Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

Boom! Goes the Neighborhood: Spring means unexplained explosions return to South Minneapolis

For at least four Spring/Summers a series of unexplained explosions have rocked the Longfellow/Seward neighborhoods of Minneapolis.  911 Operators have been inundated with phone calls from concerned residents whose homes are shaken from these loud earth-shaking sonic booms.

These explosion noises began four years ago during  very hot summer and I shrugged them off as transformer explosions as they seemed to correspond to power failures as well.  But they have continued every season since.  A discussion with the Minneapolis Police Department reveals that there has been an ongoing investigation into the source of the explosion noises and while they have been able to rule out certain causes such as a natural source (river/sewer, etc) they have been unable to find a reason, person, cause responsible for them.

The explosions got much more attention when St. Paul was host to the Republican National Convention with Homeland Security very much involved in the investigation, setting up nighttime surveillance by the river.  Obviously neither they, nor the Minneapolis Police Department are willing to divulge specific details regarding the ongoing investigation but the explosions continue so they have been unable to “solve” the case.

While this is disturbing for someone like me, who lives two blocks from the Mississippi River which is the location from which these explosions are originating, between Lake Street & Ford Bridges, I am reassured by who is working on the case. The attention the Bomb Squad and MPD Third Precinct investigators are giving to this matter is the best for which Minneapolis and St. Paul residents (they are just across the river after all) can hope.  They have been thorough and Inspector Lucy Gerold & Sergeant Wally Krueger have been extremely responsive to my inquiries, living in one of the neighborhoods most affected.

Frustrating investigators is that the explosions can only be heard and they have been unable to discover much evidence, which is why they have asked for cooperation from anyone who may be able to help. If you see anything suspicious by the West River or East River Parkways at night you are asked to call police and if you hear the explosions you are also asked to first check  if you can see anything (a light flash, smoke, etc) then call 911 to report from where you think the explosions originated. Pinpointing the location will help investigators and responders.

Saturday, May 15th, the response to the explosions (there were two, one at 10:15pm and another at 11:30) was swift and this time the State Patrol helicopter was sent to the riverfront to circle to determine whether they could see any activity or evidence.

As Twitter expands you will see greater buzz there in response to these noises.  If you search my historical stream (@quick13) you will see a history of how often they have occurred with tweets like “another explosion tonight” dating back over two years.  Last night someone even created a hashtag for them: #bignoisempls.

The explosions follow a pattern, usually beginning at a specific time, like 10pm and if there is a second one, following at a specific time after, like 11pm or midnight. If the first explosion is at midnight then the second explosion is at 1am or 2am. There is always a regular interval pattern, and there are almost always two or three explosions. One explosion is usually louder than the other.  Rarely there are three explosions in one evening.

There is concern there is something dastardly behind these explosions, but after four summers of enduring them, I am beginning to believe there is a more innocuous explanation.  But then again, in today’s world we have too many reasons for doubt, especially when it comes to things being blown up.  Whatever happens, after four years of having disturbed sleep makes me hope that the investigation can be resolved, if not for my own personal health, but that of the foundation of my home, and perhaps the foundation of the fine City of Minneapolis.

A Monday call for Justice

As I read the news this morning I noticed two stories near each other that although about different topics seemed to be calling for the same thing, justice.

There seems to be a constant tug-of-war happening within our society pitting the need for more police power against the need to preserve the rights of the citizens. To call this tug of war a delicate dance would be like calling a bull in a china shop a remodeling experience, while both may be true to some extent, neither captures the lopsided nature of the situation.

The firt editorial, Editorial: Strong forfeiture safeguards needed makes the case for reforms on the State’s forfeiture laws.

Changes are also needed to restore the power balance between authorities and individuals. It’s too far tilted toward police right now. Lawmakers are weighing several bills, but reforms won’t be adequate unless they include these key elements:

•Property should be forfeited only if there’s a conviction. This would not stop authorities from seizing property, as some law enforcement representatives claim. It would protect innocent people suspected of wrongdoing, yet still deprive criminals of ill-gotten booty.

