Thursday, June 9, 2016

Buyer (and Seller) Beware

About two years ago, I posted a blog (Seller Beware) about Craigslist transactions. We had experienced some robberies in Boca Raton and there were also some violent crimes, including homicides, in other jurisdictions across the country.
Over the last several months, we have seen another disturbing trend involving transactions. This time, it’s primarily marijuana deals. Here is a sample of the cases we have worked:
  • Last December, Nicholas Acosta was shot and killed at the U-Park Apartments after five suspects came to buy marijuana from him.
  • In March, Atila Dearaujo died from stab wounds after engaging in a botched drug deal in the 1600 block of NW 13th Street.
  • On April 3, 2016, a dealer was stabbed twice after he made arrangements to sell 25 grams of marijuana to Jordan Washington. Washington was arrested and charged with Robbery with a Weapon and Aggravated Battery.
  • On April 15, 2016, a buyer showed up at Woodlands Park to purchase weed and was shot after an altercation ensued during the transaction.
  • On April 29, 2016, a buyer arranged to purchase marijuana from someone he met at the Blue Martini. The victim got into the car with the suspect in the BP Gas parking lot on Glades Road. During the course of the transaction, the seller pulled out a handgun and demanded the victim’s wallet. The suspect then forced the victim out of the car and fled.
  • On June 7, 2016, Jacob Walsh was shot and killed during a marijuana transaction at the San Marco Apartments, 5507 North Military Trail.
  • On June 9, 2016, a 16-year-old suffered a gunshot wound to his left ankle after he showed up to buy weed at 5800 North Federal Highway, behind the 24-Hour Mart.
Buying weed isn’t what it used to be. Not that it was ever a good idea, but this generation of consumers and vendors are arming themselves, and they clearly have a greater propensity for violence. They are even advertising it on their social media profiles.
You might ask, “Why is this important to me?” When we were dealing with the Craigslist problem, we offered up our police station as a recommended safe location for people to complete their transactions. We can’t make the same offer for your weed deal.
Last Tuesday night, a 17-year-old was shot during a marijuana purchase. Is your kid likely to buy weed? At the very least, parents need to have a conversation with their kids about the potential outcomes.
Most of these armed thugs don’t practice very often and don’t care about who may get caught in their field of fire. Everyone needs to be aware of any suspicious activity - and report it to us accordingly.
The pattern is all over the place and not unique to Boca, but we will be attacking the problem from a number of different angles. We need you to be vigilant and let us know when you see a problem. As always, let’s be careful out there.

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Trap

I guess just about anyone selling a product or just seeking attention these days has created a list, often ranking cities and organizations on a wide variety of criteria. Boca Raton usually pops up on these lists somewhere, with the most recent publication ranking us high on the “speed trap” list in Florida.

News outlets then legitimize these lists by using empirical terms like “study” and “researchers.” I’ve reviewed this speed trap list and developed my own top three reasons why this list is, well, “Lacking.”
1. It’s not all us. Some of the locations, like “in front of the EMT station on Lyons Rd.,” are not even located in the City. As is often the case, many well-meaning people mistakenly think some “Greater Boca Raton” areas are within our city limits, but they actually aren’t the jurisdiction of the Boca Raton Police Department. Also, remember that the term “population” does not include the thousands of people who come to our city to go to school, shop at the mall, work, enjoy the beach, etc.
2. It’s not science. The “data” was contributed by users who believed they encountered a speed trap.  It doesn’t matter if an officer was working an accident or writing a report on the shoulder. If someone believed it to be a speed trap, then it was a speed trap. This data collection methodology also included the opinions of people who have no direct knowledge or exposure to the location and/or activity in question. If someone in Alaska agrees that there is a speed trap in Boca, then his vote counts.
3. It’s about the tickets. That’s what really matters, no? One of the speed trap areas mentioned was the Spanish River Boulevard overpass at I-95. Since the beginning of this year, we have written zero tickets at this location. Zip. Zilch. Nada. What about all those speeding citations in the City?  I like to look at trends. Check out the numbers over the past ten years.
By the way, in all my years as a chief, I have NEVER been asked to increase our citations to generate more revenue. If there is a traffic safety problem in an area, I certainly want to see more enforcement. However, as the legislature raised your speeding fines, your police officers actually reduced the number of citations that they issued. That’s probably a consistent phenomenon across the State.
Truth be told, I really do enjoy these rankings and online quizzes. In fact, Facebook just told me that I look like Leonardo DiCaprio. As much as I would like to believe them, I’ve learned to be a little more circumspect about these online publications and their “empirical” research.
If speeding or crime is a problem in a particular area, we will be conducting enforcement there. I can assure you that staying close to the speed limit will reduce the likelihood of you actually receiving a speeding ticket or, more importantly, getting into a crash. I just made that up, but I think it’s true.
We really do take traffic safety seriously and remind you to please watch your speed. As always, let’s be careful out there.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

