Sunday, March 30, 2008

Crime Spree Drew Street: The Sequel

There's another stock gang story in the LA Times today. It covers Drew Street in the Glassell Park area of Los Angeles, and is a retread of the story they did after a daytime shootout last month.

Check it out and then ask yourself these questions:

- the "Satellite House" seems to have been a major drug distribution point. Does the article find out who owned it, or operated it?
- who owned or operated the overbuilt and undermaintained housing that was constructed after the early 1980s?
- Drew Street appears to have been a base of operations for organized crime. Why does this article replace the Avenues gang and the "Eme" cross-border crime syndicate with a focus on one woman, Maria Leon, and her thirteen children?
- what is the function of references to the village of Tlalchapa - Leon's origin - in the Mexican state of Guerrero, called "one of Mexico's most violent regions"?
- are these statements meant to explain Drew Street's trafficking and violence in a causal way?
"Tlalchapans moved into many of the new apartments, said former Drew Street residents. As they did, neighbors said, fights, parties and heavy drinking became more common."
As more Tlalchapans arrived on Drew Street, "it was the law of the revolver," Flocelo Aguirre said.

Police task forces, gang sweeps, arrests -- even a 2002 gang injunction -- have done little to break the bonds of family and culture that breed criminal activity on Drew Street, officials said.
If so, is the author saying that Drew Street crime comes from Tlalchapan's culture of crime?

The piece is fun pulp fiction, but if you tried to do urban policy, sociology, or crime detection with its type of information (stereotypes, general trends, a "usual suspect," and no specifics about individual associations, building ownership, etc material), you would fail. There's no syndicate, police force, crooked urban officials, payoffs and deals, all the usual stuff that make something like the Drew Street system operate.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Hollywood Pellicano Case Overview

Here's a link to a good backgrounder on the Pellicano wiretapping case that has been roiling Hollywood for several years. It focuses on the reporter, Anita Busch, who first turned up the story during an investigation of organized crime activity in Hollywood. She seems to have gotten a little too close to that invisible point where moguls and mobsters converge: she was wiretapped and threatened and, when she told her sources they may have been overheard on her phone, he career was effectively ended. Part of the case finally went to trial last year, and it continues.

Spitzer Saga Continues

You won't have forgotten Eliot Spitzer, the governor of New York who stepped down earlier this month in the wake of revelations that he'd used money parked in a shell company to hire the services of a prostitute employed by a company called "Emperor's Club VIP," which advertised its service on line and touted its 1-5 Diamond ranking system for the women it made available.

Two core questions have never been addressed by our not-so-brilliant media, which suffers from collective attention deficit disorder.
  1. did Spitzer just start hiring hookers recently - maybe via a little extra job stress while being governor? Or was he hiring hookers for a long time, including during the period when he was busting their employers? In other works, was New York's most self-righteous D.A. in recent history screwing and arresting the same people at the same time, in time-honored crooked-cop tradition?
  2. did Spitzer have contact with any of the people that work behind the scenes in organized prostitution? Most prostitution rings, as far as I know, are controlled by organized crime.
Today's New York Times has an article that turns over the second of these overlooked pieces of the puzzle. The call girl Spitzer saw in Washington D.C., aspiring R&B singer Ashley Alexandra Dupre (pictured here), knows a guy called Anthony Scibelli, who has been named in a large-scale federal indictment of the Gambino crime family. Scibelli's lawyer describes him as not a mobster but a "hard-working contractor," one who also apparently "has contacts in the music business." Scibelli supposedly just wanted to help Spitzer's famous "Kristen" (Dupre) with her singing career. The lawyer denied this help involved having sex with her.

Is it just a coincidence that Dupre knows both the former governor of New York and an alleged member of the Gambino syndicate? Maybe. But we are definitely only part-way down this particular rabbit hole.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Here's a decent review of a bunch of new crime series books by the NY Times's Janet Maslin, complete with descriptions of the more tiresome formulae of the current genre.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Soldier Mental Health

As newspapers continue to describe some urban neighborhoods as war-zones, here's some news from the Iraq war-zone. A new report, as described by Peter Spiegel in the Los Angeles Times, has found that soldiers are more likely to suffer from mental health problems in their third and fourth tours of duty. "27.2% of noncommissioned officers - the sergeants responsible for leading troops in combat - reported mental health problems during their third or fourth tours. That was up from 18.5% of those on their second tour and 11.9% of those on their first tour." These are self-reported numbers.

Soliders also have increasing trouble concentrating on their work. "Most strikingly, soldiers reporting they intended to separate from or divorce their spouses shot up over the courses of the 15-month tours, with 30% of all junior enlistees saying they planned to break off personal relationships at the end of their deployment. Only 10% reported similar feelings at the start of their tours."