Tag Archives: ACLU

Appeals court says Virginia high school’s anti-transgender bathroom rule was discrimination, sets precedent that could affect North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law

Last September I told you about Gavin Grimm, who was born female but identifies as male.  He/she had sued school officials over a policy requiring him to use either the girls’ restrooms or a single-stall, unisex bathroom open to all students. The special snowflake got his/her way yesterday via a court ruling.

Gavin Grimm

Gavin Grimm

Via Daily Mail: A transgender Virginia teen won the right to use the boy’s toilets at his high school Tuesday in an appeals court decision that will affect four other states – including North Carolina.

Tuesday’s decision came from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that Gloucester County School Board was discriminating against Gavin Grimm, 16, by making him use female toilets in line with his biological sex.

That decision establishes legal precedent in all five states of the 4th Circuit, including North Carolina, which on April 1 passed a bill forcing people to use bathrooms based on the sex on their birth certificate.

Grimm, who was born female but identifies as male, was allowed to use the boys’ bathroom at the school for several weeks in 2014, until parents complained. (Grimm, 16, told his parents he was transgender in April 2014. They helped him legally change his name, and a psychologist diagnosed him with gender dysphoria, characterized by stress stemming from conflict between one’s gender identity and assigned sex at birth. Grimm had his breasts removed and began hormone treatment to deepen his voice and give him a more masculine appearance.)

He was then told he could use either the girls’ bathroom or a single private stall – a policy he called stigmatizing. School officials said it respected the privacy of all students.

The U.S. Justice Department filed a ‘statement of interest’ in Grimm’s case in July, saying that not allowing students to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity amounts to sex discrimination.

Gavin Grimm

Gavin Grimm

And now Grimm has won in the state of Virginia – creating a precedent that may concern politicians in neighboring North Carolina. On March 25, North Carolina’s House of Representatives voted 82-26 for House Bill 2, which ordered public schools, government agencies and public college to designate bathrooms by biological sex stated on a person’s birth certificate. It also removed protections that stopped businesses discriminating against people based on their sexuality or gender.

Now, however, precedent has been set in all 4th Circuit states: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Maryland. North Carolina Governor Pat McRory is to meet with house attorneys to see how Tuesday’s decision will affect the bill that he signed, North Carolina News reported.

And back on March 26, Joshua Block, attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, told The Citizen-Times: ‘What the court rules in Gavin’s case will likely be precedent for district courts in North Carolina that they will have to follow. It does seem odd that even though the governor and legislature presumably know a decision is going to come down from the Fourth Circuit, that they rushed in to enact this sweeping policy without seeing how the court rules.  It seems like they are exposing the state to a lot of legal liability for no reason.’

Read the whole story here.


Planned Parenthood, ACLU sue Indiana over new abortion law


Via Yahoo: The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky are suing the state of Indiana, saying an abortion restriction recently signed into law by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is unconstitutional.

The restriction bans abortions sought because of genetic abnormalities and mandates an aborted fetus be buried or cremated. It is set to go into effect July 1. The lawsuit was filed Thursday. The restriction makes Indiana’s abortion law among the most stringent in the nation. North Dakota is the only other state with a similar law.

The president of Indiana Right to Life says Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky filed a federal lawsuit against the state’s new abortion law because it wants to protect its business. Mike Fichter said in a statement that Planned Parenthood has $2 million a year in abortion revenue in Indiana and opposes “any common sense law that protects women and children” because it wants to protect its “lucrative abortion business.”

Fichter says the new law protects fetuses targeted for abortion because of gender, race or a potential disability and calls for respectful disposal of aborted remains.

Betty Cockrum

Betty Cockrum

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky says Indiana’s new abortion law shows that the state does not respect women nor trust they can make their own medical decisions. Betty Cockrum is the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky. She spoke at a news conference Thursday just hours after the organization filed a lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union against the state.

Cockrum also responded to criticism from anti-abortion group Indiana Right to Life, saying she has not seen the organization step up and help families who need care after a pregnancy.

Mike Pence

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s office says it has confidence that the state’s new abortion law is constitutional despite a court challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky.

