Editor's Note: Many of the technologies reviewed in these articles are being used by federal, state and local law enforcement (as well as military) for counterterrorism and homeland security.
NLECTC Law Enforcement & Corrections Technology News Summary
Thursday, August 16, 2007
"Iris Scan Boosts Jail Security"
Fort Collins Coloradoan (08/10/07) P. 3A; Reed, Sara
The Larimer County, Colo., Detection Center is now utilizing iris scanning to increase prison security and improve efficiency. Employing a handheld scanner, deputies at the facility scan the irises of everybody who is booked into the prison on top of fingerprint and photographing them. "One of the strong reasons we bought into the system is that someone might pose as someone else at release," explained Lt. Pat McCosh. He recalled how a prisoner was set for release but a different prisoner who had a similar name was set free instead. The scanner captures a black-and-white photo of the individual's eye, digitizes it, and stores it for later comparison. Irises do not change over time, are as individual as fingerprints, and the scan is not impacted by glasses or contacts. Money paid by people booked into the prison financed the $88,000 system, McCosh stressed. He added that the scans are not connected to any personal data besides a name and a file number. http://www.coloradoan.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070810/NEWS01/708100342/1002
"Crime-Tipping Technology Updated"
Contra Costa Times (CA) (08/08/07); Gokhman, Roman
When a passer-by saw a man attempting to kidnap his girlfriend, he used his cell phone to videotape the crime in action and shot an image of the vehicle's license plate number. Law enforcement have noticed the accessibility of the public to assist police with such witness-supplied evidence, so some agencies have created ways for the public to submit and post footage on the Web to assist with arresting criminals. Yet some say the initiative is a matter of credibility, as in the case of individuals holding grudges and falsifying information. The Pismo Beach Police Department has launched the "E-Tip" program, where the public can email video footage to an address monitored by emergency dispatchers. Police Chief Joe Cortex says the department wanted "to get more timely crime-tip info" so the initiative was instated. He added that at first there was apprehension about receiving prank tips, but he noted such instances have not been an issue. Knox County sheriff's communications specialist Drew Reeves says the program has been successful at his department, and although the evidence does not supplant the work of officers, it is an effective tool for assisting with crime solving. http://www.contracostatimes.com/alamedacounty/ci_6571801
"Jones Studies Cameras in Use at Virginia Beach"
Charleston Daily Mail (WV) (08/09/07) P. 4C; Pettit, Zack
Charleston, W.Va. Mayor Danny Jones and other city leaders recently traveled to Virginia Beach to see how that city has benefited from the use of surveillance cameras. According to Charlie Meyer, the chief operating officer for Virginia Beach, there is not as much hard facts and figures as there is anecdotal evidence that surveillance cameras deter crime. He that he could not say that any one factor affected crime rates in Virginia Beach. Nonetheless, Meyer said he is a big supporter of using surveillance cameras because they can monitor more effectively than an officer on patrol and because they can gather evidence. Virginia Beach's emphasis on improving street lighting also seems to have helped deter crime and has prevented the cameras from being ineffective, Meyer said. Jones noted that Charleston needed to improve lighting as well. He added that Charleston's camera initiative would not likely get underway until next year, after officials obtain and learn to use the ca! meras and resolve public concerns about invasion of privacy. http://www.dailymail.com/story/News/2007080968/Mayor-and-police-chief-have-eye-opening-trip-to-check-out-surveillance-cameras/
"Grant Will Aid Care of Copters"
Sacramento Bee (CA) (08/09/07) P. G1; Sanchez, Edgar
The Department of Justice has granted $475,880 to the Sacramento City Council to improve the city's two police helicopters. Aire One and Aire Two will receive night-vision goggles, infrared cameras, and a thermal-imaging camera that will assist law enforcement in spotting individuals from the craft during the night. Sgt. Mike Hutchins says that the new model infrared camera will be especially beneficial because it has a low-light color capability that makes seeing suspects considerably easier at night. The camera will take high-definition photographs of an individual that exhibits the color of the clothing the suspect is wearing; pilots can then relay the information to officers on the ground. Additionally, the cameras' infrared features will thwart attempts from suspects to resort to hiding places such as the bushes or garbage cans, because the camera's technology will capture a glow around the suspect. Lt. Sylvia Moir said the cameras will also be able to assist in searching for missing persons, while the technology can be used by weather specialists in the winter to detect trouble spots in the case of flooding. The federal funding will also pay for replacement main rotor blades for Air One and a reconstructed engine for Air Two. http://www.sacbee.com/city/story/312943.html
