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Boston Police Plan to Search Homes Without Warrants


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Boston police are launching a program that will call upon parents in high-crime neighborhoods to allow detectives into their homes, without a warrant, to search for guns in their children's bedrooms.

 

The program, which is already raising questions about civil liberties, is based on the premise that parents are so fearful of gun violence and the possibility that their own teenagers will be caught up in it that they will turn to police for help, even in their own households.

 

In the next two weeks, Boston police officers who are assigned to schools will begin going to homes where they believe teenagers might have guns. The officers will travel in groups of three, dress in plainclothes to avoid attracting negative attention, and ask the teenager's parent or legal guardian for permission to search. If the parents say no, police said, the officers will leave.

 

If officers find a gun, police said, they will not charge the teenager with unlawful gun possession, unless the firearm is linked to a shooting or homicide.

 

The program was unveiled yesterday by Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis in a meeting with several community leaders.

 

"I just have a queasy feeling anytime the police try to do an end run around the Constitution," said Thomas Nolan, a former Boston police lieutenant who now teaches criminology at Boston University. "The police have restrictions on their authority and ability to conduct searches. The Constitution was written with a very specific intent, and that was to keep the law out of private homes unless there is a written document signed by a judge and based on probable cause. Here, you don't have that."

 

Critics said they worry that some residents will be too intimidated by a police presence on their doorstep to say no to a search.

 

"Our biggest concern is the notion of informed consent," said Amy Reichbach, a racial justice advocate at the American Civil Liberties Union. "People might not understand the implications of weapons being tested or any contraband being found."

 

But Davis said the point of the program, dubbed Safe Homes, is to make streets safer, not to incarcerate people.

 

"This isn't evidence that we're going to present in a criminal case," said Davis, who met with community leaders yesterday to get feedback on the program. "This is a seizing of a very dangerous object.

 

"I understand people's concerns about this, but the mothers of the young men who have been arrested with firearms that I've talked to are in a quandary," he said. "They don't know what to do when faced with the problem of dealing with a teenage boy in possession of a firearm. We're giving them an option in that case."

 

But some activists questioned whether the program would reduce the number of weapons on the street.

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A criminal whose gun is seized can quickly obtain another, said Jorge Martinez, executive director of Project Right, who Davis briefed on the program earlier this week.

 

"There is still an individual who is an impact player who is not going to change because you've taken the gun from the household," he said.

 

The program will focus on juveniles 17 and younger and is modeled on an effort started in 1994 by the St. Louis Police Department, which stopped the program in 1999 partly because funding ran out.

 

Police said they will not search the homes of teenagers they suspect have been involved in shootings or homicides and who investigators are trying to prosecute.

globe graphic Pilot neighborhoods in search program

 

"In a case where we have investigative leads or there is an impact player that we know has been involved in serious criminal activity, we will pursue investigative leads against them and attempt to get into that house with a search warrant, so we can hold them accountable," Davis said.

 

Police will rely primarily on tips from neighbors. They will also follow tips from the department's anonymous hot line and investigators' own intelligence to decide what doors to knock on. A team of about 12 officers will visit homes in four Dorchester and Roxbury neighborhoods: Grove Hall, Bowdoin Street and Geneva Avenue, Franklin Hill and Franklin Field, and Egleston Square.

 

If drugs are found, it will be up to the officers' discretion whether to make an arrest, but police said modest amounts of drugs like marijuana will simply be confiscated and will not lead to charges.

 

"A kilo of cocaine would not be considered modest," said Elaine Driscoll, Davis's spokeswoman. "The officers that have been trained have been taught discretion."

 

The program will target young people whose parents are either afraid to confront them or unaware that they might be stashing weapons, said Davis, who has been trying to gain support from community leaders for the past several weeks.

 

One of the first to back him was the Rev. Jeffrey L. Brown, cofounder of the Boston TenPoint Coalition, who attended yesterday's meeting.

 

"What I like about this program is it really is a tool to empower the parent," he said. "It's a way in which they can get a hold of the household and say, 'I don't want that in my house.' "

 

Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, whose support was crucial for police to guarantee there would be no prosecution, also agreed to back the initiative. "To me it's a preventive tool," he said.

 

Boston police officials touted the success of the St. Louis program's first year, when 98 percent of people approached gave consent and St. Louis police seized guns from about half of the homes they searched.

 

St. Louis police reassured skeptics by letting them observe searches, said Robert Heimberger, a retired St. Louis police sergeant who was part of the program.

 

"We had parents that invited us back, and a couple of them nearly insisted that we take keys to their house and come back anytime we wanted," he said.

 

But the number of people who gave consent plunged in the next four years, as the police chief who spearheaded the effort left and department support fell, according to a report published by the National Institute of Justice.

 

Support might also have flagged because over time police began to rely more on their own intelligence than on neighborhood tips, the report said.

 

Heimberger said the program also suffered after clergy leaders who were supposed to offer help to parents never appeared.

 

"I became frustrated when I'd get the second, or third, or fourth phone call from someone who said, 'No one has come to talk to me,' " he said. Residents "lost faith in the program and that hurt us."

 

Boston police plan to hold neighborhood meetings to inform the public about the program. Police are also promising follow-up visits from clergy or social workers, and they plan to allow the same scrutiny that St. Louis did.

