July 24, 2002

Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Mapping Sexual Assaults in Your City
Where in your city are women most likely to be raped? And why? This idea from the team that brought you the Firestone investigation. KHOU-TV’s Unique ‘Rape Zones’ Investigation: Where In Houston Were Women Most Likely to Be Raped?

As reported by LostRemote.com: “This November, KHOU-TV’s Investigative Unit did what may be a first-of-a-kind-story. The question: Are women more vulnerable to rape in some areas of Houston than others? And if so, what was it about these areas that was attracting predatory rapists?

“To start, investigative producer David Raziq took three years of rape reports from the City of Houston Police Department. Then after analyzing the data for two months, he plotted his results across a map of Houston. The results were shocking: certain areas of the city jumped out with very high levels of sexual assault. And one of the worst sections was also a surprise: an upscale area of the city (located near a country club) with 89 reported rapes. In fact, in that same ‘rape zone’ there was also a ‘path’ of sexual assaults stretching up one street and connecting to another and then another street, extending for miles. In fact, since KHOU’s broadcasts, some criminal investigators are now calling that area ‘rape row.’

“Next KHOU’s team went on-site to these ‘hot spots’ to see what could be attracting would-be rapists. Bringing along a well-known crime and security expert, the team found many spots had easy access to nearby freeways, high concentrations of apartment complexes with little or no security, poor lighting and gates that didn’t work. What was worse, when rapes did occur at one of these properties, usually the other residents living there were not told about them. To help solve that problem, KHOU posted its rape database online so viewers could check on the history of their neighborhood. The result: Within two hours of broadcast, the site received more than 2,000 visits from viewers and eventually totaled more than 5,200 hits.

Watchdogs on Short Leashes
State legislatures that pride themselves on being portrayed as bastions of integrity often are in reality political bodies where hidden conflicts of interest and personal gain often win out over the public good, a new study concludes. The two-year study by the independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity found that 27 of the 50 state legislatures have no independent oversight of members’ ethical conduct.

The report says, in 27 states, there is no independent body to regulate unethical conduct by lawmakers. Michigan, North Dakota. South Dakota and Vermont have no formal ethics statutes covering conduct of legislators. In seven of those states, legislatures, including Michigan’s, created independent ethics commissions that regulate the conduct of executive or judicial branch officials, but exempt the state legislature. Another nine created independent agencies to oversee disclosure laws for the legislature. However, they do little beyond collecting the disclosure forms. Eight states added oversight of legislative ethics to the responsibilities of secretaries of state or attorneys general.

Car Insurance by the Mile
Texas drivers who want to trim their auto insurance bills could buy coverage by the mile under a proposal recommended Monday by the Texas Department of Insurance.
The Dallas Morning News says, “The plan to allow companies to sell insurance by the mile – so-called mile-based insurance policies – was authorized by the Legislature earlier this year to help some Texans save money, primarily those who drive less than average. “The Texas Department of Insurance has received many expressions of consumer interest in this concept of mile-based insurance,” said state Insurance Commissioner Jose Montemayor, who is expected to approve the plan early next year. “Once rules are in place, it will be up to the market to determine if this is a viable way to insure automobiles. We will be monitoring this pilot project with great interest.”
The idea behind the program is fairly simple. A driver purchases coverage for certain number of miles – such as 10,000 miles – and when the vehicle has been driven that far, the policy lapses unless renewed by the motorist. The fewer miles purchased, the lower the insurance bill. Auto insurance in Texas and other states is now time-based, meaning the driver pays a premium for coverage that typically lasts six months – regardless of the number of miles driven.

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Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
Al Tompkins

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