Editor's Note: A number of the technologies being employed by domestic law enforcement are being used for homeland security and counter-terrorism.
NLECTC Law Enforcement & Corrections Technology News Summary
Thursday, June 21, 2007
"Could Robot Be Cops' Best Friend?"
San Bernardino County Sun (CA) (06/18/07); Wall, Stephen
A new remote-operated device known as Guardian 5 could allow police to perform the job an officer normally would who pulls over a car for a violation. The robot raises to the height of a car window, asks the driver for his license, uses a mechanical arm to accept the license, and transmits a video image of it to the officer in the patrol vehicle. Guardian 5, which was created by Redlands, Calif., auto technician Fernando Ramirez, is meant to protect police in high-danger situations. Ramirez thought up Guardian 5 in 2006 following a pair of incidents involving state Highway Patrol officers on area freeways. One officer was shot and hurt in November 2005 after he pulled over a speeding vehicle on the 15 Freeway in Ontario, while the other officer was killed in February 2006 when a drunk motorist hit his motorcycle and a truck he had pulled over on the 15 in Hesperia. Guardian 5, which is made of aluminum, sits in a black carrier in the front of a police car, and can expand itself to as high as 52 inches. Once it is deployed, Ramirez stated that the device can be returned to its carrier in under 30 seconds. Innovative Response Technology robotics program manager Carey Butler believes Guardian 5 would cost between $30,000 and $50,000 apiece, although "the marketplace will want to see it much less expensive, probably in the $15,000 to $25,000 range." http://www.sbsun.com/news/ci_6166706
"Crime Solvers Tap Into Texting"
Boston Globe (06/15/07); Smalley, Suzanne
Police in Boston were set to announce on June 15 a new text-messaging system for anonymous tips, in order to increase the public's chances of communicating with police. The initiative, which is being promoted as the initial one in the country to combine text messaging with an anonymous tip line, is meant to make use of texting's privacy and its popularity among numerous youths, who may be less likely to call the police. Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis noted that Los Angeles and New York have started testing text messaging to emergency dispatchers, but stressed that no other department has introduced a comprehensive plan to produce crime tips via anonymous text messaging. Members of numerous Boston radio stations were set to convene with police authorities on June 15 to talk over contributing air time for radio commercials manufactured by Boston advertising agency Hill Holliday touting the plan. In addition, the MBTA has contributed advertising space in four or five stations and around 250 buses, while area businesses have contributed multiple ad spaces on streets and inside bus shelters. The program depends greatly on technology from VeriSign. To text authorities, an individual can dial CRIME (27463) on his cell phone keypad and text the word tip. The tipster gets an instant return message telling him that the tip is anonymous and recommending that he contact 911 if an emergency has occurred.
"Criminal Investigations Advance With New Technology"
Associated Press (06/14/07); Gross, Andale
Cell phones are proving an essential tool in helping investigators solve crimes, as the body of an 18-year old kidnapping victim was found in Kansas City, Mo., after law enforcement tracked her cell phone signals. "The Kelsey Smith case may not have looked like a case that could be solved by technology, but in many ways it was," says head prosecutor Eric Zahnd. In another case, a woman claiming that she had been abducted was tracked by her cell phone when authorities discovered her story was a fabrication. Phone companies do not release records to police or allow for tapping into calls without permission from the court, yet tracking technology via surveillance videos, email, and Web sites (such as MySpace) facilitate the process for criminal investigations. As FBI special agent Jeff Lanza says, "Without technology, a lot of cases would reach a dead end very fast."
"Metro Police Seek Funds for DNA Analysis"
Tennessean (06/15/07) P. 1B; Bottorff, Christian
New advances in DNA technology are helping homicide detectives in Nashville, Tenn., solve cold cases. Metro police first launched a homicide unit in 2005 to review old cases. Of the 258 unsolved cases, 33 have been reopened, 19 have been vacated, and four are in the prosecution phase. Heartened by the number of unsolved cases that have been solved with the aid of new DNA technology, homicide detectives are seeking a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to open more cases. Funding from the grants will also help cover overtime and travel expenses for detectives and could boost production by 25 percent. "It will increase the possibilities," says Metro Sgt. Pat Postiglione. "The funding would allow detectives the luxury to be able to look at more cases than they would normally be looking at without the grant."
"Can a 'Virtual Fence' Help Seal U.S. Border?"
