Editor's Note: Many of these technologies are being used by state and local police officers for counterterrorism and homeland security purposes.
NLECTC Law Enforcement & Corrections Technology News Summary
Thursday, August 2, 2007
"Centre Island Police Put Latest Technology to Work"
New York Times (07/29/07) P. 5; Domash, Shelly Feuer
Law enforcement technology scans the license plates of every car driving onto Nassau County's Centre Island. Chief Dennis Weiner of the Centre Island Police Department says the agency tracks weather via radar-monitoring computers and software servers that are used as tools for criminal reports. Officers carry compact mobile scanners to transfer vehicle license and registration information onto computers, ride in night-vision binocular-equipped Volvos, and carry Tasers. The department has a centralized system for keeping reports of accidents, arrests, and officer diaries, among other features. The main headquarters' computer also provides address validations, 3-D area maps, and a comprehensive search engine. Departments with compatible software, such as Long Beach and Mamaroneck, can network and share the information from their systems. Such advanced technology at any law enforcement agency is remarkable, but it is especially atypical for Centre Island's small nine-officer department. Weiner said that the technology costs represents only 4 percent of a $1.6 million annual budget and that the department maximizes the efficiency of their allowed spending. He added, "Anytime you apply a technology that will increase officer effectiveness, you have an opportunity to increase the bang for each tax dollar spent on public safety."
"Prison Tests Keeping Out Some Drugs, and Visitors"
Fort Worth Star-Telegram (07/26/07) P. B1; Berard, Yamil
Visitors to prisons controlled by the Federal Bureau of Prisons are subject to a drug-testing machine that officials say is used to minimize drug usage in the facilities. The "minimally invasive" procedure takes swab samples from visitors' hands or clothes, and within seconds the results are produced. Authorities say the high-tech machine is so sensitive, it is unlikely that anyone who comes into contact with illegal substances would be able to bypass the test. Chemist James Woodford says, "If you go into a place where someone has smoked some meth or cocaine, there will be thousands if not hundreds of thousands of nanograms of pollution, and these ion scanners test at the nanogram level." Although the machines have been implemented for a decade to cut the incidences of visitors bringing inmates drugs, a 2003 Department of Justice Inspector General report revealed that efforts to impede drug trafficking did not decrease drug usage in prisons. Instead, the report found that staff members, who were not subject to the drug screening, smuggled drugs to inmates; the bureau is now seeking to implement a drug screening rule for employees. Visitors who test positive must wait 48 hours to visit the prison and will be tested every visit for one year, while a second positive test results in a 30-day wait period, thereafter subsequent positive tests result in longer waiting times. Yet University of North Texas professor Chad Trulson says that the machines might be hyper-sensitive, as the machines can detect a visitor who has shook hands with a drug-user, and he says officials should further evaluate the machines' usage. http://origin.dfw.com/mld/dfw/news/state/17543473.htm
"Mapping Software Takes Bite Out of Crime"
Lima News (OH) (07/25/07); Stipe, Zach
The Lima, Ohio, Police Department is employing crime-mapping software to fight crime. The software can determine the precise number of crimes reported in a particular region, neighborhood, or precinct, and show where popular locations are for certain crimes. For example, the software can show the number of burglaries that took place in the Midway East neighborhood last year. Software icons such as the boxing glove (assault) and bags of money (larceny) are utilized to differentiate between various violations on a map revealing multiple crimes. All of the data is public record and updated each day. Lima-Allen County Neighborhoods in Partnership President John Schneider notes that the software is helpful because it can highlight the difference between where people think crimes occur and where they really do take place. "It can provide information to the citizens and enable closer collaboration between neighborhood activists, citizens and law enforcement," he states.
"Police Seek System to ID Cars"
East Valley Tribune (AZ) (07/26/07); Powell, Brian
Scottsdale, Ariz., police are pursing technology that will take photos of as many as 1,000 license plates per hour in an effort to be instantly informed about vehicles that are stolen or involved in terrorism investigations or Amber Alerts. The department is trying to buy four automated license plate recognition systems, which will study license plates within range of the police cruiser. If there is a match, the officers are instantly informed and can then check the plate in the database. In addition, the obtained information could be utilized in any pending investigations. The typical vehicle will a have a pair of cameras facing front and two in the back to decipher the license plates of traffic coming from the opposite direction. All scanned data will be contained in an inside database, including the license plate number and image, vehicle color, time and date stamp, and GPS location. It is believed the data will be kept for 30 days. Scottsdale intends to employ state and federal money to finance the equipment.
