<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - NBC 5 Investigates]]>Copyright 2018 https://www.nbcchicago.com/investigations http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago https://www.nbcchicago.com en-usWed, 17 Oct 2018 21:29:16 -0500Wed, 17 Oct 2018 21:29:16 -0500NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[After Russian Hack in 2016, Election Authorities Prepare for Midterms]]> Tue, 16 Oct 2018 07:51:29 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/LMX___HD+10P+PKG+ELECTION+TAMPERING_WMAQ_000000020290647+-+00003621_34060064.jpg

In Illinois, a majority of voting machines need upgrading and more than 58 percent of local elections jurisdictions said they did not feel they had the resources to adequately secure their voting systems, according to a survey conducted by NBC 5 Investigates. 

NBC 5 sent all 108 local jurisdictions a brief survey to gauge readiness ahead of next month’s mid-term elections. Of the half that responded, despite challenges, 94 percent said they felt well-prepared from a cyber-security standpoint. 

It’s an important distinction following the 2016 hack of the state-run voter registration database. 

Months before the 2016 presidential election, the Illinois State Board of Elections suffered a stunning breach. The personal information of 76,000 voters, including names, birth dates, driver’s license numbers, and in some cases, the last four digits of social security numbers, were viewed by cyber criminals. 

The main culprit: Russia. 

“It was basically like having a really good home security system, but you leave a window wide open and someone comes in,” said Matt Dietrich, public information officer at the State Board of Elections. 

The SBE noticed the error and patched it right away. Investigators said the hackers deployed what’s called an “SQL Injection,” which is commonly used to attack databases. 

SBE officials emphasize the breach only affected the voter registration database. No vote tallies were changed, according to investigators. 

Illinois’ voting machines, while dated, are not connected to the internet and all come with a backup paper ballots, which makes vote manipulating very difficult, experts said. 

Still, election officials are not taking chances ahead of the 2018 mid-term elections and beyond. 

In the wake of U.S. Intelligence’s announcement of Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, the federal government earmarked $380 million in grants to state elections. Illinois’ piece of the pie, with a small state match, is about $14 million to be used to shore up election security and other upgrades. 

It’s not enough money for needed upgrades, such as replacing aging voting equipment, but it’s a start, according to SBE IT Director Matt Emmons. 

“If we were working with a bigger pot, we’ve identified a lot more things that we could potentially do,” said Emmons. 

For now, the State Board of Elections is focusing on implementing the Illinois Century Network, a statewide internet service provider whose goal is to provide technical protections to all 108 local jurisdictions. SBE is also planning to roll out its “Cyber Navigator Program,” a group of nine experts who will travel the state to train local officials. 

“You have jurisdictions like Cook County and Chicago, which obviously have a much greater capacity than other counties which maybe have 6,000 people in them,” said Emmons. “The directive of the program is to provide equal support to all these jurisdictions.”

Even with additional training, some counties are finding it difficult to implement security upgrades without more resources, according to NBC 5’s anonymous survey. 

“Our county does not have the money,” one respondent wrote. 

Despite improvements to cyber-security and infrastructure, there is one threat that elections officials will have a harder time controlling – the misinformation Russian bots spew online. 

“We are going to have to be vigilant on Election Day if there are fake Twitter accounts out there saying, ‘Lines are around the block at (this) polling place. Don’t go vote. It’s not worth your trouble,’” Dietrich said. 

Two years later, SBE officials still don’t know why Russia would target Illinois. But they believe their goal was to undermine confidence in U.S. institutions. 

The best way to combat that, said Dietrich, is to go out and vote. In Illinois, eligible voters can register to vote in person on Election Day on Nov. 6 by going to their polling location and bringing two forms of identification to establish identity and residence.

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<![CDATA[Scam Targets Work Email, Mimicking Your Boss]]> Sat, 13 Oct 2018 11:53:48 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Google+Play+Scam+-+00272618_34024967.jpg

Chicago-area marketing professional Kari Hornfeldt said she was checking work emails when she saw a request with her boss' name on it.

The email asked her to buy $1,000 worth of Google Play gift cards for company clients -- and to do it within 30 minutes.

"In hindsight, I should have been like, 'This is weird,' but your boss asks you to do something and you do it," Hornfeldt said.

Turns out, it was part of a scam that targets businesses and their employees.

Hornfeldt bought the gift cards on her personal debit card after her company credit card rejected the purchase.

"I basically used up all of the money in my checking account to buy these cards, knowing full well my company would reimburse me," she said.  

But soon Hornfeldt received more instructions, telling her to "scratch off the back code and email a clear picture of all the codes." 

An email confirmed receipt of the cards and thanked her.

Then came another request: "Sorry to bother you. We need more cards. Get back to me ASAP." 

Hornfeldt drove to a Best Buy in the north suburbs to buy more cards. That's where two quick-thinking employees warned her about the scam.

"They were the heroes in the story," she said.

Hornfeldt had been using her cell phone to check email, and when she took a closer look at the sender's address, she realized it wasn't her boss.

"I have to get this done in 30 minutes," she said. "So it's like by setting that precedent, they're setting you up to maybe miss things that you would catch normally."

The Better Business Bureau said scammers have tried to trick even them with the same type of email. 

Steve Bernas, president and chief executive officer for the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois, said scams like this happen to businesses large and small. 

"If anybody asks you to do something quickly and fast within 30 minutes, that is the scam," Bernas said. "That is the tipoff to the ripoff."

Hornfeldt said it all worked out in the end, and her company reimbursed her.

"My company was really great about it," she said. "I had a cry and then we all came back and had a good laugh about it."

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<![CDATA[A Lot of Chicago Recycling Isn’t Getting Recycled: Report]]> Thu, 11 Oct 2018 17:42:01 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP_18249711231491-EL-Harvey-Recycling-Warehouse.jpg

You do all that work every day to recycle: Rinsing out jars; separating paper and plastic; dragging your bins to the curb. But -- depending on where you live -- it could be in vain.

A new investigation by NBC 5 Investigates’ reporting partner, the Better Government Association, reveals that more than half a million bins in Chicago have instead been dumped into landfills, just in the past 4-1/2 years. That’s enough recyclables-turned-trash to fill up Wrigley Field -- and then some.

Much of the problem stems from a city rule that says that one plastic bag or food item can cause all of the perfectly-recyclable material in that bin to be labelled as “grossly contaminated,” which requires waste-haulers to dump it all into a landfill.

The BGA found that the company that most often labels a bin “contaminated” – Waste Management – then sometimes gets paid twice for those “contaminated” bins: Once for picking up your recycling at the curb, and then again, after it’s labeled as contaminated, when it gets dumped in the company’s for-profit landfill.

This is all happening at the same time that Chicago ranks as the worst major city in the nation for residential recycling rates – and long after Mayor Rahm Emanuel promised big improvements to the city’s recycling program, back in 2011.

To find out how likely it is that your recycling is ending up in landfills instead, check out the BGA’s complete investigation, “Recycling in Chicago.” You can also search the BGA’s “Contamination Map,” and follow a single plastic water bottle as it makes its way to a recycling center – or a landfill.



Photo Credit: Charles Krupa/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Which CTA Train Lines Break Down the Most and Why]]> Wed, 03 Oct 2018 22:58:20 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/10P+PKG+CTA+BREAKDOWNS+ROGERS+-+00013328_338958881.jpg

Anyone who’s ever been stuck on a stopped el train knows it’s not a pleasant experience. Number one, you’re getting nowhere fast. Then there’s the fact you are cooped up in a metal tube with total strangers for an indeterminate amount of time.

The CTA says it knows that---and they share your pain.

“We recognize there is an issue, and we agree with you that that issue needs to be addressed,” says the agency’s Brian Steele. But he quickly added, “Mechanical disruptions that lead to service delays are pretty rare.”

He’s right. Out of the hundreds of thousands of miles traveled by CTA trains during any given year---an actual stopped train doesn’t happen that often.

But an analysis by NBC 5 shows that it does happen on Blue Line trains more than all others.

Responding to an open records request, the CTA said between January of 2017 to May 2018, there were 471 disruptions of 10 minutes or longer. Of those 469 breakdowns, 162 were on the Blue Line. The Red Line was second with 94, followed by the Green with 55.

“First and foremost, the Blue Line is our second busiest line---it’s also our longest rail line,” Steele said. Plus---it’s also the line which may have gotten the least amount of TLC in recent years.

“The Blue Line has some of our older rail car series---they were built in the early and mid-1980’s,” he notes. “They’ve been overhauled since, but they’re reaching the age where they need to be retired.”

Steele likened the Blue to a road filled with potholes---leading to slow zones, and a lot of wear and tear.

“When the rail is worn, you have to run trains at a slower speed.”

What about the causes of breakdowns? The CTA data showed the number one issue is brakes.

“Brakes are one of the most complex components to a rail car, probably second to the propulsion system that moves the rail car,” Steele noted. “If just one small part of that larger system fails, then we have a braking issue where the operator has to leave the train and check.”

Bingo. Stopped train.

The second leading cause of disruptions is doors, followed by train propulsion systems.

“A train won’t actually be able to move unless the doors are properly secured,” he said. “Remember, the doors open and close hundreds, if not thousands of times during a service day.”

It’s important to note that CTA trains make some 12 thousand trips in a given week, and most take place without incident. And it would only be fair to argue that if you are really unhappy with having to sit next to that guy playing the saxophone in a stopped train---you might want to take it up with Springfield.

“Since 2011, the CTA has completed, announced, or begun over $8 billion in modernization projects,” Steele notes. But he also points out that the State of Illinois hasn’t managed a capital bill since 2009. And the Civic Federation said in a recent report, that the CTA’s “state of good repair” backlog is approaching $13 billion.

Indeed, that same Civic Federation report warned that the CTA will need over $23 billion over 10 years just to address its backlogged needs.

Steele notes another issue which prevents the addition of more trains on the Blue Line: power. Anyone who has tried to plug too many appliances into the kitchen counter, knows there are only so many watts to go around.

“We are running, right now, as many trains as possible, on the O’Hare branch of the Blue Line during the am/pm rush,” he says. “We are running as many trains as possible, and we are running them as closely together, as we can.”

One other note. A 2016 report shows that the CTA manages over 22,000 miles between major mechanical failures, even though 25 percent of its vehicles are now classified as “beyond their useful life”. But even that put Chicago in fifth place among America’s mass transit systems. Philadelphia and Houston both say at least 39 percent of their rolling stock is obsolete.

---

From January 2017 to May 2018, the CTA had 469 disruptions of 10 minutes or longer. Here they are, by line, and by cause.

Line:

  • Blue Line 162
  • Red Line 94
  • Green Line 55
  • Orange Line 53
  • Purple Line 42
  • Brown Line 35
  • Pink Line 23
  • Yellow Line 5

Cause:

  • Brakes 185
  • Doors 146
  • Propulsion 67
  • Suspension 25
  • Communications 12
  • Coupler & draw Bar 7
  • No Defect 7
  • Trucks & wheels 5
  • AC/Heat-ventilation 4
  • Windows 3
  • Traction power 2
  • Destination sign 1
  • HVAC 1
  • Lighting 1
  • Network 1
  • Converter/inverter 1
  • Emergency 1

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<![CDATA[Scam Robocalls Are On the Rise, and Help May Be on the Way]]> Wed, 03 Oct 2018 11:14:09 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/161*120/robocalls+nbc+responds-1.jpg

As unwanted calls continue to proliferate, many mobile phone users have simply stopped answering the phone. But new technology is on the horizon that could sharply cut the number of scam and spam calls we all receive daily.

Fraudulent calls — frequently originating overseas — have spiked sharply since 2017. In a study published this month, tech analyst First Orion projected by next year, nearly half of all calls to mobile phones will be scam calls. Of those, First Orion researchers say more than 90 percent will use caller ID "spoofing" — displaying a fake call-back number — to trick potential targets.

NBC Bay Area wanted to know, why is the problem of spam calls getting worse? How do fraudulent callers spoof caller ID? Why don't phone companies simply shut them down? And, what is the government doing to stop scammers? The answers we found are complicated, but there's also hope of a solution on the horizon.

An explosion of unwanted calls
Most of the calls from scammers and fraudsters are made with auto-dialers, and are known as "robocalls." Irvine-based tech firm YouMail estimates 4.2 billion robocalls were placed nationwide last month, amounting to about 13 calls per phone user.

Ethan Garr, Vice President of anti-spam calling firm TelTech, tells NBC Bay Area the numbers are staggering.

"Over 3,000 calls are being made every second to Americans," Garr said.

TelTech makes an app called RoboKiller. The company was awarded a $25,000 prize from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for its spam call-fighting technology.

Garr tells NBC Bay Area the surge in caller ID spoofing by spam callers has conditioned most of us to simply stop answering our phones.

"I would guess 40 percent of the calls you get, you can trust the caller ID," He said.

We asked Garr how scammers spoof caller ID. He said it's pretty easy.  TelTech also makes SpoofCard, an app that lets any mobile phone user choose any number to show up on a call recipient's caller ID. Garr says it's pretty simple, because caller ID is a decades-old technology.

"It was an add-on into the phone system," Garr said. "It wasn't something that was invented so people could manipulate it or change it. It was a way for people to see who was calling, but it got co-opted over time."

