Fraud Charges in $600K Brooklyn Museum Scam

The former payroll manager for the Brooklyn Museum is facing some criminal charges for money that was stolen while he was employed there. No longer working for the museum, Dwight Newton was arrested at his new place of work, Action Against Hunger.

Newton allegedly took over $600,000 in fraudulent paychecks from the museum during his employment there. As the payroll clerk he was in a good position to make paychecks out to fictitious names and direct deposit them into his own account. Continue reading “Fraud Charges in $600K Brooklyn Museum Scam”

NYPD Stop and Frisks Up for 2009

New York City diligently tracks the number of “stop and frisks” its officers do on a daily basis. So far this year, these stops are up more than 18% from this time last year according to the New York Times. Interestingly but not surprisingly these stops were done on a disproportionate number of minorities, causing some eyebrow raising from civil liberties groups.

A “stop and frisk” is when an officer stops, perhaps questions, and pats down, or searches someone on the street. These are done as a preventative measure under many different circumstances. Some people feel that these stops are overused and abused while others believe them to be completely effective in controlling and preventing criminal activity. Continue reading “NYPD Stop and Frisks Up for 2009”

New York Task Force to Examine Wrongful Criminal Convictions

People are often accused of crimes they didn’t commit. Less often they are convicted of these crimes. Although it isn’t a frequent occurrence, wrongful convictions should be guarded against at every turn. When our justice system works like it is supposed to, innocent people go free and guilty people are convicted.

New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman is looking to create a task force designed to specifically look at wrongful convictions, why they happen, and what can be done to prevent them. Unlike programs like the Innocence Project, this task force won’t look at cases that may be wrongful convictions but will only work with cases where the defendants have been exonerated.

As this article in the New York Times points out, the task force won’t only be looking at capital cases either. The group will look at all wrongful convictions in hopes to get a good, well-balanced idea about why they happen. This kind of information will be useful, not only to the New York criminal justice system, but to justice systems across the country. Continue reading “New York Task Force to Examine Wrongful Criminal Convictions”

Foreclosed Homes in Queens NY Lead to Increased Crime Rates

Likely a trend across the country, officials in the borough of Queens have discovered that although the overall crime rate in the city has dropped, it has dropped far less significantly or even risen in areas of high foreclosures. With foreclosure rates at all time highs, neighborhoods are filled with vacant homes and less watchful neighbors.

The Daily News reports that in all but two areas of high foreclosure crime rose between 2006 and 2008. The majority of the city, however, saw declines in criminal activity. 2008 saw a jump of 150% in criminal incidences in high-foreclosure areas. This is quite a dramatic increase.

These abandoned homes are ripe for the picking when it comes to thefts and break-ins. Many of these buildings have also become the scene of more violent and sinister offenses. Serial rapists plagued the city last summer, carrying out their dirty deeds in empty buildings. Continue reading “Foreclosed Homes in Queens NY Lead to Increased Crime Rates”

NY Drug Laws: Big Changes Ahead

A few months ago we posted an entry about how the N.Y. Criminal Sentencing Commission came up with nothing remarkable in their analysis of the archaic Rockefeller Drug Laws. Their input, it seemed, would do little to change the laws on the books. Now, however, things are looking quite different.

Last week, according to this report from the Washington Post, New York Governor David A. Patterson and leaders in the state legislature came to agreement that changes must be made to the disaster that has become New York drug policy. Sweeping changes are expected over the next year, making treatment more widely available and prison time a slim chance for non-violent and particularly first-time drug offenders.

Currently, New York has some of the harshest drug laws in the nation, often putting non-violent drug addicted offenders away for lengthy sentences that only contribute to recidivism. Now, however, states across the country realize the importance of treatment and rehabilitation if we are to keep drug offenders clean and out of trouble on a long term basis. Continue reading “NY Drug Laws: Big Changes Ahead”

Mixed Reports on the Effectiveness of Surveillance Cameras in NY Crime Reduction

Cameras are always around us, and the trend shows no signs of decreasing. Police agencies in New York and nationwide are installing cameras in high crime neighborhoods and property managers are using them to deter crime in apartment complexes. But, how effective are they at actually reducing crime? The answers to that are quite mixed.

A new study out of New York University evaluated the presence of cameras (and other security devices) in two fairly high crime neighborhoods in the city. What they found was that there was little evidence pointing to a reduction in crime.

According to this article from Jennifer Lee at the New York Times, police several years ago claim they saw a drop of 35% in the crime rate around public housing complexes after cameras were installed there. Unfortunately, this report she cited was very outdated and it would be interesting to see if the housing police still believed this were the case, 3 years later. Continue reading “Mixed Reports on the Effectiveness of Surveillance Cameras in NY Crime Reduction”

NY Criminal Sentencing Commission Proposes Nothing Groundbreaking

Sentencing laws in New York have not been dramatically changed in over 40 years. In the world of criminal justice and of criminal law, this is an eternity. Laws undergo changes throughout the year and sentencing laws should be no different, adapting to the times.

Following two years of studies, the Commission on Sentencing Reform released their findings last week. They suggested making several changes to bring the current sentencing laws out of the dark ages. Their critics, however say they haven’t asked for enough.

The Commission suggests saving prison sentences and costly resources for more serious criminals while promoting sentencing alternatives for others. These alternatives include things like probation and community treatment programs.

Also recommended is better access to community alternatives for drug convictions. While New York does have treatment and alternative facilities in place, they remain hard to access for people of lower socio-economic levels and minorities.

While there were recommendations made it seems critics are not fond of the vague suggestions coming from the Commission. They were hoping for more drastic changes and substantive differences going forward.

As this report from the Star Gazette says, New York has some of the most confusing sentencing laws in the country. Don’t believe me, look at this simplified version. If the simple version still requires this much thought, imagine how the law books read.

After two years of studies I would expect more as well. Perhaps sweeping changes on the offense classifications and process of determining sentences, or an overhaul of the extremely archaic drug laws that send thousands of people to jail and prison every year for non-violent offenses would have been more appropriate.

Community alternatives are available for people facing criminal charges. It is correct, however, that not everyone has access to them and this is a shame. A good defense attorney knows of the programs out there and can assist their clients in finding the resources.