City Security Beefed Up After
Tragic Murders (1/13/08)
It's been one month since the
violent murder of a mother and her young outside Boca's Town Center
Posted: Jan 14, 2008 04:36 PM
The desire to solve the Bochicchio murder case has prompted a friend of the victim to try something new.
He has made up several vehicle magnets, about two feet long, with the reward information and the suspect's picture.
So far, one Boca Raton business, All Transport Service, has agreed to put magnets on its passenger vans. All Transport Service has five large vans which it uses to transport wheelchair-bound people to doctor's appointments.
Nancy Bochicchio and her daughter, Joey, were found murdered in their black SUV at the Town Center Mall last month.
The fellow who came up with the idea of the magnets hopes having these magnets on cars and trucks will generate new leads for police. He hopes other businesses in South Florida will want to display these magnets on their company vehicles.
If you're interested in helping,
you can send an e-mail to email@example.com.
By Leon Fooksman |South Florida
Police in West Palm Beach, Hallandale Beach, Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent years to mount digital cameras at park entrances, in shopping center parking lots and on corners where drugs are sold. Recording around the clock, and with the capacity to zoom in on license plates, the devices are intended to help catch assailants and deter crime at a time when many departments lack the money to put extra officers on the street and when some areas are beset by robberies and burglaries.
Yet, as the public sector continues to invest in cameras, the recent unsolved homicides of a Broward sheriff's deputy shot outside a 24-hour pharmacy and a mother and daughter found shot at an upscale Boca Raton mall — all killed or found near cameras — have ignited debate on the value of the devices and whether there are enough of them.
"In this turbulent time, it's necessary to do more," Boca Raton Police Chief Dan Alexander said.
While police argue that cameras complement regular patrol work, some civil liberties activists, academics and security experts complain they are intrusive, a substitute for officers on the beat and notorious for pushing criminals elsewhere.
"We should not install surveillance cameras because the federal government is enticing local communities with federal dollars or because cameras are now cheap. We should have a legislative body with sufficient citizen input review the issue first," Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said in a statement.
Government-operated and private cameras have long panned over public places such as seaports, airports, hotels and convenience stores. With heightened terrorism concerns since 9-11, their usage has spread, making them a standard part of life in Baltimore, Chicago, San Francisco and other cities, studies show.
Locally, calls are growing for more devices.
A public uproar over the murder of Broward Sheriff's Sgt. Chris Reyka in Pompano Beach spurred city officials to demand more video surveillance of businesses that stay open all night. Reyka was killed Aug. 10 in the parking lot of a Walgreens, but police have no surveillance video from the store because it had no cameras monitoring the lot. Cameras from a business across the street captured the image of a white car.
In the wake of last month's discovery at the Town Center at Boca Raton of Nancy Bochicchio and her daughter, Joey, tied up and shot dead in their SUV, momentum has increased for adding more public cameras. Surveillance video showed them walking to and from the mall hours earlier. A city councilman has demanded every inch of the mall's parking lots and public spaces be covered by cameras.
Many police cameras, which cost $400 to $11,000 apiece, are portable and can tilt, pan and zoom. They can be placed on buildings, roofs and utility poles within a few hours.
West Palm Beach police are in the process of mounting 13 cameras, mostly in the troubled north-end neighborhoods, and plan to add more than 80 cameras in other communities, Assistant Police Chief Guillermo Perez said. Many of the new cameras will be bought by neighborhood and business groups at prices ranging from $4,000 to $11,000 and will be connected to the department's new surveillance system, through which officers and volunteers will be reviewing tapes on a regular basis, he said. The city's cost so far: $365,000.
The cameras operate with strict protocols, Perez said. Signs are posted close to the devices warning passers-by they are being recorded.
Hallandale Beach's 100 cameras are going up in 18 locations, including beaches, parks and fire stations, Police Maj. Jose Cardoso said. The city decided last year to spend $374,300 to add cameras and enhance its digital technology in response to a rash of car break-ins and the need to protect city trucks, buildings and equipment, he said. City officials are considering a requirement that late-night businesses install cameras inside and outside their property.
"These cameras are just a tool," Cardoso said. "They are like another unit to us, much like a narcotics squad or a K-9 unit."
Boca Raton is studying whether existing private cameras around the city can be connected to a police-monitoring system, creating a network of potentially dozens, if not hundreds, of cameras, scanning all corners of the city. A federal grant has paid for five police cameras at the Town Center mall. And with its latest budget, the city approved another five cameras for the mall, part of $250,000 set aside for a broader citywide system.
In Fort Lauderdale, where about 20 portable cameras have been used since 2006 to monitor crime hot spots and crowds at events, the cameras have helped solve several crimes, including the dumping of a homicide victim, police spokeswoman Detective Katherine Collins said. She could not provide details on the cases.
