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National Victim Rights Week

Victims 9

Today National Victim’s Rights Week was acknowledged on the West Steps of the State Capitol in Sacramento. Crime Victims United sponsored an event, so there were plenty of speeches and participating politicians included Governor Jerry Brown. However, it was the victims and murder victim family members who really stood out because each and every one interrupted their lives in order to take a stand for victim’s rights, acknowledge their lost loved ones, and lobby their legislators for effective public safety policy and legislation.

Victims Prayer

Victims Prayer

The importance of being personally involved in the political process cannot be overstated. I’ve been doing it since 1993, when my daughter was murdered by a violent offender with an extensive criminal history. In those days, there were very few legislative fall back positions for children who were being victimized. Call me a cynic, but I truly believe that was because kids don’t vote and politicians don’t have to look them in the eye. Therefore they didn’t have a real voice.

Victims 4

Things have changed enormously since then as the result of a series of tragic crimes and effective children’s advocates. We have Amber Alerts, Megan’s Law, law enforcement missing child protocols, and greater awareness and education surrounding child safety and child welfare issues.

Crime Victim's Harriet Salarno, Lexie Ashford, and Nina Salarno-Ashford

Crime Victim’s Harriet Salarno, Lexie Ashford, and Nina Salarno-Ashford

When I refer to being involved in the political process I’m not talking about the process as practiced in the houses of government that results in political perp walks on the 11:00 p.m. News. I don’t mean politicians like U.S. Congressman Mark Foley who left Washington D.C. in disgrace after he was found soliciting young boys serving as Congressional pages. I don’t mean pious hypocrites like Leland Yee, who I saw walking the halls of California’s Capitol on the day he got arrested, however I don’t think he’d been arrested yet because he wasn’t wearing handcuffs. I don’t mean corrupt politicians like state Senator’s Ronald Calderon and Roderick Wright who yesterday joined Yee in having their names and online archives disappear from the Senate website yesterday.

Sweet Polly...Never Forgotten!

Sweet Polly…Never Forgotten!

In 1995, I joined Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a coalition of prosecutors, police chiefs and crime victims lobbying for prevention funding for at-risk children. In 1995 the federal government was funding quality pre-school and after school activities for 10,000 children, but today, in large part because of people like you and me who became personally involved in the political process that number has grown to 1,000,000.

John

John

I don’t mean the ideological political process that paralyzes legislative bodies throughout the United States. People have differences, but can usually find common ground on the issues that are important to us, particularly if those issues regard the well-being of our kids. However, ideological politics has paralyzed the legislative process so that nothing meaningful ever gets done.

With 3-Strikes guru Mike Reynolds

With 3-Strikes guru Mike Reynolds

Let me give you an example that perfectly illustrates how popular and common sense policy concepts that cannot get a vote in the legislature can become law when people become involved. In 2011 I spent a lot of time here at the Capitol with Chris Kelly, Suzanne DiNubile and others lobbying for legislation requiring registered sex offenders to include Internet identifiers like email address and social networking handles. We watched as two separate bills died in committee. In 2012 that concept became an integral component of Prop. 35. Under Daphne Phung’s vision and leadership Prop. 35 passed by the widest margin of any initiative in California history with more than 81% of the vote.

Victims 6

Today I went to the Capitol because National Victim’s Rights week is April 6-12. It represents an opportunity for people like me to remind our elected officials what’s really important. I’ve always felt that their primary duty is public safety, but the isolation and insulation of this building confuses them and sometimes they need to be reminded what is important and who they serve.

No more victims

No more victims

Right now there is a disturbing trend in the Capitol that is putting us all at risk. Many of the accomplishments that cut California’s crime rate in half 20-years ago is being undone by the legislators in this very building. Governor Brown’s realignment policy has dumped tens of thousands of violent criminals onto our streets. The repeal of 3-strikes will allow thousands of lifers to go free. Failure to enforce Jessica’s Law has allowed an untold number of registered sex offenders to abscond. A law written by Senator Lee will allow remorseless killers to be released back into society, and finally Governor Brown’s decision to parole more than twice as many lifers than his three predecessors combined.

Color Guard

Without people like us making our views known to our elected officials we will find ourselves in dire straits. Because we live in dynamic communities that change and evolve and sometimes can be hazardous, while they live in marble lined halls where your hands don’t get dirty and your farts don’t smell. Sometimes they just need to be reminded that people matter, that showing the courage to do the right thing is more important than toeing the line for rigid ideology, or making decisions based on personal gain.

