls were shot and wounded last week, said that if Chicago police could not handle the crisis, then the National Guard should be sent in. The debate on police anti-gang tactics is generating national and international attention in the wake of the switch in strategy introduced by Mr McCarthy following his appointment by Mr Emanuel, President Obama's combative former chief-of-staff. Mr McCarthy disbanded citywide anti-gang task forces, saying that they only managed to tackle gang violence in short bursts; when they left an area the violence returned. Instead, he and the mayor are focusing greater resources on neighbourhood beat policing and targeting hubs of gang operations. As part of their new approach, the mayor and police chief launched two new widely-praised initiatives last week. They will target businesses such as off-licences that have gang links and from where guns and drugs are sold. And on Thursday, they started a programme to demolish derelict buildings that are being used as bases for gangs and drug dealers. The city is also planning to work in tandem with a group called The Interrupters, former gang-members who try to mediate street disputes before they turn violent - although police chiefs remain suspicious that some are still involved in crime and have clashed with them over their refusal to pass on. The controversy is being followed far from the Windy City. In New York, Michael Bloomberg, the mayor, and Ray Kelly, his police chief, are by contrast sticking to a long-standing policy of tough stop-and-frisk operations in crime-plagued districts, despite complaints by critics that it racially targets blacks and Hispanics. While there are deep rifts about how to tackle Chicago's gang killings, there is common agreement on several underlying reasons for the surge in violence. Small ultra-violent breakaway factions with names such as the Insane Crew and Satan's Disciples have proliferated after previous anti-gang initiatives targeted older criminal structures. These new "crews" found a fertile recruiting ground in neighbourhoods plagued by a vicious cycle of unemployment, broken homes, drug, easily-available guns and, since the 2008 crisis, an explosion of repossessed and abandoned homes. Even as Chicago's murder rates soar, Mr Emanuel and Mr McCarthy insisted last week that the new approach was starting to bear fruit. In effect, they asked for more time. Mr Cochran and his residents are, however, pleading for a change in tactics now as the toll of dead and injured mounts weekly. But the South Side's most famous residents have remained silent about the epidemic of violence. Barack and Michelle Obamas live in the affluent oasis of Hyde Park less than two miles from the street where Tyquan was shot dead. The First Lady's ties to the district are lifelong - she was born in the heart of Mr Cochran's ward. And Mr Obama's presidential re-election campaign is run out of offices in Magnificent Mile. Ron Holt is one of many who would like to hear their voices. The police veteran lost his son Blair in 2007 when a "gangbanger" opened fire on a crowded bus in an attempt to kill a rival and the 16-year old was caught by the bullets as he shielded a girl. "Senator Obama, as he then was, called me after Blair's death to express his condolences and asked if there was anything he could do for us," he told The Sunday Telegraph. "Well, I think we need the President and Mrs Obama now. This would be a perfect time for them to start a national debate about the impact of gangs and youth violence, just as the First Lady has done on childhood obesity and healthy eating. "They are Chicagoans and they are South Siders. When will they speak out about the violence that is tearing our communities apart?"


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