Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

Facebook for APD burglary unit

The page has been up for several days now, and it seems to be a live one, with more “likes” and more content each day.

Here’s one stated purpose:

The APD Burglary Unit is asking for the public’s assistance in locating the victims of a theft or burglary. The following images are of property recently recovered. Anyone having information as to the owner or claiming ownership can contact us by email and please include your case number when responding.

In addition, we’re told this:

Soon we plan to post images and videos of suspects asking for the public’s assistance in identifying them. We will also be posting images of recovered property so that we can locate the owners, and we’ll be sharing success stories. In the next week we will begin posting the APD Burglary Top Property Offenders as well. Stay tuned and spread the word.

Content so far consists mainly of recovered electronic items for which ownership is sought by the Austin Police Department burglary unit. At this moment, 665 “like” this site. Do you?

Shade and those signs

[see update at the bottom]

There’s a bit of a stink going around on email over those signs making “fun” of Randi Shade for the election. Apparently someone has reported Shade and staff members for removing them, even a “press release”, whatever…

I do find the use of the signs, and their ilk by defending them as free speech, puzzling. I understand that free speech is something you either have or don’t have, you can’t allow for people to decide the use of free speech otherwise its slippery slope into censorship.

That said, I know nothing of Randi Shades background before her time in city hall, but I assume at some point Shade was just a normal person. If someone other than Shade had been taking the signs, its questionable, but for if reports are true and Shade herself was taking down these signs, I should imagine this is a pretty depressing episode. The issue isn’t the signs, it has nothing to do with free speech.

The question is who do we want to stand for local office, and what example does this set? Do we want a bunch of people who don’t care when they are personally attached? Who take no notice, and thumb their noses? Well mostly those people are too busy running cut throat businesses and making more money than they could ever make as a city of Austin politician and they won’t need the leg-up that might give them, to bother standing for office to help the “little” people.

Imagine the next round of elections, if your candidate were treated in a similar way! How many of you would not take down the signs? Yes, you can claim they were humor, but really they were nothing more than a personal attack that exploited the law. If the reports are indeed true, personally I say good on Randi for having the gall to take these down herself, she must have known she’d be seen by someone. Some civility is surely called for in a civil society?

Turn out for voting in locals councils here in Austin is abysmally poor for a country that is trying to encourage the same local democracy in places where they don’t have something as “good”. If the proposed run-off between Shade and Tovo does go ahead, it’s likely less people in Austin will vote than will have paid bribes to a certain Afghan minister…

Anyway, what is it with these political signs littering all over town? It’s one thing to put them on your own property, but how is it free speech when they are left littering all over private property all over town? Tradition?

Update: After this afternoons Share press conference, Sarah Coppola is reporting on her Statesman blog: “Shade campaign manager Katherine Haenschen said because the makers of the signs have said they’re not political advertising, they are not subject to the protections of political speech and anyone can remove them.”

*For the sake of transparency, I am a Tovo supporter and a listed sponsor*

The Raid on Steve Jackson Games: 20th Anniversary

As nice local pre-event to the upcoming SXSW insanity starting Friday, I attended a 20th anniversary panel on the secret service raid of Steve Jackson Games last night at Independence Brewing. If you’re unfamiliar with the landmark case in cyberlaw, Steve Jackson maintains a page about the case on his company’s web site and Bruce Sterling’s book, The Hacker Crackdown, was written in 1992 and has been available as an ebook (also here) since 1994. The raid led to the founding of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The panel was hosted by EFF-Austin (The original idea was to have local chapters of the EFF, but that never panned out. The Austin chapter has continued on independently since then.), attended by Steve Jackson, Bruce Sterling & Pete Kennedy, and moderated by Jon Lebkowsky. The panel went over the basics of the case and why it’s important, followed by a Q&A session. Sterling became pretty impassioned during the talk. He said that he’d thought he was over his anger with the issue, but the two hour panel brought it all back. Pete Kennedy was very measured. Steve Jackson looked back on it with a bit of humor, but 20 years ago, it nearly killed his business. Kennedy brought up the interesting trial detail that the government’s main basis for the sealed search warrant executed on SJ Games was a local security professional affiliated with UT who wouldn’t corroborate half of the things that the federal government alleged. Sterling thinks that the Chicago US attorney at the time, William J. Cook,  had career ambitions that made him reckless. He also brought up the Obama administration’s current cyber security czar, Howard Schmidt, served under Cook at the time of the raid. Sterling also contends that we missed an opportunity at the time to be the standard for law on the Internet and that things are much worse now.

As a aside, I’m kind of a beer snob and haven’t been a very big fan of the Independence Austin Amber or Bootlegger Brown, but I had the opportunity to try their Stash IPA last night and liked it quite a bit. I’m partial to IPA’s anyway, but still. I think it’s only available on draft right now, so check with your local beer pub.

It sounds like EFF-Austin plans to become more active than it has been lately, so be on the lookout for more events from them.

Driving License Record

So, the Officer said “you can mitigate this stop by taking a Drivers Safety Course and having this speeding ticket expunged from your record.” Or something to that effect, if he’d spoken longhand English.

And so I decided that would be the best course of action. Now, 30-days later I’m still not able to proceed and this is your warning not to get caught in the same Texas DPS license record downward spiral. In order to have a moving violation, in my case speeding removed from your record you need to get a “Certified List of All Accidents and Violations in Record (Type 3A)” from the Texas DPS.

Now, you can bet they’ve got a new automated, online system. It’s here. Only when I tried to use it I (un)helpfully told “The data you submitted does not match data on the Driver License Record or you are ineligible to use this online service. Please verify and correct the required information and resubmit your request.”