"Technology Sketches New Faces in Green River Nightmare"
Seattle Times (07/25/07); Sullivan, Jennifer
A new computer-imaging technology has allowed the King County, Wash., Sheriff's Office to get an idea of what three previously faceless murder victims looked like. To create a composite image of the three young girls, who were killed by Gary L. Ridgway--the so-called Green River killer--more than 20 years ago, forensic experts put their skulls through a CAT scan machine at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. The machines subjected the girls' skulls to high levels of radiation to produce cross-dimensional images that were later downloaded into computers at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). A new type of software was then used to rebuild the girls' faces based on the shape of their skulls. Before the development of this software, forensic scientists commonly used clay on skulls to recreate faces--a process that has an accuracy rate of about 60 percent. By comparison, the new software can create an image that matches what the person actually looked like about 85 percent of the time. Investigators in King County are hoping that the improved accuracy of the images will help them to identify the three victims of the Green River killer.
"Technology, Police Work Nab Burglars"
Farmington Daily Times (NM) (07/28/07); Frolik, Cory
The Aztec, N.M., Police Department recently used reverse 911 to stop a series of crimes. Reverse 911 is a system that the San Juan County Communications Authority obtained several years back utilizing funds provided by the U.S. Homeland Security Department. By employing the Qwest 911 database and the assistance of an external firm to geocode the data, the system can connect the telephone numbers and addresses of inhabitants. The communications center then places that data on a server that law enforcement officials can access via the Internet. The reverse 911 system focuses on telephone numbers of a particular geographic location. Police can then transmit a prerecorded message to people in that region. On July 13, for instance, the 911 communications facility broadcast a prerecorded message to people who reside near where the Aztec crimes occurred. A citizen responded to the message by contacting police on July 15, claiming to have witnessed a man breaking into one of the houses, who was later arrested. http://www.daily-times.com/news/ci_6484144
"The All-Seeing Infrared Eye"
Buffalo News (07/27/07) P. D1; Meyer, Brian
With the help of a pair of infrared cameras, Buffalo, N.Y., police have randomly scanned almost 92,000 license plates in the hunt for violators. During a 10-month period, police gave out almost 4,400 tickets and summonses based on data obtained from mobile plate readers. Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown is so pleased with the results that he would like to back a proposal by Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson to widen the program by adding five more cameras and providing them to every police district. Plans to expand the program, however, are being attacked by the New York Civil Liberties Union, which refers to the cameras as "Big Brother technology." The $125,000 needed to increase the program can be financed via state efficiency grants that are earmarked to upgrade city operations. The cameras are outfitted on the tops of police cars. After scanning plates and confirming them through computer databases, the system automatically notifies the officer inside the vehicle of outstanding warrants. Prior to expanding the program, the Buffalo Common Council and the city's control board would have to sanction plans to employ state efficiency grants to purchase more cameras. http://www.buffalonews.com/cityregion/story/128168.html
"Technology Solution to DUI Problems"
Beckley Register-Herald (07/29/07); Porterfield, Mannix
Though tougher penalties could help reduce drunk-driving crimes, West Virginia Sen. Dan Foster (D) contends that the "ultimate solution" to getting such motorists off the state's roads might occur if innovative technology is employed. Foster's Judiciary Subcommittee A panel intends to work over the August interim on a group of reforms in West Virginia's statutes dealing with drunk drivers. One plan is to enact an "aggravated DUI" measure, which raises the penalty if the drunken motorist has a blood alcohol level of 0.15 or higher. Another idea is to make interlocks required for all initial violators. The driver must blow into a device that determines blood alcohol content, and if it is over the legal limit, the car ignition will not start. In addition, Foster hopes that within a decade, advanced technology will be implemented in a car's steering wheel so that sensors can obtain blood alcohol content from a motorist's hands. "That's the ultimate solution, unless you put everybody in jail forever, which we really can't do," Foster says. http://www.register-herald.com/local/local_story_210223147.html
"Police Chief Offered Prophetic Words About Bulletproof Vests in November"
Glenwood Springs Post Independent (CO) (07/30/07)
Glenwood Springs, Colo., Police Chief Terry Wilson recently stated that bulletproof vests regularly help save the lives of police officers that are injured in the line of duty. That seems to have been the situation on July 29 when a Glenwood officer was hit in the chest while apprehending two males near the Glenwood Springs Airport. Such vests were once cumbersome and uncomfortable to wear, while the current ones are lighter and easier. The bulletproof vests are manufactured from Kevlar, a formidable weave of fiber substance that traps a bullet and rejects it, Wilson explained. "There are grades of thickness that are intended for the shape and size of the bullet to penetration versus the point of contact," Wilson said late last year. "Technology has made [bulletproof vests] so much more wearable and made it so officers will wear them." Wilson also stated that while the law does not mandate that police wear these vests, he has noticed over the past two decades that most of them have begun putting the vests on.