Unfortunately, scammers were among those doing the co-opting of caller ID.

The robocall problem - it's complicated
For years, YouMail has tracked the rapid rise in computer-dialed phone calls.  It offers apps to help phone users block them. CEO Alex Quilici says the reluctance of most people to stop answering unknown calls has only made scammers more determined.

"They're clever, and they want to get through, so they're picking random numbers to call," Quilici said. "People are not answering the calls any more, if they can help it. They just assume, 'This is a number I've never seen before; I'm not going to pick up the phone.' So the bad guys try to call more and more numbers, to try to get through. It's a little bit of a death spiral for the phone network."

So, why can't the U.S. government simply ban all robocalls? 

Eric Troutman, an attorney with Womble Bond Dickinson, tells us it's not that simple.

"We need to have a better definition of what a 'robocall' is," Troutman said.  "When I think about what a robocall is, I think a scam, pre-recorded call; generally, random-fired, and probably by some bad actor overseas someplace. You might think that a reminder call to go pick up your pills at the pharmacy is a robocall."

Troutman represents clients such as banks that auto-dial fraud alerts, and pharmacies that use robocalls to inform patients of prescription refills. He welcomes tougher federal laws for scammers, but not a robocall ban.

"What is it that we're actually trying to prevent?" Troutman said. "Is it that we're trying to prevent American businesses from contacting their customers with account-specific information that their customer needs? I don't think so."

Troutman, who also writes for and edits telecom law website TCPAland.com, is a critic of the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Act, or TCPA. He says the 1991 law — written long before widespread mobile phone and internet use — is badly in need of replacement.

"Congress needs to focus on scammers," Troutman said. "When we've got a lot of noise out there, trying to shift the focus from bad actors to legitimate American businesses, you're going to get a lot of push-back when it comes time to draft that statute."

Technological impediments and solutions
The other major challenge to blocking scam calls is the aging, sprawling national telephone system. Alex Quilici with YouMail told us that makes any effort to stop spam callers a daunting task.

"There are 3,000 [phone] carriers in the U.S.," Quilici said. "There are multiple billions of phone calls every day. To roll out something like that is a pretty massive undertaking."

The good news is the major players in telecommunications are trying. Right now, a consortium of technology engineers, phone service providers, and the U.S. Federal Communications Commission are developing a sweeping update to caller ID. Known by the acronyms STIR and SHAKEN, the caller ID authentication standards will make it much more difficult for spam calls to get through.

Here's how it might work: calls from someone using a verified phone line, approved by a certification authority, could show up on your phone screen with something like a green checkmark. That way, you'll know the caller ID can be trusted. 

Conversely, calls that come in through scammers' preferred routes, such as unverified overseas phone services, will be flagged. You might see a red "X" or a "caller not verified" message with their caller ID. Or, your mobile carrier might be able to block all such calls before they get to your phone.

The new caller ID authentication standards could be rolling out to our phones as early as next year. While the measures should reduce the number of unwanted calls we get, it won't stop them altogether. Ethan Garr with TelTech says we can count on scammers' persistence and greed.

"They hate us," Garr said. "They don't care about us. They don't think of us as humans. They want to get to us. They want to steal from us."


This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Taxpayers Spend Thousands to Contradict ‘Code of Silence']]> Mon, 24 Sep 2018 22:44:41 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/code+of+silence+investigates+bga.jpg

It was perhaps Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s most emotional moment to date: A speech he gave before the Chicago City Council in 2015, during the fallout from the city’s handling of the Laquan McDonald shooting, in which the mayor acknowledged that a “code of silence” existed within the Chicago Police Department.

"It is the tendency to deny,” Emanuel said at the time of the CPD. “It is the tendency – in some cases – to cover up the bad actions of a colleague or colleagues."

But NBC5 Investigates, in a joint investigation with the Better Government Association, has discovered that the city has been paying a police expert to testify the precise opposite: That there is no “code of silence” within the CPD.

[[370990061, C]]

NBC5 and the BGA found at least 26 civil court cases where Jeffrey Noble, a police expert based in southern California, has been hired by the city’s Law Department to offer testimony in lawsuits filed by people claiming that they were victims of Chicago police misconduct. Noble has billed city taxpayers more than $325,000 for his testimony in those 26 cases.

In many of those cases, NBC5 and the BGA found that Noble specifically offered his expert opinion that there was no “code of silence” within the CPD. That includes five cases where Noble offered his testimony after Emanuel made that 2015 speech. In all five of those cases, Noble directly contradicted the mayor by specifically testifying that there was no such “code of silence.” The cost to taxpayers for those five cases alone: More than $165,000.

For more details about the joint NBC5/BGA investigation click here.

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<![CDATA[18 Convictions Overturned in Cases Tied to Disgraced Cop]]> Mon, 24 Sep 2018 17:25:59 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/MASS+EXONERATION+HEARING+-+10135917_33767891.png

In an extraordinary move, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx did something Monday which isn't often done in Chicago's criminal justice system. 

She apologized. 

Foxx's comments were directed to 18 men, whose convictions had just been thrown out by Chief Judge Leroy Martin. All 18 were arrested at the hands of notorious police sergeant Ronald Watts and his tainted tactical unit, which critics say ran roughshod and virtually unsupervised for a decade on Chicago’s South Side. 

"The system owes an apology to the men who stand behind us,” Foxx declared, after standing at the back of the court and shaking hands with each of the plaintiffs as they walked from the bench. "We know that what was happening with Sgt. Watts, and the way he ran his operation, is that there were many men and women who fell victim to his corrupt ways."

While even fellow officers pointed to corruption in the unit, only Watts and one of his officers, Kallatt Mohammed, were ever prosecuted for shaking down and framing residents of the Ida B. Wells housing project. Both went to prison. 

"It's noteworthy to me who's not here, and that's the city and the Chicago Police Department," attorney Joshua Tepfer said after court. "(They) really owe the apology to these men and so many others, for letting this happen and covering it up for so long." 

Indeed, residents of the Wells housing project had long argued that residents there were being unjustly targeted. 

"They put cases on people who didn't cooperate with their corrupt schemes, took bribes, stole money and drugs from drug dealers, and really ruined the lives of dozens---maybe hundreds," attorney Joel Flaxman said. "These officers knew who they were, would go after them, and would frame them over and over again."

With Monday's exonerations, at least 42 individuals have now seen their convictions overturned. And the State’s Attorney’s office says it is examining many more. 

"I believe in the interest of public safety in Cook County, we must have a criminal justice system that has integrity and credibility," Foxx said. "That means that we have to admit when things have gone wrong and actively work to fix it." 

"Maybe this is a day of reckoning," attorney Sean Starr told reporters. "We hope that the officers that are on the street that see things happening-don't continue to play a complicit part in this. Speak up."



Photo Credit: NBC 5]]>
<![CDATA[More Exonerations Expected in Case of Tainted Cops]]> Fri, 21 Sep 2018 19:05:43 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/LMX___6P+PKG+WATTS+SENTENCING_WMAQ_000000004369448+%28Read-Only%29+Version1+-+00000125_30392113.png

At least 18 men are expected see their convictions overturned Monday in Cook County Criminal Court. It will mark the second, and largest, mass exoneration linked to a tainted tactical unit which operated for more than a decade on Chicago’s South Side.

The newest dismissals will make a total of at least 42 individuals who even prosecutors concede were almost certainly framed by Sgt. Ronald Watts and his tactical team at the Ida B. Wells housing project.

“We continue to hear that many of these arrests were purely conjured,” said Mark Rotert, the Chief of the State’s Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit. “They were basically arresting people and framing them or were claiming that they were involved in drug offenses that either didn’t occur or didn’t occur the way that those police officers said.”

Rotert said in the cases in question, it was clear that prosecutors could not take the word of the officers or the reports that they had generated as reliable evidence.

“These people really suffered at the hands of the Chicago Police Department, these officers, and the coverup that happened thereafter,” said attorney Joshua Tepfer. “There’s large numbers, but these are human beings, and they all suffered.”

Previously, Watts and one of his officers, Kallat Mohammed, were convicted of shaking down drug dealers who refused to make protection payments. Both went to prison.

Rotert was careful to say that prosecutors have primarily scrutinized cases involving those two officers. But residents of the former Wells project have long contended that others in Watts’ unit were involved in corrupt activities.

Last fall, shortly after the cases of 15 men were overturned in what was then the largest mass exoneration in Chicago history, over a dozen officers were pulled from the street amid an investigation of their potential involvement in the growing scandal.

And there are more cases in line. Attorneys have argued that the wrongdoing led to the wrongful convictions of hundreds of individuals.

“These cases are exactly the same modus operandi that was happening for a decade,” Tepfer said. “These Chicago Police officers led by a convicted felon named Ronald Watts were running their own drug line and shaking down anyone who got in their way, and planting cases on people routinely.”

Tepfer expects convictions of a dozen of his clients to be dismissed Monday. Attorney Joel Flaxman says he has another six, including one individual, Ricky Henderson, who was arrested four times and did a total of five years behind bars.

“They would pick him up again and frame him again,” Flaxman says. “No one was paying attention to very low-level drug arrests!”

While the officers were taken off the street and put on desk duty, many of them were also certified by the state’s attorney’s office as unusable as witnesses in criminal cases.

All of the cases involving the Watts crew centered on the now-demolished Ida B. Wells project.

“That’s where I grew up, was born and raised,” said Milton Delaney, who expects his drug conviction to be thrown out on Monday. “I was a familiar face.”

Delaney says he was merely sitting in his car when Watts ordered him taken into custody.

“Watts walked up, looked in and saw me, and said, ‘Take him to the station,’” Delaney said. “He looked at it like, ‘I’m going to get you for something before it’s over with!’”

Tepfer said he has dozens of similar individuals in line, waiting to be heard. And Rotert confirmed that the state’s attorney expects more cases to be overturned.

“There will be more,” he told NBC 5. “I can’t give you a timetable nor can I give you any particular numbers, but I can say that progress has been made and continues to be made, but there will be more cases."

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<![CDATA[Video Shows Grandmother Stuffed in Suitcase, Family Says]]> Fri, 14 Sep 2018 22:49:33 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/5P+PKG+DAISY+HAYES+MISSING+-+00002316_32196927.jpg

Chicago is a city where too many people get away with murder.

In fact, a recent study on gun violence from the University of Chicago Crime Lab shows only 26 percent of murder cases in 2016 were solved.

This past weekend community groups and victim’s families marched and met with law makers to voice their concerns.

“My message is let’s stop this killing," said Rev. Robin Hood. "And the only way we’re going to do it is if we have enough detectives, enough resources for them."

They are demanding more action from detectives and prosecutors.

NBC 5 sat down with one family that says there is plenty of evidence to solve their unsolved case and some of it was even caught on tape.

Teresa Smith’s mother has been missing for months. Relatives say 65-year-old Daisey Hayes walked into her Chicago Housing Authority apartment building on the night of May 1--but never walked out.

Smith says the police have told her to “be patient.”

Smith says someone anonymously sent her security video from inside the building showing a man leaving early the next morning, pulling a bulky suitcase out of the elevator toward the exit door. What looks like a bulge on the right side is visible in the footage.

Smith thinks that bulge is her mother's body, she says.

“I can see her whole leg, her whole leg print," Smith said.

How could a body fit in a suitcase that size? Teresa Smith says her mother is tiny, about 5 foot 2 inches and 85 pounds.

Smith says she doesn't know where the man in the video is now, but that he was briefly in police custody.

“They kept him for 48 hours sometime in May but then let him go,” she said.

NBC 5 is not naming the man because he has not been charged. But NBC 5 Investigates found that in 1985 he was charged with two counts of murder but not convicted.

Prosecutors dropped the case after a witness failed to show up in court on several occasions. In 2012 he was charged with battery but again the charges were dropped.

Chicago police would only say that they have identified a person of interest in this case, have spoken to prosecutors and are waiting test results from the crime lab.

The family of Daisy Hayes say they have waited long enough.

“How patient would you be if it was your mother," Smith said.

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<![CDATA[OIG: CPS, CPD Lack Direction for School Resource Officers]]> Fri, 14 Sep 2018 13:59:45 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/SRO+TRAINING+BILL+-+00001928_33322113.jpg

Chicago Police does not have clear directives on how it selects, trains and evaluates the officers who will be stationed inside Chicago Public Schools, according to a report by the city’s Inspector General

Further, the report concluded that neither CPD nor CPS could even provide an up-to-date list of which officers were assigned to which schools. 

“CPD’s current lack of guidance and structure for SROs amplifies community concerns and underscores the high probability that students are unnecessarily becoming involved in the criminal justice system, despite the availability of alternate solutions,” Inspector General Joe Ferguson said in the report. 

CPS previously told NBC 5 Investigates that officers were currently stationed in 75 high schools, down from 97 schools in 2010. 

The district responded to a Freedom of Information Request by asking us to contact Chicago Police for guidelines and school assignments. 

However, the two agencies have not had a legal agreement detailing the roles and responsibilities of school resource officers since December 2016. 

Michelle Mbekeani-Wiley, a staff attorney for the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, who drafted a 2017 report called “Handcuffs in the Hallways,” said operating an SRO program without a memorandum of understanding is problematic. 