Pence’s deputy press secretary, Stephanie Hodgin, said Thursday in an emailed statement that Pence will work with the Office of the Attorney General to defend the law. The state Attorney General’s office issued a statement saying that any law passed by the Legislature and the governor is presumed constitutional until a court decides otherwise.


Florida clinics that provide abortions will no longer get funding

I don’t know why this is the end of the world. There are plenty of other ways to access healthcare: low-income community health clinics (Heck, I go to one in my small town. I have insurance yet it was the only place where a doctor could see me within a month. Every other private doctor in town had a four month+ waiting list.), county health centers, Indian health clinics, private (charitable) low income health care centers, and of course, the savior to the whole “healthcare access” problem: Obamacare.

Gov. Rick Scott (Photo credit: AP)

Gov. Rick Scott (Photo credit: AP)

Via NY Post: Florida Governor Rick Scott on Friday signed a law that cuts off state funding for preventive health services to clinics providing abortion and imposes abortion restrictions already being tested before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Florida is among many states adopting new abortion laws as conservatives seek to chip away at the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

Scott signed 68 new laws and issued statements on some non-controversial bills on Friday but did not comment on the abortion statute.

The bill, which easily passed the Republican-controlled legislature earlier this month, has been the target of television advertisements by Planned Parenthood and protests at the Capitol by women urging a veto.

John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, called the law “a historic victory,” in a statement.

State funding of abortion was already prohibited, but the new law also blocks money for services for low-income women at the clinics. It also requires doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital – a type of formal affiliation that can be difficult to obtain – within a “reasonable” distance of clinics.

In addition, the law requires annual inspection of clinics by health authorities and tightened rules on disposal of aborted fetal tissue.

“For Rick Scott to prioritize political pandering over his own constituents’ access to healthcare is more than cynical. It’s shameful,” Laura Goodhue, executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, said in a statement.


She predicted HIV rates will “skyrocket” and teenage pregnancies will rise because women will lose access to regular treatment at state-funded clinics.

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering a challenge to a similar law in Texas, where several clinics have closed because of new restrictions.

Legislative sponsors in Florida argued that the law was not meant to shutter clinics but protect women with new safety rules.

The law takes effect July 1 but will probably be challenged in court quickly. Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said he was not surprised the governor signed the bill. “He claims to be for small government, pro-freedom and opposed to putting government in between people and their doctors – except when it comes to Florida’s women,” said Simon.

Another Florida law passed last year, requiring women to wait 24 hours before getting an abortion, recently took effect and faces a continued legal challenge.


DOJ immigration judge claims 3-year-old children can represent themselves in court



Via The Seattle Times:A senior Justice Department official is arguing that 3- and 4-year-olds can learn immigration law well enough to represent themselves in court, staking out an unconventional position in a growing debate over whether immigrant children facing deportation are entitled to taxpayer-funded attorneys.

Jack Weil, a longtime immigration judge who is responsible for training other judges, made the assertion in sworn testimony in a deposition in federal court in Seattle. His comments highlighted the plight of thousands of juveniles who are forced to defend themselves each year in immigration court amid the surge of children crossing the southwest border from Central America.

“I’ve taught immigration law literally to 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds,’’ Weil said. “It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of patience. They get it. It’s not the most efficient, but it can be done.’’ He repeated his claim twice in the deposition, also saying, “I’ve told you I have trained 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds in immigration law,’’ according to a transcript. “You can do a fair hearing. It’s going to take you a lot of time.’’

What a 3 year old typically "gets"...

What a 3 year old typically “gets”…

Legal and child psychology experts ridiculed Weil’s assertions, noting that key milestones for 3- and 4-year-olds include cooperating with other children, saying simple sentences and building towers of blocks.

“I nearly fell off my chair when I read that deposition,’’ said Laurence Steinberg, a psychology professor at Temple University, who is a witness for the plaintiffs in the Seattle case. “Three- and 4-year-olds do not yet have logical reasoning abilities. It’s preposterous, frankly, to think they could be taught enough about immigration law to be able to represent themselves in court.”

