Editor's Note: A great deal of the technology being obtained and used by domestic law enforcement agencies is designated for Homeland Security purposes. A number of articles in this weekly recap highlight that fact.
NLECTC Law Enforcement & Corrections Technology News Summary
Thursday, April 12, 2007
"LED Flashlights Push Right Buttons for Cops"
USA Today (04/09/07) P. 2B; Krantz, Matt
The Los Angeles Police Department is now distributing to police officers flashlights that use LED technology. The Pelican 7060 LED, from Pelican Products in Torrance, Calif., is unique in that semiconductors serve as its light source, and it also uses less power, is nearly unbreakable, and its bulb lasts longer than those found in most other flashlights. The $200 Pelican flashlight is just 8.7 -inches long and weighs 10 ounces, compared with big, aluminum flashlights that police officers favor and are 10 inches or longer and weigh more than 12 ounces. Police departments in Sacramento, Glendale, and Columbus, Ohio, are also being targeted by Pelican. Since the early 2000s, dozens of flashlight makers have introduced LED models, but market giant Mag Instrument of Ontario, Calif., did not unveil its first LED products until last year. Mag, which offers LED bulbs and flashlights, says it has addressed the inability of LEDs to project light. LEDs glow, buy Mag says its flashlights are able to project light in a powerful beam, which can also be focused by turning the top of the light. The Mag flashlights still have metal bodies that are heavy design crafted of aluminum alloy.
"Dispatch Systems to Be Studied"
Baltimore Sun (04/08/07); McCandlish, Laura
Four of the five police departments in Carroll County, Md., are forming a task force for a six-month study of the feasibility of creating a single countywide communications center. Under the current system, 911 callers are put on hold as the county emergency call center transfers them to the state police barracks in Westminster, which then transfers calls to municipal police departments in Hampstead, Manchester, Sykesville, and Taneytown. The task force, which will begin meeting next week, will examine two issues: How to consolidate all of Carroll County's seven law enforcement agencies into one call facility, and how to dispatch all the calls on one system. If the task force decides to establish a single countywide communications center, it could help conserve Carroll County's strained police resources and better prepare officers responding to violent crimes, said Col. Robert L. Keefer, chief deputy of the Carroll County Sheriff's Office. For instance, state police might respond to a bank robbed by four armed suspects seen leaving the scene in a white vehicle, he said. Keefer noted that if a sheriff's deputy stops the car for a traffic stop, he would know that the suspects are armed if a consolidated system was in place.
"An SOS for 911 Systems in Age of High-Tech"
New York Times (04/06/07); Dewan, Shaila
There are over 6,000 911 call centers in the United States, many unable to pinpoint calls coming from cellphones or VoIP. The Federal Communications Commission is moving ahead with efforts to bring the nation's 911-system up to date by arming all call centers with the technology to pinpoint wireless callers to within 300 meters, but the effort will be expensive-- $340 million according to preliminary estimates by the National Emergency Number Association. Funding will come from surcharges on cellphone lines, which states and local governments can levy by federal mandate. Though Congress in 2004 passed a measure authorizing the spending of $250 million a year for new 911 technology, no money has yet been appropriated. http://www.nytimes.com
"Dispatchers: Inexact Location Better Than Nothing"
Journal-World (Lawrence, Kan.) (04/06/07); Vockrodt, Steve
When someone places a 911 call from a cellular phone, the call can be traced from a few feet up to 1,000 yards away. Despite the inaccuracy of the coordinates pulled up on the dispatcher's satellite, Douglas County Emergency Communications director Jim Denney says, "However bad it is, it's infinitely better than nothing." Denney is most likely referring to the absence of dispatchers to track emergency calls from cell phones pre-2004. Dispatchers still ask callers their location, although Denney states most people believe the system to be "100 percent accurate and 100 percent functional." Although costly, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin says he will introduce proposals to enhance the accuracy of tracking emergency calls.