Leland Yee and the Hypocrisy of Crime

Leland YeeIn 2012 California State Senator Leland Yee, who appeared before San Francisco Superior Court in shackles this morning, accomplished one of his long term legislative goals with the passage of Senate Bill 9. This law gives a second chance to most killers who were under the age of 18 at the time of their crime and sentenced to life without parole. They can ask the court for a new sentencing hearing. At that hearing, they will have the chance of getting a new sentence with the possibility of parole.

 

The Senator spoke eloquently about the resilience of youth when he said, “Young people have an incredible capacity for rehabilitation. Sentencing them to life without parole is tantamount to simply throwing them away, without acknowledging their ability to grow, change, and become productive members of society.” What the Senator failed to mention is that unrepentant killers, who were sentenced to life without parole by a jury of their peers would be released back onto our streets with few if any controls on their future behavior.

 

“Young people often make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes have terrible consequences,” said Yee.” Yes Senator, lives are lost, families are destroyed, and many will never recover, but to define cold blooded murder as a mistake is to misunderstand the consequences of the one crime whose outcome is finality. Mistakes can be reconciled, and oftentimes they can be resolved, but murder is different. There is no taking back, there is no resolution, there is only the terrible reality that a person who was loved, cherished and valued has been sent to a violent and early grave.

 

The Senator said that, “We cannot write any child off for the rest of their lives. We must at least give them the chance to atone and seek forgiveness for what they’ve done.” Well, this may very well be true, but why do we have to release them from prison in order for them to seek atonement and forgiveness? Aren’t these acts of compassion, thought and emotion? Aren’t atonement and forgiveness more easily earned through acts of self-sacrifice and isn’t self-sacrifice more easily achieved through introspection? The Senator is very quick to forgive the killer as he forgets the victim.

 

Now it all begins to make sense. Charges against Senator Yee included conspiracy to deal firearms without a license and to illegally import firearms. Perhaps is eloquence on behalf of teen killers was simply protecting his real constituents, the gang banger’s who use illegal high caliber weapons to wreak havoc on our fellow citizens.

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I have a friend whose wife was murdered by a teen-aged psychopath who wanted to know what it felt like to “murder somebody.” After he was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole he swore that if he ever got out of prison he would murder the rest of this victim’s family. Senator Yee’s SB 9 will give him an opportunity to do just that.

 

Thank you for your service Senator Leland Yee.

Victim Advocates Visit Capitol to Seek Legislative Support for At-Risk Youth

By Meghan Moroney

003Members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, national anti-crime organization of police chiefs, sheriffs, district attorneys and victim advocates with 400 members in California and close to 5,000 members nationwide, visited the Capitol today to urge legislators and administration officials to support evidence-based programs proven to keep children in school and away from crime.

 

Marc Klaas and Krystine Dinh of The KlaasKids Foundation, and Dr. Griffin Dix of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, joined other Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California members in meetings with over 20 key policymakers and administration officials.

 

“Getting kids prepared for success in school, and then keeping them in the classroom and on track to graduate are two of the most effective ways to keep our streets and communities safe,” said Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California State Director Brian Lee. “We’re fortunate to have so many law enforcement leaders and victim advocates as members who recognize this and work to support policies and funding for programs that help keep kids off the streets and away from crime.”

 

Members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California called on legislators from both sides of the aisle to increase state funding for programs scientifically proven to steer kids away from crime, such as high-quality early education and dropout prevention strategies that address truancy and chronic absence. It is estimated that a 10-percentage-point increase in high school graduation rates would reduce violent crimes by 20 percent, and could prevent 400 murders and 20,000 aggravated assaults.
Research shows that kids who receive high-quality early education and care are more likely to graduate from high school and less likely to ever become involved in crime. Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California members asked lawmakers to support SB 837, a bill authored by Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg that would make early education available to all 4-year-olds by expanding the state’s transitional kindergarten program.

 

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California members also asked lawmakers to support AB 1866 (Bocanegra), which would help identify early warning signs for dropout by tracking school attendance in CALPADS, the state’s longitudinal student data system. California in one of just four states that does not tracked individualized school attendance.

