GPS company left convicts unsupervised

A GPS company hired by the county’s Probation Department to keep an eye on about 300 convicts left more than a dozen of them unsupervised days, sometimes weeks.

It seems many of the probationers using the devices had no idea they were not functioning properly. But when they checked in with their probation officers, officials found several of the devices had stopped sending signals of their location.

The GPS devices are supposed to send the company, Sentinel Offender Services, a signal every 60 seconds telling them where the probationers are. Instead, some of the devices didn’t send a signal for days. Some where found to have stopped sending coordinates for nearly a month.

But it wasn’t just GPS devices that failed.

In one instance, a convict required to take an alcohol-content breath test at his home failed it more than 80 times, but the company never told officials in the Probation Department.

Officials are already working to transition about 300 convicts to another company, but it has raised serious concerns with elected and law enforcement officials.

With a rising population in county jails, local officials across the state are relying more and more on GPS devices and private companies to keep an eye on probationers. Continue reading “GPS company left convicts unsupervised”


It’s going to be more money

Turns out the $360,000 (or so) of refunds the Orange County Fire Authority was to disburse to local businesses – after finding it didn’t do hundreds of inspections it billed for – is going to be a lot more.

Five times more.

An audit of the agency’s hazardous material inspection program showed the problem actually extended several years back. After reviewing records going back to 2005, officials found they could not find evidence for hundreds of inspections that were billed, meaning they would have to issue about $1.7 million in refunds to hundreds of businesses.

It also suggests problems with fee-based programs in Orange County’s largest fire department could be more serious than officials had officially let on.

I first reported on the missed inspections in Sept. 2012, when officials first considered about $360,000 in refunds. The following February – after the completion of an internal review – I wrote about the Fire Marshal’s suspension, here.

It’s an issue that has required persistent attention. Continue reading “It’s going to be more money”

Less beds for female inmates


California county jails are seeing the impact of the state’s realignment plan through its jail doors – more men and women are walking through them.

The largest impact has, of course, been men.

The plan has sent several convicts that would have ended up in state prison – or under the auspices of parole officers – to county jails and probation officers. Nearly 90 percent of the added load has been men.

Yet Orange County’s women’s jails have also been severely affected. Sections of the county’s jails that could be used for women are being used to house the increase of men being arrested for new charges, probation violations, or flash incarcerations – 10-day stints used for those not abiding by the terms of their release. Continue reading “Less beds for female inmates”

Reporting a 106-year-old killing


Orange County Undersheriff Robert Squires was killed in 1912. As yet, there has been no photo found of Los Alamitos Constable Juan Orosco, who was killed in 1907, and might have been the first law enforcement officer killed in Orange County.

Robert Squires was long known as the first Orange County law man to be killed in the line of duty. A former member of the Royal Canadian Mounted police, he served as an undersheriff in Orange County when he was gunned down in 1912, and the shootout where he lost his life has made it into county lore and history books.

It’s known as the Tomato Springs shootout, though historians aren’t sure it actually happened in Tomato Springs now. Most people today aren’t even sure where Tomato Springs would have been.

I was writing an article commemorating the 100-year anniversary of the shootout when I called a local historian. He gave me quick warning from the start – be careful calling him the first law enforcement officer killed in Orange County.

We talked about a lawman who may have been killed before Squires, and I made a note of our conversation. He was still gathering facts.

We touched base again in April to talk about his find – a man by the name of Juan Orosco, a deputy constable charged with keeping the law in what was the township of Los Alamitos was killed five years before Squires. Continue reading “Reporting a 106-year-old killing”

Fire marshal suspended over inspection mistakes

Covering breaking news means never knowing what my work day will look like, and covering a variety of topics on a tight deadline. It’s one of the things I love about my work.

Unfortunately, the hectic schedule also means a lack of follow-through for some of the stories that I break as a crime and safety reporter. Doing so means using spare minutes and hours between breaking news to contact sources and check documents to follow-up on topics that should be followed up.

It’s a tight schedule, but completely workable.

When I first broke the story that the Orange County Fire Authority skipped about half of the hazardous material inspections it is responsible for, I knew it was a topic that would not be complete after one story. It is important to understand the internal tows inside the agency as it tried to find out what happened.

And although personnel issues inside the agency are difficult to cover in any public agency (particularly in California), I was able to find out one of the disciplinary actions that were taken inside the agency as it conducted an internal investigation. Continue reading “Fire marshal suspended over inspection mistakes”

More college degrees, more women, in uniform

Police work has for years been perceived as a testosterone-dominated, blue-collar job. No doubt, a tough, physical career where skill with a gun and baton might come in more handy than a college diploma – a profession where women make just 12 percent of the workforce.

But times are changing.

Police departments appear to be making an active effort to recruit more women in their ranks, slowly increasing the number of women on patrol. Changes in the workforce, such as the lack of jobs for new graduates, has also driven more college graduates to the police academy, and departments are more than happy to bring them aboard.

Those are two big changes taking place in the ranks of police departments in Orange County, which have gone through years of hiring freezes and layoffs in the last couple of years. But as they start to slowly replenish their workforce, they are slowly changing the face of their department. Continue reading “More college degrees, more women, in uniform”

Battle for O.C.’s Mexican Mafia

The Orange County Register, Aug. 7, 2011
The Orange County Register, Aug. 7, 2011

There aren’t many rules for members of the Mexican Mafia and, for every rule that does exist, you can find an example of it being broken.

Started out at Duel Vocational Institution in Northern California in the mid 1950s, the prison gang started out as a system to protect heavily outnumbered Latino inmates in state prisons. Yet the organization grew fast, fastening a grip over prisons throughout the California system and eventually, out into the streets.

The system of power is simple: by controlling life behind bars, “La Eme” could exert fear and influence over Latino gangs. After choosing a life in a gang, it is a question of when members will be arrested, not when. If gangsters wanted to stay protected behind bars, they would abide by the rules and interest of the members of the Mexican Mafia, the carnales.

But in its more than 60-year history, the Mexican Mafia has gone through multiple transformations – none more apparent than in the battle of power that took place in Orange County. Continue reading “Battle for O.C.’s Mexican Mafia”