Archive for October, 2013

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. — Back in custody after using forged documents to escape their life sentences, two convicted killers were being questioned on Sunday by law enforcement authorities who said they expected to make more arrests in a case that has embarrassed both court and corrections officials in Florida.

Among the questions being posed to the inmates, Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker: Who forged the papers? Who helped you run from the police? What other prisoners have gotten away with a similar scheme?

“I can tell you, there will be more arrests,” Gerald Bailey, commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said at a news conference on Sunday, hours after Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Walker were arrested peacefully at a motel in Panama City.

“We will be backtracking to those who helped carry out this fraud, and along the way we will be looking closely at anyone who may have helped harbor these fugitives,” Mr. Bailey said.

Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Walker, both 34, were captured Saturday night at the Coconut Grove Motor Inn in Panama City Beach, a touristy area of mini-golf courses and go-cart tracks. Hours earlier, their families had held a news conference in Orlando urging them to surrender.

The men were waiting in the motel for someone to arrive from Atlanta to take them out of state, Mr. Bailey said, adding that the authorities do not yet know who that person was or where the convicts planned to go. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement was working with Georgia authorities to try to answer those questions, he said.

“They had to have had help — a lot of help — to get to where they were last night,” Mr. Bailey said. He said the men were unarmed and had little money when arrested.

Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Walker were serving life sentences at the Franklin Correctional Facility in the Florida Panhandle before they walked free without anyone realizing the paperwork, complete with case numbers and a judge’s forged signature, was bogus. The documents seemingly reduced their life sentences to 15 years.

Mr. Jenkins was released on Sept. 27 and registered as a felon on Sept. 30. Mr. Walker was released on Oct. 8 and registered with the authorities three days later. The inmates’ release came to light only after one of the murder victims’ families received notification of the release and contacted prosecutors.

Mr. Bailey’s department was pursuing a tip that someone was offering to forge documents for prisoners for $8,000. He said prisoners have been thwarted trying to use fake documents to escape in at least two other recent cases.

“The documents themselves looked good; they looked official,” Mr. Bailey said. The papers contained the signatures of people who normally do not deal with release documents, which probably should have raised questions, he said.

The corrections secretary, Michael Crews, scheduled a meeting with court clerks on Monday to find ways to prevent such escapes.

“It is embarrassing, but my concentration at this point is making sure that we come up with a process and a procedure that prohibits this from happening in the future,” Mr. Crews said at a news conference.

Mr. Crews had already ordered his department to begin verifying early-release orders with a judge, not just court clerks. He said his department receives a few thousand such orders each year, but acknowledged that reduced sentences in murder cases are rare.

He also expressed relief that Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Walker had been captured.

“I did a lot of praying for the last five or six days,” Mr. Crews said. “To say we’re thankful I think is probably an understatement. These were two hardened convicted felons, and the thought of them being out there in our state caused me great concern.”

A version of this article appears in print on October 21, 2013, on page A12 of the New York edition with the headline: Inmates Caught, Hunt Shifts To Who Faked Release Order.

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Hanover VA Oct 20 2013 – Federal and state investigators are looking into alleged misuse of a highly confidential criminal background database used for gun purchases by a former vice president of Green Top Sporting Goods in Hanover County.

State police also have issued a summons charging the vice president, who was the alleged source of the misuse.Court documents and state police are confirming that Michael J. Lynch is facing a misdemeanor charge under criminal statutes that make it illegal to fraudulently seek or provide access to criminal background check information.

Lynch, whose Hanover Avenue home in Richmond has been sold and is empty, is facing an arraignment this month in Hanover General District Court on the misdemeanor, which carries a six-month jail sentence.

Todd Stone, Lynch’s lawyer, said Wednesday his client would not comment on the pending case. “I think we will be able to show that Mr. Lynch is not guilty of what he is charged with,” Stone said.

Green Top, which has been in business in Hanover County since 1947 and is one of the state’s largest retail weapons outlets, recently moved under new ownership and management to a sprawling location on Lakeridge Parkway west of Interstate 95.

State police said this week that Lynch was charged following a criminal investigation “into an unauthorized third party being granted access to the Virginia State Police V-Check program via an employee” of Green Top Sporting Goods.

Information obtained in the criminal investigation also has been referred by state police to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which has jurisdiction over Green Top’s license to sell firearms.

A spokesman for ATF in Washington did not return calls seeking information about the status of Green Top’s license.

Lynch, 57, a former Circuit City executive, was charged Aug. 27 based on a summons obtained by state trooper D.M. Sottile. The summons says the charge stemmed from alleged illegal activity that occurred between Aug. 8 and Aug. 21.

The V-Check system is the database through which state police conduct criminal background checks of potential purchasers of firearms, usually at the point of sale, including licensed firearms dealers.