 

For kids already involved in the juvenile justice system, intensive family therapies, such as Functional Family Therapy (FFT) and Multisystemic Therapy (MST), have been shown to cut re-arrests by as much as 50 percent. The Mentally Ill Offender Crime Reduction (MIOCR) program used to support these evidenced-based therapy programs, yet funding for the program was eliminated several years ago. Members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California encouraged policymakers to support SB 1054 (Steinberg) which would restore the MIOCR program and provide $50 million for MIOCR grants, evenly divided between juveniles and adults.

Missing: What To Do If Your Child Disappears!

KlaasDVD

Your child is missing. You are confused, even panicked. What do you do? Every case is different and the timeline escalation listed below is dependent upon your unique situation. Pick and choose carefully, but remember: Never Give Up Hope!

 

  1. Take a few minutes to collect your thoughts. Could your child be hiding or with other family members of friends?  This is a good time to conduct a cursory search and contact relevant parties.
  2. If you have a missing child smart phone app (Polly’s Guardian Angel) you should activate a missing alert. Among other things this will immediately alert others application holders in your immediate vicinity.
  3. Immediately call (911) and all other local law enforcement agencies. This should include the city police or county sheriff, and the State Police. If you have one, present your child’s Sentry KIDS Bio-document to the responding officer. Insist that they enter the information into the National Crime Information Computer (NCIC) at once.
  4. If predatory abduction is a real possibility notify the Federal Bureau of Investigation. FBI experience and resources are unsurpassed in law enforcement.
  5. Create a local media (TV Stations, Radio Stations, and Newspapers) contact list. Notify all local media assignment desks. You are your missing child’s best advocate so work with the Media – keep in mind that the public’s awareness about your missing child could be expedited if you share pictures, videos and other details.
  6. Create a social media campaign to inform the public about your missing child. Create a Facebook page that includes photos, videos, articles and links to television segments. If these elements do not yet exist they can be easily inserted after the fact. Also, create a Twitter feed that directs the public to your other social media profiles. This is the fastest and least expensive way to get the word out.
  7. Contact the KlaasKids Foundation’ Search Center for Missing Children.  Our services are free of charge. Our center will assist you with flyer creation, distribution and creating an action plan.
  8. If you have a home (landline) phone make sure that it is staffed and is being traced at all times. Do not turn off your cell phone: even when charging.
  9. Find a printer. Volunteers will help you to post flyers in highly visible areas.
  10. Your best chance of recovery is to encourage a coordinated response effort by law enforcement; media; your child find agency; and volunteers.
  11. Take care to preserve your physical well-being. Seek emotional and psychological support from your church or social service agencies. Make sure that you sleep and eat regularly. Refrain from alcohol or other mind altering substances.
  12. Remember – Never Give up Hope!

Child Safety in the 21st Century

Child Safety

Introduction

The Internet has changed the rules. Back in the day, children had to beware of predators lurking in alleys, dark stairwells, in and around parks and schoolyards. Those concerns still exist, but the Internet has emboldened a new generation of cyber-perverts who rely upon anonymity and subterfuge to engage their evil intentions.

 

While the vast majority of people were marveling at the potential and benefits of the Internet, a small subset of individuals were pursuing the dark side of cyber space: networking with each other and empowering amoral behavior; re-invigorating the near dormant child pornography industry; and lurking behind false profiles as they attempted to lure, groom, and victimize our children. The very predators who could not penetrate our dead bolts, alarm systems, guard dogs or personal armories had found a back alley into our living rooms under the camouflage of binary code and new world technology.

 

The problem has become so alarming that an instant message stating that, “I am a twelve-year-old-boy home alone and I want to have sex with you,” is enough to launch and deliver a convoy of white and blue collar pedophiles willing to risk everything to satisfy uncontrollable  urges. While we basked in a false sense of security the family living room became the predator’s new playground.

 

Strangers Are Not the Problem

Stranger danger is a misleading concept from a time when we did not understand child victimization. In fact, the vast majority of children are harmed by somebody they know: a teacher, clergy member, family friend or even a family member.

Do

  1. Always check with your parents before you go anywhere. – This is especially important if you don’t have a cell phone. Parents need to have access to their kids in case of emergencies, missed curfews, or other unforetold circumstances.
  2. Always be with at least one other person when you are outside. – There is strength in numbers. This is also called the buddy system. You look out for your buddy, and your buddy looks out for you.
  3. Trust your feelings. – This is called instinct. Sometimes, we all get a feeling that something is not as it should be.
  4. If something feels wrong, put distance between yourself and whatever is making you feel uneasy. – Acting on your instinct is ingrained in animals as well as humans. Instinct is a primal reaction to circumstance. It is not based upon experience.
  5. Strangers can help kids in danger. – The vast majority of so called strangers would gladly help a child in distress. Kids can always approach a woman or group of women. Even other kids will protect you if you are in need of protection. The same thing goes with men, but unfortunately, they tend to be the problem.