Weil’s deposition came in a case in which the American Civil Liberties Union and immigrant rights groups are seeking to require the government to provide appointed counsel for every indigent child who cannot afford a lawyer in immigration court proceedings. The Justice Department is contesting the lawsuit.

Weil, in a brief email, said his statements don’t “present an accurate assessment of my views on this topic’’ and were being “taken out of context.’’ He said he would need Justice Department permission to speak further and did not respond to subsequent emails.

Lauren Alder Reid, a spokeswoman for the department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) said in a statement: “At no time has the Department indicated that 3 and 4 year olds are capable of representing themselves. Jack Weil was speaking in a personal capacity and his statements, therefore, do not necessarily represent the views of EOIR or the Department of Justice.’’

She added that Weil’s comments “must also be taken in context as part of a 4-hour deposition in which Mr. Weil spoke about various techniques, procedures, and safeguards that can be employed by immigration judges, as warranted, to provide fundamentally fair hearings to all respondents in immigration proceedings.’’

Weil is not just any immigration official. As an assistant chief immigration judge in EOIR’s Office of the Chief Immigration Judge – which sets and oversees policies for the nation’s 58 immigration courts – he is responsible for coordinating the Justice Department’s training of immigration judges.

Read the whole story here.


Toddler’s brutal beating prompts call to withhold bail from illegal immigrants

Remember, San Francisco believes their “long-standing (sanctuary city) policy improves public safety and embraces immigrants.”

Criminal illegal aliens Chavez (l) and Vasquez (r)

Criminal illegal aliens Chavez (l) and Vasquez (r)

Fox News: When Francisco Javier Chavez posted bail on charges of beating a California toddler within an inch of her life in late July, there was little reason to expect the illegal immigrant, who has spent much of his adult life hopping back and forth across the Mexican border, would return to face justice.

Two weeks later, at his scheduled arraignment on Aug. 13, Chavez was a no-show. The 27-year-old career criminal had put up $10,000, or 10 percent of the amount set for his alleged crimes by California’s bail schedule. His disappearance is hardly a surprise to critics who believe violent illegal immigrants are, by definition, flight risks who should be denied bail in such serious cases. They say judges, especially in border states plagued by illegal immigrant crime, are naive or worse if they expect suspects who regularly cross in and out of Mexico to take the U.S. justice system seriously.

“Frankly, judges grant bail in cases like these because they are being foolish,” said Hans A. von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department lawyer now at The Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies. “The judge can consider bail for you when you are charged with a crime, but does not have to let you out on bail. If the state can show you are a flight risk, you should not get bail. If the state can show you are a danger to the public because of a history of violence, you should not get bail.

While Chavez is in the wind, his alleged victim, the 2-year-old daughter of his live-in girlfriend, is now in foster care, paralyzed from the beating that also left her with both arms and a femur broken. Well before he was arrested in San Luis Obispo County for attacking the child, Chavez had compiled a lengthy criminal record that includes assault and drug convictions and arrests for violent acts such as kidnapping, car-jacking and cruelty to a child. He was deported in February 2014, but as in previous instances, found it easy to sneak back across the border and into the U.S.

Jonathan Montez: Killed by an illegal alien.

Jonathan Montez: Killed by an illegal alien.

Weeks after Chavez slipped out of custody, on Sept. 1, another 2-year-old toddler named Jonathan Montez was run down and killed in San Bernardino County. Illegal immigrant Jose Enrique Vasquez, 53, an unlicensed driver who witnesses said was speeding down the child’s residential street, fled the scene, according to authorities. He was arrested two weeks later, and, like Chavez, was granted bail.

Vasquez also has compiled a lengthy criminal record under various aliases, including charges of spousal abuse, battery of a peace officer, driving without a license, driving under the influence and armed robbery. But other charges in his criminal record might have given a judge pause in considering bail according to critics, including failure to appear in court, possession of false citizenship documents and eight deportations for illegally entering the country.