Lynch, according to a recording on the Green Top telephone system, is no longer with the company. Company president William C. Prout did not return calls for comment Wednesday.

Sources with knowledge of Green Top operations said Lynch allegedly provided privileged information about accessing the V-Check system to a software company that advertises programming that can facilitate storing and submitting documentation that is provided to law enforcement to gain approval for a gun sale.

But the access code is highly confidential and by law cannot be disseminated to any source outside the licensed dealer to which it is assigned. Calls to the software company were not returned Wednesday.

Hanover Commonwealth’s Attorney Ramon C. “Trip” Chalkley III was out of the office this week and unavailable for comment.

Green Top has been repeatedly cited as one of the state’s top retail outlets for firearms and a year ago moved from its longtime site on U.S. 1 north of

Virginia Center Commons to the former Gander Mountain facility on Lakeridge Parkway.

The V-Check system is the foundation of the state’s ability to carry out background checks of gun buyers; the system tracks criminal convictions, outstanding protective orders and individuals who have been diagnosed with severe mental disorders.

That sort of information is not passed along to retailers in the process of selling a weapon to a customer; the retailer merely learns if the potential buyer has been approved or disapproved as a buyer.

The system is closely monitored despite the number of checks that are run through the system annually by weapons retailers. In 2012, a record 432,387 gun transactions were recorded. In December that year, more than 5,000 transactions were recorded, the highest monthly total on record.

Richmond Dispatch

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PROVIDENCE, RI Oct 18 2013—Randolph Hurst, 50, of West Warwick Rhode Island, a former assistant district manager for the Social Security Administration in Rhode Island, pled guilty in U.S. District Court in Providence on October 9, 2013, to stealing the identity of a Coventry man and using the victim’s identity to fraudulently sell more than $160,000 worth of stock certificates belonging to the victim. Hurst also pled guilty to failing to pay $61,999 in taxes owed to the IRS.

Appearing before U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith, Hurst pled guilty to one count each of aggravated identity theft, transportation of stolen securities, and tax evasion; two counts of mail fraud; and three counts of filing a false tax return. Hurst faces up to 45 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $1.4 million when he is sentenced on January 10, 2014.

A co-defendant in this matter, Justin Silveira, 29, of Coventry, pled guilty on October 9, 2013, to two counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice. Silveira admitted to the court that he lied to a grand jury that was investigating this matter. At sentencing on January, 10, 2014, Silveira faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $750,000.

The guilty pleas were announced by United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha; Vincent B. Lisi, Special Agent in Charge of the Boston Field Office of the FBI; Cheryl Garcia, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the New York region of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations; John Collins, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Boston Office of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation; and Scott E. Antolik, Special Agent in Charge of the Boston Field Office of the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General/Office of Investigations.

At the time of his guilty plea, Hurst admitted to the court that in September 2010, he stole personal identifying information belonging to the victim and used it to open a joint account at Summit Brokerage Services in Providence in his name and in the name of the victim, without the victim’s permission. Hurst admitted that two days after opening the account, he provided documentation to Summit purportedly authored and signed by the victim, requesting the deposit of two stock certificates owned by the victim. The victim never authorized the deposit of the stock certificates and was unaware that an account had been opened in his name.

Hurst admitted to the court that in October 2010, without the victim’s knowledge, he requested that Summit sell the stocks and issue a check in his name and in the victim’s name for $157,747.49, which represented a portion of the proceeds of the sale of the stocks. The check was sent by courier to the Coventry address of Justin Silveira. On October 22, 2010, the check was deposited into a bank account owned jointly by Hurst and his wife. Hurst admitted to the court that on the same date the check was deposited he requested a second check from Summit in the amount of $3,980.46, in his name and in the victim’s name, for the remaining proceeds from the sale of the stock and that it be sent to the same address in Coventry. On November 8, 2010, the check was deposited into a bank account owned jointly by Hurst and his wife.

Hurst admitted to the court that he and his wife spent the proceeds of the sale of the stock, $161,727.95, on personal items and expenses.
The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dulce Donovan.

The matter was investigated by federal agents from the FBI; U.S. Department of Labor Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations; Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation; and Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General/Office of Investigations.

This law enforcement action is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ offices, and state and local partners, it is the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory, and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud.

Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state, and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets; and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions, and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit

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Cops took down a cold-hearted gunrunner who referred to his murder machines in the most outrageous way possible — as “toys for the kids,” police said Christopher “Country” McPhaul, 43, hauled rifles and handguns from North Carolina to Brooklyn to sell to gang members — but his customers were really undercover cops, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.

“Have a lot of toys for the kids. I’m back, a little $2,500 will take them all!” McPhaul texted an undercover officer. He then sold that cop four handguns, including a .357 Magnum, and bullets.