“If you insist on having police officers stationed in your school, make sure they are adequately trained because you’re going to spend more money on potential civil rights violations and misconduct settlements,” Mbekeani-Wiley said. 

The OIG recommends CPS and CPD immediately enter into an agreement that emphasizes officers should not be involved in routine student disciplinary matters; designates a program coordinator to enhance coordination and accountability; maintains and regularly updates rosters of officers assigned to CPS; establishes ongoing training for officers assigned as SROs. 

In response to the report, CPD said it would “undertake best efforts to enter into an MOU with CPS” and develop policies that define SRO roles and responsibilities. 

“(We concur) with a majority of (the Inspector General’s) recommendations. This is why we created a specific section in the federal consent decree that was filed in court,” said CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. “In short, school resource offices will obtain specialized training focusing on national best practices for dealing with youth. The training will also center around improved crisis-intervention training, cultural diversity and incident de-escalation.” 

CPS also echoed CPD’s consent decree in improving police outcomes in schools. 

“CPS has taken dramatic steps to improve school climates and reduce punitive discipline to improve students’ academic and safety outcomes by focusing on restorative practices and social-emotional learning,” said CPS spokeswoman Emily Bolton.

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<![CDATA[Garbage! What You Should and Shouldn't Recycle in Chicago]]> Fri, 07 Sep 2018 13:28:53 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000031525289_1200x675_1315076163601.jpg

What happens to your recyclable garbage after it's picked up in Chicago? NBC 5 Investigates' Chris Coffey went behind the scenes to show the process. Turns out, Chicagoans are recycling items that should never be in those blue bins, and it could impact where all those recyclables end up. Here are some tips to keep handy.

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<![CDATA[What You Recycle Can Impact What Becomes New Products]]> Wed, 05 Sep 2018 22:42:20 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/RECYCLING+COFFEY+-+00002905_33535995.jpg

If you want to make sure the paper products that you place at the front curb have a better chance of becoming new products, don’t even think about tossing plastic grocery bags or greasy pizza boxes in to your recycling bins.

Chicago area recycling companies are urging residents and business to be mindful of what they include in their blue bins as the industry reacts to strict new requirements from world’s biggest buyer of recyclables: China.

China had been taking half of the world’s paper and plastic, but said the material it used to accept was too dirty. The country has tightened the contamination limit to 0.5 percent for most imports of recyclables.

That means buyers in China can reject bails of recyclable mixed paper (newspaper, junk mail, magazines) shipped from the United States if there is too much food waste or too many plastic bags contaminating the bail.

“It’s required us to slow our lines down significantly in order to do a better job on recovering the commodities, so it’s added some additional operational costs to us,” said Tom Vujovic, recycling operations director of Waste Management Illinois.

Waste Management said this time last year it sent 27% of its recyclables to China. Today, the company only sends about 3% of its material to China.

Vujovic said the company is now shipping recyclables to other markets such as India, South Korea, Malaysia and parts of Europe.

Local recyclers said customers should never place food waste, plastic bags, household batteries, wood, yard waste, plastic children’s toys, cords, diapers, wire, garden hoses or medical waste in to their recycling bins.

But sometimes the wrong items sneak past the screening process at recycling sorting facilities, which can impact how equipment runs as well as hinder the chances of material being reprocessed.

“When we receive 100 tons of material, about 25% of that should never have been there in the first place,” said Cal Tigchelaar of Resource Management.

At the moment, there do not appear to be any Chicago area communities cutting back on recycling. But recyclers told NBC 5 Investigates that the changes in China and their subsequent operational cost increases could trickle down to consumers.

Tigchelaar said during the past ten years, Resource Management paid as much as $60/ton for residentially generated recyclable single-stream material. However, he said the company is now charging approximately $30/ton.

Aluminum and glass products are still being processed regionally by the U. S. recycling industry. Additionally, local recycling advocates said there are buyers in the Midwest that can take much of the material that has been banned or limited in China.

“There are paper mills that will take fiber,” said Kris Kaar of the Illinois Recycling Association. “The key is what you send them. The material has to be what they can use.”

Recyclers said customers should be placing in their recycling bins the following items for collection: plastic bottles and containers, food and beverage cans, paper, flattened cardboard and paperboard, food and beverage cartons, steel cans and glass bottles.

But the key is to remove food waste from the containers, since moisture is a contamination. If you have a pizza box, try recycling only the dry sections of the cardboard.

Carter O’Brien of the Chicago Recycling Coalition said the city take should take sustainability efforts a step further.

“If the city of Chicago could get that wet food waste out of the system all together by having a dedicated composting curb side, then that would take care of a lot of the contamination,” O’Brien said.

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<![CDATA[New Law Toughens Penalties for Impaired Wrong-Way Drivers]]> Fri, 31 Aug 2018 21:18:38 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/210*120/Wrong+Way+Drivers.jpg

Drunk driving the wrong way on Illinois roadways is now a felony.

The governor has signed a bill in to law that makes wrong way driving an aggravated factor in driving under the influence of alcohol arrests. It allows for judges to allot additional penalties and longer prison terms at the sentencing phase of a trial.

Previously, a judge could not take wrong-way driving into consideration during sentencing.

This is the first such law in the nation.

“This is really good news. This is huge. Hopefully, it’ll set a precedent for the rest of the country to follow suit,” said Lisa Smith, who lost her son to a wrong-way driver in 2015.

Steven Smith was a U.S. Marine reservist and had been a Chicago Ridge police officer for seven months when he was killed in the crash near Oak Brook.

According to his mother, the wrong way driver’s punishment did not fit the crime.

“The whole reason why I’ve been so vocal is to be able to help someone going through this to know there’s going to be justice for their loved ones. With this new law, if they hit someone, it’s going to be automatic jail time,” Smith said.

A 2015 NBC 5 Investigates analysis of state records revealed more than 50 people have been killed and nearly 300 have been injured by wrong-way drivers in Illinois since 2005.

Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel cited the NBC 5 investigation while helping lawmakers draft new legislation.

State Rep. Mike Zalewski (D) of the 23rd District sponsored the bill.

“I’d like to thank Lisa Smith for her patience as we worked to pass this important law as a testament to her son, Chief Weitzel for bringing the bill to my attention, Senator Mike Hastings for being the bill’s champion in the Senate, and Governor Rauner for his signature,” Zalewski said.

The law has safety provisions for non-intoxicated people who enter the roadway the wrong way.


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<![CDATA[No OSHA Violations as Chicago Water Plant Before Explosion]]> Thu, 30 Aug 2018 23:01:22 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WEB_6P_NBC5_INVESTIGATES_BUILDING_COLLAPSE_OSHA_ROGERS.jpg

NBC 5 Investigates has been looking into the timeline of the collapse and rescues. We've also learned there have been no OSHA violations at the plant. NBC 5's Phil Rogers reports.

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<![CDATA[More Than 9,000 Crashes on Ill. Roads Caused by Debris]]> Thu, 30 Aug 2018 22:02:30 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/10P+PKG+ROAD+DEBRIS+V2+-+00000825_33456808.jpg

Seventeen people have been killed in crashes caused by debris on Illinois roadways, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation’s most recent data. 

From 2012 to 2016, more than 9,000 accidents have resulted in more than 1,500 people injured. 

IDOT maintenance crews are deployed daily to cruise public roadways to pick up debris. 

“We’ve found kitchen sinks, furniture, dressers, mattresses,” said Gregg Leschman, who works from the Stevenson Maintenance Yard. “It’s terribly dangerous to the motorist. A lot of this is picked up on the shoulder, but that’s not where it lands on the highway. It gets to the shoulder because people keep running it over.” 

IDOT urges all drivers to properly secure the loads to account for the high travel speeds on expressways. 

“It could become fatal from something very small, so we take our jobs very seriously,” said highway maintainer Kevin Lorick.

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<![CDATA[Convicted Killer Makes New Bid For Freedom]]> Wed, 29 Aug 2018 23:11:56 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/BID+FOR+FREEDOM+-+00020816_33439282.jpg

Carl Williams has literally grown up in prison.

Just 17 years old when he was arrested for the brutal 1994 murders of Illinois State basketball star Reginald Wilson and his girlfriend Felicia Lewis, Williams now has three rather unlikely allies in a new bid for freedom.

Three of his four co-defendants, who say when the murders were committed, he wasn’t there.

“Every time a police officer would ask them, do you know this guy, who is this, was he involved in the crime, they would all establish and say no,” he says. And armed with affidavits from co-defendants Zarice Johnson, Stanley Hamelin, and Scott Chambers, Williams is making a new effort to be released.

Indeed, the three insist they had never seen Williams until he was brought into the police station, after they were already in custody. And Williams notes he did not fit the physical description of the fifth suspect.

“This was a horrible crime,” he says, from a tiny room inside Stateville Prison. “No one’s questioning that. But what I’m saying is, I’m the one who had no involvement in this brutal horrible crime.”

The crime was indeed brutal and horrible. Wilson and Lewis were carjacked from a south side gas station, then executed in a dumpster near 47th and Vincennes. Lewis had just had a baby, and pleaded with the killers to spare her life.

“They degraded, humiliated, both of them, not just her,” Lewis’s sister Crystal Fitch recalls. “Because he had to watch the things that happened to her while she begged for her life!”

Fitch is outraged that Williams is even getting a hearing on his claims of innocence, noting that 24 years ago he signed a confession which suggested intimate knowledge of the crimes.

“Never was there a possibility that he wasn’t there,” she says. “He was there and he participated---he watched!”

Williams insists he was coerced and beaten into giving that confession.

“After twelve hours, thirteen hours, after being brutally attacked by one of the detectives, being beaten and slapped, being knocked to the floor, face being slammed to the ground to where I was basically unconscious, only then did I sign it,” he says. “I come from a community where you see this constantly and consistently.”

Fitch agrees there are many from her old neighborhood who have been wrongly convicted---even forced to confess to crimes they didn’t commit. But she doesn’t believe Williams is one of them.

“There are some cases that are open and shut, case closed, it’s a wrap,” she says. “And this was one of them!”

But there is one other wrinkle. A new witness, a woman, who has signed an affidavit, saying she was with Williams at his mother’s house when the crimes were committed.

That woman says she was present in court for his trial, but was never contacted by attorneys and never volunteered to intercede on his behalf.

“She was present at every court date, but it was their choice and their decision to say they didn’t think they should go forward with her because she was somebody I had previously dealt with,” Williams said.

Fitch said she finds the idea that someone is just now coming forward preposterous.

“Where he sits now, today, is where he deserves to sit for the rest of his life,” she said.

A fifth defendant, Anthony Brown, has made no statements on the case. But Williams says the fact that no forensic evidence ties him to the crime, and that the other three convicted killers insist he was not involved, should speak volumes. And he hopes the courts, and the public, will listen.

“The evidence speaks for itself,” he says. “It’s their duty and responsibility to remedy this case---to release me, to free me, to no longer hold me in prison for a crime that I did not commit.”

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<![CDATA[Bulletproof Backpacks Considered by Parents]]> Tue, 28 Aug 2018 10:28:35 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/10P+PKG+BULLETPROOF+BACKBACKS+-+00001317_33416127.jpg

With more than 20 school shootings so far in 2018, keeping your children safe in the classroom has become a familiar and difficult conversation for parents. NBC 5 Investigates as some consider getting their children bulletproof backpacks. 

 

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<![CDATA[Bulletproof Backpacks Considered by Parents]]> Thu, 23 Aug 2018 18:28:55 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/BULLETPROOF+BACKPACKS+CLEAN+COPY+-+00012225_33352186.jpg

With more than 20 school shootings so far in 2018, keeping your children safe in the classroom has become a familiar and difficult conversation for parents like Jennifer Rich.

“They do their drills at schools and they are aware. It’s a little nerve-wracking,” she said.

In addition to drills and heightened security, there’s one more line of defense parents can send their kids to school with: bulletproof backpacks.

Companies like BulletBlocker and Guard Dog Security usually see their backpack sales spike right after a mass shooting or act of violence. But this year, Guard Dog's president Yasir Sheikh said that accessibility and awareness is leading to more back to school purchases.

“People are making the decision to be proactive, to make the decision to be protected rather than just a response to some sort of event,” said Yasir Sheikh, president of Guard Dog Security.

Guard Dog started selling bulletproof bags online at major retailers such as Walmart, Home Depot and Office Max this year, and Sheikh said that they’re in the works to begin selling with Bed Bath & Beyond.

Rich first saw the backpacks on Facebook, and thought its mere existence was going too far.

“But now that I hear that it’s being sold locally, it’s become more … reality I guess,” she said. “Maybe this is something of our time now with our kids, that this is the new thing.”

The backpacks look and weigh similar to any other backpack, but the real question is, could they actually help save your child’s life?

Affiliate KNBC, in Los Angeles, tested it out. Consumer reporter Randy Mac brought a Guard Dog Pro Shield II to a gun range and had firearms instructor Scott Reitz shoot at it with two handguns and AR-15.

The 9mm and .45 caliber rounds were contained by the bag’s plate in the back, as advertised by Guard Dog, but the AR-15 round went straight through.