Don’t

  1. Accept invitations from or cultivate relationships with adults without checking with you parents first. – Stick with age appropriate relationships. Adults who forge special friendships with kids are suspect.  We know that people with unhealthy designs on children will go to extremes to gain unsupervised access to children in their volunteerism or career choices.
  2. Open the door to anyone when you are home alone. – A young child isolated and alone is no match for a determined predator or anyone else who wishes harm.
  3. Tell anyone that you are home alone. – Keep all doors and windows locked. Only answer phone calls from family members and check-in with your parents on a regular basis.
  4. Play in isolated areas. – Avoid alleys, dark stairwells, and other places that isolate or may trap you.

 

The Internet Is Here to Stay

The Internet affords tremendous benefits and enables monumental abuses. If we are going to ensure that the World Wide Web does not become a virtual Wild Wild West we have to aggressively engage those who would abuse it.  But, by linking arms and working toward a common goal, we can ensure that our kid’s online experience is empowering, positive and safe.

Do

  1. Have fun with the Internet – experiment, email, chat, surf, research, play games, and create social networking profiles so that you can communicate with your friends. Just be careful about doing so.
  2. Trust your parents – Talk to them about your Internet experience, follow their rules, and allow them to monitor your online activities.
  3. Inform your parents if you see violent or pornographic images – These may be illegal images, and are certainly not intended for the eyes of children.
  4. Stay on public, monitored, child friendly rooms if you are using instant messaging or entering chat rooms. – Predators have the advantage because they are anonymous on the Internet. Remember, not everybody is who they say they are.

Don’t

  1. Share personal information. – Your identity, your address, school, phone number, passwords, etc. should never be shared with people that you don’t know in real life. Predators and rogue marketers can use this information against you.
  2. Make your social networking profiles public. – By sharing social networking profiles only with your friends you are ensuring the integrity of your friends and the validity of their profiles.
  3. Don’t reply to or start a conversation with people you don’t know. – Don’t accept gifts from them or agree to meet with them.
  4. It is a terrible idea to open email attachments from people that you do not know. – They may contain viruses or malware.
  5. Plagiarize – It is cheating to copy other people’s ideas and pass them off as your own.

 

Summary

There is no silver bullet that will end crimes against children. Legislation alone will never fully protect children on the street, in their bedrooms or online. Law enforcement does not have the resources to simultaneously and constantly patrol every community, and online decoy stings will never totally eradicate the black heart of a predator. By itself street surveillance and Internet technology cannot contain evil intention. Education and awareness, in the classroom or at home, will only go so far toward protecting kids, because kids are vulnerable by nature of who they are.

 

It is our responsibility as adults to take the steps necessary to protect our kids. We can accomplish that goal by organizing our neighborhoods to protect our children and our property. Support legislators that understand the importance of punishing violent criminals and providing resources for at risk children. Volunteer with and donate to organizations that are dedicated to ensuring that children are provided with opportunities to thrive and prosper. Utilize technology solutions and Internet tools designed to assist you in protecting children from inherent danger. Be a good citizen and report suspicious individuals and circumstances to the police. Show your children areas to avoid like alleys and dark stairwells, and show them the best routes to and from school. Finally, remember that we cannot put the burden of child safety on the shoulders of the children.

Public Safety Continues to Deteriorate Under Realignment

By Criminal Justice Legal Foundation

Libra Tatt2When Realignment took effect in October 2011, many in law enforcement warned of the unavoidable consequences to public safety it would cause.  As the impact of shifting the responsibility for thousands of felons from the state to California counties began to play out, newspapers and television reporters have focused on the issue.  In recent weeks, news reports continue to paint a picture of innocent people fighting for their lives and property against criminals on the street because of Realignment.  The Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation has been compiling reports of crimes committed by criminals free under Realignment for over two years.

 

On February 18, a Central California  woman was luckily able to fight off a criminal who had broken into her home just hours after being released from county jail after conviction for a similar assault.  Patty Guerra of the Modesto Bee reports that 18-year-old Aaron Modisett-Hollie was arrested last December on charges of kidnapping, assault with the intent to commit felony mayhem or rape, and false imprisonment.  He was convicted on the assault charge and sentenced under Realignment to a year in county jail.  The judge reduced the sentence to 89 days after he factored in time served and good behavior credits.  But due to jail overcrowding caused by Realignment, Modisett-Hollie was released on Monday, February 17, after only seven days.

