Crime Some Cities Using Federal COVID Funds to Fight Crime, Address Homelessness
Fact check: False claim homeless people unaffected by COVID-19 spreads online – again
Homeless people are at a higher risk of getting COVID-19, despite false online claims that the pandemic hasn't affected them."In a real pandemic, there would simply be no more homeless people, as they would have all perished," says the caption of a Sept. 22 Instagram post, which has accrued about 9,000 shares in six days.
Cities around the U.S. are using federal COVID-19 relief funding to tackle other issues that the pandemic brought to the forefront of the nation's attention, including crime and homelessness.
President's American Rescue Plan provided funds for COVID-19 vaccinations, stimulus checks, expanded unemployment benefits and provided $350 billion for state, local and tribal governments. Biden encouraged local officials to use some of the funding to address shootings and homicides, which rose this summer.
How Republicans blocked cities from advancing climate solutions
The natural gas industry was losing in cities across the US. Then came an obscure tactic called preemption.While many answers to climate change require national and even international action, cities often have the unilateral power to craft local rules like building codes. But before the city of Tucson could even look at possible building reforms, the Republican-led state legislature took away its power to do so — by passing a state law that natural gas utilities are “not subject to further regulation by a municipality.
According to Police1, cities invested the funding in a variety of ways. Tucson reported plans to invest in community safety, health and wellness and violence interruption programs. Cincinnati used the funds to increase the policing and emergency services budget.
Rockford, Illinois, welcomed the "once-in-a-lifetime sum of money," Mayor Tom McNamara said, and planned on offering additional support for juveniles with unstable home lives.
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.
The teenagers were arrested so many times that Deputy Chief Kurt Whisenand knew them by name. Accused of shootings, carjackings and armed robberies, they had become some of the most violent young offenders in Rockford—a city with no shortage of them.
AP: States and cities slow to spend federal pandemic money
As Congress considered a massive COVID-19 relief package earlier this year, hundreds of mayors from across the U.S. pleaded for “immediate action” on billions of dollars targeted to shore up their finances and revive their communities. Now that they've received it, local officials are taking their time before actually spending the windfall. As of this summer, a majority of large cities and states hadn't spent a penny from the American Rescue Plan championed by Democrats and President Joe Biden, according to an Associated Press review of the first financial reports due under the law. States had spent just 2.5% of their initial allotment while large cities spent 8.
But it was a report from a few years earlier that gave Whisenand the most pause.
Police believed most of the five—then 13 or 14 years old—had been sexually abused by the same man whom one of the boys had met on social media. The man bought them presents, got them alone and abused them. He eventually was caught and sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.
Reading that report was "kind of a light bulb moment"—the type of discovery that didn't catch the longtime investigator by surprise, exactly, but did make Whisenand rethink the way he and others in law enforcement had been approaching violent crime.
A few months of painstaking research later, Whisenand had data to back up his hunch: Of the offenders age 17 and under involved in violent crime between 2016 and 2019 in the northern Illinois city, about 70 percent had been exposed to domestic or sexual abuse. For some, the abuse started before they turned 1 and continued for years.
NY man charged with felony, could face 7 years in prison after being accused of faking COVID-19 vaccine card
A New York man was charged with showing his employer a plagiarized COVID-19 vaccine card. If convicted, he could face up to seven years in prison.David R. Kemp, 24, of Eaton, N.Y., was charged with a second-degree possession of a forged instrument, which qualifies for a Class D felony in the state. The unauthorized use of a government agency’s seal is a federal crime.
That is the short version of how, after a pandemic year when the violent crime rate in Illinois' fifth-largest city soared along with much of the rest of the country, Rockford decided to spend part of a roughly $54 million federal windfall to overhaul its approach to juvenile crime. That means hiring a data analyst and improving the way the whole city—from police to schools and social service agencies—interacts with young people. Maybe looking out for these youngest victims early on, they say, would prevent crimes from happening years down the road.
The money is so substantial and allows such broad leeway on spending that communities across the U.S. are trying out new, longer-term ways to fix what's broken in their cities. For some that means addressing rising homelessness, replacing lead pipes that are sickening children or finding alternative ways to fight high crime.
There is no guarantee any of the experiments will work. And in Rockford's case, it will be years before anyone can say for certain. But after a year when homicides and the number of people injured in shootings doubled, city leaders are taking a calculated risk.
More than 40% of Americans may not get a flu shot this year. That could spell trouble during COVID.
The main reason cited for not getting a flu shot is a belief that it isn't effective. Experts say flu shots prevent thousands of deaths every year.Last year's worries around a "twindemic" of influenza and COVID-19 overwhelming hospitals around the nation luckily went unfounded after a historically mild flu season.
"By and large, for 30 years we have been addressing crime in the same way," McNamara said. "We know we can't keep doing things the same way."
The mayor and City Council of Rockford didn't need prodding from the president.
Crime has been an ongoing challenge for the former manufacturing hub, once known as the "screw capital of the world" for the millions of fasteners it produced. The city lost jobs as factories closed across the Rust Belt, then with the pandemic. Rockford now has the highest unemployment rate of any metro area in Illinois, leading to foreclosures, deteriorating housing and nearly one-quarter of residents living in poverty. Its violent crime rate in 2019 was more than three times the national rate for similarly sized cities, according tostatistics. Not all police forces report crime data to the FBI.
McNamara, whose father served as Rockford mayor in the 1980s, studied criminology and sociology in college. Shortly after he became mayor himself in 2017, his office began analyzing crime data. Among the findings: About 40 percent of the city's violent crime was domestic violence.
McNamara formed a special office that helped create the Family Peace Center in downtown Rockford. There, domestic violence victims can get an emergency order of protection, find counseling, help with food and housing and other services under one roof. The police also work out of the center. It's a multiagency approach that city officials now want to use for juvenile crime.
Black church in Williamsburg, Woody Harrelson at Watergate: News from around our 50 states
Zebras hit the road after pumpkin farm escape in Illinois, island restoration brings the birds in Louisiana, and moreStart the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.
Between 2016 and 2019 the number of violent crimes in the city fell each year, according to police. Starting in November 2019, the city went four straight months without a murder, and McNamara was hopeful Rockford might see another year-over-year decrease in 2020.
"Then the pandemic hit, and it was like all hell broke loose," he said.
Most of the shootings over the next year were part of what then–Police Chief Dan O'Shea called a "tit for tat" between factions of two street gangs. They were largely concentrated in lower-income neighborhoods that are home to more of the city's Black and Hispanic residents. Too many, O'Shea said, involved juveniles driving around town with guns and "aimlessly blasting away."
Police said some of the problem may have been kids not being in school and officers not able to get out into neighborhoods and interact with residents because of COVID-19. A home life where young people may have lacked support before the pandemic, they say, got tougher.
US to reopen land borders to vaccinated tourists; Florida county faces fine for vaccine requirement: COVID updates .
Starting next month, the United States will allow fully-vaccinated foreign nationals to cross its land borders for non-essential purposes.The change would allow foreign tourists to enter the U.S. through land or ferry ports for the first time since March 2020. Government officials have not yet announced a date for the policy change but said it will take place in "early November," in tandem with the country's updated international air travel system.