Wall Street Journal (06/15/07) P. B1; Lunsford, J. Lynn.; Block, Robert
A 28-mile electronic fence dubbed SBInet will soon be tested by the U.S. government in an effort to better protect the country's borders. The fence is composed of nine 98-foot-tall towers spaced out along a section of the border just south of Tucson, Ariz., featuring long-range video cameras, radar, and motion sensors. The Department of Homeland Security says the virtual fence will cost around $8 billion through 2013, and may incorporate biometrics and air assets. The equipment can focus on people from up to five miles away and on vehicles as far away as 15 miles. The data from the towers will be transmitted to a command center as well as to several Customs and Border Patrol vehicles outfitted with special gear. Federal agents would be alerted to attempts of drug smugglers and others trying to cross into the country. Some agents worry that drug cartels would buy or develop technology to thwart the virtual fence, while others say only law enforcement agents can be truly effective deterrents. Boeing won an initial contract of $70 million in 2006 to start developing the system, which, if successful, will lead to the installation of hundreds more of the camera towers along the country's borders with Mexico and Canada. According to officials, an alarm will sound if a person get too close to a tower, and agents can remotely use a "hailer horn" to broadcast warnings at a volume as high as a jetliner taking off. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118187410529636352.html
"Homeland Security Grant to Buy High-Tech Radar on Lake"
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (06/17/07)
The Erie-Western Pennsylvania Port Authority will use a $242,000 homeland security grant to install a radar-based surveillance system that will allow law enforcement authorities to monitor naval traffic on Lake Erie. A secure Internet connection will allow local, state, and federal agencies to access the radar system, which can be used for detecting boats that are behaving suspiciously or speeding. The system, which has a range of four miles from land, will also prove useful during search and rescue missions and in reconstructing boating accidents. Joseph Weindorf, the Erie County (Pa.) public safety director, says the system will address law enforcement's ability to scrutinize what takes place on the water, currently a major weakness. Similar systems have been installed in the San Francisco, Chesapeake, and Delaware bays.
"Wireless Shotgun Round Extends TASER Reach"
United Press International (06/14/07)
A new shotgun-fired TASER provides more range for police officers to subdue suspects. Unlike current TASER devices, which are made with a wire that places officers in direct contact with targets, the XREP round is wireless, allowing officers to deliver electrical jolts from a distance. The XREP round is also made to be used with a standard 12-gauge shotgun. Following its July release, field tests of the XREP are scheduled to take place this fall. http://www.washtimes.com/upi/20070614-022330-9706
"Police to Put Cameras on Tasers"
Middletown Journal (Ohio) (06/13/07); Schwartzberg, Eric
Funds granted to Fairfield Township, Ohio, will allow for police officers to record potential suspects' every move from a Taser. "The mere fact that you can digitally record the action obviously serves you well when you go to court, both for the criminal case and if there's any liability that someone wants to assess on the township at a later time," said Police Chief Richard St. John. The federal grant will equip every office with a Taser, while the Taser Cam would be able to record up to 90 minutes of video from an internal memory chip. The Taser Cam costs $400, yet it is less expensive than equipping each police car with a camera. The grant from the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance would give $18,798 to the township.
"JFK Pipeline Warrants Police Patrol: U.S. Reps"
Flushing Times Ledger (06/14/07); Koplowitz, Howard
U.S. Reps. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) and Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) are calling for boosted law enforcement to protect John F. Kennedy International in light of recent revelations of an alleged plot to blow up fuel tanks at the airport. "I am calling for increased federal resources from the Department of Homeland Security to compliment the ongoing security efforts of the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey at JFK," Meeks said at a recent news conference. The lawmakers advocate greater cooperation between federal, state, and local officials in regards to security as well as boosted police patrols and camera surveillance at the targeted area.
"Dollars and Sensors"
Newsday (06/14/07); Eisenberg, Carol
New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly is calling on federal legislators to fully fund the Homeland Security Department's pilot program, Securing the Cities, to guard against a nuclear or radiological attack. The program would establish a ring of radiological detectors on bridges, highways, and tunnels leading into New York City, within an approximately 50-mile range. Police officials from several states have united to lobby Congress for the $40 million needed to finance the project, which was developed in response to the 2005 London terror strikes. The London plot originated 180 miles north of London, in Leeds, illustrating the "regional aspect of the terrorist threat," said Kelly, and inspiring a more regional approach to security in the United States. In addition to the proposed Securing the Cities program, New York has joined forces with Baltimore, Buffalo, and other jurisdictions along the East Coast to identify threats before they reach the city.
"Wayne County Sheriff Launches Operation 'Safe Child' in Wayne County"
US States News (06/15/07)
Wayne County, N.Y., Sheriff Richard Pisciotti reports the implementation of "Operation Safe Child" through the Sheriff's Office. The Sheriff's Office is the first law enforcement agency in Wayne County to participate in the program, which involves digitally fingerprinting and photographing children. The Sheriff recently received a grant from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services to purchase the necessary equipment that consists of the latest digital fingerprinting technology and high resolution photography capabilities. Sheriff Pisciotti states national statistics show that approximately 35 percent of parents do not know certain pertinent information about their children, including their height, weight, and eye color. Many parents also do not possess recent photographs of their children. Utilizing "Operation Safe Child," law enforcement personnel can take a digital photograph of a child along with digital prints of the child's index fingers. A small wallet size Identification card can be created for parents/guardians bearing the child's photograph, prints and other biographical information including name; date of birth; eye color; height; weight and any other descriptive information. With written permission of a parent or guardian, the information can be kept in a special data base at the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services in Albany. This database can greatly assist law enforcement with the investigation of a missing child. Stored information regarding a missing child can be sent electronically to other law enforcement agencies in minutes, which can greatly enhance the possibility of bringing a missing child home safely. http://w3.nexis.com/sources/scripts/info.pl?296938
"New Machine Speeds Airport Screening for Amputees"
USA Today (06/12/07); Howard, Kate
Nashville International, Ronald Reagan Washington National, Tampa International, and San Jose International are set to launch piloting of the CastScope portable X-ray machine, designed to more efficiently screen passengers with casts, braces, and prosthetic limbs for weapons or explosives. The technology will allow screening to be conducted in a matter of seconds rather than the 10 to 15 minutes it can take when these travelers are patted down and scanned with a metal detector wand if they set off a metal detector. Screening using the technology will be optional for passengers at the selected airports.
