Thursday, July 13, 2006

Homeland security my ass. HUGE jump in violent crimes in US.

Recommended at Daily Kos, My Left Wing and Booman Tribune. Front paged at ePluribus Media

What a joke this "homeland security" nonsense is. Forget the fact that the whole "not fighting them over here meme is a ridiculous joke. Somehow, I would think that people would be a bit more concerned about the significant increase in violent crimes over the past few years.

While we have been force fed a steady diet of color coded threat levels, manufactured hysteria, illegal wars of aggression and the massive funneling of taxpayer dollars away from helping the working poor, the former middle class, the inner cities, the local police forces, heathcare, education and many programs that are meant to give our youth a chance to have a better life, violent crimes have increased significantly over the past few years.

One main reason? Cuts to pretty much everything that led to the decrease of violent crimes over the prior decade.

We have talked at great length about the ways that Homeland Security dollars are being wasted, how funds are being diverted from the areas that they should be focused on (including port security, local law enforcement and many many other areas). How states like Indiana are designated as having more terror targets than NY or California. How millions of dollars are being wasted on the following types of "homeland security threats":

Las Vegas:

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is paying $1.1 million to insert a disaster preparedness handbook into telephone directories even though the same information is freely available elsewhere, including online.

Does Las Vegas really need $1.5 million to train, not counterterrorist workers, but to train the trainers of counterterrorist workers? Maybe, but it would be nice if the determination was subject to some rigorous examination.

Last December, U.S. Rep. James Gibbons announced that Nevada was receiving $979,000 in homeland security money to pay for non-disaster related homeless needs--"supplementing existing food, shelter, rent, mortgage and utility assistance programs." All worthy purposes, but what have they to do with homeland security?

General pork projects from FY 2004 and 2005:

  • $935,000 awarded to a port where an industrial park was being built, leading the Department staff members to question if the money was in fact an economic grant instead of anti-terrorism financing.

  • $1,060,000 awarded to a port for fortified crash beams even though the Department

  • $500,000 spent by Outagamie County, WI. (pop. 165,000) to buy chemical suits, generators, rescue saws, disaster-response trailers, emergency lighting, escape hood, and a bomb disposal vehicle.

  • $557,400 awarded to North Pole, a town in Alaska (1,570 people), for homeland security rescue and communications equipment.

  • $2,000,000 to the Great Lakes Region to purchase an Icebreaker so that commercial ships can go through during the winter time.

  • $7,100,000 for forensic support and grants to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

  • $3,000,000 to Child Labor Enforcement

  • $10,000,000 to Intercity Bus Security to improve security for operators and passengers by providing bus security enhancements and training to bus companies and others.

  • $19,250,000 to be split between Mobile Alabama, Burlington Iowa, LaCrosse Wisconsin, Chelsea Massachusetts, New Orleans Louisiana, Morris Illinois and Charleston, South Carolina for alteration of bridges.

  • $2.5 billion for "highway security," which consists of building and improving roads.

  • $70,000,000 for the Homeland Security Fellowship Program for students and universities.

  • $50,000,000 to the National Exercise Program to provide an exercise program that meets the intent of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

  • $38 million to fully cover all remaining fire claims from the Cerro Grande Fire in New Mexico

  • $20,000,000 added by the Senate for the renovation of Nebraska Avenue Headquarters of the Department of Homeland Security.

  • $6,400,000 for the Intellectual Property Rights Center. The center's focus is to combat intellectual property right crime--a long time FBI project.

Well, you get the point. Some of these may be noble projects, but this is HOMELAND SECURITY funds we are talking about. Supposed to go towards protecting our citizens, disaster training, law enforcement and other things that are related to, you know, KEEPING US SAFE.

And with all of this money wasted, er, spent on these projects, we have seen violent crimes increase substantially over the past few years. Much of this is (whether it is right or not remains to be seen) attributed to an increase in juvenile crime. This increase isn't just a blip, and it isn't just confined to a few inner cities, or just to gang activity (although gang activity has been reported to be on the rise as well).

Consider the following chart:

In Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Washington, Boston and elsewhere, police are reporting spikes in juvenile crime as a surge in violence involving gangs and weapons has raised crime rates from historical lows early this decade. The rising concern about juveniles comes a month after the FBI said the nation's rate for violent crimes -- murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault -- rose in 2005, the first time in five years.

Minneapolis police estimate that this year, juveniles will account for 63% of all suspects in violent and property offenses there, up from 45% in 2002.

In Washington and Boston, police say there have been alarming increases in robberies by juveniles. This year, 42% of all robbery suspects in Washington have been juveniles, up from 25% in 2004, the police department says. A series of homicides -- 14 in July -- has led D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey to declare an emergency that allows him to put more cops in troubled areas. Four suspects have been arrested in the slaying of a British man in the upscale Georgetown area Sunday; they include a 15-year-old.

In Boston, juvenile arrests for robbery rose 54% in 2005; weapons arrests involving youths rose 103%. "Kids are jumping into this violence," police Superintendent Paul Joyce says. "We're very concerned."

So we are seeing the fruits of the republican agenda at work here. Cut Head Start, job training, education, nutrition programs and many other domestic programs designed to help We the People and you have more people in poverty, more people on the streets, more kids skipping school, more gang activity, more kids looking for ways to make money, and more crime.

And that seems to be the early consensus. As far as the types of reasons cited for the increase - general budget cuts, reduced funding for police, release of former gang leaders from prison, and the increased recruiting of juveniles by gangs are some of the ones that come to mind:

Tight local budgets and reduced federal funding for police, along with new anti-terrorism duties, have stretched police departments and led to cuts in community programs for youths. Historically low crime rates in recent years often have been linked to a booming economy. Now, with the economy slowing, officials in several cities are tying poverty and financial uncertainty to rising crime, particularly among juveniles.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says 41% of the children in his city are in households in which the annual income is below the federal poverty line, about $20,000 for a family of four. "A lot of young people have no hope in their lives," Barrett says, and many "think nothing of carrying a gun."


Tight budgets and an emphasis on terrorism have shifted federal and state money from police and programs for youths. "It should be no surprise that the streets are more violent," Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak says. Since 2003, he says, Minneapolis has lost at least $35 million a year in state funding for city programs.

In Boston and other cities, gang leaders imprisoned a decade or longer ago are being released and are reclaiming their turf. Joyce says they're recruiting -- or forcing -- youths to carry guns or deliver drugs to shield older gang members from additional charges. The weapons can turn disputes among teens into violent confrontations, he says.

Now, at the risk of sounding like Whitney Houston, children ARE our future. And if we take away programs that are designed to keep them from joining gangs, cut funding for programs that would give them a chance to succeed in school, cut programs designed for lower and working class people and turn our backs on them, we continue to increase the risk of these children growing up with no hope and few alternatives other than to join a gang (not that it is really a choice for many who do join) and make them more prone to violence.

Somehow I think that these cuts are a bit more related to juvenile violent crimes than video game, TV and movie violence. And they certainly make our children and communities LESS safe and secure.

I listed nearly $3 billion in non-Homeland Security related projects above. And that is a small piece of the government report that I listed. What if only a small percentage of that was spent on our local police, our communities, our youth?

Just think how much more secure our homeland would be if that was the case.

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