NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s safety department is creating a new unit to investigate identity theft crimes that local law enforcement agencies don’t have the resources to target.
Commissioner of Safety and Homeland Security Bill Gibbons announced on Tuesday that the 14-member unit would be made up of personnel from the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the state Office of Homeland Security and the Driver Services division.
The unit will also work with the U.S. Secret Service in Memphis and Nashville, the federal Homeland Security Investigations department and the FBI’s Memphis division.
Gibbons said identity theft and fraud crimes are a growing problem in Tennessee, but many local law enforcement agencies don’t have enough resources or manpower to investigate these crimes.
“When you go to local law enforcement agencies across the state, they will pretty much tell you that identity crime is one of the toughest types of crimes for them to investigate,” he said. “Very few police departments have investigators that have the expertise to investigate these types of crimes.”
OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (AP) — Authorities at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge say three people were arrested early Saturday for trespassing and defacing a building in a high security area of the site.
A press release from the facility said the incident occurred about 4:30 a.m. and an investigation into how they got into the facility is being led by the Department of Energy Inspector General.
The individuals, whose names were not released by Y-12 officials, were to be transported to another facility to be processed with federal trespassing charges.
Y-12 maintains the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile and provides nuclear fuel for the Navy and for research reactors worldwide. The statement from the facility said the incident appeared to be a protest-related action.
Steven Wyatt, a spokesman for the facility, said Saturday that the individuals used spray paint and a substance that looked like blood to deface the building.
Knoxville News Sentinel reported (http://bit.ly/MU8CD3 ) that the three people were members of a group called Transform Now Plowshares. Ellen Barfield, who described herself as a friend of the group who had spoken with one of the people after the arrests, said the three individuals had cut through fences to get access and posted a banner and poured blood.
Barfield identified the three as Michael R. Walli, 63, of Washington, D.C.; Megan Rice, 82, of Nevada; and Greg Boertje-Obed, 57, of Duluth, Minn.
Rice was listed in the Blount County jail’s online inmate information system as a federal inmate.
The nuclear complex does get protesters and activists to the site and Wyatt said they often stand in a public area near the facility’s front entrance. About a dozen activists were convicted last year of trespassing after they intentionally crossed a blue line separating state and federal property at the complex in 2010.
A century and a half ago, the new Tennessee State Capitol was seized, fortified and transformed into Fortress Andrew Johnson by the Union Army during its Civil War occupation of Nashville.
Now, Richard Locker reports, the Capitol is becoming increasingly fortress-like again as a result of security measures already made and new ones under way. State officials are keeping the details secret, but they include heightened security checkpoints, which already require citizens to produce photo IDs to enter, high-definition cameras inside and out, license-plate scanners and others not known.
Gov. Bill Haslam said he doesn’t know details of the security plan. “That funding decision was made by the Building Commission, not by us, and that’s really important to note. That being said, I would hope that part of the reason for additional security is to make it so people can still access the building instead of just sealing it off and saying, ‘I’m sorry, there’s too many security reasons why you can’t.'”
Security officials proposed X-ray body scanners but they were reportedly nixed in favor of less intrusive metal detectors first put up in 2001.
The 153-year-old State Capitol closed last week for an eight-month, $15.3 million renovation project that mostly involves new heating, air conditioning, electrical and plumbing systems and interior refurbishing.
But the State Building Commission also approved various unspecified “interior and exterior security upgrades” in November and February, after top officials of Haslam’s administration — Safety & Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons of Memphis and General Services Commissioner Steve Cates of Nashville — recommended a package of far-reaching upgrades. The “Master Security Plan” for the Capitol complex is confidential under state law.
The Building Commission is composed of Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, House Speaker Beth Harwell, Secretary of State Tré Hargett, State Treasurer David Lillard, Comptroller Justin Wilson and Finance Commissioner Mark Emkes. It approved the upgrades after private briefings and no public discussion.
State Architect Robert Oglesby referred questions to the General Services Department, where Assistant Commissioner Kelly Smith initially said she was unaware of any security components to the overall project. She later acknowledged them but would provide no details.
