Editor's Note: Many of the technologies outlined in this summary are being used for domestic counterterrorism as well as homeland security.
NLECTC Law Enforcement & Corrections Technology News Summary
Thursday, July 12, 2007
"New York Plans Surveillance Veil for Downtown"
New York Times (07/09/07) P. A1; Buckley, Cara
The New York City Police Department expects to have implemented the first phase of a massive surveillance camera system in Lower Manhattan before the year is out. The Lower Manhattan Security Initiative is modeled after the Ring of Steel anti-terrorism surveillance system in London, which has helped U.K. authorities in their investigations of the recent car bomb plots and the July 2005 transit bombings. Like the London system, the New York initiative will eventually feature mobile roadblocks and cameras capable of reading the license plates of vehicles. New York officials plan to deploy 116 license plate readers, some of which will be installed in helicopters and cars, and if the city's congestion pricing plan is approved, police are expected to use data from license plate readers that will be installed as part of the congestion pricing plan. Police officers and personnel from private security companies will staff an operations center where live data from the cameras will be monitored; by pushing a button, the operators will be able to deploy mobile traffic gates at crucial junctions, thereby halting suspicious vehicles and other traffic. The cameras will be used in tandem with software capable of detecting suspicious behavior such as a bag that has been abandoned or a car that repeatedly cruises the same city block. All told, some 3,000 cameras--including about 2,000 owned by companies in the city--will be in place by the end of 2008. The surveillance network will feature one of two technologies: face-recognition or biohazard sensors. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/09/nyregion/09ring.html
"Police Explore New Tipster Technology"
Sign-on San Diego (07/09/07); Hughes, Joe
Law-enforcement authorities in San Diego are thinking about using a text-messaging system for anonymous crime information that was introduced by police in Boston in June. If viable, the initiative could merge text messaging with traditional police tip lines to help solve serious crimes. At the heart of Boston's experiment is technology meant to make certain that the cell-phone number of the caller is not shown. Tip calls are lower nationwide because the systems have depended greatly on pay-phone calls to keep a person anonymous and such phones are becoming tougher to locate. Simultaneously, text messaging on cell phones has become a popular way to communicate, particularly among young people. Call numbers from the majority of phones, including cells, are traceable, which makes anonymity challenging. The new system appears to overcome that obstacle. Officer James Kenneally of Boston notes that the system logged 50 call tips from cell phones during its initial week.
"Durham, N.C. Police Will Get Tasers"
Durham Herald-Sun (NC) (07/11/07); Dopart, Brianne
Police officers in Durham, N.C., will start carrying Taser devices next year. It is not known what kind of Taser technology the department will be utilizing, the price of the technology and related instruction, and which staff members in the department will be given the devices. Chapel Hill and Raleigh police departments already use Taser technology. Although the Durham County Sheriff's Office used to carry Tasers during the 1980s, it does not anymore, stated Chief Deputy Wes Crabtree, who explained that he does not care for the technology because it is awkward and hard to operate. Crabtree added that his office has reexamined its Taser protocol annually since terminating its use. Although advantageous for some the technology was too expensive and required too much maintenance by Crabtree's office. Meanwhile, Chapel Hill Police department Capt. Jackie Carden reported her department uses Tasers and likes them. Newer Taser models, such as the ones employed by the force in Chapel Hill, are smaller and more accurate than those sold 20 years ago, she added.
"Tasers Join Arsenals"
Portland Press Herald (Maine) (07/10/07); Hench, David
Police agencies in Maine are becoming more interested in using stun guns as the technology advances and liability issues are straightened out. Officers in Lewiston, Newport, and Sanford have begun using Tasers during the last month, and a state oversight board and state police chiefs are creating model protocols for how departments should employ Tasers. Some Tasers now incorporate video cameras that document the situation where the gun is employed. The video lessens the chance of abuse and shields police from lawsuits when the Tasers are correctly used. Tasers have not caught on as quickly in New England as they have in other parts of the country; Taser International's Steve Tuttle thinks this is because people are confused as to how electricity functions in the human body. Tasers are also expensive: Each one goes for around $800, and the video camera costs at least another $400. South Portland has used Tasers the most, having possessed the guns for two years. In 2005, officers utilized them seven times in the 115 situations that required force, figures that were almost the same in 2006. http://pressherald.mainetoday.com/story.php?id=119711&ac=PHnws
"New Mug Shot System IDs Prisoners"
Cincinnati Enquirer (07/03/07) P. 2B; Truong, Quan
A $400,000 upgrade to the Hamilton County, Ohio, Justice Center's mug shot system is helping to identify inmates, even if they do not provide fingerprints, lie about their identity, or do not speak English. Records staff scan a prisoner picture into a computer and produce potential matches from the county's database. The Viisage facial recognition system employs biometric configurations to locate matches, with a grid on the face determining the space between eyes, nose width, and jawline length. Matches are only possible if the prisoner has previously been arrested, which is typically the case three-fourths of the time, according to Keith McGuire with the Hamilton County Sheriff Department. The system will eventually be utilized on the streets, where patrol officers can erect a digital camera and laptop computer in their vehicles to rapidly identify suspects. The third stage will combine adjacent county databases into one big pool, possibly even a nationwide one. Last year, the Hamilton County Corrections Division processed over 50,727 inmates, surpassing the largest daily number ever with 2,314 prisoners.
