ATM machines all over New York City were drained of 2.7 million dollars in the course of 10 hours last February during a brazen cyber robbery. New York was only one city hit, with metropolitan areas in Japan, Canada, Germany and other countries also having their ATMs looted. The total take from the robbery was 45 million worldwide.
The scheme involved hacking into banks to change ATM withdrawal limits and encoding stolen account information onto magnetic cards. Over the course of just 10 hours, thieves around the world struck ATMs, loading bags with cash. This money was then laundered through the purchase of stolen luxury goods including Rolex watches and luxury cars. This is the largest bank heist in recent New York legislative history.
Although the international ringleader is unknown, the suspected leader of the New York crew was found dead in the Dominican Republic last April. Police described the heist as expertly planned, coordinated and executed, even comparing it to the film Ocean’s Eleven.
Most current cyber-crime bills making their way through the legislature deal with cyber bullying and stocking. This robbery may force the legislature to take on cyber bank fraud. Cyber security experts and hackers alike have, in the past, noted that ATMs can easily fall victim to cyber criminals.
The PEN foundation is bringing mini-libraries to New York City. These honor system based libraries allow New Yorkers to take or leave a book. Each one is designed by an artist or architect, making them a great resource for book lovers or art appreciators. This news comes as many libraries are suffering from a lack of funding.
The New Century Libraries: Libraries 2013 Act is currently making its way through the state legislature. It seeks to send more funds and grants to libraries to make up for some of the shortfall. Other bills aim to save money, but none reduce services. A slew of bills are aimed at relaxing taxes on gifts to the library. Other bills aim to modernize the library, thus making it more cost efficient. The mini library program is a novel approach to keeping New York’s literary culture intact.
New York’s legislative intent with these bills is clear. New York is trying to fill the gap left by national cuts to library funding. Although this is a noble aim with legislative history, these bills may not make it into law. Many city agencies are hurting from national budget cuts. For now, you can enjoy one of the 10 mini libraries set up by the PEN foundation.
A rash of armed robberies in which the victims resisted have gotten the attention of criminologists, many of whom are reexamining the nature of crime in a city that has seen such a dramatic improvement in public safety. How are New Yorkers today reacting to crime?
Criminologists are blaming a number of factors. Many claim gentrification is the problem. As neighborhoods become more stratified by class and race, better-off areas suffer less crime. In more mixed areas it is easier for criminals to target the more well to do. This also has a self-reinforcing effect called “victim hardening.” The people left in high-crime areas are used to it and have become hardened; this makes them more likely to refuse when robbed.
Criminology is a notoriously complex field because criminals and victims do not always act in the most logical or self-interested ways. Questions about why a criminal would shoot as opposed to finding another victim or why a victim with no money would resist are still not entirely clear. Masculinity, the mood of both criminal and victim, and changing perceptions of who commits a crime and why have all been suggested as factors. New York legislative history does have instances of criminology informing new laws. That could very well be the case here, though more information is needed.
The federal government is facing stiff resistance around the country as it attempts to implement core curriculum. This new curriculum is aimed at standardizing education across state lines and raising educational achievement. Although some states have rejected the proposal based on federalist grounds, New York is having trouble convincing teachers, parents and students to accept the new standards for a myriad of reasons.
One of the main complaints by parents, teachers and students in the curriculum relies heavily on testing. Teachers have said that the curriculum is too aggressive in what it tries to teach. They fear they will not be able to cover all the material in one year. The tensions came to a head today right as the first round of students began taking tests. Thousands of parents around the city opted their children out of the tests. Education officials countered by saying that any challenging curriculum will be met with some resistance. So far 45 states have adopted or are adopting core curriculum. Other states that have adopted the curriculum also saw test scores plummet.
Generally, parents and advocates for kids are concerned about the fact New York’s recent legislative history in regards to educations has been heavily test-based.
Bronx’s criminal court is suffering from a serious backlog of cases and a lower conviction rate than the other four boroughs. Strained by budget cuts and an increased work load, many suspect justice is not being properly served in the Bronx. A quick stroll by the Bronx courthouse will reveal around-the-block lines and severe crowding.
The breakdown does not appear to stem from one particular reason. There are shortages of judges, prosecutors and court officers. Less than half of jury trials end in conviction, lower than anywhere else in the city. People working in the courthouse say it is not uncommon for cases to be on the shelf for 5+ years. In some cases, charges must be dropped because too much time has elapsed. Inversely, other cases involve people waiting in prison for years because the trial that would exonerate them is delayed. Although judges are being brought in from elsewhere to deal with the backlog of cases, there is no long-term solution in place. There is also no current solution to deal with issues in other areas of the courthouse.
Those tracking the legislative history of the courthouse note the problem has been getting worse over the past decade.