 Aaron Modisett-Hollie

Aaron Modisett-Hollie

According to investigators, hours after his release, Modisette-Hollie saw the woman in her front yard as he wandered her neighborhood and waited until she went back inside her house.  He then broke in through a window and reportedly threw the woman to the floor, but she used a shard of glass from the window to stab him several times.  Injured, he fled the scene and was later arrested.  Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said that the crime was a direct consequence of Realignment, “We house the worst of the worst and we’re forced to release the best of the worst, all due to realignment and jail bed capacity,” he said.  Christianson mentioned that even before Realignment went into effect, his department was struggling with jail overcrowding, and this legislation has only exacerbated the problem.

 

On January 2, Raymond Moreno was arrested in Long Beach and later convicted on charges that include a violation of a gang injunction and being an ex-felon in possession of a loaded firearm, burglary tools and drug paraphernalia.  Prior to Realignment, these charges and Moreno’s prior record would have made him eligible for state prison.  Under Realignment he was sentenced to 180 days in jail and released on February 8 due to jail overcrowding.  On February 9, Long Beach Police report that Moreno approached an unsuspecting victim sitting in a vehicle in the area of 15th Street and Chestnut Avenue and attempted a carjacking, but the victim was able to escape and report the crime.  Moreno was later arrested.  Jonathan Van Dyke of the Long Beach Grunion Gazette Newspaper reports that Moreno is one of many convicted felons whose criminal history represents the dark side of Realignment.  The Long Beach Police Department reports that during 2013, there were more than 800 arrests from Realignment offenders.  Two were for murder, ten were for assault with a deadly weapon, and the rest were a host of other serious felonies.

 Erik Dean Boettcher

Erik Dean Boettcher

A February 20 story by Melissa Pinion-Whitt of the San Bernardino Sun reports that police in Riverside have arrested 34-year-old Erik Dean Boettcher, who was free on probation under Realignment.  Authorities say he abducted and sexually assaulted an 11-year-old girl who ran away from home.  On February 14, the victim told police of the attack and officers were able to arrest Boettcher days later.  Investigators say he picked the girl up and drove her to a secluded area where he sexually assaulted her before driving her to a motel where he gave her drugs and proceeded to sexually assault her again.  He is currently being held in county jail without bail.

 

Residents of the Northern California city of Fairfield are being victimized by increasing rates of robberies and violent crimes.  The city’s police captain believes a big contributor to the increase is Realignment.  On February 14, Ian Thompson of the Daily Republic reported that along with increases in violent crimes, the city has also been afflicted with a 43% increase in arson, a 25% increase in auto theft, and a 10% increase in burglary.  City police have partnered with county sheriff’s officers to keep tabs on felons that have been released from state custody, noting that the large majority of people arrested last year were individuals released under Realignment.

 

These stories and new reports indicating that probation officers in Los Angeles, tasked under Realignment with keeping track of thousands of sex offenders, are being overwhelmed and cannot respond to alerts from GPS monitors that have been cut off or otherwise disabled, should be a serious concern to the Governor and the California Legislature.

 

“But Governor Brown’s response has been to set a new record for granting parole to life sentenced murderers, rapists and kidnappers and cut a deal with federal judges to weaken California’s Three Strikes law so that more habitual felons can be released early from state prison,” said Foundation President Michael Rushford.  “How many law-abiding Californians have to become crime victims before those supposedly representing them in Sacramento take action to change this terrible law,” he added.

How the Amber Alert Failed Hailey Owens

Hailey Owens Amber Alert_1392781921519_3030674_ver1.0_640_480

Hailey Owens is the victim of a broken Amber Alert system. Hailey was kidnapped in front of witnesses in the 3200 block of West Lombard St., in Springfield, MO at 4:48 p.m. on February 18, 2014. By 5:00 p.m. the witnesses had provided local law enforcement with the suspect’s description, vehicle make, color & license plate. Based on eyewitness accounts and the information provided to law enforcement, the Amber Alert should have been issued in minutes. Unfortunately, Springfield PD is not authorized to issue Amber Alerts. That is the responsibility of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

 

At 6:00 p.m. the Springfield PD issued a news release and posted information about the abduction to their social media sites. Unfortunately, a news release carries neither weight no the sense of urgency of an Amber Alert. A statewide Amber Alert was issued at 7:07 p.m., two-hours and nineteen-minutes after Hailey was kidnapped. Information was distributed to all area law enforcement agencies and media outlets. The suspect’s description, vehicle make, color & license plate were finally released to the public.