"CHP Shows Off High-Tech Vehicle in Fresno"
Fresno Bee (CA) (07/04/07) P. B2; Galvan, Louis
A California Highway Patrol (CHP) truck outfitted with the newest communications technology and devised to be utilized in big emergencies has been presented to the CHP's Central Division in Fresno. The mobile command truck will assist the division's nine-county region approximately from Kern to Stanislaus counties. It is outfitted with a high-tech satellite communications system, Internet, phones, and radios. The 2007 Chevy Tahoe truck will allow the CHP to connect with almost every other law-enforcement group and additional emergency services. In addition, the truck is equipped to get video images shot overhead of disaster regions and send those images to command officers located on the ground. The truck is one of nine acquired by the CHP via a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. One of the other eight vehicles--which are spread across California--was used to helped respond to the Bay Bridge collapse earlier this year after a gas tanker derailed. http://www.fresnobee.com/263/story/76985.html
"Sensor System Will Detect Gunfire, Aid Police"
Harrisburg Patriot-News (PA) (07/03/07) P. B1; Gleason, Jerry L.
On June 28, Harrisburg, Pa., police concluded calibration of the city's Secures Gunshot Detection System. The system will help city police officers in finding and handling gunfire in Harrisburg. The calibration consisted of firing gunshots at 48 sites, including between buildings, in alleys, and other sites. Each time, the system found the gunshot within three seconds and three feet of the specific location, noted Mayor Stephen Reed. Acoustical sensors across Harrisburg's south Allison Hill can detect gunshot sounds and send the data to a receiving antenna. Sixty sensors were erected on utility poles and buildings in the region, with data from the sensors sent to a computer processor that transforms the data into a visual display on a computer in the communications center of the police department. A red spot appears on the map within three seconds after the shot occurs, and the system is precise to within three feet of the particular location. The technology, which was implemented by Reston, Va.'s Planning Systems, was bought with a $40,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and an $80,000 grant from the federal Department of Justice's Project Safe Neighborhoods. http://www.pennlive.com/news/patriotnews/index.ssf?/
"Candid Cameras to Help Police Record Evidence"
Asbury Park Press (NJ) (07/04/07); Larsen, Erik
Police in Asbury Park, N.J., claim they are the first ones in the state to obtain Vidmics. The devices appear and work just like typical two-way shoulder radios that police wear on top of their uniforms. These radios, however, have a small, almost unnoticeable lens looking out at everything from the center. The officer can switch the camera on and off, and Vidmics record video and sound and shoot still images. The images saved have a date and time stamp, so the information recorded can be utilized in court. If the Vidmic is used during automobile stops in which a motorist is suspected of being inebriated, for instance, the police officer will be able to record his dealings with the motorist, as well as the motorist's appearance and attitude. Asbury Park has a pair of Vidmics and intends to buy another two, which police will employ during foot patrols. The cameras cost $595 each, which includes the camera and software that downloads the information via a cable and USB port like a digital camera.
"Electronic Evidence Guidance Released to Police"
ComputerWeekly.com (07/06/07); Thomson, Rebecca
A revised version of the Good Practice Guide for Computer-Based Electronic Evidence that accounts for recent changes in computer forensic investigation methods has been issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). The guide was produced with 7Safe, an information security services company, and launched at APCO's e-crime conference. The new edition features instructions for working with inconsistent electronic data and the extraction of data from live systems and networks. "The Guide is recognized as the definitive rule book for digital forensic investigations," stated 7Safe managing director Alan Phillips. "In addition to criminal cases, any type of contentious incident in the workplace is almost certain to involve large amounts of electronic evidence, and dealing with this data in the appropriate way can prevent far-reaching problems."
"More Than 4,300 Sign Up for Virginia Tech Emergency Alerts"
Hampton Roads News (07/09/07)
Virginia Tech has a new emergency alert system that will send alerts to students and university employees when an emergency occurs on campus. Participants must subscribe with the system, which is capable of sending alerts via telephone, instant-messaging, or email. Students and university employees began subscribing to the system on July 2; at present, there are more than 4,300 subscribers. A university official predicted that more students would sign up as the year goes on. Hundreds of universities and colleges now offer emergency alert systems.
"Coming Soon, A Linguist's Guide to Obscenities"
Boston Globe (07/09/07); Berger, J.M.