"Courthouse Security Upgrades Near Completion"
Kokomo Tribune (IN) (08/08/07); de la Bastide, Ken
Howard County, Ind., authorities have scheduled a tentative date of Aug. 20 to install increased security measures at the courthouse. County authorities had earlier hoped the improved security initiatives would be enacted by April 20, 2007. The county got $30,000 from the state Department of Homeland Security to buy equipment and has spent another $110,000 for additional security improvements and a pair of security officers. Although courthouse staff will have access to the facility's west door, other county workers and public members will be mandated to come in through the east door. Extra cameras costing $44,000 were ordered for the building after a recent failed break-in. Any individual breaching Howard County's security regulations, which include a weapons ban, could be fined as much as $2,500. Law enforcement officers who are off-duty will be mandated to keep their weapons in the security office. A frequent-visitor pass will be given to attorneys and other individuals who have regular courthouse business. http://www.kokomotribune.com/local/local_story_220220537.html
"Houston OKs High-Tech Tracking of Probationers"
Macon Telegraph (GA) (08/08/07); Crenshaw, Wayne
On Aug. 7, the Houston County Board of Commissioners voted to use new technology to monitor people on court probation. The board voted to alter the agreement with Sentinel, its probation firm, to permit for tracking of certain probationers utilizing GPS technology and alcohol-tracking bracelets. Sentinel had formerly been contracted to follow as many as 50 probationers with electronic ankle brackets and phone checks. Every day, data from the bracelets is downloaded over the phone, and it would inform probation officers whether an individual had violated probation. County administrator Steve Engle explained that the advantage of using GPS technology is that it would permit officers to monitor the location of a probationer at any time. He added that the sheriff's department asked for the new service mostly to monitor child molesters. The alcohol-tracking gadgets would be employed for DUI violators and other people mandated by the court to not drink alcohol. The devices, attached to the wrist, detect alcohol consumption through sweat, and would instantly inform the individual's probation officer if alcohol is discovered. http://www.macon.com/197/v-print/story/107254.html
"Homeland Security Tests Strobe-like 'Puke-Ray' to Safely Subdue Suspects"
USA Today (08/08/07) P. 1A; Hall, Mimi; Moreno, Eric
The Department of Homeland Security has invested $1 million for testing of the LED (light-emitting diode) Incapacitator that would blind any individual staring into the beam of light. The tool could be used to abet authorities in their capture of a criminal or to handle belligerent airline passengers. The light will be tested at Pennsylvania State University's Institute of Non-Lethal Defense Technologies this fall, and if the technology receives the green light, the incapacitator could be in the hands of law enforcement by 2010. Program manager Gerald Kirwin says the device would also be used by air marshals, border patrol agents, and other Transportation Security Administration officials. Intelligent Optical, the company that is developing the beam, says the effect of the LED induces "a real disorientation [ranging] from vertigo to nausea" or as the online publication The Registrar deems it, the "puke-ray." Although Intelligent Optical President Bob Lieberman says the device is undergoing medically supervised tests, human rights groups say they are concerned the LED would be used on illegal immigrants. Other issues include the potential for the lights being sold on the black market if they get into the hand of criminals, or whether law enforcement would have to wear protective gear to prevent the devices from being used against them. http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20070808/1a_bottomstrip08.art.htm
"Police Arrest Intruders Near Fallen Bridge, Boost Security"
The Minnesota Department of Transportation is taking over the responsibility of providing security at the site of the collapsed Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis, which authorities consider a death-scene investigation site. Security is being increased after Minneapolis police announced that they arrested 16 people for trespassing at the site and interfering with the investigation. Stressing the need to "maintain the honor and the dignity" of the site where five people died and eight people are still missing, Minneapolis police announced that they are deploying security technology at the site, including surveillance cameras and motion detectors. The technology will notify police if intruders are detected. http://edition.cnn.com/2007/US/08/08/bridge.collapse/index.html
"City Council Proposes Split of 911 Center"
Dallas Morning News (08/09/07); Eiserer, Tanya
