Editor's Note: Many of the technologies in this new summary are being used by state and local police agencies for domestic counterterrorism and homeland security.
NLECTC Law Enforcement & Corrections Technology News Summary
Thursday, July 19, 2007
"Electronic Eyes Help Police"
Los Angeles Times (07/15/07) P. A24; Frazier, Michael
The Long Beach, N.Y., Police Department is one of an increasing number of law-enforcement groups employing roof-mounted license-plate readers, also known as the Mobile Plate Hunter. Alarms are given off as the gadget's pair of infrared cameras scan license plates at a speed of between 15 and 25 per second, according to maker Remington Elsag. The plate numbers are transmitted to a database in the patrol car trunk and checked with a digital list of cars wanted for traffic breaches, crimes, reported stolen vehicles, and cars connected to alerts for kidnapped minors, officials said. The infrared cameras function similar to grocery-store scanners, and can list the plates of moving or parked vehicles. Over 220,000 departments nationally utilize the machine, which costs $22,000. Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano noted that the Mobile Plate Hunter was helping to fight human trafficking in her state. Since smugglers frequently employ stolen vehicles, cruisers outfitted with readers at the border can help uncover trafficking rings, her spokeswoman explained. http://www.latimes.com/technology/la-na-scanners15jul15,1,4895799.story?track=rss
"Crime Data, News Posted on the Web"
Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel (FL) (07/15/07) P. 1; Fooksman, Leon
Law-enforcement Web sites are offering practical data to help keep people better informed and more secure, according to Florida police. Placing crime information on the Internet is lowering calls to overworked emergency dispatchers. Palm Beach residents can go online to obtain arrest reports and neighborhood crime information, and can determine where sex offenders reside and who has been incarcerated. Meanwhile, Boca Raton police permit anybody to see sections of reports on arrests, accidents, missing persons, and burglaries. The Delray Beach Police Department publishes traffic accidents, breaks down crime in areas, and shows service calls. The Boynton Beach Police Department has provided holiday safety suggestions, water restriction rules, and data on traffic-enforcement initiatives. The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office has received 13 million hits since November, according to officials. http://www.sun-sentinel.com/
"Gadgets Transform Public Safety"
Chattanooga Times Free Press (TN) (07/12/07) P. B2; Cook, Dick
A variety of technologically-advanced devices are enabling law-enforcement groups in southwest Tennessee and North Georgia to improve how they perform their jobs. In early July, for instance, Bradley County, Tenn., Sheriff's Department officials used the assistance of Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officers to attempt to locate a sunken vehicle in a local lake. A side-scan sonar utilized during the investigation by the officers enabled law enforcement to look 50 feet into the water. Law enforcement also employs specialized technology to search in the dark, record the discussions of informants, monitor criminals' actions, and confirm the identities of individuals who wish to hide, according to officials. "There's no question that today law enforcement is much more successful in solving crimes than 30 years ago by using technology," Catoosa County, Ga., Sheriff Phil Summers stated. Summers noted how in-car video cameras, which have been in existence for 10 years, help him to contest complaints against police during traffic stops. Different state and federal grants have enabled smaller, financially-challenged police departments to obtain modern equipment. Bradley County, for example, used around $350,000 in grant money from the U.S. Homeland Security Department to outfit a crime lab in its facility. http://www.timesfreepress.com/ShowStoryTemplate.asp?Path=ChatTFPress/2007/07/12&ID=Ar00804&Section=Metro/Region
"Holly Ridge Police Pack More Sting"
Jacksonville Daily News (NC) (07/12/07); Kay, Lindell
The Holly Ridge, N.C., Police Department recently received Taser stun guns, the second law-enforcement group in Onslow County to get them. "We haven't had to use pepper spray so far this year, and hopefully we will not have to use our new Tasers, either," Holly Ridge Police Chief John Maiorano stated. "But if we have to, Tasers are meant to save lives." As part of the instruction in how to correctly employ Tasers, numerous Holly Ridge police officers have offered to be shot with the guns. The Onslow County's Sheriff's Department started utilizing Tasers nearly two years ago, according to Capt. Rick Sutherland. He noted that three-fourths of the department is currently qualified to employ the guns. Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown emphasizes that Tasers are highly effective. http://www.jdnews.com/news/police_49733___article.html/tasers_use.html