The systems for granting bail in state courts varies from state to state. California’s bail system lays out prescribed amounts for various crimes as a guideline for law enforcement and judges, but judges retain discretion to raise the amount in cases where the suspect is a flight risk or a danger to the public and the district attorney can add, drop or change the charges. Two states, Alabama and Missouri, have passed laws that preclude bail for illegal immigrants suspected of serious crimes, while judges in other states — notably Texas — weigh illegal status in making their decisions. But last year, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Arizona’s 2006 law banning bail for illegal immigrant suspects violated their right to due process and amounted to punishment before trial. The 11-member panel’s decision called the law a “scattered attempt” to deal with the problem of chronic bail-skipping by illegal immigrants. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider the lower court’s decision.

Judges everywhere maintain discretion to deny bail to anyone they believe is likely to flee justice, yet they often fail to consider illegal status as a factor, said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies. And critics say it should be obvious that someone here illegally and suspected of a violent crime will bolt rather than face justice, especially in border states such as California, where they can be out of the country an hour after posting bail.

“Aliens who commit acts of violence should not be released on bail, because they are clearly a danger to the public, and when we have someone with this kind of deportation history, clearly they are an obvious flight risk,” said von Spakovsky. “These judges are making mistakes granting bail to illegal aliens – reckless mistakes that endangered the public.”

The willingness of judges to grant bail to illegal immigrants charged with serious crimes compounds the ongoing controversy involving so-called sanctuary cities. Such jurisdictions, either by local statute or practice, refuse to inform federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents when an illegal immigrant is detained.

But even jurisdictions that do not implement sanctuary policies believe that two federal court rulings, the 2013 California “Trust Act,” which limits “cruel and costly immigration hold requests in local jails,” and an ambiguous White House policy all bar them from holding illegal immigrants who have posted bail until federal authorities can collect and deport them – even if ICE asks them to via what is known as a “detainer request.”

The American Civil Liberties Union has sued jurisdictions that attempted to honor the ICE detainers, and the Department of Justice has not intervened in the cases to underscore its support of them. As a result, local law enforcement agencies say they have no choice but to let even violent illegal immigrant suspects walk once they are granted bail.

“Yes, the judges who ignore this risk are at fault, but Congress provided ICE with a tool to address the problem — detainers — which the Obama administration is not allowing its officers to use,” Vaughan said.


In the cases of both Chavez and Vasquez, ICE issued detainer requests. In Chavez’s case, ICE agents did not arrive prior to bail being posted. In the case of Vasquez, ICE isn’t immediately taking custody or deporting Vasquez, so that he remains in the U.S. at least resolving the legal proceedings surrounding the hit-and-run charge.

Don's son Drew

Don’s son Drew

Don Rosenberg, who, after his 25-year-old son Drew was killed by an unlicensed immigrant driver in San Francisco five years ago, began closely tracking illegal immigrant crime, said the biggest problem he sees is “people in power don’t care.” He blames judges for granting bail, but also holds law enforcement accountable for caving in to the threat of lawsuits.

“How can anyone who in law enforcement let people like this out of custody who we know will likely hurt someone badly, if not kill them, even if they are threatened with a lawsuit?” Rosenberg said. “It’s pure callous indifference. I don’t know how they live with themselves.”


Crowd prays with coach as he defies school district

The article leaves out a few words from the Establishment Clause: “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

Joe Kennedy/King 5 Photo

Joe Kennedy/King 5 Photo

Seattle Times: Surrounded by members of his team, players from the rival Centralia High School and scores of supporters from Kitsap County and beyond, Bremerton High assistant coach Joe Kennedy knelt on the 50-yard line after Friday night’s game and prayed. It was some version of the basic prayer he’s said for years, he said afterward. “Lord, I thank you for these kids and the blessing you’ve given me with them. We believe in the game, we believe in competition and we can come into it as rivals and leave as brothers.”

He said he never intended to become part of the controversy surrounding his postgame prayers, but had to stand up for his right to practice his faith when challenged by the school district. “I always taught my kids to do what’s right … and fight for what you believe in.”

The school district says Kennedy must stop his prayers, which it says violate the separation of church and state. Lawyers representing the coach say his right to religious freedom is being violated by the district’s rules.

bremerton high praying

Numerous people at the school homecoming game came to support Kennedy and his longstanding practice of kneeling and praying at the 50-yard line after games, often among a crowd of players and other coaches.