 

The National Amber Alert program was broken upon conception. Like all state Amber Alert systems, the Missouri plan was conceived and created by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). I know because I attended one of their steering committee concept meetings and argued against their old technology and their bureaucratic approach. My ideas were rejected by the architects of the plan at NCMEC.

 

Amber Alert should be a local, not statewide system because kidnapping is a local crime. When children are murdered the distance between where the child was last seen and their body was recovered was less than 1.5 mile in 46% of cases and less than 12 miles in 76.5% of cases. The same study clearly demonstrates that missing children are killed within a very short time after they are abducted. 46.8% are dead within an hour, and 76.2% are dead within three hours. Had the Amber Alert been issued within minutes, not hours of Hailey’s abduction, she might very well be alive today. Clearly, in the most desperate cases like Hailey Owens, time is of the essence. We need action, not red tape.

 

The rationale for this cumbersome approach to the Amber Alert is to guard against ‘cry wolf’ scenarios. I have never seen evidence of ‘cry wolf’, but I have seen plenty of kids die because it took too long to issue an Amber Alert. I believe that ‘cry wolf’ is nothing more than a fiction created to justify a broken system. We trust cops with guns, why not trust them to issue Amber Alerts?

 

NCMEC there is blood on your hands. That the Amber Alert failed to save Hailey Owens is not the fault of Springfield PD or the Missouri State Highway Patrol. They were simply following a protocol created by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Appointment with Destiny

Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act

Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act

Like most of the important events in my life, this story begins with the kidnap of my daughter Polly.

 

That I found myself sharing the world stage with the President of the United States should have filled my heart with pride. Instead depression and sadness informed my state of mind and directed my emotions during the first years after Polly’s tragedy. The result was that I spent that time in a semi-fugue state: devoid of joy; wishing that I were dead; and with little memory of the details of my life.

 

Polly’s tragedy captured America’s imagination like few crimes had before. Because it evolved over a sixty-five day span there were infinite opportunities for speculation, innuendo and predictions to run rampant. Millions of images of her pretty face and clear eyes stared back from telephone poles, television screens, computer monitors, and newspapers. The kidnap, rape and murder of Polly Klaas crossed a Rubicon and our collective consciousness demanded resolution. America’s obsession with her fate finally exploded in outrage when the scope of the tragedy was finally revealed on December 4, 1993.

 

Polly became the symbol of a crime epidemic that spread from Main Street, to Broadway, to Pennsylvania Avenue. California’s fledgling 3-Strikes & You’re Out initiative immediately secured twice as many signatures as it would need to qualify for California’s 1994 ballot. Governor Pete Wilson of California ordered a special legislative session to focus on crime. The Republican Party’s Contract with America would include an aggressive anti-crime agenda. President Clinton was promoting a Crime Bill designed to reinforce our law enforcement community as it held criminals accountable for their actions.

 

Shortly after Polly’s killer was arrested I was invited to appear on the Today Show. Katie Couric asked me if I had spoken with President Clinton. I told her that I had not, but would love the opportunity. By the time that Violet and I returned to the hotel later that morning there was a call waiting from the White House. On December 20, 1993 I was sitting in the Oval Office discussing crime with the president of the United States.

 

Among other topics of conversation the president enlisted me to lobby on behalf of his crime bill, which I was happy to do. That resulted in subsequent trips to Washington to testify before Congress, lobby individual members requesting their support for the Crime Bill, as well as numerous opportunities to promote the measure in media and other public forums. In return, President Clinton invited me to attend the ceremony where he would sign the largest crime control bill in America’s history on September 13, 1994.

 

I came up during a time when American politics was dominated by one family, and the name was neither Clinton nor Bush. In 1960 I campaigned for Jack Kennedy in his bid for the presidency. In 1963 I cried when I learned that he had been assassinated. When Bobby Kennedy ran for President in 1968, I enthusiastically hung my hopes on his candidacy and was devastated when his life was taken by an assassin’s bullet.

