Editor's Note: A number of these domestic law enforcement technologies are being used for homeland security and counterterrorism purposes.
NLECTC Law Enforcement & Corrections Technology News Summary
Thursday, June 14, 2007
"LAPD Plans to Accept 911 Text Messages"
Los Angeles Times (06/13/07); Winton, Richard
The Los Angeles Police Department announced June 12 that it plans to upgrade the city's 911 system to allow callers to use text messages to ask for help. Officials said the system is necessary because there are circumstances where it is easier for someone to text for help rather than call, such as a kidnapping or a robbery. The new system will also allow callers to send photos and videos from their cell phones to the city's 911 call center. Although officials said callers' ability to send photos and videos could help police by giving them faster access to evidence such as an image of a getaway car involved in a robbery, others said that the feature could overload LAPD workers with data. According to Tim Riley, the potential for data overload is precisely why the department is proceeding slowly. The LAPD will initially start a stopgap system that allows the departments to get photos and video from cell phone calls only from callers it solicits. The system could be up and running later this year. http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-text13jun13,1,296583.story
"From Database to Crime Scene: Network Is Potent Police Weapon"
New York Times (06/07/07) P. B1; Lueck, Thomas J.
A New York Police Department anti-crime computer network located at One Police Plaza in New York City can rapidly send information to officers on the beat. Groups of detectives in the room, which the police department refers to as the Real Time Crime Center, look at computer screens and study cases on a 15-foot-high video screen that can show maps, diagrams, satellite pictures, and surveillance camera images. Some of the information the center makes available is typical police investigative material, such as criminal complaints, the criminal background of a suspect, and previous home addresses. In addition, the center provides the names of individuals who have visited a criminal in city prisons and state facilities, aliases, recordings of every 911 calls placed from any address in New York City over the past decade, and the nicknames of known criminals. Law-enforcement experts state the two-year-old crime center is the police department's most crucial technological measure in 15 years. In April 2007, a suspect who tortured a female student at Columbia University for nearly a day was arrested five days later when the network linked his nickname to him. Police authorities claim the center's databases possess law-enforcement records going back 15 years, which will be expanded to 25 years by autumn. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/07/
"Satellite Eye on Offenders Scaled Back"
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (06/07/07) P. A1; Marley, Patrick
Wisconsin's Joint Finance Committee has almost halved the number of child sex offenders that will have to be monitored via lifetime satellite tracking. In 2006, Gov. Jim Doyle signed a bill that would enact lifetime monitoring of serious child sex offenders, while the Department of Corrections would use its discretion in determining other child sex offenders that would be monitored. In other issues, Republicans and Democrats were split on the budget inclusion for the earned release program, granting inmates early release upon successful completion of alcohol and drug treatment. The committee also decided to furnish an additional $2.3 million for inmates' health care over a two-year span. Additionally, substance abuse programs will be expanded, instating reporting centers for offenders, as opposed to returning to incarceration. Doyle is slated to review the budget.
"Police Are Divided on Stun Guns"
Boston Globe (06/07/07) P. Reg1; Paige, Connie
Although the Massachusetts police departments of Norton, Raynham, and Rockland have gotten approval from the state to use Taser stun guns, some area police chiefs are not enamored of the devices. Supporters feel that Tasers can bring dangerous individuals under control more safely than other weapons, while detractors worry about their price and the fact that some people have died after receiving Taser charges. In the last nine years, Taser International Inc. has sold 225,000 to 11,000 law-enforcement groups, vice president of communications Steve Tuttle states. Tasers currently cost between $399 and $899. Numerous police departments in Massachusetts have been studying the purchase of Tasers for three years, when a new state law allowed their use. Raynham Police Chief Louis Pachero stresses that Tasers are part of the vital equipment given to police. He points out that police have utilized Tasers a minimum of three times, including bringing under control a dangerous motorcycle gang. Braintree Police Chief Paul Frazier, however, says he is worried about possible lawsuits if a Taser causes injuries or fatalities; as such, even though drug-associated crime, robberies, gang activity, and home burglaries are increasing in his community, he states he is not in a hurry to obtain Tasers.
"'Pings' Assist in Missing-Persons Cases"
Kansas City Star (06/07/07) P. A5; Hayes, David
Cell phone technology has been used once again by law enforcement to find a missing person and advance a criminal case. Information on the location of Kelsey Smith's mobile phone helped law enforcement find her body. Mobile phones act like two-way radios, and they must communicate frequently with the nearest cell tower to make and receive calls. The handsets send out a signal, called a "ping," to the closest cell tower every two to three minutes, and the towers forward the location of the mobile phone back to the network. A ping can show that the phone is in the coverage area of the tower, which can range from a few square blocks to a few square miles, and mobile phone carriers use that information to forward calls, text messages, or email messages to a phone. Calls made by family and friends on Saturday generated routine pings, enabling police to track the location of Smith's phone. Big mobile phone companies will assist police who have a subpoena for phone records from a judge, which they can obtain by telephone. The process of keying in a mobile phone's number and having the last known location pop up on a screen can take less than a minute.