“Is it certified for AR caliber protection? No. But could it lessen the impact, could it be the difference between life and death? Possibly,” Sheikh said.

Sheikh said the bags have Level III-A certification from a National Institute of Justice accredited lab, which only covers protection from handguns.

NIJ spokeswoman Kelly Laco said the NIJ themselves have never tested nor certified ballistic items that aren’t body armor for law enforcement.

In order to withstand higher caliber rifles, they’d need Level IV certification, which would require harder and heavier ceramic plates according to Sheikh.

“We're going to continue researching, if we do find some sort of solution that addresses the practicality of a level four protection, then we'll certainly entertain it. But right now, our goal is to have a practical product,” he said.

BulletBlocker's president, Joe Curran, has been selling his backpacks since 2007, and provides other bulletproof school supplies for students such as notebooks and binders, in case a classroom does not allow backpacks inside.

“Another example is our Clear Backpack, which is a product we started manufacturing to meet the needs of customers who live in school districts where clear bags are mandatory for security purposes,” he said.

Regardless, Rich said she’d rather not have to take security precautions before sending her child to school.

“I mean that’s their safe place,” she said. “To let them know they’d have to carry a backpack that would save them from something like that, it’s scary.”

The Guard Dog backpacks range from $130 to $180, and the Bullet Blocker bags price at $200 and up. Sheikh said that 20 percent of their proceeds will be donated to the Make Our Schools Safe organization.

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<![CDATA[Illinois School Resource Officers to Undergo Training]]> Mon, 20 Aug 2018 18:36:29 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/SRO+TRAINING+BILL+-+00001928_33322113.jpg

Police officers in Illinois who are assigned to protect school children and patrol school hallways will soon be required to undergo new youth-specific training.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill over the weekend that requires school resource officers, also known as SROs, to be better prepared to deal with the student population. The training will focus on de-escalation, crisis intervention and cyberbullying.

Previously, youth-specific training was not mandatory for law enforcement agencies’ student resource officers.

Michelle Mbekeani-Wiley is an attorney for the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law who said she does not agree that officers should be permanently assigned to schools. But she said those officers at schools must be trained to understand how the adolescent brain differs from adults.

“We want to ensure that officers know how to appropriately respond to children, for example, with disabilities, to not handcuff them when they're having an outburst, but to instead to realize they need to get them to the appropriate services,” Mbekeani-Wiley said.

Some police chiefs and sheriffs previously argued their resource officers were already prepared and said the new training is not necessary. However, the new law allows for law enforcement agencies to apply for training waivers.

NBC 5 Investigates surveyed Chicago-area school districts and found a majority of the respondents said they do not have police in schools.

Meantime, any law enforcement agency that provides a school resource officer can apply for state and federal grants to help pay for the training.

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<![CDATA[Is This Chicago Building a Spy Hub for the NSA?]]> Thu, 09 Aug 2018 14:25:44 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/nsa+building+7.jpg

A concrete, windowless fortress in Chicago’s West Loop is one of a handful of buildings in major U.S. cities that serve as spy hubs for the National Security Agency, according to a recent report. 

 

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<![CDATA[See the Windowless Building Reported to be an NSA Spy Hub]]> Thu, 09 Aug 2018 08:24:27 -0500 here.]]> here.]]> https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/nsa+building+1.jpg This concrete, windowless fortress in Chicago’s West Loop is one of a handful of buildings in major U.S. cities that serve as spy hubs for the National Security Agency, The Intercept reported.]]> <![CDATA[Chicago Building is Spy Hub for NSA: Report]]> Wed, 08 Aug 2018 22:37:49 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/NSABUILDING.jpg

A concrete, windowless fortress in Chicago’s West Loop is one of a handful of buildings in major U.S. cities that serve as spy hubs for the National Security Agency, The Intercept reported.

The online news publication said in its June 25 story that the AT&T building at 10 S. Canal St., which houses telecommunications equipment, is central to a surveillance program that “for years monitored billions of emails, phone calls and online chats passing across U.S. territory.”

Seven other AT&T buildings in cities like New York, Los Angeles and Dallas are also implicated in The Intercept’s investigation, which was based on classified documents, public records and interviews with former AT&T employees.

“Our reporting showed that while (the government) is looking for foreign intelligence, they’re also hovering up Americans’ data,” said Henrik Moltke, an investigative reporter for The Intercept.

The NSA did not respond to our request for comment.

A spokesperson for AT&T said in a statement: “Like all companies, we are required by law to provide information to government and law enforcement entities by complying with court orders, subpoenas, lawful discovery requests and other legal requirements…we ensure that requests for assistance are valid and that we are in compliance with the law.”

The mystery surrounding Chicago’s Canal building is embedded in its very construction, according to the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

Built in the 1970s, at the height of the Cold War, the building was constructed to withstand a possible nuclear attack.

This is how John Augur Holabird, the original architect, described the skyscraper’s purpose:

“In case the atomic bomb hits Milwaukee, you’d be happy to know your phone lines will still go through, even though the rest of us are wiped out and that’s what that building as for,” Holabird said in a 1998 interview.

In a city celebrated for its architecture, the building is forgettable and that’s by design, said CAF Director of Interpretation Adam Rubin.

The building is window-less on most of its 28 floors and insulated with thick, concrete walls. It originally had its own generator and water well, so that telecommunication systems would be protected in the event of war, Rubin said.

“This building was built to look as inconspicuous as possible, so you look at it, take a moment to notice it has no windows, then forget about it and keep moving,” Rubin said.

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<![CDATA[Massacre Guns—Hidden in Plain Sight—Tell Chilling Tale]]> Mon, 06 Aug 2018 23:09:09 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/TOMMY+GUNS.jpg

Hidden away, in the custody of the sheriff’s office in Berrien County, Michigan, are the two best pieces of evidence in the most notorious unsolved crime in Chicago history.

That crime, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, Feb. 14 of 1929, shocked the public, and arguably changed the course of the city’s tolerance of outfit violence. Seven associates of crime boss “Bugs” Moran had been lined up and machine-gunned against the north wall of a garage at 2122 N. Clark St. Suspicion immediately centered on the gang of Moran’s arch-rival Al Capone (who was conveniently ensconced at his home in Florida when the murders occurred).

With the only survivor a German Shepard who was hardly in a position to finger the killers, the massacre eventually faded from view. And it remains an open case to this day.

But the two machine guns which were used in the killings still exist. They remain, in cold steel, the only witnesses to a lurid chapter of Chicago crime lore.

“This took it to a whole new stratosphere,” notes Mike Kline, a retired lieutenant from the Berrien County sheriff’s office. “The St. Valentine’s Day massacre was off the charts, as far as violence went.”

How the guns came to be in Michigan is a story in itself.

Ten months to the day after the massacre, Dec. 14 of 1929, a St. Joseph, Michigan police officer named Charles Skelly was gunned down on the street. There were plenty of witnesses to that murder, and police quickly raided the home of a notorious hoodlum known as Fred “Killer” Burke.

“The officers were astounded at what they found,” says Berrien dispatch supervisor Chriss Lyon. “It was an arsenal, that included these two guns---along with many other guns.”

Word traveled fast that two machine guns had been recovered. Chicago expressed interest, and authorities enlisted the aid of Northwestern University professor Calvin Goddard, who had become an expert in a brand new field of criminology: ballistics.

“He test fires the two guns, and he has the shell casings and the bullets from the crime scene,” Kline notes. “And he does his comparison and he confirms that these were the two guns.”

Indeed, the transcripts of the 1929 coroner’s inquest reveal that Goddard was certain in his identification.

“The two machine guns that you have testified to were used in the massacre?” coroner Herman Bundesen asked.

“Yes, sir,” Goddard replied.

It was over a year later that Burke was finally found, hiding out in Missouri. Chicago and other cities expressed interest. But Berrien County had the strongest case against him, with eyewitnesses to officer Skelly’s murder. Burke was tried and convicted there, and eventually died in a Michigan prison.

“He never talked about the St. Valentine’s Day massacre,” Lyon says. “In fact, he got very angry when people would start asking him about it.”

Still, most historians and armchair crime buffs feel Burke must have been present for the infamous crime.

“In as much as the guns were found in Fred 'Killer' Burke’s bungalow, and Fred was a known machine gunner,” says Kline, “I’m sure that Fred was one of the gunners there that day.”

Lyon, author of a book on the case, “A Killing in Capone’s Playground”, notes that Burke seemed relieved that when he was arrested he had been found by police, and not Capone’s gang, who almost certainly wanted to see him silenced. That never happened. And no one else ever gave up the crime.

“How can you possibly solve a crime when you have no witnesses,” she said. “You can have evidence, you can have guns, you can have the ballistics, you can have all of this, but if you have no one to connect it to, you have nothing.”

The weapons are rarely fired. It’s tough to get parts for Thompson machine guns which are nearly a hundred years old. Kline, the official keeper of the guns who shows them often to law enforcement or history groups, still marvels that the killers took the secrets of the massacre to their graves. Especially considering the fact that in addition to the four gunmen, there almost certainly were others who served as lookouts and planners for the massacre.

“There’s estimates that over 25 people took part in this thing,” he says. “To think that nobody ever spilled the beans, nobody ever gave this up, after 80 some odd years---is incredible.”


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<![CDATA[Neighborhood Fence Dispute Stirs Tension With Residents]]> Wed, 01 Aug 2018 22:49:52 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/fencedin.jpg

A one-way street on Chicago’s Northwest Side is becoming an increasing source of frustration for residents who claim it is a public safety hazard and a property owner who argues the city is not being responsive to the situation. NBC 5's Chris Coffey reports.

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<![CDATA[Fence Dispute Stirs Tension With Residents, City]]> Wed, 01 Aug 2018 22:49:34 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/fencedin.jpg

A one-way street on Chicago’s Northwest Side is becoming an increasing source of frustration for residents who claim it is a public safety hazard and a property owner who argues the city is not being responsive to the situation.

The stretch of Clarence Avenue is not wide enough for many larger vehicles to turn around, due in part to a chain link fence placed near the property line of an adjacent empty lot.

“We have several people that come down the block and don’t realize it’s a dead end,” said neighbor Katie Koukoulis. “So we’ve had cars drive on peoples’ lawns to turn around.”

Stephanie Golden said she’s hit the fence several times while backing out of her driveway.

“It’s pretty frustrating. We have four kids that go to school and are in different sports and we’re leaving a number of times a day,” Golden said.

Jack Jennings said when his wife needed an ambulance in 2014, he watched the paramedics negotiate backwards in the ambulance to avoid the fence.

“They got her as soon as they could,” Jennings said. “If it was a matter of seconds, we would have been in trouble.”

According to residents, the empty lot was a popular location for block parties and kids’ playing activities for decades and there was enough room to drive in both directions.

Bridget Healy purchased a nearby house in 2011 and the lot came with it. She told NBC 5 Investigates the fence was built around the lot in 2014 for liability reasons.

But Healy said she understands the neighbors’ frustrations and is trying to work with the city to resolve it.

“We have brought up the safety issue with the city,” Healy said. “We want a fair resolution for ourselves, the neighbors and the city.”

In fact, the city explored purchasing a section of the empty lot to widen the street. But according to Healy, those talks have stalled.

“We agreed on an appraisal, but we have no idea of the value of the land,” Healy said. “The city is not being responsive to the neighbors or us.”

A law department spokesperson said the city could not reach an agreement with the property owner. Additionally, the spokesperson said the street is wide enough for emergency vehicles.

Yet something must be done to help the residents, according to 41st Ward Alderman Anthony Napolitano.

“I’ve got about three or four childhood friends that live on that block as well, who have come to me day one saying, ‘Hey Anthony you got to fix this, this is an absolute debacle over here,’” said Napolitano.

Napolitano inherited the neighborhood fence dispute from the two prior aldermen.

“It’s just all kind of up in limbo and nobody’s communicating,” Napolitano said. “That’s not fair to the property owner. It’s not fair to the block. It’s not fair to the city either. Let’s just all sit at one table and get it done.”

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<![CDATA[3 Things Every New Homeowner Should Know About Smart Homes]]> Tue, 31 Jul 2018 09:03:52 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000030880595_1200x675_1288632899865.jpg

A cybersecurity expert details the three things homeowners need to know about smart devices in their new home. 

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<![CDATA[Do You Monitor Your Dog While You're Away?]]> Tue, 31 Jul 2018 09:03:24 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Roscoe+Smart+Home+NEW+-+00000809_33047279.jpg

Katie Kim reveals why her latest report on cybersecurity hit home for her, and her dog Roscoe. 

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<![CDATA[Who Controls Your Smart Home? Things Homeowners Need to Know]]> Mon, 30 Jul 2018 22:44:37 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/10P+PKG+WHO+IS+CONTROLLLING+YOUR+SMART+HOME+-+00001022_33047224.jpg

Smart home technology can offer peace of mind for homeowners when they’re away, but some cybersecurity experts, even realtors, are sounding the alarm about homes that are too connected.

From thermostats and doorbells to home security systems and baby monitors, these Internet-connected gadgets are in high-demand, according to Tommy Choi, President-Elect of the Chicago Association of Realtors. 

“Since the beginning of my career (11 years ago), there was no such thing as smart home technology. In the last five years…we’re seeing more and more in homes today,” Choi said. 

