New database to help police share info on gangs
Police across Massachusetts will soon be able to share detailed information on gang members, from criminal histories and known associates to the tattoos that indicate gang affiliation.
In January, the Criminal History Systems Board, which handles the state’s telecommunications network for law enforcement agencies, plans to launch the new database, called MassGangs.
The system is funded by a $1.2 million federal Department of Justice grant and will let investigators share the gang-related information as soon as it becomes available.
Curt Wood, the board’s executive director, told the Boston Globe that the system will also be used by the state Department of Correction to monitor potential gang-related security threats in prisons.
A retired state trooper has pleaded guilty to using extortion to collect drug debts and conspiring to obstruct justice by revealing details of an ongoing criminal investigation.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Joseph Catanese faces a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison. No sentencing date was set.
Catanese and three other suspects were arrested last May on charges that they ran an OxyContin ring.
The suspects included Mark Lemieux, a state trooper who worked with Catanese in a unit that targeted drug dealers.
Lemieux is scheduled for trial in February. His girlfriend, Tara Drummey, has pleaded guilty and was sentenced to more than three years in prison. A second civilian will be sentenced in February after he pleaded guilty.
Hub police chief restricts overtime
Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis has expanded efforts to cut costs with an order that restricts overtime for routine administrative work.
The Boston Globe reported last Friday that Davis’ initiative will eliminate overtime for work that includes obtaining search warrants or follow-up interviews with witnesses.
Spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll said the commissioner is pushing to put the department’s dwindling resources to better use without compromising public safety.
She said detectives can ask supervisors for overtime on cases they believe require extra time.
But Detective Miller Thomas, president of the Boston Police Detectives Benevolent Society, has criticized the cost-cutting measures, saying they have forced detectives in busy divisions to call victims on their days off to make sure they come to court.
A surge in layoffs has led to lines as long as two hours at Massachusetts unemployment centers and lengthy waits for those filing by phone.
The state Division of Unemployment Assistance says call center workers answered nearly 30 percent more calls in October, compared to a year ago.
That doesn’t count people who’ve hung up in frustration over waits averaging 30 minutes. One recently laid-off woman told The Boston Globe she tried to get through 40 times over two days.
The division’s director, Ed Malmborg, said it has taken time to get new help since the dramatic rise in unemployment. The number of first-time claims for unemployment is up 30 percent in the state, compared to a year ago.
Malmborg said another 55 people will soon be added to the call centers.
Brown student’s project works to save lives in Rwanda
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A Brown University student is leading efforts to help thousands HIV victims in the tiny central African nation of Rwanda get access to healthy food and boost income.
Emma Clippinger of Cambridge, Mass., and a Yale University colleague founded a nonprofit organization after realizing that many HIV victims were so malnourished that they could not absorb lifesaving antiretroviral drugs.
Gardens for Health International has helped more than 4,000 Rwandans get access to tools, seeds and organic manure to plant and harvest foods for themselves and families, donate to hospitals and sell at the market in the past two years.
The group is now working to raise about $60,000 in grants to add to the $130,000 they have already raised. The funds will be used to provide loans to the agriculture cooperatives because they have shown that they can make money.
Mass. trims use of take-home vehicles
More than 100 state employees will be stripped of their state-owned, take-home vehicles under a cost-cutting plan proposed by Gov. Deval Patrick.
Administration and Finance Secretary Leslie Kirwan told the Boston Herald that 107 state workers will lose their take-home vehicles under new rules that take effect Jan. 1.
In addition, the take-home use of about 150 state Highway Department seasonal vehicles, including plows, will be restricted to between mid-December to mid-March.
About 500 workers are allowed to drive state vehicles home.
The state is facing a $1 billion budget shortfall, but Kirwan did not say how much the new policy would save.
Michael Widmer, executive director of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, praised the administration’s plan.
Home care workers in Massachusetts have approved a new labor contract that includes pay hikes and increased benefits.
A year ago, personal care attendants in the state voted to form a union with the Service Employees International Union. Since then, 25,000 attendants have been working without a contract.
Under the deal, the attendants will see their hourly wages rise from $10.84 to $12.48 over the next two and a half years.
The deal also requires paid time off based on the number of hours worked and health insurance benefits in the second year of the contract.
The union said the deal will help slow the number of home care workers who quickly leave their jobs due to low pay and few benefits.