"New York City Police Eye Trucks as Potential Vehicles for Terrorists"
Seattle Times (06/12/07); Hays, Tom
The New York City Police Department (NYPD), concerned that the commercial trucks that go in and out of the city each day could be used as terrorist weapons, has established checkpoints where the trucks are screened and subjected to several tests. "We've always been concerned about the potential for trucks and other vehicles to be used to convey explosives or other weapons," New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. "We also want to screen against the possibility of sensitive cargos being diverted for use in an attack." Police who man the checkpoints are inspecting the trucks for radiation, fertilizer, explosives, and chlorine. Trucks or drivers who lack ID or paperwork are removed from the road, police said. Dump trucks and cement trucks receive extra attention because they are capable of smashing through security checkpoints, says NYPD counterterrorism official Jonathan Duecker. The NYPD is currently developing a variety of mobile radiation detectors, including devices for police cars and bicycles and a backpack-like detector that can be worn by police officers in stadiums. Some 1,000 officers already wear pager-sized radiation detectors on their belts, and another 1,000 such devices are on their way. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2003744093_nytrucks12.html
"Cops' Radiation Detection? It's in the Bag, Kelly Boasts"
New York Daily News (06/07/07) P. 14; Gendar, Alison
Over the past year, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) has been testing five portable radiation detectors that resemble backpacks. Officials say the backpack can be used by officers while riding a bike, helping them appear as tourists. The backpack features an earpiece that provides data to the officer about any radiation in the area. Officials say the testing has helped manufacturers better understand the city's requirements. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/2007/06/07/2007-06-07_cops_
"Long-Awaited Center Opens"
Indianapolis Star (06/06/07) P. 3; Smith, Bruce C.
Hendricks County, Ind., has opened a $7.6 million communications center that will equally serve police, fire, and ambulance services. Housed in the Plainfield's police and public safety building, the center will provide the ability for all respondents to communicate with each other, through an 800 MHz frequency. Staff will be on hand around the clock and each of 13 workstations comes equipped with flat video screens. "They can see where the doors and windows and other features are located, which can be important information in an emergency," said Hendricks Communications Center executive director Larry Brinker. All emergency vehicles in Hendricks County are GPS-equipped, and dispatchers can pull up three-dimensional aerial images of an incident's location. http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/
"California Firm Sees Business Grow With Law Enforcement Interest in 'SandCars'"
Bakersfield Californian (06/06/07); Philp, Drew
Bakersfield, Calif.-based Extreme Motorsports manufactures "SandCars," and on June 7 signed an agreement worth $39 million with Made in USA Industries to produce 400 SandCars geared for law enforcement. Extreme Motorsports owner Alan McCaa explains that anti-terrorist and border patrol groups are interested in his cars to take some of the burden off their on-road police cruisers. The vehicles can be outfitted with such features as Pelican Mobile laptops, infrared cameras, and armor plating. SandCars resemble the dune buggies of the 1970s. The vehicles can host Corvette engines with as many as eight cylinders, and at 450 horsepower can travel at 110 miles-per-hour or faster. The cars are expensive, costing between $15,000 and $100,000-plus. Although McCaa sells SandCars to private customers, he stresses that "government and law enforcement will end up being the bread and butter of our company." He thinks the two entities are becoming more aware of SandCars as a fast way to enter and exit remote locations. http://www.tmcnet.com/usubmit/2007/06/06/2693387.htm
"Rockland Judges Push for More Courtroom Security"
Journal News (NY) (06/06/07) P. 3A; Lieberman, Steve
A shooting at a Rockland County, N.Y., court last month has prompted the state to make money available for municipalities to improve courtroom security. Grants from the New York state Office of Court Administration are being offered to pay for metal detectors to check people for weapons. Clarkstown and West Haverstraw are among the local governments that already have the approximately $4,000 magnetometers, and Ramapo has ordered a metal detector and Sloatsburg, where the shooting occurred, plans to order one. Although the state is willing to pay for the metal detectors, municipalities would have to cover the cost of personnel to operate the machine and the electronic metal detector wands. Clarkstown Police Chief Peter Noonan expressed confidence in current courtroom security, and Councilman Ralph Mandia said he welcomed the effort to improve security in courts as long as the police oversee personnel hired to handle the equipment. A police station is downstairs from Clarkstown Justice Court, an officer is on patrol upstairs and there are security cameras. Before the shooting, some local governments questioned whether there was a need for tighter security in courtrooms. "They are taking a different view now," says Rockland County Court Judge Charles Apotheker. http://www.thejournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/
"Committee Postpones Radio Upgrade Vote"
Herald & Review (IL) (06/05/07); Tallon, Mary
Macon County, Ill., Sheriff Jerry Dawson said the failure to upgrade the department's backup radio system soon could jeopardize public safety. The comment from Dawson came after Macon's Board Finance Committee postponed a vote on spending more than $150,000 on equipment and technology improvements on Monday. The equipment and technology upgrades would make the "Old Sheriff's Main" frequency a digitally compatible system. The sheriff's department uses the radio system, which has not been upgraded since 1979, when its primary frequency encounters "dead spots," and Macon's emergency management agency uses it for its main radio channel. The committee considered using money from a $500,000 disaster contingency fund until board Chairman Bob Sampson questioned whether disaster contingency money could be legally used for the radio improvement. The board placed greater restrictions on the use of the fund in January. Dawson suggested using the disaster contingency fund, but added that money could also come from another source.
