Scant Coverage of a “Lesser” Oakland Murder

Goin’ dinosaur on y’all with a case that shows why the demise of newspapers is bad for local news and residents.

The San Francisco Chronicle has now run its second “murder haiku,” my name for its three paragraph blurbs about non-sexy murders in Oakland, about the Dimond District slaying of Antoine Crossland, a 23-year-old Castro Valley resident. The shooting death occurred a few weeks ago less than a mile down the hill from me, late at night next to a library in what is a bustling day-time commercial district. This is not in an area known for violence, so it should generate a tad more coverage than murders in other parts of our city.

The news today is that there are a couple photos of people wanted for questioning in connection with the case. Still, it’s been more than three weeks since the murder and the combined coverage by the Chronicle and Oakland Tribune, in two articles each, tops out at about 10 column-inches.

In the mezosoic-era, competing newspapers and their reporters would be checking down at the courthouse for records of Mr. Crossland or going out to find his relatives. Print reporters would have been trying to provide some context and answer the big question: Was Crossland targeted or was he just in the wrong place at the wrong time? They would have been canvassing for witnesses or getting reaction from nearby residents and merchants. (I was one of those dinosaurs, roaming the Florida cesspools, and I would be damned if I was going to let the Bradenton Herald or Tampa Tribune scoop me on story on my own turf. Is there still any pride left in being a good police reporter? I don’t know. )

Bloggers in big urban areas do a fine job when the cases and stories get big enough, say the Oscar Grant shooting, Chauncey Bailey’s murder or the horrendous slayings of four Oakland Police officers. But for lesser crimes, there is not exactly a rush to fill the reporting void. Staffs have been slashed. Heck, if I wasn’t trying to grind out a living today, this blogger would go pound the pavement to try to fill in the blanks on Mr. Crossland’s downfall. I still might….

Henry Lee of The Chronicle and Harry Harris of The Tribune are both good, experienced reporters. However, with the layoffs and shrinking staffs, I’m sure these two hardly have the time for more than churning out more murder haiku or just doing a lot of their reporting over the phone.

Get used to it. We will all have to hunt a bit more to find aggressive police and crime reporting.

Spy Before You Buy

It happened again. A client calls to say that a man who bought his business has ripped him off for $100,000. The sad part is that for about $250, I confirmed that the client never should have gone near him with a 10-foot stick let alone put scads of cash at risk.

The buyer approached the client, a bar owner, with a seemingly impressive list of businesses he had owned, several references, etc. The buyer had also been in the bar business for years and said all the right things. A tentative deal was made but the buyer helped himself to a lot of cash, a credit card and failed to pay many employees.

The buyer had concealed a personal and business bankruptcy from 2004, really not that long ago. He did it by: not providing a true SSN, lying that his past business simply closed because the lease ended, using a variation of his name and providing a bogus name for his wife.

It reminds me of another case, where an attorney hired me after his client had been scammed for several hundred thousand in an investment/loan deal with an “artist.” The problem? The artist was an outright fraud. A relatively quick and easy search of San Francisco County Superior Court and some other public records on Black Book Online would have revealed about five other past fraud suits against the scalawag. (One of my fave details was that the “artist” liked to rock an ascot. What, no eyepatch?)

Back to the bogus bar buyer. The first step in checking the guy out was coming up with his past address history based on a known or given address. That database search yielded variations on his first name that I had not initially checked. It also showed the true name of his wife. Once I had his variation and his wife’s true name, I could then run them both through the excellent federal records pacer system. I learned that they had no real assets. (Searching for bank accounts is a whole other deal to be covered in another entry some day.) I could then check the names and addresses in the court papers against the addresses in databases.

It’s hard to go through life paranoid. You don’t have to. The Spencer rule of thumb: If a deal is worth more than $1,500 or $2,000 spend a little on a professional private investigator and check it out.

Congrats OPD: You Shot and Killed a Dog

Spencer Investigations tipped the press to this sad story, covered in the East Bay Express:

I know the attorney in the story, have done work for Portia Glassman, Esq. and find her to be unusually principled. Ms. Glassman tells the truth as does her client.

The key fact in the article, perhaps buried too much, is that Mr. Proudfoot offered in advance to take his dogs out of the house. This is digusting that Oakland Police shot the dog.

“One of the first things I asked them, ‘Let me take care of my dogs,'” Proudfoot recalled. Both of his dogs, Jade and Bear, were inside the home. “I’ll put them away in the bathroom or somewhere so they’re out of the way. I told them at least half a dozen times.”

The connection between animal cruelty and barbarism towards humans is well-documented. And Oakland Police wonders why it has a bad reputation in the community…

As long as I am casting opprobrium, I have a big sharp dart for the usually sound Channel 2 News, Glassman was quoted on air and in the story as saying that the cops shot the dog. Yet, the TV “reporter” never followed up. I called the news desk three times to point out this unanswered question. Thanks to the East Bay Express for exposing this.

National Stalking Awareness Month!

And you thought January was a big deal just because we are getting a new president.

In looking for some information about the Pleasanton, California police department, I learned that it was National Stalking Awareness Month. Spencer Investigations of the San Francisco Bay Area uses surveillance but it is never meant to harass any subject. But some might say we private investigators aren’t much different than stalkers.

I toured the site, took a quiz and spied on some merchandise

I scored a pedestrian 70% on the quiz. I am still laughing, but maybe I shouldn’t. I love the poster “Every(sic) Get The Feeling You Are Being Watched.” And who wouldn’t want to adorn themselves with the “stalking awareness pin.” I am not making this up. And for the collector who wants the definitive stalking poster/statement: “Beware of Strangers.”