"Entities Find Use for Geo Mapping"
Memphis Commercial Appeal (TN) (07/13/07) P. DSB1; Covington, Jimmie
A geographic information systems (GIS) workshop took place the week of July 9 in Southaven, Miss., as part of a statewide plan to bring GIS technology to every county in Mississippi. Financed by a federal grant, the initiative was created in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to help governmental workers and authorities devise geographically-connected databases. During hurricanes and other severe emergencies, it is necessary to have computer-based maps revealing the exact locations of individuals, buildings, utility lines, different services, evacuation paths, and additional information needed by emergency workers. In addition, the databases significantly help governments in offering daily services in a range of areas, including law enforcement, GIS activists claim. The instruction workshops and associated activities are managed by the Mississippi State University Extension Service. Geospatial extension specialist Dr. Scott A. Samson and two other individuals from the university have been operating the workshops at different sites in Mississippi for a little over a year. The workshops last between two and five days, and follow-ups are conducted in communities to help workshop enrollees implement what they have discovered. http://www.commercialappeal.com/mca/desoto/article/
"Belleville Police Cars to Get Video Cameras"
Belleville News-Democrat (IL) (07/11/07) P. A1; White, Lisa P.
A $46,000 federal grant will allow squad cars in Belleville, Ill. to be equipped with audio-visual recording systems. The proposed setup will include cameras that can spin 360 degrees to record suspect and officer behavior in and out of the car. Officers will also be given a microphone so they can capture sound when they are speaking to a suspect. Each camera and microphone set is expected to run the department between $2,500 and $4,500. Officers say the added protection the systems provide to police and suspects alike is worth the price tag. They point out the cameras will be particularly useful for the area's new street crimes unit, which is responsible for controlling offenses from drug deals to aggressive panhandling. http://www.bnd.com/news/local/story/78423.html
"Foot Patrols? So Yesterday as Police Segue to Segways"
Cincinnati Post (07/14/07) P. A.1; Wessels, Joe
Police in Cincinnati, Ohio are finding a new, high-tech way to keep their city safe. As a part of Cincinnati's Safe City Project, the police department has purchased two Segway Personal Transporters. Segways are two-wheeled, self-balancing transporters, capable of moving at up to 12.5 miles per hour. They can also run for a maximum distance of 24 miles on rechargeable lithium batteries. Police officers love the Segway because it increases their visibility and contact with the community, while allowing officers to pursue suspects with safety and speed. It also has the added benefit of being far more energy conscious than patrol cars. http://news.cincypost.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?
"Taser Demo Proves Stunning"
Durham Herald-Sun (NC) (07/15/07); Rickard, Carolyn
The Durham, N.C., Police Department intends to buy and dispense 100 Taser stun guns to its officers by the middle of next year. Police will first give the Tasers to numerous officers on every squad, and eventually provide them to everybody on the force, according to Major B.J. Council. The department is preparing to buy the Tasers with $135,000 obtained in asset-forfeiture money. The department intends to ask the city of Durham to finance more of the Tasers starting with the 2008-2009 fiscal year. Taser International regional manager Jay Kehoe, a former police officer, claims that of every 1,000 hits with a Taser, just two will cause injury. Councilman Howard Clement, however, is concerned that police would not be correctly instructed, thereby causing injuries. Officers will be instructed for a minimum of six hours on the stun guns, police officials noted. http://www.herald-sun.com/
"Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office Participates in Testing of Faster DNA Analysis"
Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel (FL) (07/11/07); Joyner, Rachael
Part of the Gattaca Project--a new DNA analysis technology--is being tested by the Palm Beach County, Fla.'s Sheriff's Office. On July 10, the office's forensics team processed blood samples with a machine still being devised by University of California, Berkeley scientists. The technology's objective is to reduce the time it takes to process samples of DNA, so they can be employed to locate suspects while a crime scene is still new. Right now, samples are handled in a lab, which can take weeks. The whole procedure, however, still has not been incorporated into one device: The Gattaca Project just conducts two of the four steps in a DNA study. The technology would permit law-enforcement groups to locate suspects faster, getting individuals to prison and eliminating suspects more rapidly, claims Sheriff's Office violent crimes division Lt. Jeffery Andrews. The device is a smaller version of what would be found in a lab, has the appearance of a briefcase-sized black box, and utilizes a microchip and a laser beam the size of hair to determine the length of DNA strands. The project was created with an $830,000 grant from the federal Department of Justice's National Institute of Justice. http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/palmbeach/sfl-flpdna0711pnjul11,0,7857673.story