The Dallas City Council last week received a proposal from City Manager Mary Suhm that aims to overhaul the city's troubled call center. The call center has been beset with a number of problems recently, including incomplete and sometimes incorrect information being passed from call-takers to police and understaffed overworked operators struggling to keep up with the large volume of calls. Police have also been dispatched to nonpolice matters, such as a fallen tree in a roadway. Under Suhm's plan, the emergency 911 operation and the nonemergency operations--such as 311 service calls--will be split into two next fiscal year. Suhm's plan also provides money for four new supervisors for 311 and six new 911 operators. But according to Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle, the problems at the call center cannot be corrected until 911 operations are moved from the Fire Department's control to the Police Department's control--something Suhm's plan does not call for. However, Suhm said the city is probably going to move 911 operations back to the police department after the center has been split between 911 and 311, and after a new dispatch system gets off the ground this month. http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews
"New Crime Lab Planned for Triad"
High Point Enterprise (08/11/07); Kimbrough, Pat
Earlier in August, North Carolina legislators sanctioned money to help form the Piedmont Triad Regional Crime Laboratory. The $567,911 will be employed to lease space and hire new employees for a State Bureau of Investigation lab that will facilitate forensic crime-scene evidence study for law enforcement groups in the area. The new lab would mean investigators would not have to depend as much on state labs in Raleigh and Western North Carolina, where it can take weeks or months to analyze evidence. Triad sheriffs have tentatively consented to offer federal forfeiture money from their various agencies to the lab to assist with start-up and operating expenses. Though a location has not been selected, Guilford County Sheriff B.J. Barnes reported that Greensboro is a likely setting and that the tentative scheduled opening date is April 2008. The new lab will offer drug chemistry and toxicology study, latent evidence analysis, and computer forensics, although it will not provide DNA study. Barnes noted that although local police agencies were contacted about the new facility, it will mostly be a function of area sheriff's offices. http://www.hpe.com/
"Dispatchers Face Challenges in Tracking Emergency Calls"
Houston Chronicle (08/09/07) P. 9; Stauffer, Kimberly
Emergency dispatch workers in Montgomery County, Texas, are working to alter the way they accept and deal with emergency calls. Nearly 60 percent of 911 calls are made from cell phones, which means they are often dropped or contain static, and if callers cannot provide dispatchers with an address and other data, finding them can be difficult. A deal between cell-phone companies and the FCC mandates wireless carriers to provide location data and technology. Montgomery County Sheriff's Department executive director Bob Gunter notes that with the carriers' aid, emergency dispatchers can find a person around 80 percent of the time. He notes, however, that a large part of the technology's bill is footed by law enforcement. Within the next few years, the sheriff's department will start installing new technology permitting the public to call emergency services from any location. Gunter states that the National Emergency Number Association is working will all cell-phone providers in the creation of next-generation technology--namely, IP-based Internet-style technology. For example, he says, if somebody sees a shooting and employs a cell phone or camera to take a picture of the event, he or she can upload and send it to dispatch and call 911. http://www.chron.com/
"Officials Laud Unmanned Weapons, See Challenges"
ABC News (08/07/07); Shalal-Esa, Andrea
Speaking during AUVSI's Unmanned Systems North America 2007 conference in Washington, D.C., Lt. Gen. Donald Hoffman said the U.S. military sees increasing value in the use of unmanned planes, boats, and ground vehicles. "I see this as an explosive arena," Hoffman said, noting that unmanned, high-altitude surveillance planes like the Global Hawk have a number of advantages over their human-operated counterparts. Not only can unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) stay in the air for up to 24 hours, they also have potential applications in the area of "near space," which is unreachable by manned planes. Other UAVs include the Reaper, a faster, deadlier version of the Predator that is capable of flying twice as high. UAVs are not without their drawbacks; however, plans are already in the works to overcome concerns about their fueling and the bandwidth needed to operate the UAVs. The Navy plans to further develop its use of unmanned aircraft with a $2 billion contract this fall for maritime surveillance. In addition, the Navy has outfitted the Littoral Combat Ship with the equipment necessary to control unmanned boats. http://www.abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory?id=3456951
"Taser Gets Personal"
East Valley Tribune (AZ) (08/07/07); Hogan, Shanna