 

s-TED-KENNEDY-largeSo, as I followed President Clinton onto the podium on the South Lawn of the White House I was neither nervous nor overwhelmed by the rows of dignitaries sitting behind the President’s signing desk. However, I was taken aback when the portly gentleman with eager blue eyes and full head of windswept white hair stood up, extended his hand and said, “Senator Ted Kennedy. It is an honor to meet you”. As I shook his hand, I appreciated the absurdity of the moment and thought, “Everybody knows who you are,” as the first smile in many months finally lit up my face.

Fat Cats & Bureaucrats

Let’s set the record straight.

 

Search - Brad

Brad Dennis & Cheyenne

On February 4, 2014 an FBI press release publicized the recovery of 16 children during a Super Bowl sex trafficking sting. Many of the children traveled to New Jersey from other states specifically to be prostituted at the Super Bowl. The children ranged in age from 13 to 17-years old, including high school students and children who had been reported missing by their families.  Additionally, more than 45-pimps and their associates were arrested during the Blitz the Traffickers sting operation. Arrests were made and victims recovered in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

 

A coalition of grass roots nonprofit organizations (NPO) partnered with law enforcement on Blitz the Traffickers, but the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) was the only NPO mentioned in the FBI release. According to GuideStar, in 2012, NCMEC received a $31,715,505 grant from the United States Department of Justice to pursue their mission of helping to prevent child abduction and sexual exploitation; help find missing children; and assist victims of child abduction and sexual exploitation, their families, and the professionals who serve them. The NCMEC (2012) IRS Form 990 allocates $11,407,540 to, “Provide technical assistance and provide case analysis to assist law enforcement in their efforts to locate and recover missing children and victims of domestic child sex trafficking and to locate and apprehend noncompliant sex offenders”.

 

The NCMEC did not put boots on the ground at Super Bowl XLVIII. Instead, they distributed names and photographs of children they believe might be trafficked to the authorities; and they equipped law enforcement with “hope bags” containing items like flip flops and toothpaste for children rescued from prostitution. This is not a lot of bang for your buck.

Stop Sex Exploitation

Under the leadership of Search and Rescue Director Brad Dennis, KlaasKids, which receives no government funding, has been working with the New Jersey State Police since May 2013 and has participated in several of their sting operations leading up to the big game.  We were embedded with the law enforcement Super Bowl operation from January 28-February 1.  During this time, KlaasKids worked in direct contact with Federal and State intelligence analysts providing information to the operational elements of the law enforcement operation. Our role was two-fold: Providing specific leads regarding online advertisements which had a number of indicators suggesting the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Our most beneficial role was to provide additional analysis to any lead the FBI/NCMEC or other agencies provided to the intelligence unit. Our ability to conduct deep-web searches and scrub the initial ad looking for corroborative information enabled us to provide enhanced intelligence to the undercover operation, as well as, to the interviewers.

In Our BackyardThe KlaasKids Foundation was but one component in a nonprofit coalition that participated in the Blitz the Traffickers operation. For more than a year  Nita Belles worked with the New Jersey Attorney General’s office and local trafficking task forces to overcome operational obstacles and ensure the success of Blitz the Traffickers. The Pensacola based Called2Rescue team provided monitoring services of online escort ads and forwarded over 200-leads to the KlaasKids team in New Jersey. KlaasKids then scrubbed those leads for additional corroboration and submitted 23-specific leads to law enforcement. Several of these leads were in neighboring areas/states and were forwarded to those respective units by the FBI analysts. Free International and StudentReach developed a school assembly program featuring a state-of-the-art 3D multi-media production to prevent child exploitation and features posters of several of the missing children to 30-schools and 6-colleges in New Jersey. Global Child Rescue and Stop Sex Exploitation mobilized local faith based partners to disseminate the awareness posters and missing child books throughout New York and New Jersey.

Free International School Assembly

Free International School Assembly

5000-booklets containing images of 43-regional missing children along with 75,000-football cards featuring 3-missing children were distributed in New Jersey and Times Square, NY.  40,000-human trafficking awareness posters, designed by the Attorney General’s office featuring the New Jersey Human Trafficking Hotline were disseminated. Specific highlights of the Blitz the Traffickers operation included: 16-minors rescued.  27-pimps and/or associates were arrested in New Jersey and 17 in New York.

Global Child Rescue

Unlike the Arlington, VA based NCMEC and Washington, DC headquartered Polaris Project, the Blitz the Traffickers nonprofit coalition did not receive government funding. However, while NCMEC sent pictures and bags full of shampoo and water bottles, and the Polaris Project whined, the Super Bowl nonprofit coalition got busy. They directly assisted in rescuing children, apprehending pimps, and raising awareness about an issue that touches our soul deeply.