However, two sources familiar with the projects said they include upgrading the existing checkpoints and installing high-definition cameras throughout the interior of the Capitol, the Legislative Plaza Building where state legislative committee hearings are held, and the War Memorial Building, which houses legislative offices.
They also said powerful new cameras capable of recording close-up images of people will be installed outside the Capitol and atop nearby buildings for monitoring the public grounds outside the Capitol and War Memorial Plaza, a public square with fountains across from the Capitol that is the site of occasional protests.
Security forces at TVA’s Sequoyah and Watts Bar nuclear plants would have authority to use deadly force to prevent sabotage at their facilities under legislation given final approval Thursday by the state Senate, according to the Chattanooga TFP.. Senators voted 32-0 for the bill, sponsored by Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman. The measure, which was previously approved by the House, now will go to Gov. Bill Haslam.
Yager, who represents Rhea County where Watts Bar is located, later called it “critically important that the scope of authority for nuclear facility security officers is clearly spelled out in state law,” in a news release.
“There should be no uncertainty as to whether they have the authority to effectively defend the public as well as themselves, against acts of radioactive sabotage,” Yager said.
The Tennessee Valley Authority’s general manager of nuclear security, Dr. Mark Finley, recently told lawmakers that officers at Watts Bar and Sequoyah are operating under the “Castle Doctrine.” The self-defense provision allows for the use of force, including deadly force, when threatened within one’s home.
Sen. Stacey Campfield’s bill to revise state law on dealings between landlords and tenants fell two votes short of Senate passage after Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle characterized the proposal as a “dangerous proposition.”
The Knoxville Republican’s bill, SB2791, has already passed the House 90-1 under the sponsorship of Rep. Charles Curtiss, D-Sparta. It would make two changes in current law.
First, the bill would allow a landlord to terminate a lease if the tenant has created either a “hazardous or unsanitary” condition on the property. Current law states that a condition, to warrant termination of a lease, must be both hazardous and unsanitary.
Second, the bill eliminates a provision in current law that requires a landlord to give notice to the tenant of where he or she keeps security deposits.
The latter section was the target of criticism from Kyle, D-Memphis.
“If you don’t know where (the security deposit account) is, how do you know it’s there?” Kyle asked Campfield, who rents properties as a business in Knoxville.
“It’s required by law,” Campfield said, referring to a provision remaining in the law that requires security deposits to be kept in a separate account. The bill just eliminates the a requirement that the tenant be told where the account is located.
Kyle said there were situations where a landlord, perhaps violating the law, spends the security deposit, but does not pay his own mortgage on the property, leading the tenant to have an apartment “taken right out from under him.”
“I think this is a dangerous proposition,” said Kyle. “I don’t understand what the burden is on a landlord just to tell someone where it is.”
When the bill came to a vote, 15 senators voted for the measure. – 14 Republicans and Democratic Sen. Reginald Tate of Memphis. Seven, all Democrats, voted no. Four senators, two Democrats and two Republicans, abstained.
Seventeen affirmative votes are required for a bill to pass the Senate. The measure was sent back to the Calendar Committee, which means Campfield may bring it back to the floor for another vote when he wishes.
In dealing with floods, tornadoes and other natural disasters, states are relying heavily on equipment purchased with federal homeland security grants, reports the Chattanooga TFP. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Tennessee has received more than $270 million in homeland security grants, said Rick Shipkowski, the state’s deputy homeland security adviser.
“In the last 10 years, Tennessee has developed unprecedented capabilities across the state, in large part because of these homeland security grants,” Shipkowski said.
…Those dollars have paid for an amazing variety of equipment, from mobile command posts to chemical/biological/radiological detection equipment to mundane items such as boots, gloves, flashlights and batteries.
(Troy) Spence said Bradley (County) used some of its money to add more communications consoles at the county 911 center. When the tornadoes hit on April 27, there were 10 operators on duty instead of the usual five, he said.
“That was definitely a blessing,” he said.
The focus for spending the federal dollars has been on supplies and equipment that can be used every day, said Hamilton County Emergency Services Director Tony Reavley.
“It’s not just setting on a shelf, waiting for something; it’s something we can use on a day-to- day basis,” he said