The Hot Beat

Icon

The second-day story, with your help. Call Gazette reporter Adam Belz at (319) 398-8273 or e-mail him: adam.belz@gazcomm.com

This blog has moved

I’m over at GazetteOnline now, just a cog in the big news machine.

You can get to my blog by either following this link: http://gazetteonline.com/blogs/the-hot-beat, or by going to www.gazetteonline.com and clicking on the blogs tab near the top of the page. The Hot Beat is one of several blogs listed in the pull-down menu.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Police might leave stone age on pawnshop tracking

Cedar Rapids police are looking into paying for an online database that will make it easier to track items at pawn shops.

Before the flood, the Cedar Rapids Police Department was looking at using LeadsOnline, an Internet service that collects information from pawn shops and allows police to search a database for stolen items or evidence in an investigation.

It’s not that police here don’t already pay attention to pawnshop transactions. But their process is mind-numbingly archaic.

Whenever someone hands over a Rolex, or whatever, at one of Cedar Rapids’ four pawn shops, the store must record a description of the property and the identity of the customer on a slip that it gives to police. “We go pick them up, bring them to crime analysis, and then they get entered in,” said Capt. Bernie Walther.

When cops got fed up with that job, the city instituted a $1 fee for each item in 2008, to cover the cost of sending officers to pick up the slips and paying someone to type the items into the system.

But over the next few weeks, police will investigate in earnest whether it will be better to pay a private company to collect the information from pawn shops and maintain the database.

The New York and Los Angeles Police Departments already use LeadsOnline, as do 39 agencies in Illinois.

The Dubuque Police Department just became one of the few Iowa law enforcement agencies to sign up for the service. “Our last pawnshop just signed on yesterday,” Lt. Scott Baxter said.

Dubuque police have already recovered some stolen tools and snowboards using the service. In Grinnell, police have used the service to recover $20,000 in stolen property.

It costs Dubuque $5,900 per year, a fee the city has paid with seized drug money, Baxter said.

Filed under: Cedar Rapids City Council, Public Safety

About those Chicago billboards

The Iowa Department of Economic Development has been advertising Iowa, as a place to live, in Chicago since the 1980s.

The department ran an ad on billboards along I-294, I-90, I-290 and I-94 in May, June and July of 2007. Those are all, of course, major interstates that can have apoplexy-inducing traffic.

Here’s the ad:

This advertisement ran on billboards along interstates in Chicago in 2007.

This advertisement ran on billboards along interstates in Chicago in 2007.

The Iowa Department of Economic Development calls this “workforce recruitment,” an effort to reach University of Iowa graduates or native Iowans living in Chicago, get them to come back and raise their families here.

It’s really a far cry from the local myth that Iowa has been running Section 8 ads in south Chicago for years, but as Steve Rackis, the guy who oversees Section 8 in Iowa City, points out, everyone drives on the interstate, and everyone likes the idea of a safe, quiet place with good schools and no traffic.

So certainly, some low-income black people have seen these ads and responded by moving to Iowa. I spoke with a such a family earlier this week.

More on this later. The Section 8 story continues to evolve. Would love to keep getting your thoughts.

Filed under: Cedar Rapids City Council, Iowa City, Public Safety

Reality and the Chicago connection

Eastern Iowa fears of the Chicago migration are nothing new, and they’re beginning to become cyclical. This is the lead of a big Sunday story in The Gazette on Aug. 18, 2003:

Christina McGowan remembers well those days when she lived on Chicago’s south side. She was called First Lady. She was respected and feared. She had money….

McGowan, 26, and her three children live in a two-bedroom Cedar Rapids apartment across the street from a cornfield, eking out a much more meager, but quieter, living.

“I am on my way to that happy ending, so to speak,” said McGowan, who moved to the area last year. “I think I was supposed to be dead or in jail right now.”

McGowan is among a growing number of new Eastern Iowans moving to the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City Technology Corridor who are fleeing the poverty and crime of inner cities.

Many are coming from Chicago, which is displacing families while tearing down its projects and replacing them with mixed-income town houses. The majority are African-American families – typically single mothers with children.

But I just got off the telephone with a woman named Susan Popkin, and she doesn’t buy the notion that black people have left Chicago in large numbers as housing projects have been torn down.

Popkin is a senior fellow at the Urban Institute in Washington D.C., and she’s been tracking Chicago public housing for almost a decade. People who left Chicago’s old public housing have largely moved to other parts of Chicago, or the south suburbs, she said.

“They have not moved to Iowa,” she said. “They’re in Chicago.”

The gentrification of Chicago is the driving force behind any migration, she said.

