July 25, 2014

Young kids set abandoned Omaha house on fire

Omaha firefighters rushed to battle a house fire Wednesday afternoon at 43rd and Sprague Streets.

The house had been abandoned and there was no electricity or gas service at the house that was heavily damaged.

Investigators determined that three juveniles were responsible for the fire and admitted to fire play.

Investigators say there was evidence present in the area. All three juveniles, ages 8 and 9, were referred to the Omaha Fire Department Junior Fire Starter Education Program.

Early childhood education touted as way to fight crime (AUDIO)

Lincoln Public Safety Dir. Tom Casady leads news conference with (from L) Joshua Spaulding with Fight Crime and Sen. Burke Harr

Lincoln Public Safety Dir. Tom Casady leads news conference with (from L) Joshua Spaulding with Fight Crime and Sen. Burke Harr of Omaha

A push is underway to promote early childhood education as a way to reduce crime.

Advocates admit this is a long-term solution, but argue that money spent upfront in the first few years of life could make the difference between a child growing up to be a criminal or growing up to be a productive member of society.

State Sen. Burke Harr of Omaha stated during a news conference in Lincoln the discussion underway at the Capitol on reducing prison over-crowding needs to be expanded.

“It’s obvious we have a problem. We have got to find a way to lower our prison rates. I don’t think anyone wants to build new prisons,” Harr said. “So, the question is, how do we do that? It’s not an overnight fix.”

A group called “Fight Crime: Invest in Kids,” hosted the news conference at the Justice and Law Enforcement Center in Lincoln.

The group touts research which indicates early childhood education has a number of benefits, including reducing crime. Its report, “I’m the guy you pay later,” outlines the benefits, such as a drop in abuse and neglect, better school outcomes, less need for special education, better reading and math scores, fewer drop-outs, and less crime.

Sen. Harr answers questions from reporters

Sen. Harr answers questions from reporters

The report argues that states can either fund pre-Kindergarten education or pay a greater price down the road when children grow into a life of crime.

The group has attracted the support of 5,000 law officers throughout the country, including nearly 80 in Nebraska.

Lincoln Public Safety Director Tom Casady spoke for the Nebraska officers, stating that the current discussion about ways to fight crime needs to be broadened to ways to prevent crime.

“So, if we can expand the discussion a little bit and get all of our citizens to start thinking more about the importance of prevention so that we’re really not just thinking about the end of the road, with adding a judge, increasing the number of deputy sheriffs, and building a new jail, I think we’ll all be better off for that discussion,” Casady reasoned.

Sen. Harr acknowledged that can be a difficult argument to make in the Unicameral, but insisted it is one that can be made.

“We policy makers, just like law enforcement, we like our facts,” Harr said. “So now, we have facts that prove, it’s not easy, but over the long term this is the better way.”

AUDIO:  Open to news conference on the benefits of early childhood education. [9 min.]

Nebraska man sentenced to 20 years for causing fatal wreck last year

An east-central Nebraska man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison and his driver’s license has been revoked for 15 years for slamming into another car, killing a 22-year-old.

31-year-old Christopher Hajek of Marquette pleaded no contest in May to a charge of driving under the influence during the wreck last year. He was convicted of vehicular homicide in the death of Amanda Asche of Columbus.

Police report Asche had been heading east on U.S. Highway 30 near Clarks when Harjek ran into her car.

Omaha police raid two marijuana grow operations

One person has been arrested after a marijuana grow operation was found in the basement of a house in Omaha. Narcotics officers removed 100 plants, some 3 to 4-feet tall. Along with the plants officers found grow lights, watering system, filters and other equipment used to grow the plants. That raid happened at 42nd and Dayton Streets this morning.

Police say this is a two part investigation. Police also raided a house on South 10th Street where another grow operation was found. Police say both are related.

Eastern Nebraska man charged with sex trafficking

An Omaha man will spend 10 years in federal prison for sex trafficking in Iowa and Nebraska.

Court records show 25-year-old Adrien Jamaal Cole pled guilty to sex trafficking in March of this year.

An investigation found Cole had used minors in and around the Omaha area as prostitutes.

He also recruited teen girls to take them to Council Bluffs to have sex with customers for money.

The FBI helped Omaha and Council Bluffs police in the investigation.

Cole will have to serve 10 years of probation once he is released from prison.