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Gang fear stalls jail video visits
Gang activity in Suffolk County is getting intense scrutiny right now, but some efforts to thwart MS-13 are not new. For more than a year, concern about gangs has stalled efforts to use family video conferencing in county jails in Riverhead and Yaphank.
Suffolk invested in video equipment so family and friends elsewhere could “visit” with inmates, a practice common around the country, but the plan put in place about five years ago has not come to fruition.
The idea was that video conferences might relieve inmate isolation and their concerns about events back home. About one-third of incarcerated youth receive very few or no visits, according to the Suffolk County sheriff. Some visitors lack transportation, live out of state or are reluctant to come — perhaps for lack of child care or having outstanding warrants.
But the county also has concerns that gang members could abuse the process by using hand signs and other symbols to convey messages. “They have their own lingo in many ways, and it changes constantly,” said Kristin MacKay, a spokeswoman for the sheriff. “When it comes to communicating, they try to be sneaky.”
For now, Sheriff Vincent DeMarco allows its use for attorney visits only, MacKay said.
Pushing a Staten Island swing
Is Staten Island’s congressional seat up for grabs in 2018?
One progressive group hopes so: Swing Left is attempting to capitalize on opposition to President Donald Trump by sending volunteers to their closest “swing districts,” as defined by the group, to organize and raise funds early for Democrats in Republican-held territory.
The network last week expanded its national list of swing districts to 65 — now including Rep. Dan Donovan’s in Staten Island and swaths of conservative South Brooklyn.
Swing Left told The Point it chose the 11th District because it went for President Barack Obama in 2012, and Democrats have a registration advantage over Republicans. And liberal New Yorkers could hop a ferry or bus to campaign and perhaps increase turnout.
But it wouldn’t be an easy sell, and goes against the district’s recent history. Democrats have had difficulty fielding strong candidates for the seat over the past decade, and Swing Left has not identified a candidate. Trump won the district in 2016, as did incumbent Donovan, a popular former district attorney and member of the moderate Tuesday Group who outperformed Trump.
Donovan also has softened some of his stances on immigration, writing an op-ed in The Washington Post with Cesar Vargas, an immigrant here illegally, and has worked with Mayor Bill de Blasio on Trump Tower security funding — potential barriers to 2018 swing.
This and that
— Smithtown Town Supervisor Patrick Vecchio has released what he called his “first annual report” — in his 40th year on the job. That pace would mean his second annual report would be released when he’s 126. That’s just math.
— Consumer confidence is up under President Donald Trump, but Americans cut back sharply on spending in the first three months of 2017. Not quite putting your money where your mouth is, is it?
— In Brazil, the government proposed austerity measures, a general strike disrupted cities all over the country, security forces tear-gassed protesters and bank windows were smashed. The Olympic Games — held in Brazil just nine months ago — sure made a difference.
— President Donald Trump sat down with “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson and to his face called the CBS program “Deface the Nation.” He did preface it with, “I love your show,” but there is no escaping the schoolyard culture in the White House.
— Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said of President Donald Trump that America doesn’t work by “my way or the highway.” But, we do want the highway. Lots of highways.
— Nassau County Republicans are scheduled to introduce a bill Monday to bar anyone convicted of public corruption felonies from running for county office. Psssst: The felony conviction usually takes care of that all by itself.
— President Donald Trump to a rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: “I don’t think anybody has done what we’ve been able to do in 100 days.” Now that is not fake news.