All together, McPhaul peddled 49 illegal guns to undercover cops, Kelly said.

He agreed to meet cops in August at a building just one block from a school, where he sold the officers — who were dressed like gang members — two .22-caliber assault rifles and other guns, Kelly said.

He collected $7,000 for six weapons in that broad-daylight transaction, according to police.

“Thankfully, school had not yet started and it was an NYPD undercover detective taking those guns off the streets,” Kelly said

McPhaul was arrested Oct. 4 and slapped with more than 100 gun-related charges.

He faces up to 50 years behind bars if convicted.

The career criminal has a lengthy rap sheet, including a 2004 arrest in Brooklyn for pulling a firearm on a woman he kicked down a flight of stairs in front of her children, a source said.

In that case, he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was sentenced to anger-management classes, the source said.

He also served prison time for an armed robbery he committed during the 90s, also in Brooklyn.

“The NYPD is assuring that McPhaul will not be on the street for some time,” Kelly said.

He added, “We will do everything we can to stop these dealers whatever and wherever their source may be.”

The six-month joint investigation was conducted by the NYPD and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office.

Additional reporting by Kirstan Conley

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In the past week, Google, Facebook and Instagram have all announced security changes that will affect Officer Safety.

The most serious change comes from Facebook.
The company announced Thursday it is officially axing a privacy setting that allowed people to hide their profiles from other users in Facebook’s search field.

The setting “who can look up my timeline by name” had already disappeared from the options for some users — specifically, those who weren’t using the feature in December of last year.

The new change affects a “small percentage of people” on the site who were still using the feature, Facebook (FB, Fortune 500) said, although it did specify how many of its 1.15 billion active users were impacted.

Facebook explained that the search tool has been expanded to allow broader searches by topics, geographical areas and a number of other search criteria.

Facebook has also expanded its internal search capabilities with the roll out of Graph Search. The feature allows users to sift through the social network’s vast data trove to find “friends who live in my city,” “tourist attractions in Italy visited by my friends,” and similar lists. It also allows Facebook to eventually challenge sites that rate and rank local attractions like restaurants and hotels.

Facebook announced that users would no longer be able to block people with whom they are not connected from seeing their profile when searching the social network, a change that could boost the Graph Search feature CEO Mark Zuckerberg championed in a launch event earlier this year. The company said in a blog post that a “small percentage of people still using the setting” would lose it soon, after Facebook stopped offering to block searches for anyone who had not already chosen the option earlier this year.

Facebook has also changed their security threshold for their photo-sharing service Instagram allowing more people to see your photos. The Next Web reported that an update to the popular app takes away the option of not allowing videos to play automatically when a user visits the timeline. The move follows the announcement earlier this week that Instagram would begin to serve advertisements in users’ streams, the first revenue-generating attempt by the San Francisco company since Facebook committed $1 billion in a 2012 acquisition.

Google has also lifted some of their security restrictions, now sharing your photos and other information in advertisements and free displays.

What once was tucked away in your on-line privacy file has been opened and there’s not much that you can do about it.

For officer safety, we suggest that you restrict all pictures and post non-specific information and opt not to include details about your job, home address, phone number or even your favorite restaurant.

In recent years, there have been a number of private security personnel who have been assaulted while off-duty because of an incident that they were involved with while on-duty. Several situations also proved that the assailant had followed the security officer home from their work assignment and in a recent case; an assailant used public information to locate and assault a security officer for having him arrested for shoplifting.

Two security officers killed last year while off duty were found to have been targeted by persons that they had previous confrontations with while on duty.

Remember that once you post something on the Internet, you lose control of it and it’s almost impossible to take back once it has been published. For your safety, and the safety of your family,
use caution, be responsible and let common sense be your guide.

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MIAMI — For the Polk County sheriff’s office, which has been investigating the cyberbullying suicide of a 12-year-old Florida girl, the Facebook comment was impossible to disregard.

In Internet shorthand it began “Yes, ik” — I know — “I bullied Rebecca nd she killed herself.” The writer concluded that she didn’t care, using an obscenity to make the point and a heart as a perverse flourish. Five weeks ago, Rebecca Ann Sedwick, a seventh grader in Lakeland in central Florida, jumped to her death from an abandoned cement factory silo after enduring a year, on and off, of face-to-face and online bullying.

The Facebook post, Sheriff Grady Judd of Polk County said, was so offensive that he decided to move forward with the arrest immediately rather than continue to gather evidence. With a probable cause affidavit in hand, he sent his deputies Monday night to arrest two girls, calling them the “primary harassers.” The first, a 14-year-old, is the one who posted the comment Saturday, he said. The second is her friend, and Rebecca’s former best friend, a 12-year-old.

