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.

New York Gun Buy-Back Programs: Effective or Just a “Nice Symbolic Effort”?

Gun buyback programs gained popularity in the violent crime waves of the1980s. Some communities continue to use this as a program to keep firearms off the streets. But do these programs really reduce violent crimes or are they simply a “symbolic” gesture by law enforcement?

It’s true that offering $200 for a weapon will likely draw people to bring in their firearms. But, more interestingly, how many of these people are bringing in all of their weapons and how many are simply bringing in the ones they don’t have a desire to use anymore? It is difficult to measure the actual effectiveness of these programs and there are differing opinions about their effectiveness.

Law enforcement typically says that these programs do work. Any firearm they collect is a firearm not being used on the street. The likelihood that the firearms turned in would have been used in a violent crime is probably very rare. According to this article at Newsday.com, some people feel that these programs simply make people “feel good” but do little to combat crime.

A study of the programs was done at the University of California at Davis which found that buyback programs only netted 1-2% of total guns and those bought were rarely guns that would’ve been used in the commission of a crime.

Continue reading “New York Gun Buy-Back Programs: Effective or Just a “Nice Symbolic Effort”?”

More New York License Plate Scanner Police Stops

A Brewster man was flagged by a license plate scanner by Carmel, NY police for having a suspended license. The local police officer had on-board data that instantly identified the suspect’s car as having a license plate associated with a license under suspension.

These license plate scanners are matched with databases from courts and the DMV to identify stolen cars, and suspended licenses.

Interestingly, the police officer did not immediately have the driver’s vehicle associated with what he quickly found out to be an outstanding criminal arrest warrant.

Increasingly, license plate scanner technology also has current information on outstanding warrants, at least when the names can be matched with license plate data from the DMV.

We will keep watching for stories of license plate scanners leading to passive location of suspended licenses and criminal warrants in New York.

With this technology spreading everyday, you can’t expect to get away with these offense for long. If you have criminal legal problems, please contact us today for our advice. Find out what we can do to help you, with no obligation.

Charged with driving on a suspended license, or other criminal offenses in New York State? Contact our defense attorneys for a free consultation.

Drug Courts in New York Helping to Treat, not Punish

A new and successful model of criminal justice uses drug courts in New York and across the county. These courts are said to be responsible for a reduction of re-offenders of up to 26% in New York State.

Drug courts are a separate criminal process that focuses on close monitoring and treatment of drug addiction. In exchange for reduced criminal penalties and avoiding jail time, offenders agree to regular drug testing, and monitoring of attendance at narcotics anonymous and other more formal drug addition treatment programs.

It is an idea that is rapidly expanding nationwide, because it is cheaper than traditional criminal court, jails, and probation systems, and it works. According to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, up to 70,000 people are currently in drug courts nationwide.

One of the possible downsides to a drug court is that in order to be accepted into a drug program, you must essentially admit to the charges. According to many criminal defense lawyers, this can result in much more serious penalties if a person fails the program and is kicked out. Without the drug courts, the evidence would be questioned and attacked, and penalties agreed to in a plea bargain would likely be less. When that happens the defendant has essentially conceded all the facts in evidence against him, and faces the full wrath of the court, whatever that may consist of. This happens in the up to 40% of participants that drop out of the program.

Other criticisms of the programs conclude that they are more complicated then they need to be, and that the key is requiring and enforcing abstaining from drug use, which can be managed by a less intensive, and cheaper program with less overhead.

Whatever the criticisms and problems, it is clear that the attempt to treat drug addition and avoid addicts being sent to jail so frequently is most often a good deal for the defendants and for society.

If you are charged with drug possession in New York state, please contact our attorneys to find out if you may be eligible for a New York drug court program. The case evaluation is free.

Westchester County Proposes Car Forfeiture for DWI

A proposed law in Westchester county would allow for seizure of a person’s car or vehicle upon conviction for a DWI in New York, even after a first offense.  This ordinance would be one of the most extreme in the nation, and goes beyond the recommendations of the AAA and even Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

The proposal is said to not be about the revenue gained from the sale of these vehicles, but designed as a strict deterrent for anyone who would consider driving while intoxicated.

Numerous critics suggest that the law goes much too far in punishing people beyond anything reasonably required for public safety. Plus, it is an extreme burden on middle and working class families to have a car taken away.

MADD is a large supporter of ignition interlock devices, even for first offense DWI convictions. An ignition interlock device requires a driver to blow into a machine that measures breath alcohol before being allowed to start the igntion. It is essentially a rolling breathalyzer. Under current New York state drunk driving law, ingition interlock devices are only mandatory after a third offense drunk driving conviction. Interlock requirements for 1st offense cases are becoming more common in other states, with Arizona and Illinois having enacted strict interlock laws recently.

If you’ve been charged with DWI or drunk driving in New York state, please contact our law offices for a free legal case evaluation, and defense options specific to your case. There is no obligation for a consultation.

License Plate Scanner in Poughkeepsie to Track Parking Ticket Scofflaws

Six traffic tickets will get your car towed in Poughkeepsie, according to a new initiative to track down unpaid fines. An amnesty program will be in effect until November 1st which will waive late fees and fines, but after that point, you are at risk of much more serious fees if your car is towed and impounded.

A new city ordinance was passed to enable the towing and impounding of a person’s car who has 6 or more unpaid tickets. The city is said to have over $1 million in unpaid tickets that has yet to be collected, and with this aggressive action, they hope to collect 80% of that amount.

Of particular interest is that the Poughkeepie police will be using mobile license plate scanners to quickly identify any vehicles that have outstanding parking tickets. These devices can check at least several hundred plates an hour, just by driving by a parked vehicle. The video camera scans the plate, and matches the tag number using optical character recognition to a database of outstanding ticket violators.

Reason enough to get any traffic or parking citations resolved quickly, but it also should suggest that they will be using this technology for other law enforcement purposes. One these license plate scanners are in place and online, they can be used to match data from the DMV, and any law enforcement agency and court database. Common uses for these tag scanners are in locating stolen vehicles, and drivers with outstanding criminal warrants or suspended driver’s licenses.

This technology is becoming widespread across New York police departments and nationwide. Earlier, we mentioned that stationary plate scanners may be used to identify every driver entering New York City/Manhattan under efforts by homeland security agencies.

All NYC Cars to be Scanned and Recorded Under Operation Sentinel

One of the goals New York’s police commissioner is to scan and record all license plates of vehicles entering Manhattan. The implications of this are significant for anyone who might be driving on a suspended license, or have an outstanding criminal court warrant. It is quickly becoming nearly impossible to get away with these offenses.

The effort is part of a larger counterterrorism plan to track potential terrorists, and tie radiation signals to cars or trucks. But the technology for scanning license plates and cross-checking vehicle owner records with warrants, and other New York DMV database driver flags is already in place.

The fact is that you can be stopped anytime for driving down the road if you have any of these known issues. Currently, these scanners are video cameras mounted to police cruisers. They passively scan thousands of license plates an hour by simply driving down the road, or sitting by the side of the highway. If a license plate is flagged by the DMV, the courts, or any other law enforcement database, the police officer is instantly alerted to pull you over.

But now that technology is proposed to be mounted by the side of the road. It is easy to imagine how this ability could be abused by the government. They will have logs of where you’ve driving, and potentially be able to access this data historically, from years past.

And there is no legal way to opt out of this constant monitoring. At least with EZ-Pass technology, you can choose not to participate in tracking your use of toll roads by paying cash.

If you are facing any criminal charge in the State of New York, please contact us for a consultation.