Kennedy initially agreed to stop his postgame prayers, but earlier this week said he changed his mind after the Texas-based Liberty Institute took up his cause.

Andy Lancaster of Silverdale came to his first football game at Bremerton High on Friday to pray with Kennedy after the game. “I’m here because I can’t stand ACLU bullies,” he said. Gordy Byrd, who attended Bremerton’s East High School years ago, said he hadn’t been at a high-school game in 40 years but he, too, came to pray with Kennedy. State Rep. Jesse Young, R-Gig Harbor, stood next to Kennedy in support throughout the game.

The controversy has played out in public since the district told Kennedy last month to stop his postgame prayers.

Bremerton coach Joe Kennedy, center, in blue, covers his eyes as he kneels and prays, surrounded by Centralia players, at Bremerton Memorial Stadium after the game on Friday, Oct. 16, 2015. Kennedy plans to continue his 7-year tradition of kneeling to pray at the 50-yard line after the game, disobeying district orders/Seattle Times Photo

Bremerton coach Joe Kennedy, center, in blue, covers his eyes as he kneels and prays, surrounded by Centralia players, at Bremerton Memorial Stadium after the game on Friday, Oct. 16, 2015. Kennedy plans to continue his 7-year tradition of kneeling to pray at the 50-yard line after the game, disobeying district orders/Seattle Times Photo

Cory Flournoy, 17, a senior who was filming the game for his media class, said students are “sick and absolutely tired of it all.” “It’s ridiculous that he got in trouble at all,” he said. “The students basically support the coach regardless of their religious beliefs,” Flournoy said.

“It isn’t a big deal at all,” said Brandon Chavez, who played football with the team as a freshman. “I prayed because I’m Catholic, but some walked off. There was never any pressure.” Brady Beaton, Class of 2013, also said he prayed with the team and said he wondered how it ever “became a thing.” “They’re making a big deal out of nothing,” Beaton said.

The district argues that Kennedy’s postgame prayers violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which precludes the government from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion.” It also forbids the government from favoring one religion over another. The Liberty Institute says the coach’s right to religious freedom is being violated and threatened to sue if the district were to fire Kennedy over the dispute.

Jeffrey Ganson, an attorney with Porter Foster Rorick, the Seattle law firm that is representing the school district, emailed a letter to the Liberty Institute on Friday taking issue with how the prayers had been characterized.

Ganson wrote that, contrary to Kennedy’s statements, he did invite other coaches to join him, and that video of an on-field prayer Sept. 14 showed that the prayer began with the word “Lord” and ended with “amen,” contrary to a claim that the prayers did not name a specific deity or end with an amen.

The letter also took issue with the idea that Kennedy is off-duty immediately after the game ends. It said the prayers occur “when students are still on the football field, in uniform, under the stadium lights, with the audience still in attendance, and while Mr. Kennedy is still in his District-issued and District-logoed attire. Critically, at that time, Mr. Kennedy remains on duty. …”

Liberty Institute’s Hiram Sasser responded: “The school district may resolve this issue by announcing a disclaimer that Coach Kennedy is acting in his private capacity and not as a representative of the school district …” Sasser wrote.

Bremerton School District and Bremerton High School officials did not return phone calls from The Seattle Times on Friday seeking comment. An email from the school district included statements from Thursday’s school board meeting.

“I want to be clear — the District is in no way taking away an athletic coach’s freedom of expression,” District Superintendent Aaron Leavell said in the statement. “What we are doing is what every state-funded agency and school district must do: abide by the laws that govern us. Like every public school district in the nation, our teaching and coaching staff is not allowed to include religious expression, including prayer, in talks with students while on duty for the District.”

Kennedy describes himself as a God-fearing former Marine, who served 20 years including in operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield in Iraq. He said he believes he is “helping these kids be better people.” He says he is not a lawyer and “I don’t know the Constitution.”


Sacramento violent crime rises sharply; high-poverty areas hit hardest

You think reducing crimes from felonies to misdemeanors and releasing 17,000 low-level criminals from jails or prisons might be part of the problem?

