Carson sheriff’s deputies aid Swedish family through tough time

SGT-L-SWEDISH20

CARSON — When deputies spotted a family of seven walking along Sepulveda Boulevard at 4:30 a.m. Friday, they suspected something wasn’t right.
After talking with family members, who spoke very little English, deputies learned they were visiting Southern California from Sweden for a family members graduation, but had been left homeless and penniless due to a family emergency, Los Angeles County sheriff’s spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said.
“They had a family emergency where they had to cut their trip short,” Nishida said. But the cost of re-booking an earlier flight used up all of the family’s money, leaving them stranded with no means to obtain food or shelter.
The family was comprised of a mother, father and five daughters, officials added. The children were a 2-year-old girl, two 10-year-old twin girls, a 14-year-old girl and a 17-year-old girl.
“Deputies were able to kind of talk to them with the limited English they do know,” Nishida said. The family was then taken to the sheriff’s Carson Station.
“We actually have a (reserve) sergeant who speaks Swedish who came out,” she added. The sheriff’s department has deputies speaking more than 100 languages.
After learning of their predicament, the deputies decided to circulate an email to try and raise funds to help the family.
They procured donations which were used to provide the family with hotel lodging, food and transportation to Los Angeles International Airport, where they boarded a Sweden-bound airplane Sunday, Nishida said.

PHOTO courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

AP: Award made in suit over alleged LA deputy affair

LOS ANGELES — A jury has awarded more than $450,000 to a man who was investigated by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s detective he claimed was having an affair with his wife.
The Los Angeles Times says jurors ruled for Alberto Gutierrez Thursday in a civil rights lawsuit against Detective Phillip Solano and a sheriff’s deputy.
Gutierrez claimed Solano had an affair with his wife at the same time that he was investigating Solano for allegedly threatening the woman during a bitter custody battle. He also accused a sheriff’s deputy of a cover-up.
Gutierrez was twice arrested in 2008 on suspicion of violating a restraining order. He was acquitted of some criminal charges and others were dropped.
- From the Associated Press

County law enforcement on ‘heightened alert’ following Colorado mass shooting

Though some law enforcement stations instructed officials to pay extra attention to movie theatres while on patrol in response to the mass shooting during a midnight showing of a new Batman movie in Colorado, police and sheriff’s officials in the San Gabriel Valley, Pasadena and Whittier areas largely operated as usual Friday.
Preliminary reports indicated that the shooter, who allegedly killed at least twelve and wounded dozens during a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater, had no ties to any terrorist organization, according to the FBI.
“While the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado appears to be an isolated incident, our vigilance has been raised,” according to Capt. Mike Parker of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau. “The heightened alert of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department includes increased patrols to create a more visible presence at movie theaters and other places where people congregate.”
The sheriff’s department operates stations in Pico Rivera, Norwalk, Industry, Temple City, Walnut, San Dimas, Crescenta Valley and Altadena, among others throughout Los Angeles County.
In addition to extending condolences to the victims, their loved ones and first-responders affected by the shooting, Parker and other officials encouraged citizens to report any suspicious activity immediately.
“The greatest deterrent to crime is often a phone call to law enforcement by a person who sees something that just doesn’t look right,” the captain said.
Many San Gabriel Valley-area law enforcement officials said they were not particularly worried about any incidents at local movie theaters.
“It seems like such an isolated incident,” Pasadena Police Lt. Diego Torres said. “We don’t plan extra patrols at this point.”
But extra patrols may be added if appropriate, Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez said in a written statement.
“The Pasadena Police Department initiated proactive steps this morning by visiting movie theaters in our community to determine security level(s),” he added.
The Pasadena Police Department’s heightened diligence may include extra patrols and additional police presence as appropriate.
Torres added that as normal procedure, Pasadena police keep aware of the layouts of large gathering places, such as movie theaters, so they can quickly respond in the case of an emergency.
Police had similar views throughout the region.
“We’re actively listening and learning, just like everyone else,” Alhambra police Sgt. Sean Heckers said.
Additional patrols were not planned, he added.
“We don’t have anything that would cause us to do that,” Heckers said.
Movie theaters tend to be heavily patrolled by police officers and sheriff’s deputies in general, officials said.
“We do a pretty good job of patrolling these theaters,” West Covina police Sgt. Tony Cortina said. “We have a very high presence.”
Covina police officials said officers were advised during Friday morning’s briefing to keep an extra eye on local theaters, though no special patrol operations were planned.
Los Angeles police checked in on Hollywood movie theaters after learning of the Colorado shooting but found no security issues, Los Angeles Police officials said.
El Monte police were keeping in contact with the manager of the theater in that city to make sure everything was okay, Lt. Dan Burlingham said.
Though no special patrols were planned in West Covina, Cortina said, officers may may spend a little extra time making themselves visible near theaters, “just for the peace of mind of the public,” he said.
Pico Rivera sheriff’s Lt. John Kepley also said deputies tend to patrol the city’s movie theater, located on Whittier Boulevard, heavily.
A compliment of reserve deputies are assigned to the Pico Rivera Krikorian theater full-time, he said.
When it comes to the theater, “We try to be pro-active,” Kepley said. “We want it to be a family environment.”
Sgt. Cortina said that tragedies such as the one in Colorado serve as a somber reminder for patrol officers.
“We train for active shooter scenarios like these,” he said. “This freshens in (officers’) minds that things can happen like this anywhere at any given time.”