Both were charged with aggravated stalking, a third-degree felony and will be processed through the juvenile court system. Neither had an arrest record. The older girl was taken into custody in the juvenile wing of the Polk County Jail. The younger girl, who the police said expressed remorse, was released to her parents under house arrest.

Originally, Sheriff Judd said he had hoped to wait until he received data from two far-flung cellphone application companies, Kik Messenger and, before moving forward.

“We learned this over the weekend, and we decided that, look, we can’t leave her out there,” Sheriff Judd said, referring to the older girl. “Who else is she going to torment? Who else is she going to harass? Who is the next person she verbally abuses and attacks?”

He said the older girl told the police that her account had been hacked, and that she had not posted the comment.

“She forced this arrest today,” Sheriff Judd said.

Rebecca was bullied from December 2012 to February 2013, according to the probable cause affidavit. But her mother, Tricia Norman, has said the bullying began long before then and continued until Rebecca killed herself.

The older of the two girls acknowledged to the police that she had bullied Rebecca. She said she had sent Rebecca a Facebook message saying that “nobody” liked her, the affidavit said. The girl also texted Rebecca that she wanted to “fight” her, the police said. But the bullying did not end there; Rebecca was told to “kill herself” and “drink bleach and die” among other things, the police added.

The bullying contributed to Rebecca’s suicide, the sheriff said.

Brimming with outrage and incredulity, the sheriff said in a news conference on Tuesday that he was stunned by the older girl’s Saturday Facebook posting. But he reserved his harshest words for the girl’s parents for failing to monitor her behavior, after she had been questioned by the police, and for allowing her to keep her cellphone.

“I’m aggravated that the parents are not doing what parents should do: after she is questioned and involved in this, why does she even have a device?” Sheriff Judd said. “Parents, who instead of taking that device and smashing it into a thousand pieces in front of that child, say her account was hacked.”

The police said the dispute with Rebecca began over a boy. The older girl was upset that Rebecca had once dated her boyfriend, they said.

“She began to harass and ultimately torment Rebecca,” said the sheriff, describing the 14-year-old as a girl with a long history of bullying behavior.

The police said the older girl began to turn Rebecca’s friends against her, including her former best friend, the 12-year-old who was charged. She told anyone who tried to befriend Rebecca that they also would be bullied, the affidavit said.

The bullying leapt into the virtual world, Sheriff Judd said, and Rebecca began receiving sordid messages instructing her to “go kill yourself.” The police said Rebecca’s mother was reluctant to take her cellphone away because she did not want to alienate her daughter and wanted her to be able to communicate with her friends. Ms. Norman tried, she has said, to monitor Rebecca’s cellphone activity.

In December, the bullying grew so intense that Rebecca began cutting herself and was sent to a hospital by her mother to receive psychiatric care. Ultimately, her mother pulled her out of Crystal Lake Middle School. She home schooled her for a while and then enrolled her in a new school in August.

But the bullying did not stop.

“As a child, I can remember sticks and stones can break your bones but words will never hurt you,” the sheriff said. “Today, words stick because they are printed and they are there forever.”

Some of the messages were sent using a variety of social media smartphone messaging and photo-sharing applications, including and Kik Messenger, that parents have a difficult time keeping track of.

“Watch what your children do online,” Sheriff Judd said. “Pay attention. Quit being their best friend and be their best parent. That’s important.”

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In Brooklyn’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, Mendel Epstein made a name for himself as the rabbi to see for women struggling to divorce their husbands. Among the Orthodox, a divorce requires the husband’s permission, known as a “get,” and tales abound of women whose husbands refuse to consent.

While it’s common for rabbis to take action against defiant husbands, such as barring them from synagogue life, Rabbi Epstein, 68, took matters much further, according to the authorities.

For hefty fees, he orchestrated the kidnapping and torture of reluctant husbands, charging their wives as much as $10,000 for a rabbinical decree permitting violence and $50,000 to hire others to carry out the deed, according to federal charges unsealed on Thursday morning.

Rabbi Epstein, along with another rabbi, Martin Wolmark, who is the head of a yeshiva, as well as several men in what the authorities called the “kidnap team,” appeared in Federal District Court in Trenton after a sting operation in which an undercover federal agent posed as an Orthodox Jewish woman soliciting Rabbi Epstein’s services.

Paul Fishman, the United States attorney for New Jersey, said in an interview that investigators have “uncovered evidence” of about a couple dozen victims. Many are men from Brooklyn who were taken to New Jersey as part of the kidnappings.

In court, the lead prosecutor in the case, R. Joseph Gribko, explained how the abductions were carried out. “They beat them up, tied them up, shocked them with Tasers and stun guns until they got what they want,” Mr. Gribko, an assistant United States attorney, said.

