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April 03, 2012

Matt Taibbi: On New York's Orwellian "Clean Halls" program

Or the "don't leave your apartment if you're black" program, more accurately. Mike Bloomberg's New York: Cops in Your Hallways | Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone
An amazing lawsuit was filed in New York last week. It seems Mike Bloomberg’s notorious "stop-and-frisk" policy – known colloquially in these parts by silently-cheering white voters as the "Let’s have cops feel up any nonwhite person caught walking in the wrong neighborhood” policy – isn’t even the most repressive search policy in the NYPD arsenal. Bloomberg, that great crossover Republican, has long been celebrated by the Upper West Side bourgeoisie for his enlightened views on gay rights and the environment, but also targeted for criticism by civil rights activists because of stop-and-frisk, a program that led to a record 684,330 street searches just last year. Now he’s under fire for a program he inherited, which goes by the darkly Bushian name of the "Clean Halls program." In effect since 1991, it allows police to execute so-called "vertical patrols" by going up into private buildings and conducting stop-and-frisk searches in hallways – with the landlord’s permission. According to the NYCLU, which filed the suit, "virtually every private apartment building [in the Bronx] is enrolled in the program," and "in Manhattan alone, there are at least 3,895 Clean Halls Buildings." Referring to the NYPD’s own data, the complaint says police conducted 240,000 "vertical patrols" in the year 2003 alone. If you live in a Clean Halls building, you can’t even go out to take out the trash without carrying an ID – and even that might not be enough. If you go out for any reason, there may be police in the hallways, demanding that you explain yourself, and insisting, in brazenly illegal and unconstitutional fashion, on searches of your person. . . . In another incident, police stopped three friends of a Bronx resident named Alex Lebron as they were leaving his apartment. Lebron’s mother saw the teenagers being interviewed in the stairwell, approached the police and told them she knew them and everything was okay. She then went to her apartment and told her son that the cops were talking to his friends. Lebron, according to the suit, then races downstairs "to prevent their arrest." Here’s the rest of the story, according to the complaint: Mr. Lebron encountered his handcuffed friends and the two police officers in the lobby of his building. He told the officers that he lived in the building and that the teens had been visiting him. The officers responded that it was "too late" and placed the three young men in a police van…. The arresting officers took W.B., J.G., and their friend to the 44th Precinct, where they were locked in a cell. After approximately two hours, they were given summonses for trespassing and released. The trespassing charges against W.B., J.G., and their friend were later dismissed. . . .

April 02, 2012

A rash of brazen daylight robberies hit the posh Oakland Hills

The popular reasoning behind this, which is OF COURSE absent from the Chronicle's coverage because they are a terrible paper, is that Mayor Quan's plan to focus the vast majority of police power on 100 troubled blocks has publicly let would-be burglars know that response times far from those 100 blocks will be stupidly long. 20 minutes, on average. It's the police strategy version of whack-a-mole, but one where you tell the mole where you will be hitting before you strike. Quan for her part keeps trying to blame the lack of police power on the Occupy movement, as if they are holding marches on noon on weekdays (they aren't). Oakland hills' brazen burglaries raise fears
"People in the hills are really feeling unsafe. They're feeling like their homes and their families are in danger," said Councilwoman Libby Schaaf, who recently had 250 people attend a town hall meeting in Montclair. One of the big fears is that robbers are emboldened by the city's cop shortage and a subsequent increase in police response time to 19 minutes for an emergency call. One Mountain Boulevard resident, who asked not to be named, told us how three burglars came through her front door in the middle of the day while her 13-year-old daughter was home alone. "She ran downstairs to a storage unit and was on the phone saying, 'We're being robbed, we're being robbed,' " the mother recalled. "I said 'call 911' - (so) she pushed the police button on our alarm system to get the police there automatically." The police did respond, but the mother noted, "I got there before they did."