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Monday, April 27, 2009

Unemployment is up, but crime rates aren't

There's been lots of speculation about whether the deteriorating economic situation could lead to an increase in crime, reversing New York's steady trend of ever lowering crime rates. Data is now out for the first quarter of 2009, and at least so far, New York City appears to be maintaining its success with continually improving public safety.

``I know there's an anticipation ... that crime would go up as a result of the economic turndown. We just haven't experienced that,'' Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Friday. Read the full report from the AP here.

On the other hand, the warm weather over the weekend saw a spate of deadly shootings in Harlem and the Bronx.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Through the eyes of a probation officer

This very professionally produced interactive website let's you examine four real life cases through the eyes of a probation officer in Britain's National Probation Service. What questions would you ask? What punishments or services would be appropriate? Should you give this person a second chance? What was the outcome? I recommend everyone check it out: Judge For Yourself (make sure you're ready to listen to the sound on your computer).

Monday, April 20, 2009

Rising Stars

At last week's annual Rising Stars event, participants in the Red Hook Community Justice Center's youth programs had the chance to be honored by Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez and Borough President Marty Markowitz. Project Director James Brodick says, "After all these years, we have had kids start in our baseball league, join Youth Court, be part of our summer internship and then become Americorps members. It's a great feeling to see young people choosing the Justice Center as the place they want to spend their free time and participate in extra-curricula activities."

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Worth Watching

There are three declared candidates for the open seat at the Manhattan District Attorney's Office being vacated by Robert Morgenthau: Richard Aborn, Cyrus Vance, and Leslie Crocker Snyder (who also challenged Morgenthau in the last election). All three candidates sat down for a group interview on ABC 7's "Up Close" program: Video. Thanks to Greg Berman on "Random Notes From the Desk of Greg Berman."

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Changing Bronx, Part II

Yesterday I met with nine of our Juvenile Accountability Court participants in a classroom at the Bronx School of Law Government and Justice for a facilitated discussion about the meaning of community service.

For the past several weeks we've been gathering with this group of teenagers each Saturday in the morning to do a variety of community service projects together. We visited Worldvision, where we learned about their mission to provide teaching supplies and other material to schools here in the United States and aid missions in the developing world, then helped sort donated clothing. We painted over graffiti (see the before and after pictures). We've also conducted a few facilitated workshops about the meaning of community service, asking the participants to think about how the idea of community service relates to them, growing up in the Bronx, as they become young adults.

This morning we met in the Mock Courtroom. We gathered around a big semi-circular table in the "well" of the courtroom, between the audience area and the judge's bench. Keith looked at the empty judge's chair and remarked that he'd like to sit in that chair sometime and be able to say "remand" - placing a youth into detention. He remarked that he himself came home from detention three days before Christmas this year.

We discussed the community service we'd done so far. Was it worth our while to paint over graffiti? We talked about the impact of graffiti and we also asked whether the Bronx was changing. The JAC participants joked that in many areas there were "more white people." They thought that it was "a good thing" that many areas were much safer than they used to be, but they were unsure what racial changes meant for the Bronx. They also talked about the always shifting concepts of neighborhood territory and turf. Tysheem pointed out that he and Cintron were both from neighborhoods that had similar racial make-ups, but still, "people from his area and my area don't like each other."

I thought it was an interesting discussion. After we took a break, we distributed posterboard, glue, tape, markers, scissors, magazines and newspapers. We wanted the participants to describe some of the changes and issues that they saw in their neighborhood, although, being teenagers, they really preferred to look for pictures of attractive girls or clothes. By then, we decided that we'd covered enough for the day, but finished by reminding them that their judges and probation officers would be interested to hear from them at their graduation ceremony about that they had done and learned!

I thought about some of the things we discussed yesterday as I read this piece today by Nelson George about racial changes and gentrification in his part of Fort Greene: "Strangers on His Street".

I thought this article, "Longtime Harlem Fixture Now Sells CD's on Street," from fall 2008 also captured something important about the changes that have been happening in New York.

This article (view here), detailing complaints about quality-of-life crime in a Harlem park following a particularly brazen murder, provides a snapshot of perceptions of safety and also makes the connection to class and gentrification

Friday, April 03, 2009

Legal Challenge To Drug Courts

Here's a story from The Washington Post about yesterday's oral arguments in a case pending before the Maryland Court of Appeals challenging the constitutionality of drug courts. The Center for Court Innovation, our parent organization, signed onto an amicus brief supporting the state's defense of the courts.