"'CSI'-Style Technology Going to Dogs--and Cats"
Associated Press (06/03/07); Gelineau, Kristen
Many law-enforcement agencies are increasingly looking at animal DNA to obtain evidence for crimes in which animals were involved or witnesses. Saliva and hair found at the site of an animal attack can help identify the animal responsible, and if animals are present at the scene of a crime, their DNA can often be used to match up with any evidence found on the person or property of suspects. DNA evidence is not the only tool used in investigating animal-related cases; however, investigations into animal cruelty also make use of more traditional forensic methods such as ballistics and toxicology to determine how much an animal may have suffered in a particular instance. Forensic entomology can help settle issues related to poaching deaths, such as the amount of time since a particular animal has been shot. http://washingtontimes.com/metro/20070602-110040-9695r.htm
"Radios Will Link Lawmen"
Searcy Daily Citizen (AR) (06/01/07); Watkins, Warren
White County, Ark., has used money left over from grants for the new Mobile Command Unit to purchase 64 hand-held radios that will allow law enforcement officers in different jurisdictions throughout the county to communicate with one another. According to Bill Haynie, chairman of the White County 911 board, the FCC regulates the frequencies on the radios--which cost more than $600 each--so that they may only be used by law enforcement officers. http://www.thedailycitizen.com/articles/
"Calling System Aids Oakwood Police"
Dayton Daily News (OH) (06/07/07) P. Z1-3; Bebbington, Helen
Police in Oakwood, Ohio, used the city's CodeRED automated phone alert system for the first time on May 30 to help locate a missing man. The service, which police officials say has been in place for about six months, sends out automated calls to citizens within a particular radius of an emergency. Police issued the CodeRED call at 10:15 a.m., alerting citizens of a man with dementia who left an assisted living facility; in about 15 minutes, a resident of Kettering, Ohio, informed Oakwood police about the man, whom she saw at a CVS store. The service is provided by the Miami Valley Communications Council and features GIS and other technologies that let cities notify residents. Roughly 15 communities in the Dayton metropolitan area currently rely on the service. http://www.daytondailynews.com
"DHS Vows to Fix Information Network"
Federal Computer Week (05/28/07); Mosquera, Mary
Homeland Security Department officials recently promised Congress that they will boost the functionality of the Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN). HSIN was created in 2003 to help local and state law enforcement share data, but has been implemented without proper coordination among various law enforcement officials. HSIN is not used by many people today. The Homeland Security Department plans to revamp and improve HSIN cooperation with federal databases such as the Regional Information Sharing Systems (RISS) program, as well as better involve local and state agencies and authorities. HSIN also is transitioning into becoming part of an Information Sharing Environment (ISE) to help reduce isolated data in various databases by creating automatic duplication as well as links. The ISE component remains under development, and also will include input from federal intelligence agencies. http://www.fcw.com/article102798-05-28-07-Print
"District, Police Looking at Camera Technology"
YourHub.com (05/23/07); Kirchmer, Joseph
The Douglas County School District is considering implementing SWAT (Security With Advanced Technology) that would enable law enforcement to observe video footage from inside a school that could be transmitted to command centers and to patrol cars. Cameras would be installed and images would be transmitted through an antenna from the school's roof; there are about 750 cameras already installed in the district. "It gives law enforcement a clearer picture in the event of a shooter situation," said executive director of safety and transportation Larry Borland. The receivers are slated to cost about $5,100 per unit, minus the cost of installation. Receivers would be installed in police cars, command centers, and school vehicles. "We may not necessarily be able to locate where a suspect is, but you would definitely be able to tell where suspect is not," noted Borland. http://denver.yourhub.com/CastleRock/Stories/News/Law/Story~311308.aspx
"Voice Biometrics: Coming to a Security System Near You"
Ars Technica (05/13/07); Anderson, Nate
Because every voice is unique, sophisticated voice analysis software can match people to voices, which will be a boon to security investigators, though not to criminals. Voice biometrics technology can catch criminals by studying voice characteristics, and can do so in 30 minutes on a modern dual-core machine. Moreover, the voice provides two-factor identification, as it combines what individuals say with how they say it, and can combine the factors remotely. Voice systems are at least twice as accurate as fingerprint scanning, and are cheaper to implement, says Dr. Clive Summerfield of the University of Canberra. Banks are eager customers of the technology, which is now all set for commercial deployment. This year, the major Dutch bank ABN AMRO will unveil the technology to its 4 million Netherlands customers. http://arstechnica.com/articles/culture/voice-biometrics-come-of-age.ars