Popkin admits no weaknesses in the Section 8 subsidized housing program that several people around here blame for importing Chicago problems into Eastern Iowa cities, except this:

High concentrations of Section 8 vouchers in one neighborhood can ruin a neighborhood, Popkin said. This is the contention of Dale Todd, a Wellington Heights resident who grew up in Chicago and moved to Cedar Rapids in 1974.

“When we develop concentrations of Section 8 housing…it can have a negative impact on the people we’re trying to help,” he said. “The inability of regular landlords to rent in that neighborhood forces them to turn to Section 8. It’s a cycle.”

Popkin said it’s up to the local housing authority to be prudent in how it directs the vouchers. This requires outreach to new landlords, so more will accept them, so the vouchers will be spread out evenly across a community.

“When you have a modest number of voucher holders in a neighborhood it’s often good for property values because it’s a guaranteed income stream for landlords,” she said.

Filed under: Cedar Rapids Library, Public Safety, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Crime way down across the nation (and in C.R.)

The Washington Post is reporting huge declines in violent crime this year across the country: “The District, New York and Los Angeles are on track for fewer killings this year than in any other year in at least four decades.”

While homicide is so rare in Cedar Rapids that it’s difficult to draw statistical conclusions about it, Cedar Rapids’ declining rates of reported crime reflect this national trend (whether you believe it or not).

Filed under: Cedar Rapids City Council, Public Safety, , , , , , , ,

Supes haggle on AOB vs. Juvy Courts

Linn County will submit two projects to the state I-JOBS board for funding, and lines were drawn Monday on which of the two is most important.

Supervisor Jim Houser said the county’s Administrative Office Building should be the first priority in obtaining state economic stimulus dollars. Supervisor Brent Oleson thinks a new juvenile courts facility should be the top priority.

“We’ve got to put county government back together in a county seat,” Houser said. “We’re taking care of our county functions first.”

Oleson argued that juvenile courts was left without a home in the “musical chairs” at the county courthouse since the flood, and it’s more important because it serves children, a disproportionate number of which are minorities.

“I think that’s a whole lot more compelling a story to tell I-JOBS than that me and a bunch of other elected officials need new offices,” Oleson said.

The supervisors want to spend about $12 million to renovate and expand the Administrative Office Building, 930 First St. SW. The I-JOBS application will ask for $8.8 million. A new juvenile law center and courthouse could cost up to $4.5 million, and the supervisors will submit an I-JOBS application for roughly $3.4 million.

Supervisor Lu Barron wants the board to prioritize the two projects in case state officials ask which is more important. “No doubt, both are extremely important,” she said.

Supervisors Linda Langston and Ben Rogers said they would rather not prioritize the projects, since it might pit the projects against each other.

Houser said he’d “like to see both projects funded,” but points out the office building is an explicit county function, while juvenile courts will house state services.

The supervisors will make a decision on the question at Wednesday’s meeting, 10 a.m., Linn County West.

Filed under: County Government, , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Sideways” director working on new film called “Cedar Rapids”

Alexander Payne, director of “Sideways,” the 2004 movie about two middle-aged guys touring California wine country, is directing a new movie called “Cedar Rapids.”

No word yet on why the name was chosen, or if it has anything to do with our fair city, but hey, news is news, right!

Shooting will begin in October. Variety is reporting that the film, which will star Ed Helms from “The Office,” is about “a sad-sack insurance agent who goes to an industry convention to try to save the jobs of his colleagues.”

Whatever. Maybe it’ll be like “Fargo” was for Fargo, and the movie will change our city forever. Wait, nevermind.

Filed under: Cedar Rapids City Council, Other, , , , ,

Section 8 myths/facts

Myth: Most Section 8 vouchers in Cedar Rapids are held by people from Chicago.
Fact: 93 percent of vouchers in Cedar Rapids were issued locally, and the program requires one year of residency, and has a three to five year waiting list. 4.8 percent of vouchers come from Illinois, representing about 50 households.

Myth: Most Section 8 vouchers in Cedar Rapids are used in Wellington Heights.
Fact: Of the 1066 vouchers in use today, 185 are in southeast Cedar Rapids. The quadrant with the most vouchers is southwest Cedar Rapids, with 316.

Myth: When someone uses a Section 8 voucher, he or she can invite lots of friends and family to live with them in the unit.
Fact: A Section 8 voucher will be terminated if the voucher-holder breaks the terms of the agreement, and one term is that “unauthorized occupants” are forbidden.

I’ll be working on a story about Section 8 in Cedar Rapids over the next few weeks, and I’m looking for people who have experience with it — renters, neighbors, cops. I’m not sure what the story will say, but I want to get as many ideas and perspectives as possible before it goes to press. Call me!