Choi requires homeowners to list every Internet-connected device in properties that he shows. The reason: privacy and security. Choi said just like keys are turned over, smart home devices need to be turned over too. 

“During a transaction, if the former seller or owner doesn’t completely wipe themselves off as an admin on all these devices…we see that the new buyer and homeowner, they’re blocked from access and technically the old owner and seller still has access to these devices when they don’t own the home anymore,” Choi said. 


Put simply, someone else could remotely monitor devices that control the temperature, lights, even cameras inside the home. 

In extreme cases, it’s taken a dark turn. 

Eva Galperin, Director of Cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said abusers are using smart home technology against their victims. 

“Frequently, the domestic abuser is the one who put in the cameras, who set up the network, who put in all of the Internet of Things-controlled lights and has all of the administrative passwords even after they have left the home,” Galperin said. “If it’s in your house, it’s possible the domestic abuser will use it to abuse you.” 

The New York Times spoke to dozens of victims, attorneys, first responders and shelter workers about the growing problem of abusers using smart tech to stalk, scare and show power. 

“To turn the lights on and off, to change the temperatures in the home, to know when you are home and when you have left, possibly see what is going on inside the home with cameras, it’s potentially extremely intrusive,” Galperin said. 

She cautions against giving advice since each domestic situation is different, however, Galperin said everyone in the home should have passwords and administrative access to devices.

And when smart home devices exchange hands, experts said users must remove all previous owners’ contact information on every device, update the software and reset passwords.

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<![CDATA[Sleep Apnea Screening for Truckers Stirs Debate]]> Thu, 26 Jul 2018 23:05:29 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/10P+PKG+SLEEP+APNEA+TRUCK+DRIVERS+COFFEY+-+00015708_33011952.jpg

The country’s long haul truck drivers keep the wheels of industry, consumerism and the economy rolling.    But nearly a third of all truckers are living with a sleep disorder that could impact their alertness, according to a University of Pennsylvania study cited by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Sleep apnea is a breathing-related sleep disorder that causes brief interruptions of breathing during sleep.  The FMCSA said it’s a potentially life-threatening condition that often goes unrecognized and undiagnosed.  Risk factors for sleep apnea include family history, being overweight, large neck size and age.

While current government regulations do not specifically address sleep apnea, the FMCSA said a person with a history or clinical diagnosis of any condition likely to interfere with their ability to drive safely cannot be medically qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle.

But the FMCSA said truck drivers diagnosed with sleep apnea can continue to operate commercial vehicles as long as they are successfully treated.

Batavia-based truck driver Bob Stanton said he was diagnosed with sleep apnea in 2002.  He uses a continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP) machine to get better rest and stay physically qualified to drive a big rig.

“The machine keeps track of when am I using it and is it working right and I have to give that to the DOT (Department of Transportation) medical examiner every year,” Stanton said.

However, there is an ongoing controversy of whether screening for sleep apnea should be mandatory as part of the DOT physical.

The FMCSA had been considering mandatory screening.  But in 2017 the agency announced it was no longer pursuing the regulation.  The decision came during the Trump administration’s campaign to cut many federal regulations.

Currently, it’s up to a medical examiner’s best medical opinion on how to screen a driver for sleep apnea.

Stanton consults with a sleep apnea testing company in addition to driving commercial trucks.  He told NBC 5 Investigates truckers should not have to pay for tests they don’t need.  But he said he is in favor of a standard sleep apnea testing and treatment rule.

“In large part, to help protect the drivers so there’s consistency in how they’re being screened and what we have to do when we’re treated,” Stanton said. 

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, obstructive sleep apnea has been cited as a proximate cause or contributing factor in the probable cause of 13 highway crashes and rail accidents that combined have killed 50 people and injured 373 others since 2000.

Sleep apnea testing could cost individual truck drivers a lot of money.  According to a study by the American Transportation Research Institute, drivers who had been referred to a sleep study paid, on average, $1,220 in out-of-pocket expenses to be tested.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) said it thinks there are financial motivations behind the push to mandate screening for all truckers.

“Sleep apnea is not a new disorder, but a condition that has affected millions of people over several decades and yet there has not been the carnage and devastation on our roadways that some would have us believe is inevitable without stricter mandatory OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) screening regulations,” OOIDA spokesperson Norita Taylor wrote in an email to NBC 5 Investigates.

Taylor said there is currently no current consensus about what fatigue is or how it should be measured.

“Our members have expressed concern about how this topic is portrayed in mainstream media, that the theme is too often about “tired truckers” causing all crashes, which isn’t true. Most truck related crashes are caused by other drivers, not truckers,” Taylor wrote.

Dave Moss is in charge of safety for a Chicago-based motor carrier and a representative of the Illinois Trucking Association.  He said it’s best to leave screening up to health experts.

“You give the occupational health facility the power to do it or not do it,” Moss said.  “It’s up to them.  They’re the physicians. They’re the ones doing the physicals.  I think they would know best.”

A Metra spokesperson said the Chicagoland rail agency is in the process of formalizing a sleep apnea testing program for its engineers.

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<![CDATA[Medical Records Left Unsecured--So Who’s Investigating?]]> Mon, 23 Jul 2018 22:42:30 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/medicalrecords0321.png

Federal medical privacy rules, known as “HIPAA laws”, are designed to keep your medical information confidential. They can be aggravating, stopping you from getting even basic information about a sick relative, or earning a good scolding if you don’t stand behind the line at your pharmacy.

But the penalties do not appear to be as severe for doctors themselves. Fully sixteen months after NBC 5 Investigates revealed a trove of medical records in a Naperville doctor’s unsecured basement, state and federal investigators have levied no discipline, despite what appears to have been a blatant violation of federal privacy rules.

Last March, North Aurora resident Barbara Jarvis-Neavins contacted NBC 5 Investigates, saying she was appalled that she had access to the private records of her landlord, Naperville psychiatrist Dr. Riaz Baber.

“It has their birthdate, their social security number, what’s wrong with them, what they’re being treated for, and what medication,” she said. “I could take these files and create identities and get credit cards and do all kinds of stuff, and I could be on an island somewhere. And that’s what I told the FBI!”

It was after Jarvis-Neavins got no action from the FBI, or the agency where they referred her, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, that she contacted NBC 5.

“I think if I was going to a doctor and he had all of my private stuff, I wouldn’t want it in somebody’s basement,” she said.

Sixteen months later, neither HHS nor two state agencies appear to have taken any action, despite the fact that the doctor’s records were in full view of furnace and hot water repair people, and of course, our own crew from NBC 5 which verified the records existence. After our repeated contacts with Baber’s attorney, we watched as the doctor hired a moving crew to remove the documents. Jarvis-Neavins moved out shortly after that. But she said it wasn’t until last month that anyone from HHS even contacted her.

When NBC 5 Investigates contacted that same investigator, we were quickly referred to a press contact in Washington who refused all comment on the case. A check of the HHS website indicates an open investigation, and that the apparent security breach involved the records of over 10,000 patients.

Despite the fact that an NBC 5 reporter, photographer, and producer were in the basement and examined the records, no investigators have contacted us to determine what we saw or how the records were secured.

“It just made me feel like he didn’t care about our privacy,” said the wife of one of those patients, who asked that we withhold her name because of her husband’s prior treatments, but told NBC 5 Investigates she was outraged that nothing had been done to penalize the doctor. “It’s not like he hired somebody and they accidentally dropped a box—he put them there and left them there!”

Federal statutes required Baber to notify patients and HHS within two months of the apparent breach. But that woman said she didn’t receive a letter until September, the same month the HHS website indicates that agency learned of the issue.

“I wondered why it took so long,” she said. “And I found out he was supposed to notify us within 60 days.”

The office of Attorney General Lisa Madigan had indicated last March they would examine the issue. But a spokesman indicated all they had done was notify the doctor of his responsibilities.

“We contacted the doctor and his lawyer to inform them what state law requires in the event of a potential data security breach,” the spokesman told NBC 5 in a statement. “This included providing guidance on how the records should be stored, how and when affected patients should receive notice, and which state and federal agencies should be contacted. The doctor reported that he conducted each of these activities as required by law.”

Likewise, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, which would not comment on why Jarvis-Neavins had never heard from their office. In fact, they would neither confirm nor deny whether they were investigating the breach at all.

“There is no requirement for IDFPR to update an individual on the status of an investigation,” spokesman Terry Horstman told NBC 5. “Just because a complainant isn’t interviewed does not mean that an investigation did not take place.”

As for Jarvis-Neavins, she said she feels some kind of sanction is long overdue, a sentiment echoed by the wife of that former Baber patient.

“It’s mental health, mental health!” she exclaimed. “I kind of put it at the top of the pyramid!”

Repeated inquiries to Dr. Baber’s attorney went unanswered.

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<![CDATA[Ibrahim Parlak Can Finally Unpack His Suitcase]]> Thu, 19 Jul 2018 20:19:15 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/216*120/Untitled28.png

For years, Ibrahim Parlak has kept a packed suitcase in the bedroom of his Harbert, Michigan home.

He knew that at any moment, immigration authorities could come knocking, prepared to ship him out with zero notice for what he considered certain imprisonment or worse, in Turkey.

This week that threat was lifted, as a Chicago immigration judge ruled Parlak faced almost certain torture if returned to Turkey, and that he requires the protection of the United States.

“Being able to see a day like this, it’s a great feeling,” Parlak told NBC 5 Thursday. “In many different ways, she cleared my name.”

It was a day which was long in coming.

Parlak, who runs the popular Cafe Gulistan in Harbert, near New Buffalo, came to the United States in 1992. Initially he was welcomed with open arms, even granted asylum. But in 2004, he was accused of lying on immigration documents about alleged past associations in Turkey with the Kurdish separatist group PKK. Parlak always denied the charges, but was arrested and served 10 months in custody before eventually being released in June of 2005.

Since that time, he has fought repeated deportation efforts, but has enjoyed enthusiastic support from Democratic and Republican lawmakers, as well as the wider community and Chicagoland visitors on the Michigan shore.

Indeed, on a drive down the Red Arrow Highway through New Buffalo or Union Pier, it was a familiar sight to see “Free Ibrahim” signs in store windows and front yards.

“A big thank you and hug to all of those people,” Parlak said. “All of the good of America circled me and carried me through the most difficult times.”

Republican congressman Fred Upton, a longtime Parlak supporter, hailed the court’s decision.

“Justice has prevailed,” Upton said in a statement. “We’ve always supported Ibrahim because we know who he truly is: A fantastic father, local business owner, and friend to many families here in Southwest Michigan.”

While the news does not mean permanent relief for Parlak, it does mean that the threat of imminent removal has been lifted. Turkey was demanding his return, he holds no travel documents for any other country.

Now, he says his greatest hope remains full citizenship in his adopted America. And he spoke lovingly of the wider community which despite varying political views, has consistently rallied together to keep Parlak in the United States.

“We hold onto the American values,” he said. “Even at the most difficult times, that kind of gave us hope to go forward!”

And can he finally unpack that suitcase?

“I think I can.”

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<![CDATA[9 of Chicago's Top Spots for Obstructed Bike Lanes]]> Wed, 18 Jul 2018 16:51:06 -0500 Greyhound Bus Station, 600 block of West Harrison Street]]> Greyhound Bus Station, 600 block of West Harrison Street]]> https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/bike+lane+greyhound.jpg

Photo Credit: BikeLaneUprising.com]]>
<![CDATA[Obstructed Bike Lanes Become Increasing Problem for Cyclists]]> Wed, 18 Jul 2018 22:48:29 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/coffey+vid.png

A growing number of bicycling enthusiasts in Chicago are raising serious complaints about vehicles obstructing their protected bike lanes. Now they are sharing images of blocked bike lanes with the world to show how risky their rides can be each day.

"It’s very hazardous for us to have to pop out into traffic all of a sudden when a vehicle is in front of us," said bike commuter Cheryl Zalenski. 

City law prohibits driving, idling and parking in bike lanes, but on any given day in the Chicago Loop, you’ll see a vehicle obstructing them. 

Cab driver Gary Karczewski said sometimes he has no other choice but to pull in to a bike lane to assist passengers. 

"You get somebody old or disabled, you’ve got to help them out of the cab or in to the cab," Karczewski said.  "Between the buses, the bikes and the cabs, it can get really crazy out here."

NBC 5 Investigates took a 30-minute bike ride through the Chicago Loop and came upon 18 partial or full bike lane obstructions. 

Christina Whitehouse founded a website that displays blocked bike lanes across Chicago after she said a truck entered her bike lane two years ago. When members submit photos of obstructed bike lanes to BikeLaneUprising.com, it allows Whitehouse to create maps to visualize hotspots across the city. 

"Who are the repeat offenders? We can see license plates that are showing up more than once," Whitehouse said. 

Private owner vehicles, rideshare cars, taxis, postal trucks and delivery trucks are complained about the most in Chicago, according to Whitehouse. Her data shows the three most problematic areas for bike lanes include the Loop along Franklin Street, the UIC Medical District, and Harrison Street between the Greyhound bus station and the Main Post office. 

Whitehouse said she shares her research with city officials and companies to raise awareness of the issue.