"Ankle Bracelet Latest Fashion for Offenders"
Omaha World-Herald (NE) (07/25/07) P. 1A; Dejka, Joe
Nebraska's probation department is tracking around 150 individuals who are wearing alcohol-monitoring bracelets. The state's violators are part of a pilot plan to study the new technology, which measures alcohol excreted via perspiration. Alcohol Monitoring Systems of Denver produces the bracelet, which it refers to as the Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor. It collects samples each hour and records the data, usually while the offender is sleeping, and then transmits it to law enforcement. The ankle bracket looks like a pair of cell-phone chargers linked together, and is worn round-the-clock. An alarm goes off if the wearer attempts to place any item between the bracelet and the skin. Preliminary figures in the Nebraska pilot program suggest that the bracelet is efficient and difficult to terminate. Sarpy County public defender Tom Strigenz notes that the bracelet will permit certain defendants charged with alcohol-associated crimes to wait for their trials outside of prison, instead of taking up jail space at taxpayers' expense. http://www.omaha.com
"More Than Meets the Eye"
Worcester Telegram & Gazette (MA) (07/26/07); Croteau, Scott J.
Taser International is working with iRobot of Burlington, Mass. to equip robots with taser technology to help bring dangerous individuals under control. The technology evolution has helped law enforcement in Central Massachusetts find missing persons in the woods, get data more rapidly in police vehicles, and locate hard-to-find evidence. When the Hudson Police Department purchased a thermal imaging camera a few years ago, it wound up being a worthwhile investment. A pair of males suspected of breaking into a firm were found in the woods when police utilized the camera to track their movements. The Massachusetts State Police employ the same technology in their multiple Air Wing helicopters to help find suspects and locate missing persons. Meanwhile, Worcester police's laptops can obtain data from the Registry of Motor Vehicles, criminal background reports, and driver's license pictures, and will be able to access all police department data in the near future, including email and reports. Such technology is often expensive; one way police departments in the region get new technology is via the New England State Police Information Network, which possesses surveillance equipment and recording gadgets and has staff that departments can utilize.
"City Focuses on Video Crime Fighting Tool"
Eagle-Tribune (MA) (07/26/07); LaBella, Mike
Haverhill, Mass., Police Chief Alan DeNaro plans to implement 12 or more video cameras in local neighborhoods by the end of this year, followed by more cameras throughout Haverhill as additional grant money is available. The monitors employ a wireless, closed-circuit TV system to transmit live video to laptop computers in police cars. The system enables an officer to see two places at once--the neighborhood he or she is patrolling and the one being monitored by the camera. "Eventually we'd like to get a portable setup that can be moved from one problem location to another, such as an area of illegal dumping, or where drugs and prostitution are a problem," DeNaro noted. He added that after the camera sites have been decided, the approval of building owners and of firms that possess utility poles in Haverhill has to be acquired. Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini is in full support of the surveillance system. "Police are short-handed, we have problems with graffiti, and this is a means of doing what we're trying to do in other departments--using technology as a better means of coverage," he stated.
"E-Tracking Enhances War on Meth"
Newark Star Ledger (07/19/07) P. 58; Jafari, Samira
New computerized tracking systems are helping law enforcement in their fight to locate and dismantle methamphetamine (meth) rings. Tracking systems installed in pharmacies notify law enforcement whenever someone purchases pseudoephedrine, a main ingredient used to make meth. The system automatically takes the name, address and driver's license information of the buyer, then contacts law enforcement through email when the customers goes over the purchase limit. Tracking systems closely monitor purchasing patterns for people who try to circumvent the law by going to more than one pharmacy to purchase the drug. New models allow police officers to track purchases by street or neighborhood.
"Advance Driving Class for Police"
The Southern Illinois Criminal Justice Program's S-I-U advance driving course can help police officers and emergency responders improve their skills behind the wheel in a number of specific situations to minimize potential risks. One exercise students are required to complete is called the Serpentine, which helps drivers with comfortable hand-positioning and handling of a vehicle. Another obstacle includes the Skid-pad, which helps drivers learn to control their vehicles on slippery surfaces. Additional training is offered in the eight-hour course on off-road recovery, controlled braking, and vehicle handling. However, before students get to the obstacle courses on the driving range, they must complete classroom training on high-speed pursuits. Lead instructor Dan Shannon notes, "We [emergency responders and police officers] spend a lot of time and hours behind that wheel in all kinds of conditions," which is why advanced driving skills are necessary. http://www.wsiltv.com/p/news_details.php?newsID=2781&type=top
"The FBI's RCFL Program is Offering a Free Webinar About Digital Evidence for Law Enforcement"
Sheriff (06/07) Vol. 59, No. 3, P. 36; Cocuzzo, Gerard J.
The FBI has created the Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory (RCFL) Program to train law enforcement communities about digital evidence technology. Criminals are increasingly being caught by evidence such as online searches and email, among other digital evidence, so the FBI's initiative introduces responders to this realm of knowledge via training center and a digital evidence laboratory. Law enforcement agencies from all levels are involved in working with FBI forensics experts and the RCFL has assisted in investigations such as 9/11 and Enron since the program's inception. Sheriff Gary T. Maha, serving on the RCFL Program's National Steering Committee, said, "Law enforcement must get ahead of the criminals when it comes to high-tech, and the way to do that is through education and training." http://www.sheriffs.org