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and his buddy Obama

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and his buddy Obama

Sacramento Bee: Ninety minutes after midnight on a recent Saturday, Sacramento resident Jackie Andersen learned that her son – a lively 16-year-old student at American Legion High who played football and basketball – was dying. “I got woken up by my oldest son,” she said. “His brother was shot and unresponsive and bleeding.”

Isaiah Diaz was gunned down in front of his grandmother’s house in the city’s Colonial Village neighborhood in the early hours of Oct. 3. Police say they believe the shooting was gang-related; Andersen said her son was not in a gang, but may have been “hanging out with the wrong people.”

It was the seventh killing in the city in five weeks and the 35th homicide of 2015. That amounts to more homicides by early October than Sacramento has seen during the first nine months of any year since 2008.

The killing and Thursday’s downtown stabbing of French train attack hero Spencer Stone are the latest indications of a disturbing trend: Violent crimes – murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault – are up sharply this year in Sacramento.

Through August, Sacramento police had responded to 2,511 violent crimes, a 24 percent increase from the same period in the prior year, police statistics show. The city has not seen that many violent crimes through August of any year since 2010.

Violent crime is up year-over-year in each of the city’s six patrol districts, but the increase is not uniform. In North Sacramento’s Patrol District 2, which includes Del Paso Heights, Robla and Del Paso Boulevard, and in south Sacramento’s Patrol District 5, which includes Meadowview, Valley Hi and Mack Road, violent crime has risen by more than 35 percent.

Property crime, a category that includes burglaries, larcenies and car thefts, rose about 8 percent through August. Central Sacramento’s Patrol District 4, which includes Land Park, South Land Park and the Pocket neighborhoods, saw a 24 percent increase, the largest jump in the city, police records show.

The sharp uptick in crime follows several years of historic declines that culminated in 2014, when the city saw the fewest number of violent crimes in decades. It also coincides with an increase in violent crimes and homicides reported this year in major cities across the nation.

Police officials and criminologists cautioned against reading too much yet into the trend. Following years of declines in reported criminal activity, Sacramento still is demonstrably safer in 2015 than it was 10 or 20 years ago, they said. This year could prove to be the start of a significant new problem – or a short-lived aberration.

“This is precisely the time to redouble your efforts to make sure things don’t get out of hand,” said George Tita, associate professor in the department of criminology, law and society at the University of California, Irvine.

It’s also too early to say what is causing the increase, experts said. It comes as the economy improves and the Sacramento Police Department has added dozens more officers.

It also comes in the wake of Proposition 47, which passed in November and reduced many nonviolent property and drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. Proposition 47 resulted in the release of thousands of low-level offenders from California prisons and jails, said Magnus Lofstrom, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.

Magnus Lofstrom: "Too early to tell” if Proposition 47 is affecting violent crime rates.

Magnus Lofstrom: “Too early to tell” if Proposition 47 is affecting violent crime rates.

Prison releases can “put a greater upward pressure on greater crime rates,” Lofstrom said. But he also noted that California’s trends in violent crime are similar to what’s happening in states that didn’t recently pass such a law. That makes it difficult to draw any strong conclusions, he said.

Another possibility is a rise in gang activity. Police say several recent killings involved gangs. Police spokesman Bryce Heinlein said measuring gang activity is complex and can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. But, he said, “detectives are well aware that violent crime often has a nexus to gang involvement.”

Sacramento police officials say they are taking the crime increase seriously. They are reaching out to community leaders, putting more police on the street and tracking hot spots, said spokesman Doug Morse. “More than ever we are going to weekly meetings with our crime analysis folks and quickly identifying problems and creating response plans,” Morse said.

Whatever its cause, duration or solution, the increase in crime has touched thousands of local residents, particularly in the city’s poorest neighborhoods. “There are a lot of people that are afraid,” said Tanya Brewer, who lives in North Sacramento with five children, ages 4 to 13.

‘It’s not safe’

Through August, Sacramento police responded to almost 670 violent crimes, including eight homicides, in North Sacramento’s Patrol District 2. That’s about 175 more violent crimes than occurred in the district during the same period last year, and more violent crimes than during any similar period in at least five years, police data show. The closest recent year was 2012, when about 565 violent crimes occurred through August.