Mr. Gribko said the defendants had been motivated by money, not faith. While the case might surprise some New Yorkers, accounts of such kidnappings have percolated through the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn for years. In 1996, for instance, a rabbinic council in Williamsburg issued a statement denouncing the rogue men who subjected husbands to such beatings, according to a news report.

Rabbi Epstein was sued in the late 1990s by another Brooklyn rabbi, Abraham Rubin, who claimed that a group of men shoved him into a van as he left synagogue, hooded him, and applied electric shocks to his genitals in an effort to force him to provide a get to his wife. The lawsuit was dismissed.

According to newspaper accounts from the late 90s, other men, too, have come forward with similar tales of curbside abductions and mistreatment.

How such violent practices, if proved, would have been able to persist for so long may be an indicator of the challenges that local law enforcement agencies face in trying conduct investigations of insular religious groups including the ultra-Orthodox.

Rabbi Epstein seemed confident that local authorities wouldn’t investigate too closely. In a recorded meeting with the female undercover F.B.I. agent, Rabbi Epstein explained that his preferred torture techniques, like electric shocks, offered little physical evidence of abuse, according to the complaint. Without obvious visible injuries, Rabbi Epstein said, the police were unlikely to inquire too deeply if any victims came forward.

“Basically the reaction of the police is, if the guy does not have a mark on him then, uh, is there some Jewish crazy affair here, they don’t want to get involved,” Rabbi Epstein explained, according to the criminal complaint.

Rabbi Epstein made his living appearing before the rabbinical courts, known as beit din, where he advocated on behalf of a spouse seeking an exit, another rabbi said. He took a special interest in the constraints that wives faced, speaking about the rights of women in terms not often heard in his deeply conservative community.

When two undercover F.B.I. agents — one posing as a woman seeking a divorce, the other as her brother — asked a rabbi for help, the rabbi explained how Rabbi Epstein might be able to assist them.

You need special rabbis who are going to take this thing and see it through to the end,” Rabbi Martin Wolmark, a respected figure who presides over a yeshiva in Monsey, N.Y., said in a recorded telephone call on Aug. 7. He described Rabbi Epstein as “a hired hand” who could help, according to the criminal complaint in the case.

When the undercover agents met with Rabbi Epstein a week later, he said that he was confident he could secure a get once his “tough guys” had made their threats.

“I guarantee you that if you’re in the van, you’d give a get to your wife,” he said to the male undercover agent posing as the brother. “You probably love your wife, but you’d give a get when they finish with you.”

The undercover female F.B.I. agent told Rabbi Epstein that she wanted to divorce her husband, described as a businessman in South America, who refused to grant her request. Rabbi Epstein urged her to lure the man to New Jersey, which she pledged to do.

Next Rabbi Epstein and Rabbi Wolmark convened their own rabbinical court, complete with legalisms and formalities, to issue a religious edict “authorizing the use of violence to obtain a forced get,” according to court records. The undercover agent offered testimony before the two rabbis, who were joined by other religious figures.

Told that the husband was arriving in New Jersey, eight of Rabbi Epstein’s associates met at a New Jersey warehouse to finalize the kidnapping plan, according to court documents. At that point F.B.I. agents moved in to arrest the group. The agents seized masks, ropes, scalpels and feather quills and ink bottles used for recording the get they anticipated.

On Thursday, the 10 defendants were denied bail after appearing in court in Trenton on the kidnapping conspiracy charges.

Juda J. Epstein, the lawyer for Rabbi Epstein, declined to comment.

A neighbor, Rose Davis, who lives opposite his home in the Kensington section of Brooklyn described him as a respected figure. Ms. Davis said she was skeptical of the charges, and suggested they might be the concoctions of enemies he had made as an expert in divorce work: “There’s always a loser,” she said, referring to divorce cases.

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The Bank of America Chicago Marathon was run without incident Sunday as tighter but by no means suffocating security did little to scare off runners or subdue the raucous street party bubbling along the 26.2-mile racecourse.

Police and event organizers instituted new safety measures after the bombings that marred April’s Boston Marathon, but the essential character of the race remained unchanged. Some runners and spectators said they were grateful for the heightened scrutiny, while others said they barely noticed it.

“It’s good that you don’t see the presence because that makes people uncomfortable,” said Kelly Kane, who was cheering on runners in Old Town with few uniformed police officers in sight.

As of Sunday evening, Chicago police had reported no serious trouble during the bright and brisk morning. George Chiampas, the race’s medical director, said 750 people requested medical attention and 26 were transported to hospitals, though none appeared to be critical.

The marathon’s safeguards were evident before the race even began, with a sign near the runners’ check-in cautioning participants not to wear “costumes covering the face or non-formfitting bulky outfits.”

