Wednesday, January 19, 2011

World Trade Center Becoming a Police State? [UPDATE: Now With More Numbers!] | The New York Observer

World Trade Center Becoming a Police State?

January 19, 2011 | 9:23 a.m.

The World Trade Center was the site of two terrorist attacks, and the NYPD is preparing to ensure that never happens again by creating its largest precinct in the five boroughs at Ground Zero. "We are moving forward with the security plan and striving to do so in a way that satisfies the needs of all stakeholders, including the principal need to prevent another attack," Police Chief Ray Kelly said in his "State of the NYPD" address yesterday, according to to the Post.

Yet what if those stakeholders feel overwhelmed by the 673 officers who will be patrolling the area? Back in November, some expressed concern that too many cops could delay the World Trade Center's recovery. After all, not only would this new precinct be the largest in the city, but also the largest per capita, as it will have the smallest patrol area. As many now know too well, the World Trade Center measures 16 acres, which works out to roughy 43 officers per acre.

The precinct's relative size could rise, as well, as The Times points out that the NYPD has not yet decided whether those 673 officers will be comprised of new hires or reassigned ones. Were it the latter case, it would only mean a further drawing down of the ranks at local precincts in order to patrol the World Trade Center. This is not to say crime will rise—it continues to fall along with the ranks of the NYPD—but it is still something to think about as these deployments begin on the tenth anniversary of the attacks.

UPDATE:The Observer contacted DCPI to make sure we had our numbers straight, and here's what they had to say:

It's not at all limited to 16 acres. We're not creating a new precinct. A WTC command post will be established. They'll be resources from the existing 1st Pct, CRVs and other Counterterrorism resources already deployed as well as new officers for the lower Manhattan area — not the WTC alone — and incrementally over time.

The 673 total is all officers, all shifts combined. Their assignment will be years in the making, added incrementally until the entire complex is finished and occupied. Two of the city's biggest precincts, the 75th in Brooklyn and Midtown South in Manhattan, each has over 400 officers. But, again, a new precinct is not being established.

So there you have it. It's a command center, not a precinct, but considering the size of Midtown South and the 75th, both of which cover square miles, that's still a lot of cops for a pretty small area.

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Fuel Rationing For Brits?

Brits Ponder Fuel Rationing

London during WWII

London during WWII

The last time the British government instituted a substantial rationing program was 1940—the Nazis had spread out across Europe and the continent was mobilizing for all-out war. The rationing program, which lasted until 1954, had a profound effect on the collective consciousness of the British public, and is largely remembered not as a time of deprivation but of plucky courage, solidarity and fortitude in the face of a dangerous adversary. So could rationing work again?

Today I attended the launch of a report commissioned by the British parliament that called for the rationing of fuel to help meet the government's carbon emission targets and prepare for future fossil fuel scarcity. The report called for an electronic trading system for energy quotas. Such a system is a long way from becoming law, but it raises an interesting debate about how to mobilize a population around the the fight to slow climate change.

Here's how a fuel rationing program in Britain could work. Under the system, energy credits called TEQs ("Tradeable Energy Quotas") would be distributed free to citizens. Citizens could then buy electricity and fuel as normal, but each time they would see their TEQ account discounted. Each TEQ credit would be worth 1 kg of CO2; so energy bought from renewable sources would discount very few TEQ credits, because such energy would have a low amount of emissions associated with it; fossil fuel-based energy, of course, would deplete TEQs very quickly.

Once their TEQ allotment was depleted, citizens who still wished to use fuel or electricity would have to buy surplus TEQs from people who had TEQs left over, perhaps because they had more energy efficient homes, or had invested in micro-renewables such as solar power panes for their home, or simply because they chose to live a low-carbon life-style. The scheme would probably involve credit cards having two numbers — one linked to the customer's bank account and another to their energy TEQs account. Business and governments would bid for energy units at a weekly tender.
(Click here for TIME's list of the top twenty clean tech ideas.)

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Mission homeowner fined $5,200 for growing cucumbers

Mission homeowner fined $5,200 for growing cucumbers

Len Gratto on his property in Mission on Saturday, January 08, 2011. Len Gratto is ready to join an "imminent class action" law suit against Mission, for hitting him with a 5,200 grow op inspection fee. The 67 year old says he and his wife were growing cucumbers in the basement, he never grew pot, and he and many other Mission residents are being unfairly searched and fined.

Len Gratto on his property in Mission on Saturday, January 08, 2011. Len Gratto is ready to join an "imminent class action" law suit against Mission, for hitting him with a 5,200 grow op inspection fee. The 67 year old says he and his wife were growing cucumbers in the basement, he never grew pot, and he and many other Mission residents are being unfairly searched and fined.

Photograph by: Les Bazso, PNG

There’s no way Len Gratto is paying a $5,200 fine to Mission city hall for growing cucumbers in his basement.

Gratto — a 67-year-old who has lived for 30 years with his wife in their Mission home — says he’s raring to join an imminent class-action lawsuit attacking the municipality’s grow-op bylaw inspections.

A number of citizens, led by Mission man Stacy Gowanlock, will allege their homes were illegally searched for pot grow-ops and they were slapped with fees and repair orders costing upward of $10,000 — all on questionable evidence.

Gratto says he’s never grown pot, but “laughable” evidence against him consists of pictures of some “dirt” on the basement wall and “a furnace pipe going up into the chimney, where it should be.”

“It’s upsetting they can do this,” Gratto said. “We were growing cucumbers in the basement because they wouldn’t take outside.”

Gowanlock said he was searched in 2009 and hit with thousands in fees and repair orders despite never growing pot in his home. A lawyer could be filing his civil suit within days, he said.

“I’m going to be the one that steps forward,” he said. “It’s the whole process. You’re violating people’s rights.”

And in a move that could potentially alter the landscape of drug enforcement in B.C., the B.C. Civil Liberties Association says it will join the battle against Mission but widen the focus into a region-wide challenge to “home grow-op bylaws.”

Grow-op bylaw programs, which are based on provincial legislation, allow municipal inspectors to enter homes with abnormally high hydro usage — about 93 kilowatts per day or more — and look for evidence of illegal marijuana grow-ops for public safety reasons. Inspectors don’t have to find grow-ops, but if they find supposed residual evidence, such as high mould readings, they levy search fees and order repairs. If homeowners don’t comply, homes are tagged under the bylaw and effectively condemned as unsafe, and unsellable.

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