"No one solution is going to solve this," Whitehouse said.  "I think we need to chip away at it from an education standpoint. Maybe some of those people don’t know where the bike lane is. Maybe it’s not clearly marked."

The city issued 3,460 tickets for blocked bike lanes in 2017. That’s up from 2,766 the year before. The fine for violations is $150 and if the fine isn’t paid within 30 days, it doubles to $300. 

But some cyclists said the ticketing is not keeping up with the violations they see.

"It would be even better if they would put signage up to let drivers know that it’s illegal to be in the bike lane and then to enforce the ordinance that’s in place," Zalenski said. 

Chicago has more than 200 miles of on-street bikeways and prides itself as one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country. 

A spokesperson for the city’s Department of Transportation said Chicago is focused on building a culture of traffic safety. Additionally, the city said it is upgrading protected bike lanes on Milwaukee, Elston and Dearborn with concrete curbs to "better define parking lanes and to provide increased separation between people biking and driving." 

The Active Transportation Alliance, through its Clear the Way campaign, said it has worked to draw attention to the issue and push the city to do more to address the problem. 

"We were pleased a first step was taken by updating the city’s 311 system to include a dedicated code for blocked bike lanes, which will help identify hot spots for targeted enforcement," said managing director of advocacy Jim Merrell. 

A city spokesperson said there were 1,452 calls to 311 for "vehicles in bike lanes" in 2017 and there have been 1,269 calls so far in 2018. 

According to the Illinois Trucking Association, bicycle lanes can create a new safety challenge as delivery and service vehicles may have to park further away from the sidewalk. 

"The Illinois Trucking Association’s top priority is safety; safety for our drivers as well as the motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians with whom we share the road,"said executive director Matt Hart. 

The United States Postal Service said in the course of delivering mail daily to the more than 1.2 million delivery points in the city of Chicago, access to parking can be difficult in some neighborhoods. A spokesperson said USPS policy is for employees to adhere to all traffic laws and they should not park in bike lanes. 

A spokesperson for Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Local 2500 said everyone can safely coexist on our streets if everyone follows the rules.

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<![CDATA[Parlak Wins Court Decision, Holds Off Deportation]]> Wed, 18 Jul 2018 11:49:49 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/216*120/Untitled28.png

Michigan restaurateur Ibrahim Parlak received welcome news late Tuesday, as an immigration judge agreed with his argument that he faced a reasonable fear of harm if deported to his native Turkey—paving the way for him to stay in his adopted United States for the foreseeable future.

Parlak, who runs the popular Cafe Gulistan in Harbert, near New Buffalo, has been fighting deportation for more than a dozen years.

Parlak came to the United States in 1992, but was accused of lying on immigration documents about alleged past associations in Turkey with the Kurdish separatist group PKK. He was arrested and served 10 months in custody before eventually being released in June of 2005.

Since that time, he has fought repeated deportation efforts, but has enjoyed enthusiastic support from Democratic and Republican lawmakers, as well as the wider community and Chicagoland visitors on the Michigan shore.

“There’s no words to explain it,” Parlak told NBC 5 Tuesday night. “The system you believe in—-it works!”

Republican congressman Fred Upton, a longtime Parlak supporter, hailed the court’s decision.

“Justice has prevailed,” Upton said in a statement. “We’ve always supported Ibrahim because we know who he truly is: A fantastic father, local business owner, and friend to many families here in Southwest Michigan.”

Chicago Democratic Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky echoed Upton’s sentiments.

“For decades, this good man has welcomed guests to his popular restaurant, hired many local people, raised a wonderful daughter, and been surrounded by loving friends,” Schakowsky said. “For the same period, Mr. Parlak has been living under the threat of deportation to a country in which he was once the victim of torture and where he would have been killed if forced to return.”

While the news does not mean permanent relief for Parlak, it does mean the threat of imminent removal has been lifted.

“I’ve been waiting for this for 15 years,” he said. “How many people are fortunate like Ibrahim?”

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<![CDATA[Evanston Swatting Hoax Deemed Gamer’s Stunt]]> Tue, 17 Jul 2018 22:49:56 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/evanstonhoax_32883194.jpg

Four months after a massive hoax where Northwestern University students were led to believe there was an active shooter on campus, investigators say they have determined that the entire episode was targeted at a video gamer with 100,000 online followers.

But the caller, who claimed he had killed his girlfriend in Northwestern University’s Englehart Hall, appears to have placed the call from a computer himself. And whatever system he used so masked that call’s origins that investigators have deemed it untraceable.

When the call came in to the front desk of the Evanston Police Department March 14, it all seemed very real.

“Hello, my name is Jacob,” the caller said. “I shot my girlfriend.”

Audio of the call, obtained by NBC 5 Investigates, suggests that the caller had disguised his voice electronically.

“I guess she’s dead,” he said. “But I’m lying to myself saying she’s alive for me to feel better.”

And he told police he was prepared to incite more violence.

“I have a lot of ammunition,” he warned. “This is the only way out for me. I’m not going to prison, I’m not facing the legal system---so I don’t know if I’m shooting myself in the head or making a run for it.”

The man told police he had killed the girl’s mother earlier in the day at another location.

“There was a concern that a woman had been gravely wounded by a semi-automatic rifle and we needed to proceed accordingly,” Evanston chief Richard Eddington told NBC 5. Very quickly, some 20 local and federal agencies were responding, and Northwestern was warning students to shelter in place.

But police say fairly quickly, things didn’t add up. During one call, the gunman purportedly fired off a round to prove his intentions, but none of the officers on scene heard a shot. And when they eventually entered the apartment in question, they found it empty.

Some two hours into what appeared to be a frightening situation, the entire episode was deemed to be a hoax. And further investigation revealed that the “victim”, a Northwestern law student, was very much alive.

Eddington says police have determined that the woman’s boyfriend was the intended target of what was actually, an elaborate game.

“The male in the relationship is a high end computer gamer,” he said, noting that in similar incidents across the country, “It apparently is not an unusual occurrence that your opponent is targeted in one of these swatting calls.”

Luckily, no one was hurt. But the diversion of police resources was enormous.

“All of those police officers, County Sheriffs, FBI, DEA, were doing something else when this happened,” the chief said. “So now we have diverted those resources from the real crimes they were working on to deal with this incident.”

The case is now closed. The call was deemed untraceable. And police say they have determined the gamer in question who was targeted bore no complicity for the episode.

“(The man) informed us that the gaming community is very competitive and vindictive,” an investigator states in police reports. “And although he has no evidence, one of his followers could be the offender.”

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<![CDATA[First Responders Delayed by Blocked Rail Crossings]]> Wed, 11 Jul 2018 23:17:27 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/trainnnnnn.jpg

A suburban village said a proposed underpass is needed now more than ever after a train blocked four grade level rail crossings for nearly an hour and delayed ambulances carrying accident victims to the hospital.

Officials in Barrington said residents, commuters and first responders experienced a “perfect storm” on June 12 as a Canadian National train stopped on the tracks due to a mechanical failure during the 5:00 p.m. rush hour and created backups throughout the village and surrounding communities.

“Ours is truly a project of regional significance. It affects our community and the entire northwest region,” said village president Karen Darch.

First responders were called to the scene of a DUI crash at Ela Road and US Route 14 just before the train stoppage. Two injured people had to be extracted from the vehicles and transported to Good Shepherd Hospital.

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According to the village, the first responders were unaware that the train crossings were blocked when they set out en route to the hospital. When they arrived at the Route 14 crossing at Lake Zurich Road, a village spokesperson said they found it blocked.

The ambulances were then routed further north into Lake Zurich in order to transport the patients to Good Shepherd Hospital. Police said the incident delayed first responders in getting to the hospital by at least twenty minutes.

“Any first responder will tell you that time is critical,” said Barrington Police Chief David Dorn.

Fortunately, the patients did not sustain life-threatening injuries.

A spokesperson for Canadian National said the train crew immediately went to work repairing the issue last month as other representatives were in touch with local emergency services to provide information about the stopped train and blocked crossings.

Darch said the trains have gotten longer and slower since Canadian National purchased the EJ&E railroad tracks in 2008. She said the village has argued for ten years that CN should pay a portion of the $73.5 million grade separation project at Route 14 to prevent future incidents.

“It’s a cost of doing business to bring freight through a town and completely block it up,” Darch said. “There should be a greater amount of money spent to mitigate that impact.”

A federal appeals court has denied the village’s request for funding from the railroad three times, most recently citing insufficient evidence that train congestion is the problem.

Canadian National said blockages lasting ten minutes or longer to crossings in Barrington remained consistently low during an eight year monitoring period which ended in January 2017.

But village officials argue that long CN trains can block every crossing in town at once because there is a distance of 5,918 feet separating the first crossing from the fourth crossing.

“If they’re stopped in town it creates a horrible situation,” Darch said. “That time delay means life or death.”

Tom Kranz operates an auto body shop near one of Barrington’s rail crossings and said while he has seen more trains, any improvement projects could be a huge undertaking.

“It would have been smarter had they built the tracks and road crossing on different levels when they put them in, but to do it now, it would be pretty tough,” Kranz said.

But resident Don Samuelson said the village needs an underpass “badly”.

“Somebody’s gonna die waiting for an ambulance to come,” Samuelson said.

The village said it has applied for federal and state grants to hopefully get an underpass built within a few years.

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<![CDATA[Video Shows First Responders Repeatedly Blocked by Train]]> Wed, 11 Jul 2018 17:00:09 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/freight+train.jpg

A stalled Canadian National freight train in Barrington caused a traffic nightmare in June, blocking all four of the village's railroad crossings for 56 minutes. Even more problematic, issue delayed two ambulances trying to get injured car crash victims to the hospital. This is what happened.

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<![CDATA[The Unintentional Victims of the War on Opioids]]> Tue, 17 Jul 2018 23:02:45 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/OPIOIDS+OTHER+SIDE-COFFEY+-+00015508_327907801.jpg

Chronic pain sufferers in the United States are facing another obstacle in their daily quest to manage their pain: the government’s crackdown on opioid painkillers.

Kelsey Konz, 28, said she used prescribed Vicodin to ease pain from her fibromyalgia, corneal neuralgia and endometrioses for several years. But doctors stopped prescribing her the painkiller late last year.

“They’re extremely scared to prescribe anything,” Konz said. “I basically tried everything that there is and the opioids are the only thing that works.”

The result, Konz said, has been nearly non-stop eye pain.

Konz said she had to drop out of college and she is unable to work due to the pain.

"I would give anything to have someone's boring nine-to-five life because I have nothing," Konz said.

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An estimated 100 million people suffer from chronic pain in the United States, according to an Institute of Medicine Report cited by the American Academy of Pain Medicine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said , on average, 115 Americans die every day from a drug overdose involving opioids, including any combination of prescription painkillers, illegal heroin and illicit fentanyl.

The CDC has also recommended new opioid prescribing guidelines to doctors in recent years.

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Chicago-based pain patient advocate Sally Balsamo said while there is definitely an opioid epidemic, the government should be focused on illegal street drugs and fentanyl and not responsible opioid users.

“The result of what’s going on has really decimated the lives of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people who don’t have anybody speaking for their side,” Balsamo said. “We need to adjust the guidelines to represent what truly is going on in the medical community with regard to the proper treatment of pain care,” Balsamo said.

Dr. Kathy Tynus is president of the Illinois State Medical Society. She said opioid prescribing in Illinois is down by twenty percent, but drug overdoses are increasing.

“Some critics will say that by prescribing less you are driving some of these people who are addicted or people who have chronic pain to look for alternatives that they can get and where can they get them, but on the street,” Tynus said.

Still, Tynus said chronic pain patients should seek doctors who are comfortable managing pain.

“I think we’re feeling like we’re under more scrutiny for our prescribing habits and I think we want to do the right thing for patients and sometimes that means we might overcorrect and not provide enough pain management for people,” Tynus said.

According to the CDC, its opioid prescribing guidelines are meant to improve the safety and effectiveness of pain treatment.

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<![CDATA['Condo Deconversion' Being Used to Try to Force Owners From Homes, Residents Say]]> Thu, 05 Jul 2018 23:07:09 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/web_-_nbc_5_investigates_condo_residents.jpg

Residents say a condo association is trying to use a tactic called "condo deconversion" to force owners out of their homes. NBC 5 Investigates' Hilda Gutierrez has the story.

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<![CDATA[Legislators Submit Reports With 'Not Itemized' Expenses]]> Mon, 02 Jul 2018 06:18:53 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/CASHMONEY_32661625.jpg

State Representative Bob Rita has represented the 28th district, running from Chicago’s southwest side to Tinley Park, since 2002.

He hasn’t had a Republican opponent since 2006, a race he won with 84 percent of the vote.

In the March 2018 primary, Rita easily defeated two Democratic challengers, Mary Carvlin and Nicole Koschnitzky, with 70 percent of the vote.

In the primary, Carvlin and Koschnitzky spent a combined total of $3,729, according to state records designed to show how much candidates raise and spend.

In that same period, Rita spent $240,779.01, according to a campaign finance document he filed with the State Board of Elections. Over the 90-day period, from January through March, he spent $33,000 that was "not itemized."