Runners had to carry their belongings in clear plastic bags provided by race organizers, and police set up watchtowers near Buckingham Fountain to keep an eye on the record 40,230 athletes assembling in Grant Park.

Shannon Seiferth, of Chicago, said she had thought about the Boston bombings before arriving at the starting gate but had full confidence that she would be safe.

“I think the security measures are in place, and I think people are going to be on high alert,” she said.

Rolling Meadows resident Michelle Thomas, who was in her first marathon after taking up running in January, said she, too, was at peace.

“I prayed this morning,” she said. “(With the) security that I’ve seen throughout the entire week, I feel very comfortable. So this is for Boston.”

Once the race began at 7:30 a.m., the runners wound through city streets guarded by police officers in neon yellow vests, FBI agents in military-style fatigues and undercover cops. Police were especially noticeable in the Loop, with at least one officer at every intersection, a show of force that reassured spectators like Belinda Musgrave.

“You always think about safety because you never expect (violence), but I haven’t felt uncomfortable at all,” said Musgrave, who had come from Houston to cheer on her friend Rhonda Kersgieter. “They seem to have everything under control.”

Other precautions were also evident. Newspaper boxes vanished in some parts of the city, and the large, compacting trash cans in the Loop were sealed shut, leading spectators to pile their coffee cups on top. A police dog, wearing a patch that read, “DO NOT PET,” patrolled the finish line with an officer from the Department of Homeland Security.

But the strictness of course security varied by neighborhood. In Greektown, crowd control barriers prevented spectator Maxine Jones, of Country Club Hills, from jogging alongside friends in the race.

“It wasn’t so secured” in years past, Jones said. “(Now) you can’t run out and say, ‘Hi.’”

In Old Town, though, no barriers prevented onlookers such as Kristi Summers from weaving through groups of runners to cross the street, or from briefly joining friends on the course.

“We’ve totally done that at least three times,” she said.

That pointed to what some security experts have called the impossibility — and undesirability — of completely buttoning down a sprawling, urban marathon route. Police asked spectators and runners alike to be vigilant, but that didn’t appear to alter the spirit of the race, embodied in people such as Aimee Shuey.

The New Orleans resident had come with more than a dozen others to join a 61-year-old friend who was running her first marathon. Doing a high-profile race in the shadow of Boston made Shuey a little anxious, but she said her friend wasn’t fazed at all.

“She’s nervous about finishing the race more than anything,” Shuey said at the 12-mile mark.

As runners neared the end, the traditional agonies of the marathon were much more apparent than any security worries. One participant lay on the curb in Bronzeville, less than 3 miles from the finish line, before struggling to his feet and walking north.

“His legs cramped up, and he kind of went down,” said Bob Arendt, a spectator from Chicago. “We got him some water and encouraged him on.”

Regina Walton, of Forest Park, was stationed at the 24-mile mark to cheer on members of the Kingdom Running Club, which helps novices prepare for long-distance races.
“It’s a faith walk for many of them,” she said. “Then you look back and see there’s nothing impossible.”

Once they crossed the finish line, some runners reflected on what the experience meant after the violence of Boston. Dan Lieberman, a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University who has researched long-distance running, finished the race in Boston before the bombs exploded and said the event is more than simply an athletic feat.

“I think we run to make the world a better place,” said Lieberman, flanked by his wife and daughter after finishing Sunday’s race. “I think running is all about community and charity and fitness.”

Some spectators said they were disappointed that the final stretch of the course, which previously had a section of bleachers open to the public, this year was restricted to fans who had tickets distributed by various charities.

Clara Santucci, an elite runner from Dilliner, Pa., whose ninth-place finish was the best among American women, said she, too, hoped for better public access at key points of the race.

“I understand … the need for security,” she said. “I just hope they can figure out (a solution) so spectators aren’t kept from being able to see the most exciting parts of the race, like the start and the finish. It’s what our sport is all about, and I don’t want that taken away from us.”

Asked whether officials might seek to increase public access, race director Carey Pinkowski said such decisions would be made only after consulting with the city and police.

Dathan Ritzenhein, of Portland, Ore., the fifth-place finisher who was tops among American men, said that even with the heightened sense of vigilance, this year’s marathon was better than ever.

“I don’t think what happened in Boston has had a negative effect,” he said. “Maybe it has had a positive effect. It has brought the running community a little closer.”

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OAKLAND, Calif. — Federal grants of $7 million awarded to this city were meant largely to help thwart terror attacks at its bustling port. But instead, the money is going to a police initiative that will collect and analyze reams of surveillance data from around town — from gunshot-detection sensors in the barrios of East Oakland to license plate readers mounted on police cars patrolling the city’s upscale hills.