•Forfeiture funds should go into the state general fund, which would break the financial incentive for police to seize property to help their agencies, though it would also reduce their funding somewhat. (Gross sales of forfeited goods or cash totaled $3.8 million in Minnesota in 2008, down 21.4 percent from 2007.) Some law enforcement representatives’ objections to this are disingenuous. They argue that these funds are absolutely critical to police operations, but at the same time insist that this is not an incentive to seize valuable property. It doesn’t add up.

With recent abuses of these laws brought to light many stories have surfaced about innocent parties losing property due to the extreme nature of the forfeiture process and the high costs of fighting the system, few are willing or able to spend thousands of dollars fighting to get a few hundred or a few thousand dollars back.

The second story is something I have also written about and that is the use of cell phone tracking and historical usage without a warrant. In the article by Steve Chapman: If you carry a cell phone, you can’t hide he notes it “raises issues about privacy and unchecked government surveillance”

That gadget, you see, is called a cell phone. For years, the cops may have been using it to keep close tabs on you without your knowledge, even if you have done nothing wrong.

They don’t have to get a search warrant — which would limit them to situations where they can show some reason to think you’re breaking the law. All they have to do is tell a judge that the information is relevant to a criminal investigation and send a request to your service provider.

He then puts this into some historical context

Privacy protections can become meaningless if we don’t adapt them to new inventions. Today, we take it for granted that the FBI can’t listen to our phone conversations without a search warrant. But in 1928, the Supreme Court said the Fourth Amendment did not apply to anyone “who installs in his house a telephone instrument with connecting wires … to project his voice to those quite outside.”

Not until 1967 did the court correct that blunder. It ruled that “the Fourth Amendment protects people, not places,” including those things a person “seeks to preserve as private, even in an area accessible to the public.”

Maybe it still does. Or maybe not.

It seems to me that average law abiding people have been growing weary of the recent trend to treat em all like criminals, take their stuff, lock’em up, and let God sort’em out attitude that seems to permeate the criminal justice system.

These law enforcement lobbyists and representatives are better off listening to the public’s concerns and working with them rather than using the same old tired fear mongering fallacy that crime will run rampant if the public doesn’t fold to their demands.

Normal law abiding citizens have learned to fear those that are supposed to protect them and it’s time our elected officials realize this is more than just a bad case of the Mondays.

Hennepin County hearts spying on you

With the massive healthcare debate going on Hennepin County has decided to fly under the radar and approve a twice denied request for KingFish cell phone tracking equipment.

According to the Strib This time, Stanek lands KingFish phone tracker

After twice coming away with nothing, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek received approval Tuesday to funding for a controversial tracking device that can pinpoint cell phone locations even when they’re not being used.

The equipment would be used by the sheriff’s investigations bureau, according to County Board documents. “The system acts as a mobile wireless phone tower and has the capability to find, track and/or deny mobile phone service,” the documents state.

The tracking device can receive information from all cell phones that are on, even if they are not being used.

I’m certain this will not be used in an intrusive and possibly illegal manner. Though, I wonder what Ol’ Smash-and-Grab Stanek has in mind?

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Kitten runs for Hennipen County Sheriff

Facebook:Kitten for Hennepin County Sheriff. Remove Sheriff Rich Stanek

InformationCountry:
United States
Currently Running ForOffice:
Sheriff
State:
Minnesota
District:
Hennepin County
Party:
Kitten Disobedience
Current OfficeOffice: Litter Box
State: Minnesota
District: Hennepin County
Party: Kitten Disobedience

Twitter:KittenSheriff

This does raise some important questions: Where does the kitten stand on puppy rights? What is the kitten’s record on mouse enforcement? How does the kitten feel about the legalization of string?

Via BigBoxCar

How tough is tough enough?

Depending on who you ask Minnesota either has a drinking and driving problem or the laws have gotten too strict. I’ve heard numbers cited that 1 in 8 Minnesotans (524,000 drivers) have a DWI and there are about 20,000 new first time offenders every year.