More droning

Drones still seem to be a hot topic with folks, inside and outside law enforcement circles. Interestingly, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a decision yesterday regarding the regulation of drones and other unmanned model aircraft.
The case began in 2011 when Raphael Pirker was hired by the University of Virginia to fly his unmanned model aircraft equipped with a camera over the campus in order to take pictures.  The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) fined Mr. Picker $10,000.00 and charged him with reckless operation of his model airplane and operating it without a pilot's license or airworthiness certificate.  Initially, an administrative law judge (ALJ) found for Mr. Pirker, stating that traditionally the FAA did not require those persons operating model aircraft and drones to comply with federal aviation regulations applicable to other types of aircraft.  Consequently, they had no authority to levy a fine.  However, the full NTSB overturned the decision of the ALJ and held that drones and model airplanes do indeed fall within the definition of an "aircraft" and are subject to the regulatory provisions of The Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, Section 91.13(a).

So at this point, regulation of model aircraft and drone operation is solely the responsibility of the FAA.  Mr. Pirker's case now goes back to the ALJ for determination of whether he was flying his airplane in a careless or reckless manner.  Don't expect to see any rules and regulations applicable to drones and model planes anytime soon since the federal rule-making process takes some time. 

So, when you buy that remote controlled helicopter at Radio Shack for your son or daughter, make sure they have a pilot’s license and the "airplane" you just purchased meets federal airworthiness standards! This should get interesting..

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Droning on about drones

There’s been a lot of talk about drones these days. Private and commercial use has been given much attention, but there really is very little agreement on the rules surrounding these pilotless aerial platforms.
Aside from protected airspace, the FAA rules about drones have been widely debated and are seemingly unclear. Florida has adopted legislation (FSS 934.50), which only limits the use of drones by law enforcement. The City rules simply prevent conflicts with airport operations and prohibit flying in City parks or the beach, unless an area has been set aside for said purpose.
Like many other emerging technologies, drone conversations naturally turns to privacy issues, and more questions than answers. What do you do if you find a drone hovering in your backyard?
It could be argued that physical intrusion by a drone upon someone’s property would constitute a trespass.  Add a camera and you might create a fact scenario consistent with a video voyeurism violation. In most instances, a drone flying by your house will not constitute some type of violation that we could enforce.
Hopefully, there will be some clearer guidelines developed regarding drones in the near future.  We will continue to evaluate possible guidelines which allow freedom for operators and peace/privacy for others. If you believe a drone operator is being overly intrusive, the safest thing to do is to give us a call and let us fully investigate the circumstances. As always, let’s be careful out there.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Seller Beware