Marina del Ray sheriff’s deputy suspected of child molestation

LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy has been arrested for investigation of committing lewd acts on a child.
Police say Deputy Oscar Rodriguez, a 10-year department veteran, was taken into custody Thursday.
He was immediately relieved of duty pending the outcome of criminal and administrative investigations.
Police say the alleged acts were committed while Rodriguez was off duty.
Rodriguez was assigned to the sheriff’s Marina del Rey station.
He’s being held on $100,000 bail.
- From the Associated Press

Jail employee arrested on suspicion of dealing cocaine behind bars

On Monday, February 13, 2012, at approximately 7:30 P.M., members of the
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Internal Criminal
Investigations Bureau arrested a 24-year old employee named Remington
Orr, as he was preparing to enter Men’s Central Jail to distribute
cocaine.

Orr, employed as a Custody Assistant assigned to the Men’s Central
Jail, has been a Department member for four years. Monday’s arrest
culminated a four week Sheriff’s Department investigation into
allegations that Orr was bringing contraband to jail inmates in exchange
for monetary considerations. He was subsequently arrested for
Possession of a Controlled Substance with the Intent to Sell,
Transportation of a Controlled Substance with the Intent to Sell, and
Bribery.

Orr was booked into the Inmate Reception Center, and is being held in lieu of $1,000,000.00 bail.

- From LASD statement

Former sheriff’s deputy admits taking bribes to smuggle contraband into jail

LOS ANGELES — The U.S. attorney’s office says a former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy will plead guilty to taking $20,000 in bribes to smuggle contraband into a downtown Los Angeles jail.
Federal prosecutors say that during an FBI sting, 38-year-old Gilbert Michel took cash in exchange for bringing a cell phone, cigarettes and a note into the Men’s Central Jail for delivery to an inmate.
He was charged Friday with bribery of a public official, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison. The U.S. attorney’s office says he agreed to plead guilty and will appear in court next week. He also agreed to cooperate in an ongoing investigation.
Michel resigned from the Sheriff’s Department last September.
– From the Associated Press