The new system, scheduled to begin next summer, is the latest example of how cities are compiling and processing large amounts of information, known as big data, for routine law enforcement. And the system underscores how technology has enabled the tracking of people in many aspects of life.

The police can monitor a fire hose of social media posts to look for evidence of criminal activities; transportation agencies can track commuters’ toll payments when drivers use an electronic pass; and the National Security Agency, as news reports this summer revealed, scooped up telephone records of millions of cellphone customers in the United States.

Like the Oakland effort, other pushes to use new surveillance tools in law enforcement are supported with federal dollars. The New York Police Department, aided by federal financing, has a big data system that links 3,000 surveillance cameras with license plate readers, radiation sensors, criminal databases and terror suspect lists. Police in Massachusetts have used federal money to buy automated license plate scanners. And police in Texas have bought a drone with homeland security money, something that Alameda County, which Oakland is part of, also tried but shelved after public protest.

Proponents of the Oakland initiative, formally known as the Domain Awareness Center, say it will help the police reduce the city’s notoriously high crime rates. But critics say the program, which will create a central repository of surveillance information, will also gather data about the everyday movements and habits of law-abiding residents, raising legal and ethical questions about tracking people so closely.

Libby Schaaf, an Oakland City Council member, said that because of the city’s high crime rate, “it’s our responsibility to take advantage of new tools that become available.” She added, though, that the center would be able to “paint a pretty detailed picture of someone’s personal life, someone who may be innocent.”

For example, if two men were caught on camera at the port stealing goods and driving off in a black Honda sedan, Oakland authorities could look up where in the city the car had been in the last several weeks. That could include stoplights it drove past each morning and whether it regularly went to see Oakland A’s baseball games.

For law enforcement, data mining is a big step toward more complete intelligence gathering. The police have traditionally made arrests based on small bits of data — witness testimony, logs of license plate readers, footage from a surveillance camera perched above a bank machine. The new capacity to collect and sift through all that information gives the authorities a much broader view of the people they are investigating.

For the companies that make big data tools, projects like Oakland’s are a big business opportunity. Microsoft built the technology for the New York City program. I.B.M. has sold data-mining tools for Las Vegas and Memphis.

Oakland has a contract with the Science Applications International Corporation, or SAIC, to build its system. That company has earned the bulk of its $12 billion in annual revenue from military contracts. As the federal military budget has fallen, though, SAIC has diversified to other government agency projects, though not without problems.

The company’s contract to help modernize the New York City payroll system, using new technology like biometric readers, resulted in reports of kickbacks. Last year, the company paid the city $500 million to avoid a federal prosecution. The amount was believed to be the largest ever paid to settle accusations of government contract fraud. SAIC declined to comment.

Even before the initiative, Oakland spent millions of dollars on traffic cameras, license plate readers and a network of sound sensors to pick up gunshots. Still, the city has one of the highest violent crime rates in the country. And an internal audit in August 2012 found that the police had spent $1.87 million on technology tools that did not work properly or remained unused because their vendors had gone out of business.

The new center will be far more ambitious. From a central location, it will electronically gather data around the clock from a variety of sensors and databases, analyze that data and display some of the information on a bank of giant monitors.

The city plans to staff the center around the clock. If there is an incident, workers can analyze the many sources of data to give leads to the police, fire department or Coast Guard. In the absence of an incident, how the data would be used and how long it would be kept remain largely unclear.
The center will collect feeds from cameras at the port, traffic cameras, license plate readers and gunshot sensors. The center will also be integrated next summer with a database that allows police to tap into reports of 911 calls. Renee Domingo, the city’s emergency services coordinator, said school surveillance cameras, as well as video data from the regional commuter rail system and state highways, may be added later.

Far less advanced surveillance programs have elicited resistance at the local and state level. Iowa City, for example, recently imposed a moratorium on some surveillance devices, including license plate readers. The Seattle City Council forced its police department to return a federally financed drone to the manufacturer.

In Virginia, the state police purged a database of millions of license plates collected by cameras, including some at political rallies, after the state’s attorney general said the method of collecting and saving the data violated state law. But for a cash-starved city like Oakland, the expectation of more federal financing makes the project particularly attractive. The City Council approved the program in late July, but public outcry later compelled the council to add restrictions. The council instructed public officials to write a policy detailing what kind of data could be collected and protected, and how it could be used. The council expects the privacy policy to be ready before the center can start operations.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California described the program as “warrantless surveillance” and said “the city would be able to collect and stockpile comprehensive information about Oakland residents who have engaged in no wrongdoing.”

The port’s chief security officer, Michael O’Brien, sought to allay fears, saying the center was meant to hasten law-enforcement response time to crimes and emergencies. “It’s not to spy on people,” he said.

