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181 06/12/2021

News December 26 2008Gang presence creeps into Utah ski communities

By Melinda Rogers

Salt Lake Tribune

SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah - Detective Andrew Burton shines a flashlight on a wall behind a Smith's grocery store, exposing a string of graffiti left by two feuding gangs.

One message broadcasts the mark of a sureño gang member. Next to it is a symbol left by a rival norteño gangster, who had carefully drawn a line over the sureño tag -- a sign of disrespect in the gang world.

Burton pulls out a camera, takes a photo, and logs the graffiti into a database. It's a routine task for investigators like Burton, whose job is to monitor gang activity and work to suppress it.

But where Burton found the graffiti on a recent December night may come as a surprise to some Utahns: He works the gang beat in Summit County, and his latest graffiti find is near a Smith's in Park City's chic Redstone development.

"I don't think people view this area as some place where gang members would come," said Burton, a veteran investigator in charge of the county's gang enforcement project.

Scant evidence of gangs could be found in Summit County towns such as Park City a decade ago. But now the county, like other rural areas in Utah, is feeling a trickle down effect from gang activity in Salt Lake County. The trend is one reason Gov. Jon Huntsman announced the formation of a statewide gang task force.

The group -- composed of members from law enforcement, the court system, treatment providers, schools and community groups -- will try to pinpoint gang activity in every corner of the state and develop a plan to quash it, said group co-chair Salt Lake County District Attorney Lohra Miller. The task force will also tackle how to apply gang prevention, intervention and suppression resources to rural areas like Summit County that aren't used to dealing with gang problems.

Known for its posh ski resorts and glitzy film festivals, the county is seeing more crime linked to the underbelly of the gang lifestyle, said Burton. Such crimes include:

» Two gang-related homicides in the past five years

» The armed robbery of an ice cream shop in the Redstone development by gang members a year and a half ago.

» The 2006 stabbing of a Park City man by a 17-year-old female gang member

» At least one rape case at a hotel attributed to gangsters.

Gang officers are a regular presence at concerts and patrol bars known to attract gang members on Park City's historic Main Street, Burton said.

Lured by selling drugs to a market saturated with tourists and wealthy residents, gangs increased their visibility in Summit County about 18 months ago, Burton said. Some have secured tourism-related jobs such as working as hotel shuttle drivers to make drug sales easier. Others have brought gang culture with them from California or the Midwest when moving to the area.

Salt Lake City and Ogden gangsters also commute to the county for "business," bringing violence with them, Burton said. The county's gang climate is more active than other cities that experience "spillover" gang activity from Salt Lake City. Summit County has recorded more new gang members in its database during the past year than communities such as Sandy, Draper, Holladay and South Jordan, said Burton, who works closely with the Salt Lake Area Gang Project.

There are now 120 documented gang members from 20 gangs with ties to Summit County. Another 60 people have been tagged as "persons of interest" who could meet the federal definition of a gang member and therefore earn a spot in the county's gang database.

A year ago just 20 people were listed in Summit County's database. The increase of gang members in the area is one reason the sheriff's office took on the gang project run by Burton, who secured a grant from the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice to carry out the idea.

Part of the project pairs Burton and Vai Lealaitafea, a gang specialist with the Park City Police Department, with educators, parents and community groups. The two train people on indicators of gang activity in the hopes that if people recognize clothing, tattoos, hand signs, and even hairstyles tied to gang membership, they will alert authorities who will try to solve gang problems earlier.

The message isn't always welcome.

"A lot of people are surprised. Some people even get offended," said Lealaitafea, who said parents have balked at the notion their children could be gang participants or that Park City has a gang issue. "I go over the gangs we have and some of the crimes that have been committed by members of these gangs. Then, there really is no way for the community to dispute it."

About half of Summit County's documented gang members live in the county, while the other 50 percent live in Salt Lake County, Burton said. He travels between the two jurisdictions when investigating the county's gang cases. Of the county's 20 gangs, 75 percent are from predominately Latino gangs, he said.

Efforts to stop gang activity in Summit County will need to progress with plans to combat the state's larger gang issue, Burton said.

The Salt Lake County Area Gang Project estimates this year there are 5,000 documented gang members representing 338 gangs in the Salt Lake Valley.

Burton notes it's roughly the same distance to drive to Park City from 2100 South and State Street in Salt Lake City as it is to drive from there to Draper. Gang overflow can easily move up Parleys Canyon, he said.

"Gang members can be up here quick," said Burton. "We've had some serious crime. We haven't had a lot, but we've had some. The sooner we can intervene, the sooner we can reduce the problem."

