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AG Office Initiatives

Badges for Baseball

In 2007, the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation started Badges for Baseball, a program created in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Justice as a juvenile crime prevention initiative. The Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation has now brought this program to several different states, partnering with the Attorneys General in North Carolina, Wisconsin and Maryland, as well as establishing programs in Massachusetts, Mississippi and Virginia. While most of the funding comes from the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, the Attorneys General Offices and local law enforcement agencies work in collaboration to operate the program.

Badges for Baseball pairs law enforcement officers and children from underserved communities (i.e. areas with high juvenile crime rates and related issues) and uses baseball to enhance the relationship between the police and community members. The police act as the team coaches and help teach the kids about teamwork, communication, respect and leadership. There are numerous benefits to the Badges for Baseball program. It teaches kids the value of a healthy lifestyle and of setting goals, while also showing them how they can achieve those goals by staying in school and avoiding bad situations such as drugs and gangs. Local families are also able to see law enforcement officers in a positive light, and the program engenders mutual respect between the police and the community.

Badges for Baseball also includes the distribution of “Healthy Choices, Healthy Children,” a character development curriculum developed by the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation. This course, centered on the teachings of Cal Ripken, Sr., teaches kids how to react positively to bad situations and other important lessons that will help them on and off the baseball field. “Healthy Choices, Healthy Children,” which can be tailored to either classes or teams, is broken down into different sessions, with each one focusing on a different goal or theme. These themes are taught through discussion topics, drills, and videos featuring Cal Ripken, Sr.’s two sons, Cal Jr. and Bill, each of whom used to play professional baseball.

A few Attorneys General have played prominent roles in bringing Badges for Baseball to their states and/or continuing the program’s success there. Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen helped bring the program to his state in 2009, and in 2010 the program had expanded to reach nine communities and serve approximately 1,000 kids. The Milwaukee Brewers, a partner of the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, invited around 750 kids, mentors, coaches and law enforcement professionals to attend their game on July 8, 2010, where Attorney General Van Hollen threw out the ceremonial first pitch. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper established several Badges for Baseball sites in his state beginning in 2009. In 2010, the program was expanded to include 20 different locations, and also allowed kids to attend a summer camp in Maryland for baseball and other summer activities (swimming, kayaking, etc.). Last year, Attorney General Doug Gansler brought Badges for Baseball to Maryland, which held programs in nine different counties and included over 1,000 kids. These three states, as well as Massachusetts, Mississippi and Virginia, hope to sustain their programs’ success going forward, as well as looking to expand into further underserved areas. To this end, Cal Ripken, Jr. traveled to NAAG’s annual 2011 Winter Meeting to promote the Badges for Baseball program and speak about the importance of serving kids in general.

Utah Blue Alert & Major Crime Strike Force

Over the past several years, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and his office have established a number of different initiatives to combat criminal activity in the state. These programs include units aimed at stemming underage drinking, identity theft, child abductions, mortgage fraud, and a number of other serious crimes. This article focuses on two accomplished initiatives: the Major Crime Strike Force (“SECURE Strike Force”), and the Blue Alert.

The SECURE Strike Force, which was launched in June 2009, targets major crimes committed by undocumented aliens. The Strike Force, established with funds appropriated from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, made 66 arrests in just its first year of existence. Its main focus is targeting identity theft, human trafficking, illegal drugs and violent crimes. Agents meet with Utah citizens and undocumented residents to gather information relating to ongoing criminal enterprises. Because the Strike Force has let it be known that they are focusing solely on major crimes, they have received great cooperation from the undocumented alien population.

Consisting of one prosecutor, six investigators and one paralegal, the SECURE Strike Force also receives support from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and local law enforcement agencies. From July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011, the Strike Force arrested 144 suspects, dismantled two immigrant gun trafficking operations, shut down 23 document mills, and seized over 30,000 pirated DVDs and CDs.

“The pace at which these agents are making cases is nothing short of phenomenal,” said Attorney General Shurtleff. “The impact of violent and major financial crime committed by undocumented aliens is even more serious and profound than originally believed.”

The Blue Alert is a system to warn the public about violent criminals who kill or seriously injure police officers. Utah is one of 10 states with similar programs after launching the Blue Alert system in October 2011; six states have similar initiatives currently pending. Modeled after the successful AMBER Alert system and issued using the same network, the Utah Blue Alert system uses email, texts and electronic highway signs to alert the police and media of recently committed assaults against law enforcement agents. Blue Alert messages are issued when four factors are met: “(1) Has a law enforcement officer been killed, seriously injured or assaulted with a deadly weapon by the suspect?; (2) Is the suspect an imminent threat to the public and other law enforcement personnel?; (3) Is information available for the public about the suspect, the suspect’s vehicle and vehicle tag? and; (4) Will public dissemination of available information help avert further harm or accelerate apprehension of the suspect?” The theory behind the Blue Alert system is that someone who kills a police officer is clearly a threat that the general public should know about as soon as possible.

“A suspect reckless enough to kill or hurt a police officer will also be a clear threat to everyone else,” Utah Department of Public Safety Commissioner Lance Davenport stated. “The Blue Alert should be taken very seriously.”

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