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Firefighter Jose Corona sprays water as flames from the Camp Fire consume a home on Nov. 9 in Magalia, Calif. A massive new federal report warns that extreme weather disasters, like California’s wildfires and 2018’s hurricanes, are worsening in the United States.

Technology and the law
Social media increasingly used in crime investigations

RACINE COUNTY — The rise of technology and the smartphone have resulted in many people documenting their lives through social media. Whether it’s Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, many people share their most important moments — and their mundane ones — on social media platforms.

This has provided a unique opportunity for law enforcement, providing police with an additional tool to assist in their investigations, particularly when it comes to the activity on a suspect’s Facebook account.

Snapchat threat at Waterford High deemed not credible

WATERFORD — Waterford High School received information Wednesday of a threat about a gun that came across the popular social media sharing app Snapchat, but officials were able to determine the threat was not credible, Waterford Union High School Superintendent Keith Brandstetter said Friday.

Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said the Sheriff’s Office regularly uses Facebook, and other social media platforms, as part of its investigations.

“My investigators probe heavily into many social media outlets to not only link ‘doers with the deeds,’ but also in locating missing persons, building strong courtroom-ready cases and to illustrate a person’s character, habits, photos of themselves and others, places he/she frequents, friendships, relationships, employment, personal interests, travel destinations — both past and present — and overall their opinions on nearly every topic imaginable,” Schmaling said.

Stored Communications Act

Due to the federal Stored Communications Act, law enforcement officers may obtain certain content and records from social media, including account information of people who are involved in ongoing investigations.

According to Facebook, law enforcement must provide a valid subpoena to receive “basic subscriber records” for accounts, including “name, length of service, credit card information, email addresses and recent login/logout IP address(es), if available.”

To obtain more invasive information, such as messages, photos, video, timeline posts and location information, law enforcement needs a search warrant showing probable cause.

The Sheriff’s Office, as well as many other area law enforcement agencies, also use social media to solve crimes, as it has become an industry standard in criminal justice.

“I think you will find departments across the country are using social media to varying degrees,” said Lt. Gary Larsen of the Caledonia Police Department.

Added Schmaling said, “Social media is perhaps one of the best criminal investigative tools known today.”

Social media danger

Schmaling said that although social media is a useful tool for law enforcement, it also helps criminals commit crimes. “Social media is a sophisticated investigative tool, but it is also a massive trolling pond that criminals use to find their next victim,” Schmaling said.

He said he is routinely shocked by the information people are willing to share about themselves on social media and warns users to be careful what they post.

“I caution everyone to be extra vigilant with what and with whom you share vital information about,” Schmaling said. “A simple ‘post’ or ‘share’ can have serious consequences.”

“Social media is perhaps one of the best criminal investigative tools known today.” — Christopher Schmaling, Racine County sheriff

Local business
Black Friday shoppers still show up to brick-and-mortar stores

RACINE COUNTY — Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday have both likely enticed some shoppers away from Black Friday deals, but there were still plenty of locals ready to open their wallets on the day after Thanksgiving.

As early as Thursday evening, the parking lots of Best Buy, 2710 S. Green Bay Road, and Kohl’s, 5500 Washington Ave., both in Mount Pleasant, were packed with vehicles whose occupants waited there to beat out other shoppers.

Best Buy and Kohl’s both opened at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Best Buy offered deals like $200 off computers and big-screen TVs while Kohl’s shoppers saw markdowns across the board on things like appliances, home goods and clothing.

Shoppers who waited until Friday to make their purchases streamed through Regency Mall, 5538 Durand Ave.

Jaqueline Lopez, of Racine, along with her sister, mother and cousin have a Black Friday tradition of getting together and heading to Regency Mall, as they like to shop locally.

Some of the best deals the group found were jeans at Charlotte Russe for $15 and hoodies at Dunham’s Sporting Goods for $10.

The group bought presents for family members on Friday, as well as for themselves.

Cynthia Lopez, Jaqueline’s sister, said Black Friday is a good time to find deals on things you wanted throughout the year but couldn’t afford until they went on sale.

