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  • Crime cooling off — Battiste says Part 1 offenses are currently down 14%

    City officials say Mobile is seeing headway in its efforts to curb violent crime.

    Mobile Public Safety Director Lawrence Battiste told Lagniappe a year-over-year comparison of the first eight months of 2022 to the same period in 2021 shows a 14 percent decrease in Part 1 crimes, which include murder, rape, robbery, burglary and vehicle theft.

    Per Mobile Police Department (MPD) crime statistics, there were 39 murders investigated through Aug. 31, 2021 — a 15 percent decrease compared to the 33 murders seen during the same time this year. Those stats also show rape decreased 15 percent, from 124 to 95; robberies fell 31 percent from 143 to 109; burglaries dropped 13 percent from 834 to 726; and vehicle thefts declined 9 percent from 397 to 363.

    “With these kinds of crimes, one at all is too many, but I think we’ve has some real success with the things we’ve implemented,” Battiste said.

    Leading the way in this remission is a notable reduction of crime in MPD Precinct 1, Battiste said, which makes up Mobile’s southeast quadrant, bordered by the Mobile River, Government Street, Interstate 65 and the Theodore Industrial Canal. Battiste said MPD’s Officer of the Month was awarded to Precinct 1 officers in both June and July because of successful efforts to reduce crime in the area.

    The current pace of crime is also notable considering the city’s rash of violence experienced during the early months of 2022, Battiste said.

    In March, the crime surge elicited a sharp response from Mobile Mayor Sandy Simpson’s administration, which criticized local judges for a backlog in cases and for allowing suspects charged with violent crimes to go free on bond. Since then, Battiste said, local officials have been able to work together toward solutions.

    “Through that early adversity, I think we’ve seen some positive gains,” Battiste said.

    Battiste said the current decline in part 1 crime reflects a progressive impact of the city’s Operation Echo Stop since its implementation in February. 

    Operation Echo Stop is a three-year project through MPD’s Office of Strategic Initiatives launched with the help of $5.1 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding. The initiative has featured community and youth outreach and the implementation of a citywide gunshot detection system, ShotSpotter.

    Battiste said there has also been a notable increase in community engagement, which has led to timely information, witness cooperation and more tips. He said this means officers can respond rapidly and intervene in escalating violence.

    According to Battiste, one of MPD’s current tactics involves identifying individuals who are most likely to offend; 10 percent of the city’s population is responsible for 100 percent of the part 1 crime committed, he explained.

    “We know who our offenders are most of the time,” Battiste said. “And it’s not until those offenders have been taken off the street that we actually began to see a reduction in criminal behavior.”

    Battiste said MPD is keeping a running manifest of likely offenders, which sits at around 100 individuals at any given time. He said this list is curated through intelligence, tips and investigative notes and provides a short list of leads for law enforcement to follow when there are incidents.

    Crime cooling off — Battiste says Part 1 offenses are currently down 14% (lagniappemobile.com)

  • US Warns of Catastrophic Consequences If Russia Uses Nuclear Weapons in Ukraine

    The United States warned on Sunday of "catastrophic consequences" if Moscow were to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, after Russia's foreign minister said regions holding widely-criticized referendums would get full protection if annexed by Moscow.

    Votes in four eastern Ukrainian regions, aimed at annexing territory Russia has taken by force, were staged for a third day on Sunday. The Russian parliament could move to formalize the annexation within days.

    By incorporating the areas of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia into Russia, Moscow could portray efforts to retake them as attacks on Russia itself, a warning to Kyiv and its Western allies.

    U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Sunday the United States would respond to any Russian use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine and that it had spelled out to Moscow the "catastrophic consequences" it would face.

    "If Russia crosses this line, there will be catastrophic consequences for Russia. The United States will respond decisively," Sullivan told NBC's "Meet the Press" television program.

    The latest U.S. warning followed a thinly veiled nuclear threat made on Wednesday by President Vladimir Putin, who said Russia would use any weapons to defend its territory.

    Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made the point more directly at a news conference on Saturday after a speech to the U.N. General Assembly in New York in which he repeated Moscow's false claims to justify the invasion that the elected government in Kyiv was illegitimately installed and filled with neo-Nazis.

    Asked if Russia would have grounds for using nuclear weapons to defend annexed regions, Lavrov said Russian territory, including territory "further enshrined" in Russia's constitution in the future, "is under the full protection of the state."