Called to Rescue

It seems to me that if American citizens are going to financially support missing child and anti-trafficking nonprofit organizations, they should expect a response that influences policy change through action, dedication and determination. Instead, our national treasure is being squandered on fat cats and bureaucrats.  As a nation we deserve better than that.

Blitz the Traffickers: Human Trafficking & the Super Bowl!

Super Bowl leadA January 18, 2014 USA Today article highlights efforts to combat and raise awareness about human trafficking at Super Bowl XLVIII, which will be held in New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium in two days. ‘Blitz the Traffickers’ consists of a coalition of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and non-profit organizations. The coalition has received unprecedented media coverage and as a result, the public is more aware than ever about the scourge sex trafficking within our own borders. Unfortunately, some non-profit, anti-trafficking leaders are criticizing rather than supporting this effort.

Super Bowl XLIV

In 2009, the KlaasKids Foundation and the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking spearheaded the first Super Bowl Tackle the Traffickers. Online analysis using Craigslist and other websites favored by providers and customers was used to target selected geographic locations thought to be hotbeds of human trafficking. More than 45 volunteers distributed anti-trafficking literature and pictures of suspected underage victims to hotels, restaurants, gas stations and other businesses in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater during Super Bowl week. As a result of this effort law enforcement secured enough information to arrest 33-traffickers prior to game day. They were also led to the “Treasure Island” trafficking case where three individuals were arrested for prostituting local women and girls.

Super Bowl HT Bust

Treasure Island Human Trafficking Arrests

 KlaasKids has been a non-profit leader working to highlight sex trafficking at every Super Bowl since 2009. The campaign as well as cooperation between law enforcement and non-profit participants has grown exponentially as has public awareness and education. Now, during our sixth consecutive Super Bowl outreach major media outlets are featuring sex trafficking, Congress is holding briefings, and law enforcement is working hand in hand with the KlaasKids Foundation and other non-profit vendors to rescue victims and punish sex traffickers at the Super Bowl. With enhanced public awareness and education about domestic human trafficking at an all-time high I fail to see the downside of this operation.

 

Unfortunately, not everybody shares my view. Bradley Myles, Executive Director of the Washington, DC based Polaris Project openly criticizes Blitz the Traffickers. “There’s not an enormous amount of data that tells the story that there’s a giant spike in trafficking around the Super Bowl. From our perspective, this is really a 365-day-a-year problem, and we want to make sure people’s focus is on all 365 days.” He goes on to say that by, “Focusing solely on the problem for a weekend won’t help victims whose traffickers may keep them away during the Big Game only to sell them once the public’s attention moves elsewhere.”

 

Polaris Project is committed to combatting human trafficking and to strengthening the anti-trafficking movement through a comprehensive approach. According to IRS form 990, in 2012, Polaris Project received $7,234,451 in total donations, including $1,297,434 in government funding. They budgeted $883,224 for the DC Trafficking Intervention Program and the NJ Trafficking Intervention Program. They are charged with providing direct social services to victims of human trafficking in the Washington, DC and Newark, NJ metropolitan regions. Although MetLife Stadium is only 7-miles from downtown Newark, NJ, Myles prefers to criticize Blitz the Traffickers rather than offering to assist human trafficking victims rescued at the Super Bowl with direct social services.

 

The KlaasKids Foundation does not receive government funding and is not compensated its Super Bowl outreach program. Yet we have been very successful in increasing overall awareness of human trafficking, in pioneering online monitoring and reporting, in creating a campaign to increase public awareness of area missing children, and limiting opportunities for pimps and johns. KlaasKids understands that human trafficking is a 365 day problem in the United States, but believes that the Super Bowl is a perfect stage to highlight the issue. It should be obvious to anyone who actually pays attention that the Super Bowl is symbolic of any huge public event that draws large numbers of men with disposable income and time on their hands.

Super Bowl Outreach

Super Bowl Outreach

By linking arms and working toward common goals we can change the world. Efforts to rescue victims and punish traffickers can only be enhanced by working with other non-profit organizations with similar goals. It’s the difference between boots on the ground and lofty pronouncements from ivory towers. If you are going to talk the talk, you should be prepared to walk the walk: particularly if, like the Polaris Project, your talk is underwritten by taxpayer dollars.