A quick online search turns up story after story of Craigslist transactions turning into robberies and thefts, all over South Florida.  A criminal contacts the seller showing interest in an item. When the two parties meet up, the “buyer” either snatches the merchandise or takes the item by force.
It has happened in Boca Raton four times in the last few weeks.  The first event occurred on June 4th after the victim advertised her iPhone 5s on Craigslist.  After receiving a call from an interested party, the victim met the potential “buyer” in front of her work.  The victim handed the phone to the suspect, who ran off with it.
Similar crimes happened twice on June 18th, when two different people advertised their MacBook Pros on Craigslist.  One victim had the “buyer” meet him at his place of business. The second victim met the “buyer” in the parking lot of a bank.  In both cases, the victim handed the computer to the suspect.  In the first instance, the victim grabbed the computer as the suspect tried to flee and was able to wrest it from his grasp.  In the second case, the suspect ran off with the computer.
The most recent crime happened Thursday, June 26.  The circumstances were the same as the other crimes.  A MacBook Pro was advertised on Craigslist and the victim arranged to meet the prospective buyer in a public location, inside the Barnes & Noble at 1400 West Glades Road.  The suspect grabbed the computer from the victim’s hands and ran out of the store. We arrested one person involved in this case and we expect additional charges on at least one other suspect.
Police officials across the country are urging sellers on Craigslist to use local police department lobbies to conduct transactions.  Be sure to check the operating hours of your local law enforcement facility before you make your arrangements.
We invite you to do your deal (legal, that is) at our place. Let’s be careful out there.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Crime in 2013

It is time to talk about crime again. While the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) offenses only represent a small percentage of our public safety mission, these statistics always get much attention. The report has been finalized, so let’s dig into the numbers.
Since short-term variations have little meaning, we always focus on long-term trends. In 2013, we saw the downward pattern continue. For the past five years, crime is down about 25% (see the chart below). Comparing 2013 to 2012, UCR crime was down about 9%.
The following chart depicts the index crime rate dating back to 1973. From a historical perspective, our rate is extremely low.
We continue to have a very low incidence of violent crime, so our enforcement efforts have centered on keeping criminals out of your homes, automobiles, and businesses. Last year, we arrested 78 individuals for residential burglaries and an additional 47 people for loitering and prowling.
Looking forward, we will continue to deploy our crime-fighting resources intelligently, using data-driven tactics and exploring ways to predict where crime might occur in the City. Our relationships with surrounding law enforcement agencies have never been stronger, and we will work with our partners to pursue offenders who prey on our residents from outside of our jurisdiction.
The credit for our high quality of life goes to our residents. The “Suspicious Incidents” category tops the chart for calls we receive from the public, meaning that our citizens are doing a great job looking out for things that just don’t seem right. As in the past, our future success will hinge on effective crime prevention, and your willingness to contribute to the cause. Thank you for your help and let’s stay safe out there.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Handle With Care

The topic of firearms seems to be a "third rail" issue for most folks these days. Merely mention the subject and many conversations turn awkward, at best.
There are roughly 310 million firearms which are privately owned in the US.  Guns can be found just about everywhere, in homes, businesses, parks, places of worship, and on people. Given that reality, why aren't we more comfortable talking about gun safety? Why don't we, at the very least, talk about safe firearm handling?
Guns are a necessary and important law enforcement tool. The company that produces our primary handgun, Smith and Wesson, has published some basic gun handling safety guidelines, which include, but are not limited to the following:
  • Always keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction.
  • Treat ALL firearms as if they were loaded.
  • Keep your trigger finger outside the trigger guard and off of the trigger until you are ready to fire.
  • Be certain of your target, your line of fire, and what lies beyond your target.
  • Always wear appropriate eye and ear protection when shooting and maintaining your firearm.
  • Never handle a firearm if you are drinking alcohol or using drugs.
I know there are many other gun safety guidelines, which address issues such as accessories, maintenance and storage, but I wanted to focus strictly on some key handling guidelines here.  If you are interested in more information, a simple web search will provide you with some interesting articles and videos. By the way, when your kids encounter a gun, make sure they know to stop, do not touch it and tell an adult.
So, with the sheer number of firearms out there, we need to set aside our philosophical or political differences on the subject and be staunch supporters of firearms safety. With firearms, handle with care. As always, let's be careful out there.