    'BOGUS THREATS'

    Ukraine and its allies have dismissed the referendums as a sham designed to justify an escalation of the war and a mobilization drive by Moscow after recent battlefield losses.

    British Prime Minister Liz Truss said Britain and its allies should not heed threats from Putin, who had made what she called a strategic mistake as he had not anticipated the strength of reaction from the West.

    "We should not be listening to his saber-rattling and his bogus threats. Instead, what we need to do is continue to put sanctions on Russia and continue to support the Ukrainians," Truss told CNN in an interview broadcast on Sunday.

    Russian news agencies quoted unidentified sources as saying the Russian parliament could debate bills to incorporate the new territories as soon as Thursday. State-run RIA Novosti said Putin could address parliament on Friday.

    Russia says the referendums, hastily organized after Ukraine recaptured territory in a counter-offensive this month, enable people in those regions to express their view.

    The territory controlled by Russian forces in the four regions represents about 15% of Ukraine, an area roughly the size of Portugal. It would add to Crimea, an area nearly the size of Belgium that Russia claims to have annexed in 2014.

    Ukrainian forces still control some territory in each of the regions, including around 40% of Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia's provincial capital. Heavy fighting continued along the entire front, especially in northern Donetsk and in Kherson.

    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who insists that Ukraine will regain all its territory, said on Sunday there had been "positive results" for Kyiv in some of the clashes. "This is the Donetsk region, this is our Kharkiv region. This is the Kherson region, and also the Mykolaiv and Zaporizhzhia regions," Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.

    The general staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said in a statement on Facebook that Russia had launched four missile and seven air strikes and 24 instances of shelling on targets in Ukraine in the past 24 hours, hitting dozens of towns, including in and around the Donetsk and Kherson regions.

    Reuters could not independently verify the accounts.

    PROTESTS IN RUSSIA OVER DRAFT

    Putin on Wednesday ordered Russia's first military mobilization since World War Two. The move triggered protests across Russia and sent many men of military age fleeing.

    Two of Russia's most senior lawmakers on Sunday addressed a string of complaints about the mobilization, ordering regional officials to swiftly solve "excesses" stoking public anger.

    More than 2,000 people have been detained across Russia for protesting against the draft, according to independent monitoring group OVD-Info. In Russia, where criticism of the conflict is banned, the demonstrations are among the first signs of discontent since the war began.

    In the Muslim-majority southern Russian region of Dagestan, police clashed with protesters, with at least 100 people detained.

    Zelenskyy acknowledged the protests in his video address.

    "Keep on fighting so that your children will not be sent to their deaths - all those that can be drafted by this criminal Russian mobilization," he said. "Because if you come to take away the lives of our children - and I am saying this as a father - we will not let you get away alive."


    US Warns of Catastrophic Consequences If Russia Uses Nuclear Weapons in Ukraine | Newsmax.com

  • Fentanyl crisis: Alabama Republicans blame ‘open borders,’ while others blast GOP for playing politics

    By 

    Two leading Alabama Republicans are joining other GOP colleagues nationwide in blaming the rise in fentanyl-related overdose deaths to a flood of undocumented immigrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.

    Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville, in separate comments within the past two weeks, blamed President Joe Biden’s administration’s immigration policies and the record-number of border arrests for what they say is a sign of a rise in drugs entering the U.S.Their comments come as a bipartisan group of 18 attorneys general sent a letter to Biden last week urging him to have fentanyl reclassified as a “weapon of mass destruction.” Marshall was not among those signing onto the letter. The signatures came from 14 Republicans, three Democratic and one Independent.

    “You cannot address the fentanyl crisis without addressing the open border,” Marshall said in a statement Thursday to AL.com. “Alabama’s fentanyl problem can be traced directly to the border and our location on the ‘drug trafficking superhighway.’

    Marshall’s office points to a 2021 Drug Threat Assessment of a six-state region in the South, including Alabama. As part of the assessment, law enforcement officers within the region listed fentanyl right behind methamphetamine as the top drug threat of the region.

    The report points to Mexican drug trafficking organizations as the primary threat to the Gulf Coast region, and the primary culprits of moving drugs throughout the region.

    “I will continue to do everything in my power to advocate for a secure border to address the effects of both drug and human trafficking,” Marshall said.

    Tuberville, in comments he has made on the Senate floor and to the media, said that Democratic progressive politicians “don’t want to stop” the fentanyl crisis because they also back open borders policies “because they want new voters.”