UPDATE: Crime down throughout county, though murders up in some areas

LOS ANGELES COUNTY — Both violent crime and property crime were down in 2011 compared with the previous year, according to the Los Angeles Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, with sheriff’s stations in the San Gabriel Valley reporting even more significant decreases in crime rates.
Violent crime in Los Angeles County decreased by nearly 14 percent last year, according to preliminary statistics released Wednesday by the sheriff’s department. Property crimes investigated by the sheriff’s department decreased by just under 2 percent.
“Sheriff (Lee Baca) believes that the active policing that the sheriff’s deputies are doing, the 4,000 volunteers, and Crime Stoppers, which allows allows people to submit tips anonymously, all forges together a unified community to keep crime at historic lows,” sheriff’s department spokesman Steve Whitmore said.
“But we have to be ever vigilant as we move forward into the future,” he added.
But it isn’t all good news. At the sheriff’s Crescenta Valley, Norwalk, Pico Rivera, and Walnut-Diamond Bar station, incidents of the most serious of crimes — criminal homicide — were up significantly over the previous year. The sheriff’s Industry Station also showed a slight increase in homicides.
Homicides handled by the sheriff’s Norwalk Station more than doubled last year, when deputies investigated nine killings, up from four the previous year, according to the statistics.
At the Crescenta Valley and Walnut-Diamond Bar stations, murders both increased from one reported in 2010 to three reported last year, the data indicates.
The sheriff’s Pico Rivera Station saw criminal homicides increase from five in 2010 to seven in 2011, and the sheriff’s Industry Station saw an increase from seven in 2010 to eight last year.
The San Dimas and Temple stations reported significant decreases in murders, however. San Dimas detectives investigated one in 2011, compared with three the previous year, and Temple officials saw four killings in their jurisdiction, down from 10 the year before.
Sheriff’s officials reported that in 2010, the county saw it’s lowest homicide rate since 1965.
Whitmore said that although “one is too many” when it comes to homicides, the statistics must be viewed in perspective.
At the Norwalk Station, for example, where the increase of homicides exceeded 125 percent, the actual change of four to nine homicides last year represents five killings.
“We certainly are focused on those areas,” Whitmore said. “We’re aware of it, We know it’s a trend, and we’re going to deal with it.”
The number of homicide victims reported to the Norwalk Station doesn’t represent the number of fatal attacks, Sgt. Mark Guerrero of the sheriff’s Norwalk Station said.
In some cases, he said, multiple people were killed in the same incident, such as an August shooting that claimed the lives of both sheriff’s Explorer Scout Cesar Rodriguez, 19, and Larry Villegas, 24, as they were leaving a party in the 11800 block of Painter Avenue, in an unincorporated county area near Whittier.
In another case, Compton woman’s body was found buried in a vacant lot in Norwalk, while her husband’s body was found buried in Long Beach, officials said. It was unclear where the actual killings took place.
Gang violence and domestic disputes accounted for the bulk of the station’s homicides, Guerrero said.
Violent crime rates were down 17.4 percent at the Altadena Station; 21 percent at the Crescenta Valley Station; 7.1 percent at the Industry Station; 18.9 percent at the Norwalk Station; 10.4 percent at the Pico Rivera Station; 3.7 percent at the San Dimas Station; 10.6 percent at the Temple Station; and 11.5 percent at the Walnut-Diamond Bar Station, according to the report.
Reported property crimes were down 25.3 percent at the Altadena Station; 7.4 percent at the Crescenta Valley Station; 8.2 percent at the Industry Station; 1.7 percent at the Pico Rivera Station; 12.9 percent at the San Dimas Station; 10 percent at the Temple Station; and 8.7 percent at the Walnut-Diamond Bar Station, the data shows.
In the area, only the Norwalk Station showed an increase in property crimes of 8.3 percent.
Several key local trends were believed to be behind the increase in property crimes, Guerrero said.
Bicycle thefts had showed significant increases in 2011, along with the theft of third-row seats from SUVs and catalytic converters from cars, Guerrero said. In both instances, the sergeant advised using locks to secure the items when left unattended.
The theft of copper piping and wiring was also a significant problem for Norwalk deputies in 2011, he added.
Theft of items from cars — principally valuables left in plain view — were also on the rise in Norwalk last year, Guerrero said.
Elsewhere, major decreases in reports of auto theft at several area sheriff’s stations seemed to be helping drive down the property crime statistics.
Car thefts were down 36.1 percent at the Altadena Station; 22.2 percent at the Crescenta Valley Station; 27.5 percent at the San Dimas Station; 12.8 percent at the Temple Station; and 19.9 percent at the Walnut-Diamond Bar Station.
The sheriff’s Industry and Norwalk stations experienced slight increases in auto thefts.

Inmates use social media to harass victims, witnesses

From the Associated Press:

Lisa Gesik hesitates to log into her Facebook account nowadays because of unwanted “friend” requests, not from long-ago classmates but from the ex-husband now in prison for kidnapping her and her daughter.
Neither Gesik nor prison officials can prove her ex-husband is sending her the messages, which feature photos of him wearing his prison blues and dark sunglasses, arms crossed as he poses in front of a prison gate. It doesn’t matter if he’s sending them or someone else is — the Newport, Ore., woman is afraid and, as the days tick down to his January release, is considering going into hiding with her 12-year-old daughter.
“It’s just being victimized all over again,” she said.
Across the U.S. and beyond, inmates are using social networks and the growing numbers of smartphones smuggled into prisons and jails to harass their victims or accusers and intimidate witnesses.
California corrections officials who monitor social networking sites said they have found many instances in which inmates taunted victims or made unwanted sexual advances.
Like Gesik’s case, it’s often difficult for authorities to determine for sure who’s sending the threatening material and the few people caught rarely face serious consequences.
“The ability to have these kinds of contacts is increasing exponentially. In many ways, the law has not caught up with these changing technologies,” said Rob Bovett, an Oregon district attorney whose office prosecuted Gesik’s ex-husband, Michael Gladney.
Timothy Heaphy, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, said criminals’ use of social networks to reach witnesses has made his job harder.
“We deal every day with witnesses who are afraid of being identified,” he said. “If there are increased instances where folks who are incarcerated can reach outside the walls of the jail, that’s going to make it more difficult for us to get cooperation.”
In a rare victory, Heaphy’s office successfully prosecuted John Conner and Whitney Roberts after they set up a Facebook account that Conner used to intimidate witnesses preparing to testify against him on charges of burning two houses to punish a girlfriend and collect the insurance.
“How the hell can u b a gangsta when u snitchin and lien…,” said a post from the pair that publicly exposed one witness who cooperated with law enforcement, according to federal court records.
The issue has emerged as cellphones have proliferated behind bars.
In California, home to the nation’s largest inmate population, the corrections department confiscated 12,625 phones in just 10 months this year. Six years ago, they found just 261. The number of phones confiscated by the federal Bureau of Prisons has doubled since 2008, to 3,684 last year.
Noting the increase, California legislators approved a law bringing up to six months in jail for corrections employees or visitors who smuggle mobile devices into state prisons, while inmates caught with the phones can now lose up to 180 days of early-release credit. But no additional time is added to their sentence, minimizing the deterrence factor.
In the old days, those behind bars would have to enlist a relative or friend to harass or intimidate to get around no-contact orders. Social networks now cut out the middle man.
In Gesik’s case, Gladney used to harass her the old-fashioned way, sending letters and making phone calls through third parties. The Facebook harassment began in June.
Gesik, 44, got prison officials to contact Facebook to remove that account, only to receive another message appearing to be from him in September. This time, there was a different spelling of his last name.
“I figure, if he’s done all this from in prison, what’s he’s going to do when he gets out?” Gesik said.
A gap in state law meant that “no contact” orders like the one Gesik obtained against Gladney were deemed not to apply to anyone in custody, said Bovett, the prosecutor. “So they could do these very creative ways of reaching victims through third parties,” he said.
The attorney who represented Gladney in his criminal trial did not return a phone call seeking comment on behalf of his client.
Last June, Oregon legislators approved a law prohibiting inmates from contacting their domestic violence victims from behind bars.
In California, prison officials are working with Facebook to identify inmate accounts and take them down. But that generally happens only after the damage is done.
Karen Carrisosa, who lives in a Sacramento suburb, was aghast when officials found Facebook postings from Corcoran State Prison inmate Fredrick Garner. Garner is serving a 22-year, involuntary manslaughter sentence for killing her husband, 50-year-old Larry Carrisosa, outside a church 11 years ago.
“My kids, they go on Facebook, I go on Facebook, and what if they decide to look us up?” Carrisosa said.
She was alerted by a Sacramento television station that Garner was posting messages to his mother and others. Garner was punished with a 30-day reduction in his early release credits for possessing a forbidden cellphone and has since been transferred to Salinas Valley State Prison.
While the use of the Internet by Los Angeles County jail inmates to harass alleged victims or witnesses is an issue officials are concerned about, the problem is not nearly as significant as in the state prison system, sheriff’s Capt. Michael Parker said. Only fourteen cell phones have been seized from L.A. County inmates since 2009.
“Within the L.A. County jail system, we’ve not had a significant number of cellphones recovered,” Parker said.
County jail inmates are less likely to have cellphones than their counterparts in the state prison system for several reasons, he said. Jails have historically been largely transitional facilities, Parker explained, housing inmates awaiting trial or those who’ve been sentenced to a year or less behind bars.
Additionally, county jail inmates go through continual searches and screenings as they’re transported between facilities and to court hearings, unlike prison inmates serving lengthy sentences.
But California’s new prison realignment plan — which will allow convicts whose crimes are deemed “non-serious,” “non-violent” and “non-sexual,” to serve sentences of several years in county jails rather than prisons — may increase the motivation and opportunity for inmates to smuggle cellphones into jails in the future, Parker said.
And while having cellphones is against jail policy and can result in disciplinary action against inmates, Parker explained, there is no law or policy preventing inmates from having others who are not incarcerated from posting messages online on their behalf.
“These are definitely complicated issues that we as a Sheriff’s Department are interpreting as best we can, and using existing laws to address 2012 issues,” Parker said.
If an inmate is having someone else post online for them, officials can only take action if the speech itself takes the form of a a crime, such as a threat, the captain said.
Non-criminal speech enjoys First Amendment protection, Parker said.
“But if they’re making a threat against anyone, then like any other threat… we would potentially investigate that as a crime,” he added.
“We can only enforce laws that exist,” Parker said. “We are constantly adapting to what is the latest shenanigans the inmates are doing. To that end, we have to do it within the Constitution as well.”
- Staff Writer Brian Day contributed to this report