"Visual Trainer Keeps Police Safe"
Plain Dealer (Cleveland) (07/11/07); Boyd, Leah
A new virtual reality simulator will allow police officers to receive safe, realistic training in driving and firearms. The $320,000 simulator was created by L-3 Communications, Advanced Interactive Systems, and Tri-C's Public Training Institute's Law Enforcement Division. The driving portion of the system uses six 3-D screens to imitate the view from the windows and mirrors of a squad car. The simulation includes working brakes and wheels that react differently depending on the set weather and road conditions. The firearms part of the simulator lets officers use a laser gun which can imitate taser, pepper spray, and gun functions. The simulator records firing accuracy and reaction time. If the user makes a mistake which would have resulted in a real-life injury, they are automatically hit with a pellet gun. The entire system is contained in a 53 foot trailer that can travel to any area of the country, cutting down on the travel costs many police departments incur from sending officers to training facilities. http://www.cleveland.com/plaindealer/stories/index.ssf?
Government Technology (07/09/07); Douglas, Merrill
The Justice Network (JNET) of Pennsylvania is an integrated Web portal that enables the exchange of criminal justice and public safety data, and serves 30,000 state, local, and federal users at 60-plus agencies. JNET allows authorized users access to data from systems that receive input from numerous stakeholders, and its features include a facial recognition system and a pilot of a system that automatically disseminates warrant information. Deputy CIO for the Public Safety Community of Practice in the Office of Administration Brenda Kaczmarek says JNET's uniqueness is derived from its status as an enterprise project, which means that the network answers to not just the state's Office for Information Technology, but also to its primary stakeholder agencies such as the Pennsylvania State Police, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Department of Corrections. "My role as executive director is to ensure that the projects we're working on are meeting the requirements of the agencies that requested them," explains JNET's Philip Tomassini. JNET's annual operating budget is $8.8 million. JNET is required to comply with the same IT standards and procedures applicable to every other state organization in Pennsylvania, according to state CIO and deputy secretary for information technology Kristen Miller. http://www.govtech.com/gt/articles/125493
"Security a Priority for County Offices"
Beaumont Enterprise (07/10/07); Moore, Sarah
On July 9, Jefferson County, Texas, officials and county workers convened to talk about increasing courthouse security. A recent hostage standoff generated concerns about the Jefferson County Courthouse's risks. A committee that convened early in 2007 listed nine priorities to be dealt with in regards to courthouse security, including metal detectors and X-ray machines at courthouse entrances, security cameras across the facility, and security badges for staff. In presenting its suggestions, the committee returned to a report created by a consultant many years ago when commissioners started studying perimeter security. Commissioner Eddie Arnold stated that the consultant mentioned a startup price of $250,000 to $500,000, with an annual price of between $300,000 and $400,000 to maintain the system and provide staff. Increasing expenses would likely raise those figures between 20 percent and 30 percent, Arnold noted. He also pointed out the figure did not take into account a security-based system, which could cost an additional $50,000 to $100,000, including security entrances. Arnold stated that the matter would be discussed starting the week of July 16 during county budget hearings. http://www.zwire.com/site/index.cfm?newsid=18567412
"Drug Task Forces Evolve"
Myrtle Beach Sun News (SC) (07/10/07) P. A1; Hoke, Josh