State law says any expenditure over $150 must be accounted for and made public four times a year. But political candidates do not have to itemize expenses under $150, which can lead, as in Rita’s case, to tens of thousands of dollars.

“When you have an accumulation of tens of thousands of dollars on non-itemized receipts it means something. It means a lot,” said Susan Garrett, a former state senator who today chairs the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.

“These are loopholes really, they are loopholes,” she said when questioned about the “not itemized” expenses.

Representative Rita did not respond to our inquiries.

State Sen. Tony Munoz of Chicago hasn’t had a significant challenge since 2002. In 2016, the last cycle his name was on the ballot, Munoz had no challenger in either the primary or general election. But state records show from January to March and October to December he had $45,000 in non-itemized expenses.

A campaign spokesman for Senator Munoz said the $45,000 was used for things like office supplies, per diems and buying food for campaign volunteers.

Dick Simpson, a former alderman and current political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, believes the lack of specifics can raise legitimate questions.

“Using money in unrestricted ways with no accountability is always a bad idea,” he said.

So, who’s keeping watch?

The State Board of Elections has oversight, but can only initiate an investigation into spending practices if there is a complaint.

And it is the Illinois General Assembly which mandates politicians don’t have to itemize expenditures under $150.

Ken Menzel, the attorney who represents the Board of Elections, when asked if that was akin to the fox guarding the chicken house replied, “One might think of it that way but the General Assembly makes the laws about everything.”

“The problem is it doesn’t tell the public how their campaign contributions are being spent. We are disenfranchising people who want to understand how those dollars are being used. And that is problematic,” said Susan Garrett. “So, a couple hundred dollars here or there are understandable. But when you have thousands of dollars of those, it’s not understandable. It’s not right.”

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<![CDATA[Giant 'Darknet' Bust Yields 40 Arrests, $20M+ in Guns, Drugs]]> Thu, 28 Jun 2018 14:36:25 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/Darknet+Raids.jpg

Authorities arrested 40 people and seized more than $20 million in guns, drugs, cars, gold and cryptocurrency after a massive, year-long undercover operation targeting underground activity on the Internet.

The sprawling operation involving vendors on the "Darknet" led to the seizure of  more than 100 guns, more than $20 million in Bitcoin, more than $3.6 million in US currency and gold bars, and prescription pills and drugs, including Xanax, Oxycodone, MDMA, cocaine, LSD and marijuana. 

Homeland Security Investigations agents from New York posed as a money launderer on underground market sites and exchanged hard currency for virtual currency.

The operation led to the opening of dozens of cases against vendors around the country and to more than 90 active cases around the country.

“The focus of this operation was not only to infliltrate the dark net marketplaces but to really focus our efforts on the bad actors," said Angel Melendez of Homeland Security Investigations. 

Agents from HSI and postal inspectors conducted a series of subsequent arrests and the impending prosecution of more than 35 Darknet vendors.

“The Darknet is ever-changing and increasingly more intricate, making locating and targeting those selling illicit items on this platform more complicated. But in this case, HSI special agents were able to walk amongst those in the cyber underworld to find those vendors who sell highly addictive drugs for a profit,” said Acting HSI Executive Associate Director Benner in a press release.

The investigation is ongoing.



Photo Credit: USDHS]]>
<![CDATA[4 Steps to Take if Someone Posts Your Intimate Photos, Video]]> Tue, 26 Jun 2018 16:32:44 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/LMX___N11P+PKG+REVENGE+PORN+LAW_KNBC_150102_KNBC3MI5_KNBC_150310_KNBC3MI5+%28Read-Only%29+Version1+-+00000118_32608161.jpg

In light of Facebook's new Non-Consensual Image Pilot Program, many might be asking what steps they can take if they become victims of revenge porn. 

Here's what you can do:

1. File a police report

It is a criminal law and Class 4 felony in Illinois to spread private sexual images without consent, otherwise known as “revenge porn.” If you find these photos of yourself online, you can file a police report at your local precinct. Make sure to collect evidence of the incident, including any related screenshots or text messages. If you might know who the offender is, take note of any communication or evidence to back that up and bring to police. At the very least, this gives you a paper trail, which can be useful if you decide to pursue legal action.

2. Get the photo taken off social media/website

Depending on where the initial photo/video was shared, each social media has their own avenue and protocol for how to report this.

• Facebook

o The spreading of intimate images without consent is against Facebook’s community standards.

o Facebook is currently in the pilot program to prevent these uploads, but posted images or videos can still be reported. Click on the “Options” tab in the bottom right of the post to report it. You will be given three options, unfriend the poster, message them directly, or submit the post for review to Facebook.

o You can also fill out this form to directly get in touch with Facebook about the image, threats to share intimate images or threats of blackmail.

• Twitter

o Publishing people’s private information or photos without authorization is against Twitter’s rules.

o Twitter recently updated their rules on “revenge porn,” and will now suspend user accounts that fail to comply or take a Tweet down.

o Click on the dropdown arrow to report a specific Tweet, and select “It’s abusive or harmful.” This will go to review, and you can provide more information about the incident. Twitter will then send a confirmation email for further action.

o You can also fill out this form to contact Twitter.

• Instagram

o Instagram has a “zero-tolerance” policy with the spreading of sexual content or intimate images without consent.

o Tap the ••• (iOS and Windows Phone) or (Android) on the post to report it as inappropriate. You can follow the same path to report a profile sharing intimate images.

o If you don’t have an account, but see your images or videos on Instagram, use this form to report it.

• Google

o If your photo/video continues to show up in links on Google searches, you can use this form to get the hosting link removed from searches. However, Google does not have the power to remove it from the hosting website altogether.

• Other websites

o Lawful pornography websites like Pornhub will take down any non-consensual posts, through a request on their content removal portal.

o Other hosting websites may be primarily meant for revenge porn, thereby making them less likely to remove content due to a request.

o However, the Digital Millennium Copy Right Act (DMCA) has made it illegal to reproduce intellectual property online, which includes any photographs or videos that you’ve taken yourself. The DMCA Defender is a resource that can take down revenge porn off websites for a small fee.

3. Consult with an attorney

In addition to pursuing criminal charges against your offender, you can also contact an attorney to file a civil suit. Restraining orders can be filed, and you can obtain a legal order to get your photo/video taken down. You can also sue for additional damages if you have suffered financially due to the sharing of your images or videos. The Cyber Civil Rights Initiative has a list of individual attorneys for revenge porn victims here.

4. Know your resources

There are many organizations and resources that can help victims of revenge porn. From crisis helplines to legal help, these organizations aim to assist victims of revenge porn.

Cyber Civil Rights Initiative - https://www.cybercivilrights.org/

Starting as the “End Revenge Porn” campaign in 2012, CCRI is now one of the non-profit partner groups for Facebook’s pilot program. They provide a hotline and online removal guide for victims of revenge porn.

National Network to End Domestic Violence - https://nnedv.org/ , https://www.womenslaw.org/

Another one of Facebook’s partner groups for the program, NNEDV provide a national phone hotline for victims. Their specialized “WomensLaw” project has an email hotline, which provides basic legal information, referrals and emotional support.

Electronic Frontier Foundation - https://www.eff.org/

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is a non-profit dedicated to educating about civil rights and liberties in the digital sphere.

Without My Consent - http://www.withoutmyconsent.org/

Without My Consent provides educational materials on revenge porn laws, as well as other resources for victims of digital abuse.

The BADASS Army - https://badassarmy.org/

The BADASS group, Battling Against Demeaning & Abusive Selfie Sharing, is a non-profit organization that supports and empowers victims of revenge porn.

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<![CDATA[5 Things We Know, Don’t Know About Facebook’s ‘Revenge Porn’ Pilot Program]]> Tue, 26 Jun 2018 16:23:55 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/Facebook+Generic+Photo+logo+on+window.jpg Facebook launched its Non-Consensual Image Pilot Program in the United States in May to combat the sharing of nude photos on the social media platform. While Facebook already removes revenge porn after it receives a report, people who fear that someone might try to hurt them can proactively upload their intimate images, so Facebook can block anyone else from sharing the images on its site, Instagram or Messenger. “It’s demeaning and devastating when someone’s intimate images are shared without their permission,” wrote Antigone Davis, Facebook’s Global Head of Safety, in a post. “We want to do everything we can to help victims of this abuse.”

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<![CDATA[Facebook’s Program Fighting ‘Revenge Porn’ Stirs Controversy]]> Tue, 26 Jun 2018 23:00:54 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Alertan_sobre_novedoso_fraude_en_Facebook.jpg

A recent pilot program launched by Facebook aims to fight back against intimate images shared without consent in an unconventional way: send your nudes to Facebook instead. 

The Non-Consensual Image Pilot Program allows people who fear that someone might maliciously post private photos to proactively send the images to Facebook, which will then use technology to block anyone else from sharing it on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. 

“It’s demeaning and devastating when someone’s intimate images are shared without permission, and we want to do everything we can to help victims of this abuse,” Antigone Davis, Facebook’s Global Head of Safety, wrote in a post, announcing the program. 

The pilot was first tested in Australia late last year, then rolled out in the U.S., UK and Canada in May. Facebook declined to disclose if the program has been successful so far. 

Facebook partnered with safety organizations in each country, including the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative and the National Network to End Domestic Violence in the United States. 

“This tool may not be the best tool for everyone, but when we hear survivors come to us, they are at a point where they are desperate,” said Rachel Gibson, Senior Technology Safety Specialist at NNEDV. 

Here’s how the program works: 

Individuals who are worried they may become victims of “revenge porn” can contact one of Facebook’s safety partners. After submitting an online form, Facebook will send an email with a secure, one-time link, where individuals can upload the images they fear will be shared. 

Then, a “small group of full-time employees” at Facebook will view the photos and the report and create a unique digital fingerprint for each image, called a “hash.” The photos are destroyed within seven days, according to Facebook, and only the hashes are stored on servers.

If someone tries to upload a hashed image, Facebook can block it. 

Law Professor: “This is crazy!” 

Some cybersecurity and privacy experts expressed concern over Facebook’s pilot. 

According to Lori Andrews, a professor in privacy and social media at Chicago’s Kent College of Law, the program creates new problems, rather than solving old ones. 

“You have to give up so much privacy to get privacy, and that doesn’t seem like a fair balance,” said Andrews. 

For one, Facebook’s hashing technology allows abusers to crop or color-correct a photo to evade technology. 

“The hash will only work with the original image,” said a Facebook spokeswoman. “There are always bad actors, and while the technology is not 100%, we’re constantly working to improve the technology and looking for ways to root out recidivist behavior.” 

Andrews said a better alternative might be giving victims the ability to hash photos right from their own devices. 

NBC 5 Investigates questioned Facebook about what measures are in place to keep accountable the small group of employees who are tasked with viewing and hashing photos, as well as what controls guard the servers where intimate images are stored before they are destroyed. Facebook referred us back to Davis’ original post announcing the program, which does not address these questions. 

Charles Lee Mudd, Jr., an attorney at the Mudd Law Firm who handles revenge porn cases, said the program does little to address the nonconsensual porn problem, which is more prevalent on seedy websites, instead of social media platforms. 

“I would be very cautious for individuals to utilize that service,” said Mudd. 

Advocate: Program Offers “Peace of Mind” 

The National Network to End Domestic Violence – one of Facebook’s safety partners – said the program simply offers survivors one more tool to be proactive. 

“This is not a survivor just uploading to Facebook and hoping for the best,” said Gibson. “This is them connecting with a trusted partner who has worked with Facebook along the years and will help guide them through this process.” 

Gibson said it’s important to remember the photos are only kept for a short amount of time and they’re only viewed by a few people, as opposed to thousands if they’re shared publicly. 

“Through the process that Facebook has set up, we are trying to minimize as much risk as possible. We want to do as little harm as we can to help a survivor,” Gibson said.

The Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, another Facebook partner, also said the program allows victims to take action. 

“Facebook has been at the forefront of the tech industry’s efforts to develop innovative and efficient responses to the problem of nonconsensual pornography,” said Mary Anne Franks, President of CCRI and a law professor at the University of Miami. “It was one of the first major social media platforms to prohibit the unauthorized sharing of intimate images and has sought, in addition to implementing platform-wide policies and tools to fight this abuse, to provide victims with a range of voluntary options to protect themselves.”

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<![CDATA[City Balks at Turning Over Police Shooting Records]]> Thu, 21 Jun 2018 09:17:19 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/209*120/shootingrecords_32543691.jpg

A Cook County Circuit Court judge has blasted a decision by attorneys for the city of Chicago in their refusal to release records detailing how Chicago police officers shot and killed a 17-year-old.

In blistering comments from the bench on May 11, Judge Neil Cohen called the city’s position a joke and, “antidemocratic. We’re not in a fascist state yet,” he said. “If you’re right, you’ve just moved the ball forward towards it.”

In July 2014, Warren Robinson was shot 16 times after fleeing police. Robinson was a juvenile and that is what is at the heart of the dispute in turning over investigative records.

A spokesman for the city of Chicago Law Department in a written statement said the city “is prohibited from releasing law enforcement records that relate to a minor who has been investigated, arrested or taken into custody before his or her 18th birthday.”