Since police crime cameras are relatively new to many cities in Broward and Palm Beach counties, it's too early to evaluate their impact.
Some prosecutors said they are confident they will help with convictions. The Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office already has relied on video from private cameras in getting plea deals or convictions in recent years for cases of identify theft, ATM robbery, carjacking and money laundering.
"The cameras are a godsend," State Attorney Barry Krischer said. "There's no overtime with them, there's no sick days."
Nevertheless, few government agencies and academics have done in-depth evaluations on the effectiveness of the cameras in the United States, said Brandon Welsh, an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell.
Researchers in England concluded in a 2002 government study that cameras helped to effect slight reductions in overall crime, with no measurable impact on violent crime, said Welsh, co-author of numerous studies of camera usage in Europe. The only places surveillance video worked in combating crime were parking lots, he said. Even there, they were most valuable when security guards were on patrol and the lighting was sufficient.
With the killings at Boca Raton's mall still fresh in the minds of the police and the community, West Palm Beach Assistant Police Chief Perez said cameras can make a difference.
"If it prevents one crime like that, it's worth the cost," he said.
Staff Researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report.
Leon Fooksman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-243-6647.
January 15, 2008
Police have received more than 40 tips after Saturday's airing of a story on the Fox television show America's Most Wanted about the unsolved killings of a mother and daughter at the Town Center mall.
The lead detective on the case went to the show's office to monitor calls coming in, police said. Police did not disclose whether any of the tips were helpful.
Nancy Bochicchio and her daughter, Joey Bochicchio-Hauser, were found tied up and shot in their black SUV in the mall parking lot about midnight Dec. 13. Bochicchio had been forced to withdraw money from a bank ATM, police said.
Police said last month they had received about 400 tips on tracking down the killer.
Police are asking anyone with
information on the homicides to call 561-338-1352.
Reporter: Paige Kornblue
The community is rallying in an effort to solve a case that's shaken South Florida.
More than one month ago, Joey and Nancy Bochicchio were found murdered outside the Town Center Mall in Boca Raton.
Lynda didn't know Nancy Bochicchio, but like Nancy, Lynda is the mother of a young daughter. Lynda lives in Boca Raton, and because of what happened to the Bochiccio's on that December Day, Lynda is scared.
"I started crying. I couldn't believe it. My whole family, we were just so in shock," says Lynda (she asked that we not release her last name).
Lynda has made her way from Miami
to West Palm Beach, distributing the Palm Beach Crime Stoppers Bochicchio
case fliers to gas stations, businesses, flea markets... any place that
will post them.
After the Bochicchios were murdered, police released the sketch of a man seen on the fliers.
Police say the man carjacked and abducted another mother and child outside Town Center in August.
It's a sketch many in the community wish they saw earlier.
"These fliers should have been put out five months before anything happened," says Lynda.
It's a sketch now on the move with one very big message. Some a bit bigger than others.
Big Mouth Advertising, an advertising company in Deerfield Beach, has the Crime stoppers flier on their Boca and Broward trucks.
"You want to feel safe where you live so anything we can do to help, we're gonna do," says Mike Meadows.
Hundreds of thousands of eyes see their ads, their banners each week.
The Big Mouth Advertising team says the Bochicchio banner will remain in the rotation until the killer is caught.
Al Kahn will do the same.
Kahn runs a non- emergency medical transport company.
As he assists patients, he's hoping the public will assist police in the Bochiccio case.
"Hopefully somebody will recognize the sign and remember something that happened on that day," says Kahn.
If you would like to help distribute fliers or in some way, help get the word out about the $350,000 reward and the suspect sketch in the Bochiccio case, contact Sky Mercede, another very active volunteer.
Mercede can be reached at email@example.com.
It's often said that it takes a crisis to show what leaders are made of.
If the Dec. 13 Town Center mall slayings are our guide, Boca Raton is in a world of hurt - beyond worrying about whether shopping at one of South Florida's toniest malls can get you shot to death. Residents and visitors alike have reason to worry about the competence of a police department that failed to alert the public to reports of a bone-chilling abduction and robbery in the Town Center lot - four full months before Nancy Bochicchio and her young daughter were kidnapped, robbed and slain in much the same manner.
They need to worry about a mall management that hasn't done enough to keep shoppers safe. And they need to worry about elected city leaders who didn't do enough to allay public fears in the wake of perhaps the most earth-shattering event in their city's history.
It's enough to blanch some of Boca's pink prestige. It also seems to have shaken city and mall leaders from a flat-footed fog.
The kind of fog that allowed Town Center officials to let a month go by before issuing a public statement. The kind of fog that had Boca police thinking a woman's horrific report - about a man holding a gun to her 2-year-old, kidnapping them from Town Center and forcing her to withdraw cash from a nearby ATM on Aug. 7 - was so crazy, so un-Boca, that it had to be made up.