 

"We want the community to know what we're doing," Driscoll said.

 

Ronald Odom - whose son, Steven, 13, was fatally shot last month as he walked home from basketball practice - was at yesterday's meeting and said the program is a step in the right direction. "Everyone talks about curbing violence," he said, following the meeting. ". . . This is definitely a head start."

http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/..._guns_in_homes/

 

:banghead

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Im confused.

 

Whats wrong with this? The title of the thread is misleading too Fox. If a homeowner/resident gives permission to police to search than a warrant isnt necessary anyway. :confused So they're not "searching without a warrant".

 

They'll probably just have the homeowner sign a Waiver of Search Warrant. Completely voluntary.

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Im confused.

 

Whats wrong with this? The title of the thread is misleading too Fox. If a homeowner/resident gives permission to police to search than a warrant isnt necessary anyway. :confused So they're not "searching without a warrant".

 

They'll probably just have the homeowner sign a Waiver of Search Warrant. Completely voluntary.

Um, yes it is without a warrant. Read the article. There is absolutely nothing misleading or untrue about that title.

 

This is almost promoting writs of assistance which were abolished in the 1790s by the 4th amendment which I find ridiculous.

 

I don't care what people allow or think they are allowing, it is my belief you need a written specific search warrant to enter someone's home. They will be singling out teenagers who they presume or have a 'hunch' may have guns and then go to their homes without needing much more than their own gut feeling and intimidation to be allowed in their house.

 

The leeway something like this could give police is pretty large.

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Im confused.

 

Whats wrong with this? The title of the thread is misleading too Fox. If a homeowner/resident gives permission to police to search than a warrant isnt necessary anyway. :confused So they're not "searching without a warrant".

 

They'll probably just have the homeowner sign a Waiver of Search Warrant. Completely voluntary.

Um, yes it is without a warrant. Read the article. There is absolutely nothing misleading or untrue about that title.

 

This is almost promoting writs of assistance which were abolished in the 1790s by the 4th amendment which I find ridiculous.

 

I don't care what people allow or think they are allowing, it is my belief you need a written specific search warrant to enter someone's home. They will be singling out teenagers who they presume or have a 'hunch' may have guns and then go to their homes without needing much more than their own gut feeling and intimidation to be allowed in their house.

 

The leeway something like this could give police is pretty large.gee...kinda like that whole patriot act bulls*** document

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Title of the thread if TheDon had named it:

 

Boston Police Plan To Seach Homes Without Warrants With The Willfull Consent Of Homeowners.

 

 

Its not the SS kicking in doors throughout the ghetto.

 

 

Its consenting parents allowing police to search for illegal weapons that may be in their residence without their knowledge.

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It still sounds pretty illegal.

 

The police officers are also not wearing uniforms.....

 

 

 

:rolleyes:

 

 

GM, please explain how something "sounds" illegal. Its either legal or illegal.

 

I would be totally shocked if they all don't have badges hanging from their neck and ALL clearly ID themselves as cops prior to asking any permission.

 

In fact I'll go so far as to say Im 99% sure they all sign a Waiver of Search Warrant and are advised of their right to REFUSE prior to any entry being made.

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It still sounds pretty illegal.

 

The police officers are also not wearing uniforms.....

 

 

 

:rolleyes:

 

 

GM, please explain how something "sounds" illegal. Its either legal or illegal.

 

I would be totally shocked if they all don't have badges hanging from their neck and ALL clearly ID themselves as cops prior to asking any permission.

 

In fact I'll go so far as to say Im 99% sure they all sign a Waiver of Search Warrant and are advised of their right to REFUSE prior to any entry being made.

All cops are law abiding and by the book. :rolleyes:

 

There is a reason the 4th amendment was created.

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This opens up more problems then should have to exist. You're looking at it in basic, make believe land terms where every cop plays by the rules and every citizen knows everything about the law.

 

There is a reason we have the 4th amendment and it abolished general search warrants. An officer comes in looking for guns and finds a kilo of heroin and he can take someone in for something he wasn't even coming in to the house for.

 

What if someone isn't home and the police ask the landlord for entrance in to the home under this new law?

 

I guess I'm old fashioned and believe in that 18th century document that had the foresight and intelligence to ban all warrantless searches. Pretty sad that a town that was originally one of the originators of liberty would be on the verge of accepting something like this.

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Guest CrimsonCane

Funny this is mentioned. I'm taking a criminology course right now and we had the Boston Chief of Police give a talk last month. He mentioned this effort during his talk. The discretion for drugs found on the premises is a new feature he didn't mention in his talk. He explicitly stated that the searches were only going to be for guns and that if drugs were found the discovery would be ignored. My professor works as a consultant for the Boston PD, so I'll ask him when I get back from vacation what he thinks about the initiative. He's normally pretty objective, even when it comes to analyzing studies he's done.

 

There are a couple of things I take issue with when it comes to this plan. No matter how informed one believes the homeowner's consent is, there is an intimidation factor that goes overlooked. It's a similar experience to road searches. Alot of people pulled over for a road search are asked if the officer can search the car. A majority of people don't know that they have the right to refuse a search. If you have plainclothes cops coming by your home and asking if they can search your son's room for guns, alot of residents will agree because they think, despite what is told to them, that refusing the search will land them in trouble or draw suspicion.

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