Warren Robinson---after a chase---was shot 16 times by Chicago police while hiding under a car. Officers said Robinson pointed a gun at them and they fired, striking him five times in the chest and arms and 11 times in the back, according to autopsy records.

Pat Camden, a Fraternal Order of Police spokesman at the time, told reporters that night, “when police tell you to drop your gun, drop your gun and nothing is going to happen.”

The Independent Police Review Authority ruled the shooting justified and released Robinson’s name.

The city’s denial of investigative records, Judge Cohen said during the May 11th hearing, means an officer’s actions won’t “be subject to scrutiny when he shoots a juvenile, and that’s the tail wagging the dog.”

City officials initially denied NBC 5’s Jan. 13, 2016 request for public documents citing the state Juvenile Court Act. NBC 5 appealed to the Illinois Attorney General’s office, which ruled the city—in part---violated the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. Following the ruling, the city refused—again—to release records involving the conduct of officers.

NBC 5 then went to court, represented by public records attorney Matt Topic of the law firm Loevy and Loevy.

NBC 5 wants to review the investigation of the police officers involved in the Robinson shooting. Despite the non-binding decision by the Attorney General’s office and the court order by Judge Cohen, city officials continue to deny the release of the records.

Attorneys for the city are expected to obtain a stay of Judge Cohen’s order to release the records pending their planned appeal.

Asked for comment a spokesman for the Law Department wrote in an email, “The City…has no objections to releasing these records” but is prohibited by legislation which enacted the Juvenile Court Act.

In his court order requiring the city to release the records of the Robinson shooting, Judge Cohen said the city can’t, “use the taking of that life as a cloak to shroud the officer’s action.”

All of this plays out as the trial in the death of LaQuan McDonald looms this summer. He, too, was 16-years old when he was shot 16 times. In that case, officer Jason Van Dyke is charged with first degree murder. He has pled not guilty.

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<![CDATA[Route 53 Extension Plan Would Impact Hundreds in Lake County]]> Wed, 20 Jun 2018 20:07:27 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Route+53+Extension+-+00144813_32542545.jpg

Hundreds of Lake County homeowners are once again facing the real prospect of a very specific “not-in-my-back-yard” issue.

A new tollway---which would run literally through their back yards.

“Fifty years ago it was introduced as a true regional people mover and a road all the way to the state line,” says Hawthorn Woods mayor Joseph Mancino. “It’s become a 12 mile road to nowhere!”

He’s right about the timeline. The state began slowly acquiring a long strip of land in the early sixties for a new road which would extend Route 53 from the point where it currently ends at Lake Cook Road. Over the ensuing decades, there have been various plans, all shelved, to build that road.

Now, the idea is being dusted off again. The Illinois Tollway Authority and IDOT have launched a $25 million study to determine how best to relieve traffic congestion in the region---including the proposed new tollway.

Problem is, over the years, hundreds of families have built houses right up to that long strip of vacant land. And a new road, much of which would be elevated, would run next to and in some cases---above---their homes.

“While they’ve tried to get approval for this road for 50 years, they have not been able to build a consensus for it, they have no money for it, yet they’re trying to crowbar this solution into a modern day problem,” says Mancino. “And it simply won’t work!”

Pointing to the vacant area behind his house, now planted in soybeans, resident Larry Friedrichs agrees.

“The centerline for the proposed Route 53 is right behind my house,” Friedrichs says. “The previous couple of environmental impact studies have both said it shouldn’t be built, and now here we are, 50 years later, doing the same dance again!”

Officially, the state has only launched an initiative called the “Tri-County Access Project”. Suburban communities have been invited to join a study group, to determine how best to proceed with efforts to alleviate the infuriating traffic congestion which plagues Lake County. Tollway Authority officials insist the Route 53 extension is only one of many solutions being explored, and that the so-called “no build” option is among those solutions.

But Mancino says he believes the deck is stacked. In a letter to the tollway, he declared that his community will not sign on as a member of the stakeholders’ group, because of agreements he believes would tie Hawthorn Woods to any future agreements without genuine input.

“The operating agreement requires stakeholders to pledge, in advance, they will reach a general understanding of agreement on solutions that might emerge from the study,” Mancino wrote, noting that the agreement gives only IDOT and the Tollway Authority the final say.

“Taken together, these provisions require participants to commit up front to supporting the state’s proposals as a condition of participating,” he says. “This is untenable.”

Mancino refers to the study as a $25 million public relations campaign, not a genuine effort to reach consensus. And he says he’s suspicious that entities like Kenosha County in Wisconsin have been invited to join, in an effort to dilute opposition.

“It is just setting the stage for only one option,” he says. “And that is to build this road!”

The Tollway insists the study is genuine and that everyone is approaching the issue with an open mind.

“The viewpoints of every SPG member will be heard equally throughout the process,” Elizabeth Gorman, the Tollway Authority executive director told Mancino in a letter this week. “All stakeholders are encouraged to express their convictions by participating in the process---participation is not contingent on a signed document.”

Tollway officials would not grant an interview to NBC 5 on the issue. But a suggestion to speak with Linda Soto, the Executive Director of the Lake County Transportation Alliance, received an enthusiastic response.

“Do we need a tollway or a road extension---absolutely,” she said. “What that road is going to be, that study will determine.”

Soto says she understands the concerns of the Hawthorn Woods residents. But at the same time, she pointed to the traffic issues faced by her own community further to the north.

“I respect his opinion,” she said. “We have a lot more middle income working class that need these roads!”

Hawthorn Woods is not the only community which would potentially be impacted by a Route 53 extension. Residents of Long Grove, for example, also have built right up to the vacant strip. And environmental groups say taking the road through protected wetlands could be a potential disaster.

For his part, Mancino argues other highway solutions should be explored, and haven’t been, because officials are enamored with the idea of a new tollway which has foundered each time it has been explored.

“All these local roads, all these ideas to help traffic congestion have been held hostage,” he says, “waiting on the hope that this pipe dream might someday be built!”

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<![CDATA[After School Program Abuse Lawsuit Settled]]> Fri, 08 Jun 2018 10:42:36 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/6P+PKG+UNITED+BELIEVERS+SETTLEMENT+V2+-+00001904_32393462.jpg

The court battle is over for 19 men who sued the Chicago Board of Education and United Airlines over allegations that they were sexually abused as children by an afterschool program mentor in the 1990s.

“The parties reached an amicable resolution,” said attorney Lyndsay Markley, who represented the alleged victims in the lawsuit.

While the plaintiffs were students at Johnson Elementary, they participated in the United Believers program, sponsored by the airline. They said they were promised college scholarships in exchange for their participation and good behavior.

But the men said they were abused by Marvin Lovett, who was employed as a mentor in the United Believers afterschool program.

The plaintiffs argue the abuse could have been prevented.

Lovett was shot to death by a former Believers participant in 2000.

Police said they found 140 videotapes showing Lovett sexually abusing minors, including Believers participants.

The Believers program was later shut down.

As for the settlement, a United Airlines spokesperson said “we have worked with those impacted to reach a resolution in this case.”

The Chicago Board of Education did not return our request for comment.

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<![CDATA[Service Dog Trainer Took Off With Cash Donations: Family]]> Fri, 01 Jun 2018 20:37:32 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/DIABITIC+DOG+SCAM+-+00005604_32309769.jpg

A suburban community tried to do a good thing by raising about $11,000 to help a little girl. But months later there is nothing to show for all of their donations.

Darcy Tellone said her daughter, Lila, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes two years ago and the family now spends a lot of time monitoring Lila’s blood sugar and making sure she stays healthy.

But they were surprised by a recent outpouring of support organized by Lila’s friend, Anya, who started a Go Fund Me fundraiser to help pay for a diabetic alert dog.

“We never really thought about a service dog,” Tellone said. “It was actually out of the kindness of some friends' hearts who started this campaign without us knowing.”

Tellone said the Yorkville family was referred to a business owner in Arizona who would train a dog to detect Lila’s blood sugar events before they became dangerous. She said everything started off well and they were also sent photos of the dog and received updates on his training.

Tellone said she sent the trainer, Breanne Peeples, about $10,000. They also named the golden doodle dog “Mugsy”.

However, the family said they stopped receiving communication from Peeples in January.

“We just want to keep our daughter safe and we wanted this to be a positive outcome and it's kind of a nightmare,” Tellone said.

NBC 5 contacted the woman who sold Peeples the dog training business several years ago. The former owner said Peeples is no longer training dogs and is out of business.

Public records show Peeples does not appear to be in bankruptcy and her business was in good standing.

Peeples did not return a call from NBC 5 requesting a comment.

Tellone said she’s speaking out to warn other consumers.

“I also would love to get the money back and possibly find another service dog for my daughter and I just want the community to know that their support meant the word to us and we're just trying to make it right,” Tellone said.

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<![CDATA[Renters Squeezed by Housing Costs Across Chicago and Suburbs]]> Thu, 31 May 2018 20:09:13 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/SQUEEZE+COFFEY+v2+-+00011422_32296037.jpg

If you live in Greater Chicago and are struggling to keep up with rent costs, you are not alone. NBC 5 Investigates reviewed census data and found dozens of neighorhoods across the city and suburbs with large percentages of cost-burdened households.

The government considers a “cost-burdened” household as one that spends 30% or more of its annual income on housing. In other words, you are cost-burdened if you spend $3 out of every $10 on rent.

Just ask Melissa Winston. She’s a working mom who is raising a family with her husband in the south suburbs. In her zip code, 65% of renting households pay more than a third of their annual income to a landlord.

“I’m thankful for a roof over my head, but make this roof less expensive,” Winston said.

A recent DePaul University study showed half of all renter households in Cook County, including Chicago, are struggling to pay rent and other basic needs. 

“The affordability gap is growing because the supply of affordable units is shrinking,” said Geoff Smith, executive director of the Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University. 

Smith said several factors have contributed to the growth of renters in Chicago, including more people seeking urban lifestyles and shorter commutes. 

“People wanted to live in dense, walkable spaces and places and those are more often rental neighborhoods,” Smith said. 

But we found cost-burdened renting households located across the suburbs, including zip codes in Bolingbrook, Joliet, and Hazel Crest. 

“In the suburbs, the taxes play a huge part in why maybe landlords are charging higher rents,” said home ownership consultant Sherry Smith.

Smith said frustrated renters may consider starting a path toward home ownership. 

“A lot of us, we’re not going to get rich by playing the lottery. So having that home that you invest in and to have equity in, you can actually leave to your children,” Smith said. 

Smith works for Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago. The non-profit helps educate consumers about the ins and outs of home ownership, including how much home you can afford and what loans may be available. Additionally, grants may be available for those who qualify. 

Winston said she and her husband have started the process to learn more about buying a home. 

“I’m not blaming anyone for my situation,” Wintston said. “But we’ve got to make life much easier for people such as myself.”


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<![CDATA[Is Another Watts-Related Case Beginning to Unravel?]]> Tue, 29 May 2018 20:11:01 -0500 https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/LMX___6P+PKG+WATTS+SENTENCING_WMAQ_000000004369448+%28Read-Only%29+Version1+-+00000125_30392113.png

After more than ten years in prison, Anthony McDaniels says he should now be set free because the only officers who convicted him are too tainted to be called as witnesses.

His evidence? A letter from the prosecutors themselves.

McDaniels was jailed on gun charges in 2008. From the outset, he claimed he had been framed by officers under the command of now-disgraced police sergeant Ronald Watts.

Last fall, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office gave police a list of ten officers who would no longer be called as witnesses “due to concerns about their credibility and alleged involvement in the misconduct of Sergeant Watts.” Three of those officers were the only witnesses in McDaniels’ trial.

“The state’s own position is these officers aren’t credible,” defense lawyer Joshua Tepfer said today outside court. “The state’s own position is these officers lied.”

During a morning hearing, Tepfer urged Judge Arthur Hill to vacate McDaniels’ conviction, based on a number of factors, including the simple premise that there is no one left to testify against him.

“The state wouldn’t call them---they can’t call them---because they aren’t credible!” Tepfer told the judge, advising him that one of the officers has informed him he would take the fifth amendment if he was put on the stand.

“You can take the fifth amendment for a number of reasons,” he said. “He’s taking the fifth because he was a corrupt police officer.”

Assistant State’s Attorney Carol Rogala told the judge that a full evidentiary hearing was needed.

It is the defendant’s burden to prove there is a pattern of misconduct,” she said. “There are factual cases that have to be explored.”

But Tepfer insisted the pattern was more than evident, pointing to the list of 23 individuals who have already been cleared.

“That’s an extraordinary pattern,” he said. “Sgt. Watts was very much involved in the drug and gun trade.”

The scandal was an open secret among residents of the former Ida B. Wells housing project, where Watts and his crew worked for more than a decade. Two undercover officers said they tried to blow the whistle on the alleged corruption for years, only to face ostracism within the department.

Eventually, only Watts and Mohammed were ever criminally charged. But police recently admitted that 15 other officers had been placed on desk duty while they were finally investigated for Watts-related offenses.

“Every single case that rises or falls on the testimony of these officers needs to be tossed,” Tepfer said. “If at any time you don’t trust these convictions any more, you’ve got to throw them out!”

The judge took the matter under advisement, and said he would rule June 14.

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