Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The year in crime, torts and general bad behavior

It's the end of the year, which means it's a fine time to recap some of the most notable civil- and criminal-law stories of the past 12 months:

10. Conaways in the crossfire: Frank Conaway Senior kept his position as clerk of the court again, but there was still bad news aplenty for the family: Belinda lost her city council seat to Nick Mosby after Adam Meister revealed she was claiming a tax credit illegally, TDR revealed a laundry list of problems at the Clerk's office, and Frank Senior got in hot water for brandishing a firearm with an expired permit in front of his house. And Frank Conaway Jr.'s book's sales rank slipped to #4,104,807th on Amazon.

9. Tow-mageddon: 17 officers charged with extortion in a dirty towing scheme. As Jayne Miller's source said, "it's not the crime of the century, but it's not pretty."

8. It got a little harder to rape somebody. The Sun's Justin Fenton uncovered the unsavory fact that the city has the nation's highest level of rape cases deemed "unfounded"*. And, finally, the FBI changed the definition of "rape" to include male victims, penetrations sans penis and non-forcible rapes.

7. For whatever reason, this was the year an exceptionlly high number of dirty political chickens came home to roost in MD: Paul Shurick, Jack Johnson, Tiffany Alston, Richard Stewart of the redistricting committee and Belinda C. all felt karma's bitter sting.

6. The Brew attacks! Rapacious newsroom cuts by the Sun's evil gnomish overlord left the local paper of record with scant resources to do the time-consuming, ass-pain investigative pieces necessary to uncover pork, malfeasance and sketchy government dealings. Stephen Janis' defection from Investigate Voice to join the Fox news team left another news hole. But fortunately for us all, the Baltimore Brew stepped into the breach, uncovering the mayor's plan to stealthily privatize rec centers, explaining the little acronyms like TIF and PILOT that let city officials grant breaks to their developer pals, and the high price of settling police misconduct lawsuits. What they cover is just a fraction of what could use delving into, but hey, it's something.

5. It gets better-ish. The arc of the moral universe is long and full of dings, dents, and crack-crazed seagulls, but it eventually, slowly bends towards not sucking as much. So it went this year for the state's gay and transgender citizens. In spite of the Senate passing the gay marriage bill, it died in the House. In March, Tyra Trent was murdered, and in April, Chrissy Polis had the tar beaten out of her at McDonald's. But it is now possible for a baby to have two mommies on a birth certificate (if said mommies married elsewhere), and starting next month, Baltimore county employees who were married in other states can receive same-sex benefits.

4. Phylicia Barnes, a 16-year-old honor student, went missing December 28 of 2010, and a long, pitiful search by police and family ensued-- one so desperate, police were taking tips from Cham. Barnes' beauty, youth, apparent innocence and mysterious disappearance seemed a perfect fit for Natalie-Holloway-level national hysteria and hand-wringing, but Barnes was apparently not blonde enough* for the national media, which ignored her case until Anthony Guglieimi shamed producers into briefly spotlighting her disappearance. Barnes' body was found in April in the Susquehanna, the medical examiner ruled her death a homicide, but still, no one's been arrested yet.

3. Mayhem at the Select Lounge. Chaos reigned at West Franklin and N. Paca on January 9: 42 shots fired, Officer William Torbit Jr. and reveler Sean Gamble killed, four citizens hit with bullets. But after an eight-month independent investigation, no charges were filed, no changes were made to BPD procedures, and FHB III concluded that officers "acted reasonably."*

2. Baltimore swore in a new prosecutor, Gregg Bernstein, who was promptly never heard from again. To be fair, press releases have finally started trickling out in the past few months, and as promised, office staffers did get their BlackBerries and the do-not-call list was abolished*. But it's uncertain if the office is actually more functional than Jessamy's was: in August police complained about prosecutors stalling and "hindering"* cases.

1. Murders, shootings and unclassified deaths are down-- way, way down. From 335 murders in 1993, to 223 last year, to possibly under 200 in 2011, which will make the murder rate lower than it's been since the 1960s. The drop in violent crime is not just a local trend, but a nationwide thing (hellz, crime is even down in Detroit!), and theories abound as to why. Cops having better technology? The right people finally going to jail? Have we "bupe" to thank? We may never know for sure, what whatever it is, we'll take it.

... so what did I miss? ... Fenton posted his top 10 in crime* a little while after I posted this one.


Anonymous said...

MJ, maybe people need to aim better! Although the number of murders is down in the City that bleeds, what about the number of shootings that have resulted in injury and being maimed?

Anyone believing Baltimore City is anything close to Mayberry out there?

Maurice Bradbury said...

Nonfatal shootings are down too!

Maurice Bradbury said...

But robberies and burglaries are way up, so don't get too comfortable.

Anonymous said...

Quote: "From 335 murders in 1993, to 223 last year, to possibly under 200 in 2011"

What about total homicide number (inc. manslaughter) for 1993 and 2011?

Maurice Bradbury said...

If it's an intentional death at the hands of another, it's on the tally, no matter if a judge/jury eventually finds it to be murder one or manslaughter. Sometimes there are homicides that prosecutors determine to be justified after a little fact-finding, e.g. Pontolillo and Rice, and those aren't included in the police/FBI homicide numbers.

Cham said...

Homicides in Detroit last year were 292 or 308 depending on with whom you talk. The homicide tally on December 14th, 2011 was 337. According to the Detroit police department violent crime is down in Detroit but we know homicides are up. So what Detroit is trying to say is that violent acts are down but those who are performing the violent acts have better aim and better upper body strength making them much more effective killers when the do decide to kill.

Or.....somebody in the Detroit police department is skewing the stats and data. Think Baltimore City rape statistics. In order to make violent crimes go down you simply arrest fewer people for violent crimes, it's really not that hard.