Jaqueline Lopez said the group continues the Black Friday tradition for the good deals but also because they enjoy the time together.

Birthday celebration

Friends Khalilah Hunter and Keyaira Marshall, both students at St. Catherine’s High School, came to the mall on Black Friday to celebrate Marshall’s birthday.

By the end of their trip, both said they had, “zero money left.”

The best deals they found were at Charlotte Russe, where they bought $15 jeans and at Rue 21, where the entire stock was marked 40 percent off.

This was Marshall’s first Black Friday shopping experience, and she said it was a lot easier than she thought it would be.

“It was fun,” Hunter said.

The mall has lost several retailers in the past year, such as American Eagle and one-time anchor Boston Store. The parent company of Boston Store went out of business and closed stores nationally. But the mall’s owners, Hull Property Group, which purchased Regency in 2016, has been working to turn things around. Efforts included indoor and limited outdoor renovations this year.



Racine Lutheran's Caroline Strande pushes the ball up the court against Prairie's Danielle Palmen during the first half of Metro Classic Conference girls basketball game Friday evening, Jan. 27, 2017 at Racine Lutheran High School.

National affairs
Johnson requests briefing on Trump’s emails

WASHINGTON — After news reports surfaced that Ivanka Trump, adviser to her father, President Donald Trump, used her personal email for government business, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, is looking for some answers.

Johnson, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, sent a letter to Emmet T. Flood, acting White House counsel, on Tuesday requesting a briefing on the use of Ivanka Trump’s personal email account as it pertains to her work in the White House.

Sen. Johnson sends letter to FBI about 'Steele Dossier'

WASHINGTON — It has been more than a year since former-FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel in charge of investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and now U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., has some questions for the FBI.

As part of the request, Johnson wants a timeline of Ivanka Trump’s employment history and status in the transition after the 2016 election into the White House and “the creation of her official and personal email accounts, and any training the White House or others provided her on her compliance obligations under the Presidential Records Act.”

Johnson also asked several questions:

  • How many official emails has Ms. Trump sent or received from her official account?
  • How many official emails has she sent or received from her personal account?
  • How many personal emails has she sent or received from her personal account?
  • How many personal emails has she sent or received from her official account
  • And whether Ms. Trump has properly preserved all official email records, including those sent or received from her personal account.

Johnson asked Flood to respond by Dec. 7.

Advocating for record-keeping

Emails were a key subject leading up to President Trump’s election in 2016. During the 2016 presidential election, Hilary Clinton, the former secretary of state and Democratic candidate for president, was continuously and harshly criticized over her use of a personal email server for government businesses.

During the campaign, then-candidate Trump vowed to have the Department of Justice look into Clinton’s email scandal and “lock her up,” but no such action has taken place.

Johnson is an advocate for the proper use of official government email, particularly as it pertains to the White House, and keeping in line with the Presidential Records Act, which governs the official records of presidents and vice presidents, and mandates the preservation of all presidential records.

Sen. Ron Johnson: Robert Mueller 'should resign'

RACINE — U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said Friday afternoon that Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian influence in the 2016 presidential campaign, should step down.

In February 2017, Johnson sent a letter to then-White House Counsel Don McGahn to “remind the (Trump) administration about the importance of using official government email accounts for official business.”

Then, in September 2017, Johnson sent another letter to McGahn after news reports alleged several White House staffers used their personal email accounts for official business and requested a briefing on that matter.

Details from that briefing were included in the letter Johnson sent on Tuesday, which included such information as the Trump administration “is the first administration required to comply from the outset with record-keeping obligations under the Presidential and Federal Records Act amendments of 2014,” and numerous actions taken by White House Counsel’s office to comply with record keeping regulations.

The Journal Times has reached out to the White House for comment but was referred to Ivanka Trump’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, who did not respond to repeated attempts for comment.

In a statement, Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Lowell, told the Washington Post earlier this month that the president’s daughter occasionally used her private email before she was briefed on the rules, but he said none of her messages contained classified information.