And the kind of fog that had Mayor Steven Abrams telling reporters the day after the Bochicchios' bodies were discovered that shoppers should "go about their holiday shopping because the city has a beefed-up police presence."
That's right. Don't mind the crime-scene tape, folks. Banish those ugly images of a dead mother and 7-year-old child outside one of South Florida's most upscale shopping destinations. The Boca police are on the job.
These are the same police, mind you, that failed to publicize crucial details of the Aug. 7 carjacking. Little things, like allegations of an assailant so brazen he threatened a toddler with a gun and so twisted he tied up his victims and put goggles over their eyes.
The tale sounded so fantastical, with pieces that couldn't be corroborated, that police dismissed its authenticity, releasing just a one-paragraph news release saying they were investigating an "alleged armed robbery that was reported to have occurred" at the mall.
So illuminating, no media reported it.
Once the Bochicchio bodies were discovered, it was clear the cops goofed. Mayor Abrams and Councilman Peter Baronoff conceded upon questioning from reporters that the department should have released more details about the Aug. 7 incident.
Thanks for stating the obvious, but where was the outrage? Where were the demands for accountability? What about calls for a well-coordinated security plan?
It wouldn't come for two weeks. That's when Councilman Bill Hager, who hadn't whispered a public word about the crime, put out a press release calling for an extensive security camera system at the mall.
He used the same release, though, to announce his candidacy for mayor, inviting swift rebuke for using the slayings to advance his own political agenda. Not the way you want to kick off a mayoral bid. But Hager did get an overdue conversation started.
Abrams, who's term-limited out, revealed the city had been working with the mall on an enhanced camera system, though no one bothered to mention it earlier, even though it would have relieved the public to know someone was working on something.
A week later, at the council's first meeting since the murders, Baronoff finally found his ire, and vented at an easy target, saying he was "outraged at how the mall reacted."
The mall deserved the pummeling. But how did the police department, over which Baronoff has direct control, escape a similar public flogging? Baronoff said he talked to the city manager and got the answers he wanted. Congratulations, but didn't the public deserve to share in that instructive give-and-take?
Meanwhile, Vice Mayor Susan Welchel, who has since announced her own mayoral bid, was curiously quiet throughout the whole affair and didn't even mention the crime among her list of priorities in her own announcement.
Thankfully, some of the stupor appears to have passed. Town Center management is talking about adding cameras, a police substation and a task force on crime prevention. Council members are actively, and publicly, engaged in the debate over what should be done. And police, to their credit, moved swiftly after the murders to get the FBI involved.
A crisis often speaks to a leader's mettle. It can also help leaders find their voice. Let's hope they keep singing a stronger tune on this one.
Reach Nicole Brochu at 561-243-6603 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Patty Pensa | South Florida
Boca Raton - In the face of steep criticism, mall officials spoke at length Tuesday about enhancing security at the Town Center mall and explained their low-key response to the slaying of a mother and daughter found in their parking lot.
John Rulli, executive vice president of Simon Property Group, said the company typically does not respond to media because, "In many instances, we find it's not appropriate to be out front." But when Simon, which owns Town Center at Boca Raton, became the target of city officials upset with the mall's lackluster response, officials decided to speak up.
"Until certain individuals
began criticizing the mall, other than expressing our condolences to
the family [of Nancy Bochicchio and her daughter, Joey], there really
wasn't much to say," Rulli said. "I think it's more important
that the community and the public knows what the mall is doing and continues
to do to create a safe environment."
Mayor Steven Abrams met with Simon executives Tuesday about the task force. Police Chief Dan Alexander, who also met with executives, will evaluate the company's plans for the public-private task force and make a recommendation to the City Council.
"Obviously, it's going to be a priority," Abrams said of reviewing Simon's proposal. "These are law enforcement techniques that are best evaluated by our chief."
Police still are searching for the suspect or suspects who forced Bochicchio to withdraw money from a bank, then bound and shot her and Joey, 7. They were found dead in Bochicchio's idling SUV at about midnight on Dec. 13. The two were seen on a surveillance camera leaving the mall around 3 p.m. the afternoon before they were found.
Mall officials in 2006 planned to expand their network of surveillance cameras and more than 70 will be installed in the coming months pending permits. A police substation under construction was in the works before the Bochicchios were killed, Rulli said.
Though city officials have called for every area of the mall to be under surveillance, Rulli said cameras would not cover every inch of mall property, but "a substantial part of the property will be covered."
Simon is spending just under $1 million on technology including cameras, which can zoom in on license plates and faces, for Town Center. Segway motorized scooters, patrol cars, police cruisers and plainclothes security are other methods used, Rulli said.
Rulli did not have details on specific security enhancements at other Simon malls in Palm Beach County but said its Florida malls in general have added security measures because of an upswing in crime at those malls.