"City Considers High-Tech System to Spot Gunmen"
New Haven Register (04/07/07); Kaempffer, William
New Haven, Conn., is considering installing Shotspotters' gunshot detection system. The system uses audio sensors, about the size of a coffee can, to detect and triangulate the location of gunfire, notifying police with 10 to 15 seconds of the first shot. The system guarantees accuracy with 75 feet, but depending on barometric conditions and competing noise, can be as accurate as five to 10 feet. The system can also detect how many shots were fired, if the shots were fired from a moving vehicle, and is able to determine the difference between a gunshot and similar sounds like a car backfiring or fireworks. According to Shotspotters, the system is used in 17 municipalities across the country, including Washington, D.C., and Boston has signed a $1.5 million contract to cover six square miles of the city. New Haven averages 400 to 500 confirmed reports of gunfire each year and would have to spend an estimated $700,000 to $800,000, plus annual maintenance, to install the system.
"DA Wants Drug-Testing Machine"
Hickory Daily Record (04/07/07); Menster, Jennifer
Catawba County, N.C., District Attorney Jay Gaither and state Sen. Austin Allran (R) have teamed up to propose a bill that would help law enforcement agencies in the county purchase technology that determines the authenticity of drugs. The technology, called NarTest, can determine the authenticity of methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, and heroin in about 10 to 15 minutes. The determination is then used as evidence against those facing drug charges. Law enforcement agencies currently send drugs to the State Bureau of Investigation's lab for testing, which can take at least a year. "The time that it takes from arrest to conviction in drug cases is far too long due to the fact that we are waiting on lab results on the drugs," Gaither said. "This technology will give my office the ability to move much more quickly. This means less money spent on inmates waiting in our local jail and less time for drug dealers who are out on bond to spend out on our streets." The technology is already making a difference for police departments in North Carolina that use it, according to Douglas Branch, marketing director for NarTest Technologies. He noted that these departments have seen at least a 10 percent reduction in the number of cases submitted to the state lab.
"Improved Contra Costa Warning System Ready"
MediaNews (04/07/07); Huff, Ryan
Contra Costa County unveiled its new emergency telephone system, run by Honeywell International. The new system can send residents messages within a few minutes, place calls in foreign languages, and instantly show emergency officials which households have been reached. The new system should prevent any notification delays, such as the one experienced in January when a fire broke out at the Chevron Richmond Refinery and a computer glitch caused a half-hour delay in notifying houses potentially in the path of toxic fumes. The county's Community Warning System notifies residents of refinery emergencies, natural disasters, missing persons, and other situations that require nearby neighborhoods to receive information quickly. The system spreads information using automated telephone calls, sirens, broadcast, and online media and weather radios.
"Coplink Helps Nab Suspected Serial Robbers"
Daily News of Los Angeles (04/06/07) P. N3; Uranga, Rachel
COPLINK is a database tool in use in Southern California that soon will be placed in all Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) patrol cars. COPLINK links and gathers data from San Diego to Los Angeles from myriad documents, including from suspect descriptions, license plate numbers, arrest reports, citations, criminal records, and more. The LAPD, for instance, recently was faced with a serial criminal targeting people leaving their ATMs. Investigators had "TNV" as three license plate numbers, and after entering "TNV" into COPLINK, found a report in Palmdale, Calif., for one Ricky Marshall with a "TNV" license plate, who also was linked to a similar crime in Palmdale. LAPD tracked Marshall, and caught him and his partner attempting the same robbery.
"Grand Haven Police Getting Stun Guns"
Grand Rapids Press (MI) (04/05/07) P. L1
On April 2, the Grand Haven, Mich., City Council approved buying four Taser stun guns for the area's police officers. A couple of Grand Haven police supervisors will take part in a seminar on how to utilize the Tasers. They will educate officers who want to use stun guns. In 2006, Michigan State Police had 175 situations where stun guns were employed to quell suspects. Sgt. Jason Williams notes that none of the injuries caused by the Tasers were serious. He adds that stuns guns are also safe for police officers to use. Separately, Taser International scientists are working on a wireless stun gun, although that technology is not yet accessible by police departments, Williams says.
