Friday, October 15, 2010

crime and the criminals, the DA's complain

The government’s most comprehensive crime survey indicates that violent and property crimes continued to decrease last year even as the nation’s economy slumped, confirming an earlier FBI report.

The National Crime Victimization study, released yesterday by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, showed violent and property crime last year reached the lowest level recorded in the survey, first published in 1973.

The survey estimated that violent crime dropped by 11.2 percent and property crimes 5.5 percent from 2008 levels. The survey interviews more than 135,000 US residents, so it captures not only crimes reported to the police, but also those that went unreported.

Last month, the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report showed a 5.3 percent drop in reports to police of violent crimes last year and a 4.6 percent decline in property crimes.

Professor Alfred Blumstein of Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz School of Public Policy, a specialist on crime trends, said the data on crime victims bolster the FBI’s report, which seemed to buck historical trends of higher crime rates during periods of economic distress.

I got a letter from the States DA"s the other day and wondered what this was all about. The Globe tells the rest:

The Massachusetts District Attorneys Association sent a letter last week to candidates for state office, complaining that last year Massachusetts spent $92 million for district attorneys to prosecute close to 300,000 cases, and $168 million to finance public defenders in two-thirds of those cases.

“The system is broken,’’ Plymouth District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz said yesterday. “The funding for defending criminals is out of control, while the district attorneys are starving for dollars.’’

But defense attorneys strongly disagreed. Representatives of the Committee for Public Counsel Services, as well as the Massachusetts Bar Association and the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, attended the event, with many defense lawyers sitting in the back of the room, arms folded, as the prosecutors talked.

“Your numbers are disingenuous,’’ said Rosemary C. Scapicchio, a Boston criminal defense attorney.

The defense lawyers argued that the boost in their funding occurred because court-appointed lawyers were at the time among the worst paid in the country. They also argued that the funding has helped to establish a good defense system for indigent people, making Massachusetts one of the best states at providing constitutionally protected legal counsel.

The defense lawyers also said the prosecutors’ numbers do not reflect the millions of dollars prosecutors receive in federal grants and from drug forfeitures, as well as contributions from investigative agencies such as local and State Police, state crime laboratories, and the state medical examiner’s office.

The district attorneys raised other arguments: Even with the boost in funding, the Committee for Public Counsel Services has routinely overspent its budget: Earlier this year, the Legislature approved an additional $33 million in funding because of budget overruns, according to the district attorneys.

The district attorneys argued that the system has encouraged some attorneys and court experts to depend on income from the state. In 2008 and 2009, for instance, the Public Counsel Committee paid more than $1 million to two psychologists who testify for indigent defendants in sexually dangerous person cases, according to the prosecutors.

The prosecutors also said the average assistant district attorney handles more than 400 cases a year, while the average criminal staff attorney for the Committee for Public Counsel Services handles about 100 cases.

The prosecutors’ group called for an equal distribution of funding to both prosecutors and public defenders, saying “the state’s budget priorities and values are out of synch with the public, and it is the public that is clearly paying as a consequence.’’

Please note... that the DA"s office, State and Local Police do NOT have to report their share of civil forfeitures proceeds, estimated to be in the multi millions. And, if the DA's would spend less time prosecuting low level drug possession, they'd have more time and money to prosecute real crime AND at the same time, freeing up public defenders to defend real criminals.

Our economy and the banks

If you haven't heard, all 50 states now have stopped ALL foreclosure proceedings. It turns out that hundreds of thousands of foreclosures may have not been done right. This action by some the biggest banks could spell the end of a few if investigators discover it was done intentionally. The foreclosure crises is getting bigger, with 102,000 just last month and on target for over a million by years end.

In an insult to this country, Wall Street is on target to pay 144 BILLION dollars in compensation to it's employees for 2010, up from 132 BILLION in 2009. The best line in an article for the WSJ was a quote, Many firms say if they don't adequately compensate employees, they risk losing top talent".

A recent UMASS study suggests that our economy is doing better than most in this country, "the recovery is fragile and uneven", but recognizes there are still to many people who cannot find work. Three hundred thousand in this Sate are still unemployed.The State has added 60,000 new jobs in the last 6 months and cut the unploymernt rate by a point, but it's clear to me, we will have high unemplyment in this Sate for years to come.

And today, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke gave the clearest signal yet that the Fed is about to act to further spur the sluggish U.S. economy, stating that "there would be a case for further action."

The Fed chairman, in a speech in Boston Friday morning, said persistently high unemployment poses too great a threat to the economy, and that the central bank needs to weigh the risk of weak prices, rather than focus on its traditional concerns about inflation. He suggested the battle against inflation has largely been won by the Fed.

I say: Look for another stimulus program similar to the "New Deal", were billions are spent on infrastructure rebuilding roads and bridges. We can't just wait until things turn around, we must act.

Renewable energy projects... will make a differance

All around us and in our back yard, millions will be spent on manufacturing and research and development. This week, Middleborough based Mass Tank Sales announced they will build and supply Cape Wind with the pilings that hold the turbines to the sea floor. They will partner with EEW Group from Germany, the worlds biggest manufactures of structural parts for wind turbines. They expect 100 jobs here in Mass and will begin marketing their products world wide. Siemans, the manufacture of Cape Wind turbines will also be opening an office in Boston... more jobs for Mass residents.

Google and a New York financial firm have announced they will invest heavily into a proposed 5 Billion dollar transmission line, 10 miles off the east coast and run from Virgina to New Jersey. This transmission line will enable wind turbine farms to cost less to build and operate, thus making electricity from their facilities, cheaper to the consumer. The construction is due to start in 2013 and will help navigate around permitting, which has been the reason many projects take years to approve.

This week UCONN has received a 1.8 million dollar grant from the DOE to build a bio refinery capable of making 200,000 gallons a year of bio diesel from hemp. This award signals the administrations willingness to incorporate hemp into the green energy program. And if our state can pass the Massachusetts Hemp Farm Bill, we would be able to supply UCONN with the necessary feedstock to make bio diesel. I will seek out grant opportunities for Massachusetts to build one in western mass.

On a not so brighter note, the Feds have given approval for blending more corn-based ethanol, from 10% now, to 15% for new cars. The new blend will be for cars and light duty trucks built after 2007. More testing is ongoing to see if the higher percentage ethanol can run in cars and trucks made from 2001 to 2006.

Not only does ethanol drive up the costs of food for humans and livestock, but now will obsolete many of our vehicles. Perhaps many of you will remember when un-leaded cars hit the market in 1974/75 and we were scrambling to find Getty stations for un-leaded gas.