Gangs in Summit County

The Summit County Sheriff's Office has implemented a gang enforcement project that aims to quell gang activity and gather intelligence on the county's growing gang population. Examples of gang crime reported in the county in recent years:

In June, Park City police arrested five men on suspicion of sexual assault after two women reported being raped at the Stein Eriksen Lodge. The women, who met the men at a bar and initially went to the hotel with them willingly, told police the men later wouldn't let them leave and held them against their will. Investigators later determined the men had gang ties.

A Cold Stone Creamery in the Redstone development near Park City was robbed at gunpoint by gang members a year and a half ago.

In October 2003, gang member Kautoke Tangitau was shot to death at the Kimball Junction nightclub Suede. Police said he was attacked by members of the Salt Lake City gang "Baby Regulators."

Source: Summit County Sheriff's Office, Park City Police Department Gangs in Utah

The Salt Lake County Area Gang Project estimates this year there are 5,000 documented gang members representing 338 gangs in the Salt Lake Valley.

The Summit County Sheriff's Office has documented 120 gang members representing 20 gangs who are active in Park City and western areas of the county.

Source: Salt Lake Area Gang Project and Summit County Sheriff's Office

Wire Service

14 Hurt When Car Crashes into New York Hanukkah Party

The Associated Press


A car slammed into a building where Orthodox Jewish families were celebrating


on Thursday, injuring 14 people, police said.

Police said the injured ranged in age from 1 1/2 to 40, and four were hospitalized in serious condition. At least six of the injured were young children, hospital officials said.

The families from the Chabad Orthodox Jewish movement were celebrating


Wonderland, an all-day celebration with events geared for children, including a crafts corner and a Chanukah theater. Thursday was the fifth day of the eight-day Jewish festival of lights.

About 150 people were inside the building when a 78-year-old man lost control of his car and plowed through a plateglass window, Nassau County police said.

"He makes an abrupt left turn. It actually forces the car that's parked along the side of the road up onto the sidewalk," Lt. Kevin Smith said. "His car careens through several plateglass windows, enters the building and comes to rest after basically running over ... several people."

No charges had been filed against the driver Thursday evening, police said.

The Chanukah Wonderland event was sponsored by Chabad of the Five Towns, representing the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community on Long Island, and held in Woodmere, about 25 miles southeast of Manhattan. The community's Web site said the event would feature a Hanukkah theater and the building of menorahs and four-sided tops called dreidels out of Lego toys.

"We are doing whatever we possibly can for the families of these children during this most difficult of times and urge all people of good will to keep them in their prayers," Rabbi Zalman Wolowik, director of the Chabad of the Five Towns, said in a statement posted on the Web site.

Hanukkah commemorates the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greek empire in 165 B.C. Led by the Maccabees, the Jews drove the Greeks from


and reclaimed the temple for religious services.

Wire Service

Pennsylvania Man Accused of Threatening Officer

Times Leader, The (Wilkes-Barre, PA)via NewsEdge Corporation

Dec. 24--A district judge denied a request to reduce bail for a chiropractor accused of offering a city police officer $30,000 to "deliver the head" of another officer.

A shackled Joseph Nagui Michael, 39, of Dallas, limped into Central Court on Tuesday where he waived his right to a preliminary hearing on charges of terroristic threats and bad checks, both first-degree misdemeanors, to Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas.

According to arrest records, Michael offered officer Tom Harding money for the head of officer Tino Ninotti in November. He is also separately charged with writing a $2,500 bad check to Ninotti's brother, Dino.

Despite the involvement of city police officers, a city detective is investigating the alleged offenses.

Michael is described in arrest records "as a mutual friend of several police officers of the Wilkes-Barre Police Department."

During Tuesday's hearing in Central Court, Michael's attorney Ed Olexa, requested bail be changed from $100,000 straight to unsecured, and that Michael, if released, can be supervised by the Court Advocate Program.

Michael was initially released on his own recognizance when police filed the charges against him on Dec. 8. When Michael failed to appear for a court hearing on Dec. 17, a district judge established bail at $100,000.

Assistant District Attorney Jarrett Ferentino argued against changing Michael's bail, claiming Michael has been contacting police officers by

text messages


"It's an ongoing problem with the defendant contacting members of the police department," Ferentino said.

"Joe Michael was a friend of mine; the Joe Michael that I know was a good man," Harding said during Tuesday's hearing. "I don't know what's going on. I've been receiving text messages that I would consider a moderate threat."

District Judge Andrew Barilla denied reducing Michael's bail, remanding him to the county correctional facility.

Michael owns Total Health Chiropractic Clinic on South Main Street, Wilkes-Barre.

According to arrest records:

Michael called Harding on Nov. 27 and said he was looking for Ninotti because Ninotti was ruining his


. Michael further told Harding that he was driving around with guns looking for Ninotti.