UPDATED: Sheriff’s stats show overall decrease in crime

LOS ANGELES COUNTY — Crime statistics released by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Friday show that both violent and property crime is down throughout the county, with some significant decreases in the San Gabriel Valley.
Violent crimes are down 12.61 percent the first nine months of 2011, compared with last year, according to a report issued by the sheriff’s department. They’re down 21.84 percent over the past five years.
Property crimes dropped by 3.5 percent in 2011, and 14.56 percent since 2006.
Most notable in the San Gabriel Valley, so-called “Part I” crimes such as murder, robbery, burglary, rape and auto theft, declined by 32.1 percent at the sheriff’s Altadena Station, 15.6 percent at the La Crescenta Sation and 15.2 percent at the Temple Station, according to the report. All three stations have seen declined of more than 25 percent over the past five years, as have the Industry, San Dimas and Walnut stations.
The only notable spikes in crime in the San Gabriel Valley were in the categories of rape and criminal homicide, which both involve small numbers, making statistics subject to rapid change. Murders handled by the Norwalk Station gre from two last year to six, and five homicide have been investigated in Pico Rivera so far this year, compared with two the year before.
Reported forcible rapes handled by the Industry Station rose from 16 last year to 21 this year. Eleven rapes were reported to the San Dimas Station this year, compared with six last year, and 10 were reported to the Walnut Station, up from seven last year.
At many area sheriff’s stations, robbery, assault, burglary, theft and auto theft statisitcs have seen significant and continuing decline over the past five years, continuing this year.
In Altadena, robberies are down 16.9 percent this year, and 33.1 percent over the past five years.
Robberies declined by 13.6 percent this year in the Temple Station’s area, 32 percent at the Pico Rivera Station, 24.9 percent at the Pico Rivera Station and 14 percent at the Walnut Station.and 29.8 percent since 2006. All three stations have seen declined of more than 23 percent over the past five years.
Agravated assaults at the Crescenta, Altadena, Norwalk and Walnut stations are down this year by more than 20 percent, also continuing a five-year downward trend.
Burglaries in Altadena have dropped 33.2 percent this year. The Pico Rivera, San Dimas and Norwalk stationsl saw decreases around 15 percent.
Thefts, which were down throughout most of the county, were down in Altadena by 34.7 percent. The Norwalk and Pico Rivera stations saw single-digit increases in thefts.
And auto theft continues to become a less common crime in many areas, with annual decreases of 40.7 percent at the Altadena Station, 36.7 percent at the La Crescenta Station, 22.8 percent at the Temple Station, 36.8 percent at the San Dimas Station and 21.6 percent at the Walnut Station. All five stations have experienced a decrease in auto thefts of more than 40 percent over the past five years.
Rio Hondo College professor of criminal justice Bob Feliciano said the drop in crime was likely do to an aging population.
“That’s the dynamic. We have an older society with older crooks, and older crooks don’t commit crimes,” Feliciano said. “There’s very few burglars in their 50s.”
He added that predictions five years ago that crime rates would skyrocket due to a bad economy and high unemployment failed to take into account the aging of the criminal population.
But the trend won’t hold for long, Feliciano said.
“Unfortunately, we have a new cadre of young people coming up,” he said. Once the next generation reaches the “age of crime” in the next five or ten years, police and jails will likely become busier.
“As I tell my students,” who are primarily future law enforcement officials, “right now crime is down. but don’t worry, business is going to get better.”

See the raw data