"Law Officials Get on Same Frequency"
New Jersey Star-Ledger (04/05/07) P. 24; Haydon, Tom
The Department of Homeland Security is providing a $16,500 grant to the Middlesex County, N.J.'s sheriff's office to finance a computer system allowing sheriff's and police officers to communicate with one another over the radio. The new Radio Inter-Operability System (RIOS) means a radio from the sheriff's department and a radio from the police department would be connected to a computer, which would choose one frequency. In Middlesex County, 10 emergency service groups, including the sheriff's department, got funding for equipment and instruction in the latest offering of Homeland Security grants. Milltown, New Brunswick, and South Brunswick got money for thermal imaging devices that are employed in searches for missing individuals or criminals. Meanwhile, Perth Amboy, Piscataway, and Woodbridge police departments received funds to buy Stedi-Eye night-vision binoculars. Throughout New Jersey, 103 law enforcement and emergency entities got funding through the Homeland Security Department's Commercial Equipment Direct Assistance Program. The program is meant to deliver costly equipment to law enforcement and emergency response groups, and has donated $1.4 million in grants nationally.
"Grant Funds Police Video"
Seymour Tribune (Ind.) (04/05/07); Woods, Aubrey
Brownstown, Ind., police have won a Department of Homeland Security grant for $49,500 for equipment that will improve surveillance videos. Officer Tom Wright, who applied for the grant, stated that police will now be able to break down surveillance video into individual images. Improving and sharpening surveillance may make the pictures clear enough for police to locate a person who has been witnessed on tape doing something inappropriate, Wright added. In addition, he wants to be able to persuade store owners to bring their surveillance systems up to date to offer better video. The grant will finance the training needed to employ the equipment, which will be delivered later in 2007. Brownstown is required to make the grant available to other local departments.
Police (03/07) Vol. 31, No. 3, P. 44; Scoville, Dean
There are a number of tactical vision instruments on the market today that can help police officers see around, beneath, and even through barriers. Instrument Technology has been making tactical cameras since 1967, and today offers many types of basic core vision technologies, from gas-tank cameras for drug searches to pole cameras for SWAT teams to peep-hole and under-door cameras. Remington's Eye Ball R1 won a 2006 innovation award as a ball-shaped camera that can be rolled, thrown, or lowered into place to provide two hours of live imagery. This ball-shaped device with an embedded lens is controlled and seen through a remote control and remote screen, and a kit with two Eye Ball R1 cameras costs $5,000. The Supercircuits PC229XP Color Snake Camera costs under $250 and provides a camera attached to a flexible coil that can be extended for around the corner, over the top, and through the crack each. Tacview has a pole mounted camera that can help officers investigate attics and crawl spaces without exposing their physical selves to danger, and the camera can be detached and mounted on a shield also, making this a versatile tool. Zistos' Dual Mode Camera Systems is a pole-mounted camera that can be carried in the back of a squad car. It has detectable poles for various length uses, is water-proof, and has some customizable options in terms of adding infrared illumination or thermal detection.
Law Enforcement Technology (03/07) Vol. 34, No. 3, P. 50; Mertens, Jennifer
Mobile command centers are used for multiple applications, such as controlling crowds, by both large and small agencies. In Rockville, Md., the city police department relies on a 24-foot motor coach mobile communications center from Dodgen Industries. "By using the mobile communications center, we can staff it with an additional dispatcher and run all our special events on a separate channel," which prevents the disruption of regular police activities, according to Lt. Bob Rappaport, homeland security and emergency preparedness director at the Rockville PD. Representatives from the fire/rescue service, public works, and the parks and recreation division also use the command center during special municipal events. Rappaport urges that before agencies purchase a command center, they should spend time studying vendors and defining how they will potentially use it, communicate with agencies that have already acquired the vehicle, and develop a strong mission when applying for funding. Massachusetts State Police (MSP) relies on a 53-foot, $1.5 million trailer from Oshkosh Specialty Vehicles equipped with such things as six separate communications models, 15 workstations with Internet and intranet, and a 20-foot light tower with surveillance capabilities. During the playoff series involving the Red Sox, MSP positioned the command center in the middle of a street, using a communications patch to enable state police--on 800 MHz radio--to talk with the Boston PD on 400 MHz radios. During the 2004 Democratic National Convention in July, the MSP was used to oversee power coordination, equipment operations, and deployment operations as well as real-time video from helicopters and city surveillance cameras.
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