Brewer’s section of North Sacramento is called Strawberry Manor, covering about four-tenths of a square mile and home to about 3,000 people. In the last 12 months, police have taken 13 reports of aggravated assaults involving firearms in Strawberry Manor, online records show.

Read the rest of this section (detailing shooting incidents) here.

Explanations elusive

Violent incidents such as these rarely happen in the middle-class neighborhoods of Land Park, Curtis Park and the Pocket. But those areas have seen their own spikes involving property crime. About 1,660 property crimes occurred in Patrol District 4 through August, including more than 230 auto thefts. That’s about 330 more property crimes than the area saw last year.

Bob Ross has lived in Curtis Park for 55 years. Earlier this year, someone broke into his garage and stole his late wife’s bicycle. Ross, 86, didn’t have much use for it anymore, he said, but noted it was the first time he’d had something stolen from his house.

While city residents have reported more property crime this year than last, the incident numbers still remain below the levels reached in 2012 and 2013. Mike Ellison, president of the South Land Park Neighborhood Association, said crime in his community remains “a lot of minor stuff” and that he has not heard many concerns from neighbors.

Kenneth Mennemeier, president of the Land Park Community Association, said “anytime a crime like that goes up, it’s worrisome” but that “our understanding is (police) are deploying more resources to try to get the numbers down. It is a situation that warrants attention and is getting attention,” he said.

The increase in crime has occurred even as the Police Department is adding resources. Voters approved Measure U in 2012 to restore 150 positions lost during the recession. As of March, the department had filled 117 of those positions, budget records show, and hiring continues. Morse, the police spokesman, said the full impact of those hires will not be felt until recruits complete their training. “It literally takes a year and a half to get that person working on their own. … We are hiring as fast as we can. We have full academies running twice a year. But it literally takes years to get back to where we were in 2008,” he said.

In the meantime, city police say they are employing a variety of tactics in high-crime areas. Some of those are strategic changes: for example, creating “geographic policing models” that put an officer in charge of a targeted zone within a district. That officer receives crime updates and can quickly shift resources.

Other efforts involve new technology. Police in May installed “ShotSpotter” sensors in North Sacramento to alert them to the sound of gunfire, with the aim of having officers respond more quickly.

The city also has reached out to youths in high-poverty areas. Thousands of people, most of them under 35, have participated in a “Summer Night Lights” program in the Mack Road area. Activities include obstacle courses, music and carnival games. The idea is to give young adults positive things to do in the summer, when crime is usually highest. A similar program, “Night Life Turned Right,” runs in North Sacramento. “If we don’t invest in youth in a positive way, they will find negative things to participate in,” said Derrell Roberts, a community activist in North Sacramento.

One obstacle to addressing the crime increase, several experts said, is they don’t have enough data to determine what is causing it. Homicides are up this year in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, Philadelphia and numerous other cities. There’s no consensus about why.

“We have no idea why there might be spikes in violence,” said Tita, the UC Irvine criminologist. He said the crime increases in Sacramento and elsewhere fall within the range of fluctuations expected from time to time.

are you serious

The upticks occur as California and the federal government have eased sentencing for some low-level offenders. Late last year, the U.S. Justice Department instructed its prosecutors to no longer charge low-level, nonviolent drug criminals with crimes that carry heavy mandatory sentences. Roughly 6,000 drug criminals will be released from federal prisons in coming weeks, with more releases likely.

prop 47

In California, about 17,000 low-level criminals have been released from jails or prisons across the state because of Proposition 47, which passed in November, Lofstrom said. That’s about 12 percent of the state’s jail population and 6 percent of its prison population. But, he added, “It’s too early to tell” if Proposition 47 is affecting violent crime rates.

Jackie Andersen is among those trying to understand what is happening in her community. Her son Isaiah was a good kid, she said, and she pleaded for anyone with information about his killing to come forward. A day after his death, she stood in front of a makeshift memorial at the spot where he’d been shot, weeping as she recounted how she never had a chance to say goodbye. “When I got here,” she said, “my son had already been taken away.”