Wow.

Recently Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s has been proposing a series of stiffer laws and amongst those laws affected would be DWI/DUI.

The editors at the Strib have put together this little gem Editorial: Toughen DWI laws and save lives.

What I wonder is where is the point of diminishing returns, I think it’s clear that making tougher laws does not always result in less crime.

There are actually a few decent comments on the Strib story, but this one stands out

Let’s stop kidding ourselves
When I started in law enforcement 25 years ago it took me about 20 minutes to read the implied consent, obtain a test and write a ticket for DUI. When I ended my career I needed a flow chart to figure out what degree of DUI that was to be charged and 3 hours to fill out the required paperwork. We engage in this on going debate because enough citizens in our state refuse to acknowledge that it is not OK to drive when you have a snootful and a whole industry that has grown up to enable or punish this small group. Interlock’s will not stop the chronic offender. The chronic drunks desire to drive drunk will be readily served by a new industry who’s sole efforts will be to defeat the purpose of the interlock.
posted by montaguezx

Are the current laws sufficient? Too strict? I don’t know, but I get the feeling making tougher laws won’t do much to make the streets safer.

Thoughts?

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Mom, get out!

I love local police blotter news. Police blotter is probably my favorite section in my belove East Side Review

It can be funny at times, but mainly it’s a good way to tell if there is a rash of problems creeping into my neighborhood. I find it useful to track the assaults, stolen vehicles, and break ins and the neighborhoods in which they are occuring.

For the amusement aspect of blotter, typically the smaller the paper the better, but every now and the big papers have something funny.

The Strib prints this one from Apple Valley

DEC. 28

Unwanted visitor. An officer received a complaint from a woman who said her mother had arrived for Christmas and was now refusing to leave

I think we’ve all been there.

Blotter, love it or leave it?

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Sitting in a D.C. Jail Cell


Dr. King reminded us during the Vietnam War buildup: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” Spiritual and psychic death is what we encountered in our tour of the DC jails. We continue to sow death and reap the whirlwind.

The powerful words of the late Dr.King is how Minneapolis peace activist and T.C. Daily Planet journalist Steve Clemens ends his report, Adventure at the White House. He then goes on to describe his recent experience with a Justice System that may be described as far more more systematic than just.

After 28 straight hours in four different jails, I was physically and emotionally exhausted. We had been arrested the day before as part of a civil disobedience action against the wars in front of Obama’s White House the day before his first State of the Union speech. I think all 13 of us who had been arrested had been traumatized by witnessing the continual crushing of the human spirit by the cruelly named “justice system.”

So when I was led into the courtroom with leg irons, and a waist chain attached to the metal handcuffs, I looked like a hardened criminal facing murder or kidnapping charges. Was the overkill on the part of the Washington, DC Metro Police strategically designed to demoralize and denigrate the “criminals” caught in its web, or was it merely a bureaucracy gone amuck with no idea how to discriminate and apply sufficient restraints where needed.

(h/t DBrauer)

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Ramsey County is watching you.

Kare 11 reports

Saint Paul, MN – Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher has created a network of wireless remote control surveillance cameras, the first of it’s kind in the nation. And the public will eventually have opportunities to monitor the new electronic snooping devices.

“We’re creating a system that allows the average citizen to be our eyes and ears,” Sheriff Fletcher I ask myself,Has law enforcement demonstrated that they will use technology in a legal manner
.

told reporters Tuesday, as he stood before a wall full of flat screen TV monitors.

The devices transmit video back to headquarters via cell phones. That video can then be streamed over the Internet to computers, iPhones and Google Droids.

In one breath Fletcher says

This is to view public spaces,” “Places that a normal person could actually view it they were actually there. It’s not like we’re going to be peering through your windows.”

and in the next he says

He said no citizen will be intentionally tracked with the “web cop” system unless there’s already compelling evidence of criminal behavior or intent

What exactly is compelling evidence of criminal behavior or intent?