Michael contacted Harding several times and offered several monetary offers "to deliver Ninotti's head in a bag to Kirby Park so (Michael) could play soccer with it," according to arrest records.

Michael is also accused by police with allegedly giving Dino Ninotti a $2,500 check from his clinic's account. Dino Ninotti cashed the check on Oct. 29; the check was returned due to insufficient funds, according to arrest records.

Story From: The Times Leader

Need a job? Become a Florida Police Officer

Dec. 25--Whether the economy is in high gear or a slow meltdown, the need for law-enforcement officers is always strong -- making it a hot job for the coming year and beyond.

Various agencies, from the Florida Highway Patrol to those representing South Florida's cities and counties, say they are always hiring and willing to train.

Overall, 70,000 new police jobs will be needed through 2016, or an increase of 11 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Although police work doesn't require a


degree, and agencies are willing to pay for training, police say it's always hard to find people -- in part because of the detailed pre-employment background check. As part of the process, detectives may interview family, friends and acquaintances to make sure the applicant is clean.

At the FHP, the next class starts Jan. 18. Training lasts 28 to 30 weeks at an academy in the Tallahassee area, said Capt. George Crotta, background investigator coordinator for the Florida Highway Patrol.

FHP expects to have 45 to 50 recruits in the January class. The following class will begin in August, Crotta said.

In fact, the agency averages 100 to 110 new troopers a year and now has more than 100 vacancies -- including 24 in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, and eight in Broward.

"We're accepting online applications all the time," Crotta said. "When we bring them in, they walk in earning the salary and benefits."

The starting salary for trooper trainees is about $32,000 a year, and once they complete training, they are bumped up to almost $34,000 a year. Troopers also earn an extra "area adjustment" of $416 extra per month in Miami-Dade or Broward, and $666 extra per month in Monroe County, he said.

In addition to salary, overtime is readily available, said Lt. Pat Santangelo, an FHP spokesman in Miami-Dade.

"In a recession, when most


are cutting back or laying off, in South Florida not only are you guaranteed a paycheck with the Highway Patrol, but you also have the opportunity to earn extra money at will," he said.


Though the salaries at the Highway Patrol lag those at county or municipal agencies, Santangelo said retirement benefits are solid, and the job is secure.

Qualifications are U.S. citizenship, age 19 or older, a high school diploma or GED, plus one of the following: one year of prior law enforcement experience, two years of continuous active military service, 30 semester hours at a college or


or two years of work experience dealing with the public, Crotta said.

You don't even have to be a resident of Florida.

But you do have to undergo a polygraph, psychological evaluation, a background check, drug screening and fingerprint check.

The agency is looking for recruits who are mature, self-motivated and self-disciplined.

"Part of our responsibility as a trooper is to respond to an area," Crotta said. "We need someone competent and able to handle a situation and go out there and function."

A trooper's primary role is traffic enforcement and seizure of contraband and drugs, he said. The trooper is assigned to an area or zone and is then responsible for responding to crashes, assisting with vehicles and taking proactive enforcement by running a radar detail or



"They are trying to catch people doing things they shouldn't be doing -- the reckless drivers, DUI, aggressive drivers," Crotta said.

The pros are freedom and independence. The cons: in high-volume areas such as South Florida, crashes and emergencies predominate and "the pace does get a little rough," he said.

Other agencies are also hiring law enforcement officers and providing training.


Miami-Dade County Police Department recruits are all trained at the department's training bureau for 10 months, said Detective Rebeca Perez. The department did not have a figure readily available for how many jobs will be open in 2009.

Fort Lauderdale expects to hire at least 15 recruits just to keep up with attrition, Sgt. Frank Sousa said.

Before someone can apply, he must pass a criminal justice basic abilities test, a swim test and a physical fitness test.

Then, after he applies for the job, the city invites the candidate for an interview with several people. That interview is scored, and combined with a test score from the criminal justice test, which then places the candidate on an eligibility roster. Then he undergoes a polygraph, psychological and medical exam, and a background check.

Once hired, the person trains for five months at Broward College, followed by three months of additional training, Sousa said.

In Fort Lauderdale, trainees are paid a starting salary of $47,257, which rises over five years to more than $70,000.

The disadvantages include working nights and holidays, plus the constant potential for danger.

'I've never left my house saying, 'I am going to get shot today,' or 'I'm going to shoot somebody,' " said Sousa, 29. "We know it's a reality of the job, but it's not a thought that crosses our minds."

He said the job is best for those who like to interact with the public, are flexible, have common sense and are open-minded. "Your greatest weapon isn't your gun," Sousa said. "It's your mind."

Story From: The Miami Herald

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