Shopping at Town Center has not decreased since the Bochicchios were slain, Rulli said. But the perception that the mall isn't doing enough to prevent crime has grown, he acknowledged. Simon executives talked about such criticism with city officials Tuesday.
Abrams said he encouraged Simon officials to "better communicate to the general public about what measures they take to enhance security at the mall." He said a comment by Councilman Peter Baronoff was a "wake-up call" for the mall.
On Jan. 7, Baronoff said at a public meeting he was outraged by the mall's lack of interest and responsibility after the killings. Mall officials weren't forthcoming with information, he said. Baronoff could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.
Posted: Jan 17, 2008 10:36 AM
A lasting tribute is planned for a little girl who was murdered along with her mother at the Town Center Mall.
The Principal at St. Jude Catholic School in Boca Raton says they are planning a tree planting ceremony for the last week in January.
Students will plant an oak tree on the school grounds in memory of 7-year old Joey Bochicchio, who was a second grader there.
Joey and her mother were found
bound and killed in the Town Center parking lot. The killer has not
By Kevin Deutsch | Thursday, January 17, 2008, 05:59 PM
Nancy Bochicchio, the single mother found bound and shot to death with her 7-year-old daughter outside Town Center mall last month, has been having her mail stolen ever since her death, according to her sister, JoAnn Nancy Bruno.
Bruno walked into the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office District 7 substation west of Boca Raton last week and reported the mail theft, according to a sheriff's office log entry. She has power of attorney for Bochicchio and had her sister's mail forwarded to her address beginning Dec. 26, two weeks after Nancy and Joey were found murdered in an SUV outside Sears, the log entry states.
Bruno said that none of her sister's mail had been delivered since Dec. 12, the date of Nancy's death.
Bruno was given a case number and told to contact the postal inspector.
The Bochicchios' killer has not been caught despite a $350,000 reward.
The gunman slid a pair of goggles over Nancy's head; the same tactic he used in an August 7 robbery of a woman and her 2-year-old son at Town Center, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation and a relative of the earlier victim.
Her attorney has filed a lawsuit in Palm Beach County Circuit Court against the owner of the Town Center mall, claiming lax security led to the deaths of the mother and daughter.
In a Jan. 11 article, Post Staff Writer Dianna Smith wrote that Bruno is "so afraid that she tries not to sleep because she has nightmares. She keeps the lights on all hours of the day and prays often to Nancy. She tells her family to move so they can be away from the danger and the chaos. She talks to mothers about the dangers of shopping by themselves and tells them to be careful if they're driving an SUV."
Bruno called the attacker a serial killer.
"This man is not a human, he has to be an animal," she said. "This man did it for absolutely no reason. There is a killer out there. Something needs to be done about it."
Friday, January 18, 2008
Last week, members of the Boca Raton City Council blasted Town Center mall for its inaction on security. Where, though, is the council's outrage over the inaction of the city's police department?
Council members might have had a point about what the mall did or didn't do after the Dec. 12 murders of Nancy Bochicchio and her daughter, Joey. It took the mall almost a month to announce - two days after the council's outburst and one day after members of the Bochicchio family sued the mall - that it would survey shoppers to determine their security needs. Hint: Keep us from being killed probably will be the priority.
One day later, a representative of Simon Property Group, which owns the mall, issued a statement that the company had held back on adding to the city's $350,000 reward because Simon didn't want to impede the investigation. Huh? Then on Saturday, Simon's executive vice president announced the creation of a "public-private task force on public safety and crime prevention."
That, of course, is damage control - or at least an attempt at it. But Simon's actions and the lawsuit get to the same question: Why didn't the Boca Raton Police Department release more information about the Aug. 7 attack at the mall that investigators believe was carried out by the same person or persons?
At the time, the department said only that an "alleged armed robbery" was being investigated. There was no public mention of the details that are similar to the killing of the Bochicchios: The attacker targeted a woman who was driving with her young child in a higher-end SUV, and threatened the child with a gun to extort money from the mother. Sam Yates, a spokesman for Simon, said in an e-mail Tuesday that "to the best of my knowledge, all that was relayed to Town Center at Boca Raton was what was in the media release." When The Post asked Police Chief Dan Alexander and City Manager Leif Ahnell if Town Center got any details the public didn't, they said no.
Given the tragedy, a lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Bochicchio and her daughter was inevitable. But the suit would have more merit if Town Center mall had refused to increase security after knowing all of what the Aug. 7 victim had alleged. That information would have suggested a link to the murder last February of Randi Gorenberg, shot after leaving Town Center in her SUV.
The Bochicchio murders have refocused
attention on mall security. Even the best security plan, though, gets
better with more information, as the Boca Raton council ought to remind
the police department.