I’m guessing it’s somewhere along the lines of “If you’re a citizen, you’re a criminal” I ask myself if law enforcement has shown that it can use technology or new policy for their intended purpose the answer is no.
In my opinion this is a giant policy fail for the county and another step towards Total-Police-Domination™

Maybe you disagree.

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Talking Minnesota – 01/08/2009

Ever have one of those weeks… you know, one of those weeks.

This week was one of those weeks for me. My family remains haunted by a plague of a sinus cold , I found out I was most likely investigated by the FBI due to some indescretions by our renters involving the alleged stealing of identites (thankfully not involving us or our property), and yesterday some creepy guy at the gym did the “I’m watching you” fingers to the eyes with a point at me ala Stiller and De Nero as he paused before leaving.

Yup, one of those weeks.

What could top that off?

How about the Star Tribune surveying gov candidates on substance use and mental health? Now there’s a can of worms and someone released the local heavy weights to swing it out over at Minnpost with Is the Star Tribune crazy to ask governor candidates about their mental health? and Bob Collins has a poll on the topic that almost reads like it was written by me.

After all that, plus the prior night’s, twitter talk about it I could use a drink.

Luckily Secrets of the City is there with “what’s your drink”.

In lighter news yet IamDez brings us CAPTCHA: The Movie

Speaking of Twitter Julio Ojeda-Zapata has Looking for journos on Twitter? Here is how to find them

With the weather the way it’s been maybe you need more help looking for your bike, check BuriedBikes. Is that yours?

You know what? It can’t all be bad. Let’s extend a hearty congratulations to Chuckumentary on his new job. I hear he’s been animated. Not bad for a first week.

I close it out with Military Special – “Apology”
Recorded by Todd Pitman on January 2, 2010 at the Hexagon Bar in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JOF6CzVDDs[/youtube]

Game Day – Vikings vs. Bears

The Vikings have been stumbling with 2 horrible performances in their last three games. Top it off with some major changes in the last month: the loss of their Defensive heart and soul E.J. Henderson, a new coach, an offensive line that refuses to block for more than one-mississippi, and you have the recipe for a team preparing to quietly slide out of the season and point to their 11 or more wins as “progress”.

Did I mention those two losses were on National TV much like tonight’s Monday Night Football appearance.

Let’s hope they hit the brakes on that slide and here are a few key factors that need to met for tonight’s W.

1) Abandon the run – Sure Chicago is allowing 128.5 rushing yards per game, but the new coach prefers to pass. When faced with a defense that makes mean faces at the running back Coach Brett America becomes prone to audible into a incomplete pass. Word out of Winter Park is that the old coach Chilly the Meek still has some power over the play calling and he needs to adjust the gameplan to exclude all run plays. Or at the very least, recognize when the new coach is getting his ass handed to him compliments of the five fat men up front and call the occasional screen play. I wish I had some stats on how many screen plays we’ve called in the last three games, but I only remember two. So let’s say, not enough.

2) Defense – Our defense has to ramp up the intesity with every single game remaining in the season. An offense wins games, but a defense wins championships and they’ve been looking more chump than champ in the last month. Sure they’ve been playing a solid three quarters, but the last time I checked an NFL game actually contains 4 or more quarters.

3) Bribe the refs – It’s no secret the NFL refs are getting better and better at deciding which major market team who wins a game. It’s also no secret they are constantly angry at the NFL over their contract and pay, so I say let’s cut out the middle man and get them on payroll. Of course, tonight that could be costly as Chicago is known for it’s organized crime and chances are they have already made some payments. That is, if there were a mob, which there isn’t.

Reports are saying weather will play a factor in tonight’s game, but those reports are bogus and should be ignored. Also, some may lead you to believe the all is harmony and rainbows between Childress and Favre, lies. If anyone tries to tell you that in person you can legally kick them in the shin and push them over.

My prediction:
Vikings: Win
Bears: Lose
Monday Night Football: Music and Announcers suck eggs.

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