    “Americans are losing their lives right now,” Tuberville said during recent Senate remarks. “Lives are being lost every day … we don’t need a bureaucrat talking points or wasting time, we need a plan, and we need a plan now to stop these drugs.”

    The Biden Administration, on Friday, announced it was issuing $1.5 billion in federal money to support states in addressing the opioid crisis and supporting individuals in recovery. The grant money will fund, among other things, expanded 24/7 Opioid treatment programs and increase access to naloxone medication that can rapidly reverse a drug overdose.

    The Alabama Department of Mental Health is slated to receive $16.3 million.

    ‘Cynical politics’

    At least one immigrant rights organization says that Republicans pinning the fentanyl crisis on the rise of border arrests are doing so to generate political points ahead of the November midterm elections.

    In a late July news release, the immigration rights lobbying organization American’s Voice, blasted Republicans for taking a “cynical” approach of linking the fentanyl and opioid crisis to the immigration issue.

    The group, in a news release, said there is no correlation between the rise of U.S. Custom and Border Patrol encounters with immigrants to the overdose deaths in the U.S.

    Authorities are on pace to make more than 2.3 million immigration arrests during the government’s 2022 fiscal year, which ends on September 30. That figure would shatter the previous record of 1.7 million arrests, recording last fiscal year.

    America’s Voice, in its news release, argues that 99% of all drugs interdicted at the border are brought in through ports of entry by cars, trucks, boats, and planes – not on the backs of migrants and asylum seekers.

    The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C., reports that over 90% of fentanyl seizures occur at legal crossing points or interior vehicle checkpoints, not on illegal migration routes. The agency says it’s almost always U.S. citizens, who are subject to less border security scrutiny, who can cross the border legally and who operate as the best drug smugglers.

    According to the Cato Institute, only 0.02% of people arrest by Border Patrol for crossing illegally possessed any fentanyl whatsoever.

    “Republicans have shown they are uninterested in looking for solutions on immigration or fentanyl,” said Zachary Mueller, political director with America’s Voice, a group lobbying to put 11 million undocumented Americans on a path to full citizenship. “In fact, Republicans have actively opposed measures to help interdict drugs at the border and help alleviate demand for illicit drugs. It’s just cynical politics, not a policy debate.”

    Polling shows that a growing number of Americans believe unauthorized migrants play a role in bringing the deadly drugs into the U.S.

    An NPR-Ipsos poll recently found that 39% of Americans and 60% of Republicans believing that most of the fentanyl entering the U.S. is smuggled by migrants who are crossing the border illegally.

    Chemical weapon

    Overdose deaths involving fentanyl-laced drugs are exploding nationwide, creating a drug crisis that veteran law enforcement agents say is the deadliest they have ever encountered.

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics show that 107,622 people died of drug overdoses in 2021 in the U.S., with 66.2% or 71,238 tied to synthetic opioids, mainly fentanyl.

    In Alabama, general drug overdose deaths climbed by over 15% between April 2021 to April 2022, which was considerably more than the national averages during that time period.

    Lawmakers are worried the potency of fentanyl could lead to something much worse.

    Tuberville, during his remarks earlier this year, said he is worried that a small dose of fentanyl could kill entire cities.

    “A football weighs one pound and just one pound can kill over 200,000 people,” he said.

    “We have to do something about it, or we are going to have a catastrophe in this country with someone putting it in our water supply our in our air. Someone needs to wake up and smell the coffee.”

    The attorneys general who signed the September 14 letter to Biden agree. They believe the lethality of the drug equates it more to a dangerous chemical weapon than as a narcotic. They also say that fentanyl is the No. 1 killer of adults ages 18-45.

    The letter noted that fentanyl has been used as a weapon by the Russian army to end a hostage crisis, killing more than 120 hostages in 2002.

    “The threat of a state enemy using this drug to do harm to the American people cannot be understated,” the letter reads.

    “Treating this solely as a narcotics control problem has failed to curb the proliferation of increasing quantities of chemicals that can cause a mass casualty event,” the letter to Biden reads. “Your own DEA Administrator has called fentanyl, ‘the deadliest threat (the DEA) has ever seen.’ We should treat it as such – thus bold action must be taken.”


    Fentanyl crisis: Alabama Republicans blame ‘open borders,’ while others blast GOP for playing politics - al.com

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