"New Technology Would Lengthen Long Arm of Law"
Grand Junction Sentinel (CO) (06/11/07); Hamilton, Amy
The Grand Junction (Colo.) Police Department and the Mesa County (Colo.) Sheriff's Department want to invest in a technology called COPLINK, a database sharing system that is designed to help law enforcement cross-reference information and communicate with other agencies across the state. The system is also designed to help law enforcement make connections in cases and identify and track suspects more quickly, according to Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey. Combining information in law enforcement databases for the city and county--which are currently stored on two separate systems--could have other benefits as well, including saving law enforcement hundreds of hours in investigative time. The system will be installed on the departments' existing computers at a cost of about $400,000, said Deputy Chief Troy Smith of the Grand Junction Police Department. He added that the system could be online locally as soon as the first part of 2008.
"A Drive to Destroy Data"
NJ.com (06/10/07); Coryell, Lisa
A public security breach involving sensitive police information obtained from auctioned Ewing Township computers and posted online has revealed the need for statewide standards on destroying government data. Though the contractor hired to clean the hard drives of the soon-to-be-auctioned Ewing Township computers believed he had thoroughly erased the hard drives, a computer expert was able to extract confidential police information. In response, New Jersey townships are modifying their methods of protecting data stored in hard drives of computers slated for local charities, the recycling heap, or public auctions. Moreover, the state of New Jersey is reconsidering its policy of auctioning old PCs with intact hard drives. The state currently wipes hard drives clean "to state standards," but is investigating whether supplemental safeguards are needed, says Mark Perkiss of the state Treasury Department. In technology circles, experts debate whether "scrubbing" programs that overwrite files with binary strings are enough; some contend that data can be left intact due to tracking errors or bad sectors on the disk. Indeed, some experts choose to physically destroy hard drives with drills or sledgehammers.
"XML Joins the Force"
Government Computer News (06/04/07); Walsh, Trudy
Law enforcement must be able to successfully manage data to protect citizens, asserts Mike Phillips, project manager of a data integration project in Florida called FLEX (Florida Law Enforcement Exchange). To this end, Florida needed to link information from some 400 agencies statewide including city, county, and university police departments, sheriffs offices, and district attorney offices. All these agencies have individual budgets, dispatch systems, and record management systems, and to access such data, the state's law enforcement community needed to focus on metadata, or the information about data. The state's law enforcement department created eight metadata planners, one for each of Florida's seven regions and one for the state's Department of Corrections. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) opted to work with the National Information Exchange Model (NEIM), an interagency framework for sharing data through Extensible Markup Language (XML), an open standard for exchanging information across various computer systems or platforms. NEIM is structured on the Global Justice XML Data Model designed by the U.S. Justice Department for use by law enforcement as a data standard. According to Phillips, Florida is the first state to rely on a relational form of NEIM. FDLE selected Sypherlink's NIE Gateway because of its artificial intelligence features, he says. Phillips says the use of Sypherlink has allowed Florida to form a statewide data dictionary as well as a central data warehouse that permit FDLE to undertake predictive analysis and sophisticated analytics, and FLEX is enabling all the state's approximately 400 law enforcement to access such tools. http://www.gcn.com/print/26_13/44399-1.html
"We Can See Clearly Now"
Government Computer News (06/04/07) Vol. 26, No. 13,; Marshall, Patrick
Though face recognition technology experienced a series of failures in the early 2000s, those setbacks prompted a focused research effort, the results of which are now evident. Scores from the 2006 Face Recognition Vendor Test (FRVT) were 10 times better than the scores from the previous FRVT test in 2002. In addition, the face recognition software was found to be more accurate than humans by the 2006 FRVT. Whereas face recognition algorithms were originally based on single, still images of faces, researchers today use 3D images, allowing algorithms to gather data on how features look under various lighting conditions and viewing angles, thereby generating more precise measurements. Microfeature analysis, the identification of patterns in skin texture, is another valuable development, thanks to new, higher-resolution cameras. Skin texture patterns are so unique that even identical twins differ, making microfeature analysis a "secondary signature" of the face, along with the geometric signature, says Joseph Atick of L-1 Identity Solutions. Patrick Flynn, one of the FRVT 2006 investigators and a professor at the University of Notre Dame, notes that FRVT only assessed the technology's performance in controlled, cooperative identification situations, throwing doubt on whether it can function as well in uncontrolled conditions with uncooperative subjects. At a minimum, Flynn anticipates a growing adoption of face recognition technology in controlled surveillance situations, such as verifying employees at the elevator. http://www.gcn.com/print/26_13/44396-1.html