My phone number is 319-398-8273 and my e-mail is adam.belz@gazcomm.com

Filed under: Cedar Rapids City Council, Public Safety

Paraplegic accused in domestic is breaking the jail’s bank

Correction: This blog post was badly incorrect until 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, when I changed it.

Kruse’s insurance company covered his medical expenses during his time at University Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, not county taxpayers.

Also, the cost of Kruse’s care provided at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Oakdale is about $900 a day, compared to about $3,000 a day at University Hospitals.

A month after he crashed his car in a high-speed police chase and was paralyzed from the waist down, Shawn Kruse is costing Linn County taxpayers more than $900 per day.

The 32-year-old from Cedar Rapids is accused of hitting his wife with an unknown weapon and using a crowbar and a hack saw to intimidate her before he fled from police May 31. In the ensuing chase, which reached speeds of 110 mph, Kruse’s vehicle hit a guardrail on Highway 30, went airborne and rolled into the ditch.

Kruse was later charged with first-degree kidnapping and going armed with intent for the domestic incident. He also was badly injured, taken to University Hospitals in Iowa City, and lost the use of his legs.

When he was released from the hospital Friday, he was taken to the Iowa Medical and Classification Center, a prison with medical facilities in Oakdale, just north of Iowa City.

“We are not able to give him the 24-hour care he requires,” Sheriff Brian Gardner said, who oversees the Linn County Jail. “We actually worked out a deal with Oakdale. We’re paying them a large sum of money to handle his medical care.”

What President Barack Obama calls one of the most important challenges of our time, how to pay for health care, extends even to people behind bars, and Kruze’s case provides an extreme example.

“Most health insurance companies have a clause written into their policies that says if you are incarcerated, we cancel your coverage,” said Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner.

County taxpayers pay for medical care for inmates. The Sheriff’s Office budgeted $247,000 this year to pay for doctor visits and medication.

The bill for Kruse was over $3,000 per day when he was in the hospital, Gardner said, because of the many, expensive medications he requires. His insurance company covered those costs until he was taken to Oakdale, where the same treatments cost about $900 per day.

“This is definitely going to impact our budget,” Gardner said.

Filed under: Public Safety, , , , , , ,

911 tapes released in Ed Thomas shooting

Dispatcher: “Butler County 911.”

Daryl Myers: “This is Daryl Myers. I work for the school. We, uh, had, a, I think a shooting right now in the bus barn down at the high school.”

Dispatcher: “Where at?”

Myers: “At Parkersburg.”

Dispatcher: “Yeah, at the high school where?”

Myers: “Uh, in the bus barn.”

Dispatcher: “In the bus barn? Do you know who it was?”

Myers: “No I don’t, uh, kids just come running out and said somebody shot Ed Thomas.”

Dispatcher: “Ed Tho—! OK.”

Myers: “And they’re still in the building.”

Dispatcher: “They’re in the building?

Myers: “Yeah.”

Dispatcher: “All right. All right. We’ll get someone right there.”

The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation on Friday released dramatic 911 tapes in which shocked but calm residents of Parkersburg report the fatal shooting of iconic high school football coach Ed Thomas. Mark Becker, 24, is charged with first-degree murder in Thomas’ death.

The tapes — three of five are intelligible — show concerns about a slow ambulance response and less-than-perfect communication between emergency responders.

The DCI withheld six 911 tapes, contending they contain information that’s part of the ongoing criminal investigation.

In one tape, Police Chief Chris Luhring told dispatchers he couldn’t reach an ambulance by radio.

“This is going to be a load and go. When they come in here and load that cot up, you’re out of here,” Police Chief Chris Luhring said.

The dispatcher told Luhring that a helicopter would be there in 15 minutes, and then the dispatchers spent a few seconds tracking down a cell phone number for someone in the ambulance.

In another call, Leah Vanderholt called 911 because several students had fled the weight room where Thomas was shot and were gathered at a house nearby.

“We can see the building right now, and all we see is a police blazer. We don’t see any ambulances, we don’t see anything,” Vanderholt told the dispatcher.

“The ambulance is on the way right now,” the dispatcher said. “They had a hard time getting a crew, but they are on the way. We also have paramedics that have been en route for about ten minutes.”

Vanderholt told the dispatcher the address of the home where she and the kids were waiting, and the dispatcher asked them not to leave until police arrived, and they had spoken with the officers.

Filed under: Public Safety, , , , , ,

RSS Linn County Auditor on Twitter

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Brent Oleson on Twitter

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Ben Rogers on Twitter

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Chuck Grassley on Twitter

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Adam Belz on Twitter

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.