Only all the information was correct and re-submission did nothing to, err, mitigate the error. So I called, and I called, and I called… just a busy signal. Eventually I gave up, searched around on the website and submitted a help request via email. 3-days later I received a call. No they can’t tell me why I’m “ineligible” and unfortunately, the day the call came was the last day you could get this record “in-person”, which of course the web site never said was an option. I was handily informed by the operative calling me that “they’d had real problems with the new system” and there were “only 35-operators handling telephone calls for all of Texas”, and that the only way to proceed was to apply in writing using the form on the website here.

The only problem with this is it takes 7-10 days, which takes me over the 90-day limit. Sigh. So, just on the off chance I’m not the only person in this mess, let this be your lesson, don’t delay start today, check your eligibility at the above website.

Graffiti uptick

Trash? Art? from

Trash? Art? from

Some consider graffiti to be art, others vandalism, either way, there has been a definate increase in south central Austin over the past year or so. Some of it, it has to be said is on permission walls, where the owner had approved the work.

One such was on the side of Sinsations on 1st, where a 75ft mural had been painted. It wasn’t a thing of beauty but a lot of time and effort had gone into it, not to mention, a lot of paint. I went back to take a picture a few days after I noticed it, and it had been painted over. When I asked why, apparently they’d painted the wrong wall. Whoops.

What I don’t get, no matter how “artfully” painted, and many are little more than mere scribble, is the 70’s style resurgance of tagging. Little or no thought goes into this, and it is a sometime gang-style marking of territory, doing little or nothing to enhance the area, and taken overall actually makes things worse. documents some of the best and worse examples, sadly more bad than good in my opinion and much of it will cost the city to clean-up, never a good thing in a downturn.

I went looking for pictures of graffiti on in Austin and was mildly amused that same of the very people who feel it’s ok for graffiti to be painted on other peoples property, without their permission. Have asked that their second hand “art” pictures of graffiti, is published all rights reserved, no reporduction or unauthorized use. Ironic eh? Even more ironic is this one, by UK Artist Banksy, which the flickr account owner has posted all rights reserved.

I guess ownership too is in the eye of the beholder. I have three of Banksy’s pictures on blocks hanging in my hall. Keep your coins, I want real change!

Art or vandalism?

Red light stars of CCTV

One Nation under CCTV

Banksy's CCTV

The cities website lists the latest set of Red Light cameras that are going to be activated and they include:

  • o Wells Branch Parkway and Loop 1 (MoPac) eastbound on the northbound frontage road.
  • o IH 35 and 11th Street eastbound on the northbound frontage road.
  • o Ben White and Lamar boulevards eastbound at the southeast intersection.
  • o Ben White and Lamar westbound at the northwest intersection.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against discouraging or stopping red light runners, especially as I was driving a car where the passenger was seriously hurt and could have been killed by a Dr jumping a red light; he was prosecuted using mobile phone data. It is though worth being mindful of who has access to the data, how long it is kept, and what other uses it can be put to. You have been warned, don’t be a star of CCTV!

Tagged with humor

Neighborhood watch eye becomes element in graffitoThis simple free-form work in the spray-paint medium makes ingenious use of the existing element of the eye in the neighborhood watch sign. We have here the violation of a City ordinance committed in the very presence of a sign intended as a form of deterrence. I think I saw this at the southwest corner of an intersection with South Congress, but I was coming from the dentist and I barely know my own name after one of those visits.

Public safety public information request

There will be a candidate forum on Thursday, May 1, from 6:30 to 8 pm at the city council chambers (301 West Second). Those running for seats on the city council have been invited. Major issues are disparities in patrols and other APD staff coverage. Based on City response to a public information (what we once knew as “open records”) request, a presentation (by public-spirited citizens Linda Yeatts and Lori Renteria) is available analyzing assignment of police officers and concluding that APD staffing is not adequate and is not distributed proportionately and fairly in accordance with such factors as population density, volume of calls to the dispatchers, or per-capita incidence of violent crime. Another conclusion that some have drawn is that police coverage (along with proposed alterations in public transportation coverage) is biased toward downtown business and tourism interests. Early voting has begun, but there’s still plenty of time to mull things over before the May 10 election. The League of Women Voters non-partisan guide is now available, but this forum on public safety is especially important for decision-making since we have a new police chief in town. If you want to know exactly what areas are covered by which of the area commands, good luck! The most recent on-line information about district or area commands does not appear to have been updated. If you find current information on the APD site, please do let the rest of know.

P. Terry’s a crime scene on Friday?

I tried to stop at P. Terry’s on Friday after work to pick up dinner for the kids and I, but was thwarted by APD and crime scene tape. Josephine St. was blocked off at Barton Springs Rd. and Butler Rd. was blocked off at Lamar Blvd. along with tape all around the perimeter of P. Terry’s. I could see a couple of employees inside the burger stand and several standing around in the parking lot. I checked the Statesman for the last two days and didn’t see anything. Does anybody know what happened? 

I was really annoyed that they weren’t open as I had my heart set on one of their burgers with jalapenos. I hope no one was hurt.

I got even more annoyed when I got to South Congress at Riverside. I started to turn south to find an alternative to P. Terry’s only to run into a mass of stopped traffic because of the hot rod rally. I ended up hooking into the parking lot of Freebird’s to get back to Riverside and head east to avoid the traffic problems. Speaking of the hot rod shenanigans, The Statesman ran a nice article on Steve Wertheimer and the Continental Club on Saturday.

Kindness of Strangers

A police sting operation to catch purse snatchers was foiled when helpful Austinites kept warning the undercover policewoman that her purse was left unguarded. This from the meeting notes of the South West Area Command, Commander’s Forum on January 28, 2008.

“A purse snatching initiative was tried by the command, but happily, concerned folks kept warning the undercover officer that her purse was open, unattended and watched out for her when she walked away and warned her of the error. No arrests were made.”

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