For the second time in less than six months, hundreds of fast food workers walked off the job in protest of low wages, poor or nonexistent benefits, abuse by management, and other issues. The protests, organized by New York Communities for Change and Fast Food Forward, aim to bring the hourly wage up from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour. Currently New York’s minimum wage is set to rise to $9 an hour by 2016. Protestors are promising to organize more walkouts unless management is receptive to their complaints.
Workers believe they deserve more than they are being paid due to the cost of living in New York and the difficult nature of their work. Many workers also complained of working for upwards of a decade and not seeing a salary increase. The National Restaurant Association released a statement on behalf of the food chains describing the wages as fair and explaining that such jobs were stepping stones on the road to economic success. Workers are quick to point out that numerous third party studies have indicated that one cannot live on $7.25, especially if they have kids.
The issue may continue to grow in scope, while the economy remains sluggish and the fast food industry continues to represent a larger share of the economy. It will be interesting to follow the legislation tracking on this hot button issue.
The NYPD is expanding its uses of Twitter, Facebook and other social programs in its battle against crime. Last year the NYPD began covertly friending and following known gang members on Facebook and Twitter to get an inside track on gang activity. This proved useful in both solving and preventing crimes, so the program is being expanded further.
Using facial ID software, police are tracking down suspects. Police can now take a picture of a criminal and run it through a system that checks that face against Facebook photos and surveillance footage. This allows them to know the whereabouts of a suspect and his associates. The program has already produced arrests for a host of crimes. Although facial matching doesn’t constitute enough probable cause for an arrest, it allows the police to zero in and collect enough evidence to make an arrest and eventually build a case. The expanded use of both surveillance cameras and social media ensure the program will continue to grow.
The system, however, is not yet flawless. Low quality pictures or pictures taken at certain odd angles will not yield matches in the system. Still, with facial recognition software in its infancy, that fact may also change in the near future. How will these crime fighting tools shape New York’s legislative history?
With less tax revenue and less help from the federal government, a lot of NYC’s branches of government are getting fiscally creative. Libraries, schools and other government-owned properties are being sold as a way to infuse cash into severely impoverished sectors of government. Some neighborhood residents who are directly effected by such sales are voicing their concerns.
So far several city libraries have been sold. The revenue generated by these sales allowed for the sold libraries to be rebuilt in new locations. The sale also covered millions in repairs at other library facilities. The president of New York’s public libraries said those repairs would not have been possible without the sale of library branches. Although this has been a boon to libraries, certain neighborhood residents see it as shortsighted.
When a library is sold and then rebuilt, the neighborhood it was originally in loses a library, and residents must travel even farther to access library services. Other critics note the city is selling historic and architecturally significant buildings for short-term gains. Perhaps the developers are getting the better deal in the long run.
Legislative bill tracking reveals there are now laws currently being considered to curb the lucrative practice.
The ban on large sugary drinks championed by Mayor Bloomberg was struck down by State Supreme Court this week. The ban was set to take effect just days after it was revoked. Bloomberg quickly issued a statement saying his administration would appeal the decision, citing the danger of obesity. The lawsuit that eventually led to the law being revoked was filed by soda makers and retailers.
This marks just another step in the legislative history of the soda ban bill. What started as the brainchild of public health officials was championed by Bloomberg before becoming the target of a campaign against the ban by soda makers and restaurants. The law was also relatively unpopular, with polls showing that 60% of New Yorkers thinking it was a bad idea. The State Supreme Court ruling could affect soda bans being undertaken in California and elsewhere.
The judge cited the law’s arbitrary nature as the reason it was being struck down. The judge also notes the law creates a complex patchwork of what qualified as a large soda, what is exempt, and how enforcement is handled. Bloomberg has given no indication of what a future law would look like or the basis of his administration’s appeal of the judge’s ruling.
The NYPD is piloting a new program aimed at keeping youthful offenders away from a life of crime. This new program, which is equal parts police work and social service, is aimed at the highest risk teenagers, ones who have previous violations for robbery, gun violence, or gang crime.
The program starts with an intervention in which police tell a wayward youth, “We are watching you, but we are here to help you.” Police monitor these young people through social media, Twitter and conventional police tactics. They make their presence known so youths are less likely to commit crimes.
The second part of the program involves mentorship. Officers are paired with a young person who they provide guidance for. This can be in the form of tutoring, going out to sports games, helping the family apply for scholarships and aid or even providing presents during the holidays.
The program has the added benefit of improving police and community relationships. Many parents, who were used to police knocking on their doors as a result of a negative occurrence, are happy to see officers dropping off textbooks or giving a stay-in-school pep talk.
For now, the program exists only in Brownsville and East Harlem, but its success will probably see New York legislature tracking it up to city policy.