Law-enforcement groups in North and South Carolina are using new strategies and equipment--including video tracking and drug-detection gadgets--to help them more effectively catch and try drug violators. The efforts are overseen by the 15th Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit, an almost two-year-old group. The agency is comprised of officers from police agencies throughout Horry County, S.C., and it handles investigation data from the county. That data is then sent to regional police departments, which upgrades information-sharing and prevents dual investigations. Background checks by the task force permit police to monitor phone records and will soon provide officials with a way to facilitate drug-dealer prosecution. The National Guard has bought a $6,000 printer that will enable authorities to portray cartels in a picture that has a similar appearance to a family tree and will include names, photos, and additional information. The agency will also be able to utilize a thermal imaging system that permits police to search inside a house without having to obtain a search warrant, as officers will be able to employ it from the road, which is public land. The imaging system will notify police about facilities that have internal drug operations. http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/news/local/story/123872.html
"Massachusetts Becomes First State to Fully Implement Iris Biometric Technology"
Business Wire (07/10/07)
In May 2005, Hampshire County Massachusetts Sheriff Robert Garvey helped launch the Children's Identification and Location Database (The CHILD Project). His office was the first to become part of a secure nationwide network and registry that enables law enforcement and social service agencies to positively identify missing children and adults through biometric technology. Based on his success, the Massachusetts Sheriffs' Association was able to secure state funding, which allowed them to obtain the systems for each of the Commonwealth's fourteen sheriffs. Developed by Plymouth, Massachusetts based BI2 Technologies, the easy-to-use systems were implemented across the Commonwealth in less than one month. In less than two years, Sheriff Garvey's initial idea has already expanded into 25 states and has grown into a national system that can also track inmates and sex offenders through the use of iris biometric recognition technology. BI2 Technologies uses a specialized video camera to capture a detailed close-up of a person's iris and then system's biometric software makes a template or 'map' of each iris pattern, for storage in the registry. To verify identity later, an individual simply looks back into an iris camera, and the system compares the patterns in the individual's iris against the templates stored in the system. If there's a match, the identity is verified within seconds. "A single click of the camera could help make the difference between a missing child or senior citizen winding up in harms way or making it home safely," said Sheriff Garvey. Other sheriffs across the nation were quick to recognize the benefits of Iris Recognition Technology and expanded its use beyond identifying missing children and adults. Sheriff Jim Pendergraph of Mecklenburg County, Charlotte, North Carolina led the charge. Working with the Sheriff's Office, BI2 Technologies expanded their technology to develop a system that tracks inmates from intake through release and another that can positively identify convicted sex offenders anywhere in the nation in a matter of seconds. The Inmate Recognition & Identification System (IRIS) eliminates the possibility of human error from the release process by requiring iris recognition, giving sheriffs the confidence that only those inmates scheduled for release will be released. "I believe today, agencies across the country need to avail themselves of the newest, most effective technologies in our efforts to serve the community," said Sheriff Pendergraph. "To this end, the Mecklenburg county Sheriff's Office recently implemented the use of IRIS in our operations. Our intent is to use this highly advanced technology across multiple areas of the agency - from inmate intake and release to verification of sex offender identity." http://home.businesswire.com/portal/site/google/index.jsp?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20070710006485&newsLang=en
"Never Bring a Taser to a Gunfight"
Police Magazine (06/07) Vol. 31, No. 6, P. 40; Guilbault, Rick
Experts say restricting TASER gun use to deadly force situations is a mistake that poses a threat to police officers and criminals. Rising pressure from lawmakers and special interest groups to restrict TASER gun use has pushed the issue to the forefront, but law enforcement officers, and even some legal experts, agree that such restrictions will result in more deaths. "There is significant pressure in some segments of the community to put electronic control device use at or just below lethal force. [This is] naive [and] it gives officers a dangerous choice and will lead to more deaths," asserts Scott Greenwood, general counsel to the National Board of the ACLU. The argument has brought confusion to an area, where until recently, officers had clarity. Though use-of-force policies vary from agency to agency, police officers have sufficient training to rightly assess how to respond in an emergency and should have the freedom to use any weapon at their disposal. www.policemag.com