Steve Spiker, research and technology director at the Urban Strategies Council, an Oakland nonprofit organization that has examined the effectiveness of police technology tools, said he was uncomfortable with city officials knowing so much about his movements. But, he said, there is already so much public data that it makes sense to enable government officials to collect and analyze it for the public good.

Still, he would like to know how all that data would be kept and shared. “What happens,” he wondered, “when someone doesn’t like me and has access to all that information?”

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Brown vetoes gun-control bills

SACRAMENTO — Declaring that California already has some of the nation’s toughest gun laws, Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday vetoed bills that would have further limited gun ownership and the sale of semiautomatic rifles.

The Democratic governor, a gun owner who hunted in his younger days, said the proposals went too far and would have infringed on the rights of hunters and marksmen without making Californians safer.

Many of the bills had been introduced after last December’s shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, where 20 children and six adults were killed.

Among Brown’s vetoes was a proposal that had been a top target for defeat by the National Rifle Assn. The measure would have banned the future manufacture, import and sale of semiautomatic rifles with detachable magazines. It would also have required those who already own such guns to register them.

“The state of California already has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, including bans on military-style assault rifles and high capacity ammunition magazines,” Brown wrote in his veto message.

The state also bans the open carrying of guns in urban areas — a law previously signed by Brown — has a 10-day waiting period for purchasing firearms and requires buyers to undergo a background check.

The governor hewed to the political middle — his frequent path as a moderate — on some gun measures Friday. He approved a ban on hunting with lead bullets, a requirement that rifle owners undergo safety training and a prohibition on assault-weapon permits for businesses and gun clubs.

Guns must be locked up in homes where felons and the mentally ill live, and kits enabling ammunition magazines to hold more than 10 bullets will be outlawed under other bills the governor signed.

“We appreciate that the governor has respected the rights of California gun owners by vetoing many of the anti-gun bills that were on his desk,” said Clint B. Monfort, an attorney representing the NRA.

But he said the group would review the governor’s bill actions to determine which ones may warrant legal action.

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), who introduced the rifle bill, SB 374, said Brown’s veto was unfortunate.

“Since the horrendous mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, last December, more than 1,100 Californians have been killed by continuing gun violence,” he said in a statement. “We have missed the opportunity to curb that violence and save more lives.”

Brown said the measure would not do that. “I don’t believe that this bill’s blanket ban on semiautomatic rifles would reduce criminal activity or enhance public safety enough to warrant this infringement on gun owners’ rights,” the governor wrote.

Democratic lawmakers have a supermajority they could use to override Brown’s vetoes. But that appears unlikely; Steinberg’s rifle bill passed his own house with a bare majority.

In addition to the Steinberg measure, Brown vetoed a proposed redefinition of prohibited assault rifles to include shotguns with a revolving cylinder. He said that bill, SB 567 by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), would affect some specialty rifles with “no identified impact on public safety.”

The governor also rejected a plan to require gun owners to report to authorities within seven days of discovering their guns lost or stolen. Brown said the measure, SB 299 by Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), was unlikely to change people’s behavior.

And Brown vetoed a bid to bar more people from possessing guns. That measure, introduced out of concern that people who abuse drugs and alcohol may use guns more irresponsibly, would have forbidden some DUI offenders to have guns for a period of 10 years.

“I am not persuaded that it is necessary to prohibit gun ownership on the basis of crimes that are non-felonies, non-violent and do not involve misuse of a firearm,” Brown wrote of SB 755, by Democratic Sen. Lois Wolk of Davis.

But the governor accepted a bill prohibiting gun ownership by people who make serious threats to psychotherapists (AB 1131, by Democratic Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner of Berkeley).

Dr. Paul Song, whose group Courage Campaign advocated for the gun-control bills, said Brown’s vetoes were based on political considerations.

“He should be less concerned about his reelection and more concerned about reducing gun violence,” Song said. “This is the last thing we would’ve expected from a Democratic governor in a state with a Democratic majority.”

Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, said his group is still considering whether to launch recall campaigns against a few lawmakers who voted for the bills.

He noted that last month, Colorado voters recalled two state senators who voted for gun control measures less stringent than those already on the books in California.Not all of the bills were prompted by the Sandy Hook massacre.

Assemblyman Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) offered the ban on lead bullets because the substance is toxic and could poison animals who eat other creatures shot with the ammunition.

“The risks to California’s incredibly diverse wildlife are many,” Brown agreed in his statement on the measure, AB 711.

The bill won’t take effect until July 2019 and could be blocked if sufficient alternative ammunition is determined to be unavailable.

Chuck Michel of the NRA said finding a legal alternative to lead bullets will be a burden significant enough to reduce hunting, thereby reducing license revenue available for conservation.

Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) voted against the measure. “This bill,” he said Friday, “may effectively destroy time-honored family outdoor gatherings and end a vital component of rural life in California.”

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