The National Science Foundation is paying more than $200,000 for a study whose results may be unprintable. Christopher Potts, a linguist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, will catalog and analyze the use of obscenities, vulgarities, and racial epithets as well as titles and honorifics. All are words or phrases that express emotion, or whose absence can convey an emotion, such as disrespect. Potts will chart when and how these words are used in books, television, movies, records of ordinary conversation, and other discourse. He aims to discover the laws of emotionally expressive language, in the same way a physicist might chart the movement of planets in order to discover the laws of gravity. The results of the study could also be applied to law enforcement computers designed to evaluate surveillance tapes or automated systems to summarize the content of books or television shows, he said. http://www.boston.com/news/globe/health_science/articles/2007/
"City of Gary, Indiana Completes Next Expansion of ShotSpotter Gunshot Location System"
Business Wire (07/10/07)
ShotSpotter, Inc., a leader in gunshot detection and location systems and technology for public safety and the military, reports that the City of Gary, Indiana has completed their second expansion and is in the final stages of their third expansion of the system. Hailed as a key crime-fighting tool in the City, the ShotSpotter system has now been extended to more than four square miles based on its track record of reducing gunfire in the City and assisting the Police Department in removing weapons and increasing arrests. ShotSpotter is a collection of sensors that detect and locate gunshots in seconds, sending an immediate signal along with the precise location of the shots to police dispatchers. This enables the City's police forces to arrive on the scene of a gunshot event in a matter of moments. Thomas Branson, Deputy Chief of Police, in noting that the system has been delivering outstanding results, stated, "ShotSpotter alerted us to a gunshot incident where police found a subject lying in a pool of blood next to the railroad tracks. It turned out that he was on the FBI's most wanted list, having killed a 13-year old girl in Ohio as well as two women." ShotSpotter, Inc. provides wireless and wired gunshot detection and location systems to public safety organizations and the military. All ShotSpotter solutions use the same core ShotSpotter GLS technologies which filter out the echoes which cripple competitive systems when they are deployed in urban environments. Utilizing ShotSpotter's patented technologies, the system can be set to filter in or out "non-threat" events (such as fire crackers, car backfires, etc.).
"Interoperability Radio System Permits Responders to Communicate in Emergencies"
Sheriff (06/07) Vol. 59, No. 3, P. 25; Oxley, Joseph W.; Freeman, Ted
In Monmouth County, N.J., officials have greatly improved communications capabilities for the Sheriff's Office's two Field Communications Mobile Command Centers by using an ACU-1000 modular radio interoperability system. The technology lets agencies communicate irrespective of their current radio frequencies. The system can integrate high frequencies, land mobile radio, and satellite communications systems. The technology can also engage the walkie-talkie feature of a Nextel phone to enable communication with emergency responder communication systems. The ACU-1000 system features a modular interface with six networks, where each network can handle seven channels and a laptop computer. The overall system costs roughly $15,000. The new interoperability system enables all responding agencies to take a single portable radio with their frequency to the Mobile Command Unit and plug it into to the system to allow all units on that frequency to communicate with other responders. The Sheriff's Office Communication Division has also obtained a portable Interoperability Communication Radio Unit (ICRU), a cross band repeater designed for state radio frequencies of UHF-800 mg in addition to 168 portable radios on state interoperability channels. Furthermore, a new "quick response communication van" is being developed for the service that will offer a completely outfitted radio console and will respond with an 8x10 trailer with a 7.5 kilowatt generator to create a temporary command post. http://www.sheriffs.org
"White House Council Puts Cybersecurity in Focus"
Federal Computer Week (07/02/07); Miller, Jason
The White House's Homeland Security Council has heightened its understanding of cybersecurity's importance, and is in the early stages of debate regarding the best description of the government's role. Thomas Bossert, a senior director on the council, noted that more coordination from the federal level is needed. Bossert explained that, later in 2007, guidance might materialize from the presidential level to clarify "who does what and when." The council will also work to enhance the synchronization of Fusion Centers across the country; currently, 42 states possess or intend to found Fusion Centers with over $380 million in DHS grants. In addition, the White House is partnering with the Homeland Security Department and the FBI to design a regional architecture to facilitate information sharing. In May 2007, the Intelligence Threat Assessment Coordination Group approved a formal standard for conveying threat assessment information. According to Bossert, the government's aim is for state and local first responders to be aware, in real time, of what the federal first responders know, enabling all to better handle possible threats. http://www.fcw.com/article103121-07-02-07-Web
"Sound and Vision"
Police Magazine (06/07) Vol. 31, No. 6, P. 36; Griffith, David
The latest state-of-the-art law enforcement simulators use high-tech audio and video to deliver more authentic training experiences. Unlike older simulators, which had different processing capabilities, the latest use-of-force simulators operate at about the same speed. Features and options are the biggest difference between current simulator models. Many use-of-force simulators are designed with the same high-definition (HD) technology found in televisions, a feature some law enforcement experts believe enhances the training experience. "The clarity of the picture is a lot better," says Meggitt Defense Systems' Vince Greiner. "That means that it's easier for a student to determine if a perpetrator has a cell phone or a knife in his hands." In addition to video clarity, new training simulators offer better sound quality. Enhanced multispeaker sound systems are featured in most of the latest use-of-force simulator models. The flagship systems in both TI Training and IES feature 5.1 surround standard, which allows students to hear realistic noises from every direction. http://www.policemag.com