The latest Taser model is more stylish and less expensive than prior models. The Taser C2 Personal Protector is lightweight and comes in an array of new colors and sizes, including metallic pink, titanium silver, electric blue and black pearl. Like older models, the C2 delivers 50,000 volts of electricity, leaving an attacker incapacitated for up to 30 seconds. But Taser representatives hope the new colors and compact size of the C2 will attract a wider range of consumers, including women. "For the last seven years, we've been making law enforcement our No. 1 priority," says Taser International Chairman Tom Smith. "Everything we did looked like a firearm, felt like a firearm, it was very aggressive. People didn't want that 'Dirty Harry' look." Still, Smith adds that "some law enforcement officials" have misgivings about increasing the accessibility of Tasers to civilians. http://www.eastvalleytribun! e.com/
"Teens Help Clovis Police Get a New Set of Robot Eyes"
Fresno Bee (CA) (08/07/07) P. B1; Benjamin, Marc
The Clovis Police Department recruited a couple of high school students to build a remote-controlled surveillance device. The device features a camera to allow SWAT to see inside their target with a closed-circuit camera. "It can be the eyes in there first and then the commanders and chiefs can make a tactical decision without risking a body," explains officer Dave Grotto, who recruited his 18-year-old nephew and his friend to build the remote-controlled device. The robot the teens built runs on tank treads and is outfitted with a camera on a scissor lift that can turn 360 degrees. Scenes captured by the camera are relayed to a five-inch television monitor affixed to the remote control. The camera can operate for two hours before needing to be recharged. http://www.fresnobee.com/263/story/105826.html
"Digital Age Gives Police an Edge in Identifying Victims"
Beaumont Enterprise (08/06/07); Myers, Ryan
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's Child Victim Identification Program, which was begun five years ago, employs facial recognition to compare digital pictures in what could be the biggest collection of child pornography in the world. Local, state, and law enforcement groups, as well as law enforcement agencies from other countries, have donated images to the program. Since 2002, 8.6 million image files have been downloaded, helping locate 1,100 child victims. The program's most important function is locating children whose images are given for the first time. If a child has not been witnessed previously in the program, he or she could be a present abuse visit. Law enforcement is devising new ways to investigate individuals found with child pornography. The most significant change in recent years has been cooperation between various law enforcement organizations via the Child Victim Identification Program, claims program manager Jennifer Lee. http://www.southeasttexaslive.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=18667104&BRD=2287&PAG=461&dept_id=512588&rfi=6
"Upkeep of Security Devices a Burden"
Washington Post (08/13/07) P. A1; Sheridan, Mary Beth
Emergency preparedness officials across the country say they are facing mounting costs related to the upkeep and maintenance of security equipment they purchased via homeland security grants since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Local officials believe they will be forced to spend a significant percentage of any future homeland grants on maintaining the equipment they have now, instead of purchasing new equipment. In many cash-strapped jurisdictions, expensive equipment is gathering dust because the equipment costs too much to maintain. For example, the FBI used a $25 million grant in 2003 to equip about 400 state and local bomb squads with a $12,000 high-tech bomb kit. The wireless laptop-based bomb kits allow U.S. bomb squads to communicate and share data about weapons of mass destruction and other explosives, and the kits even come with digital cameras that allow bomb squad members to take photos of suspicious devices, send the photos to the FBI, and get immediate advice. The initial $25 million grant included a prepaid wireless card and three-year service agreement, but once the prepaid subscriptions ran out, the local squads were forced to foot the bill. As a result, many bomb squads across the country have stopped using the devices. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/12/AR2007081201244.html?hpid=topnews
"Robotic Insect Takes Off for the First Time"
Technology Review (07/19/07); Ross, Rachel
Harvard University researchers have created a life-size robotic fly that could one day be used as spies or to detect harmful chemicals. The robotic fly weighs only 60 grams, has a wingspan of three centimeters, and has its movements modeled after those of a real fly. The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is funding the research on the robotic fly, which still has a significant amount of work left to be done, in the hope that it will lead to stealth surveillance robots. Recreating a fly's efficient movements in a robot about the same size was difficult because existing manufacturing processes do not make the sturdy, lightweight parts necessary. The research team developed its own fabrication process, using laser micro-machining to cut thin sheet of carbon fiber and polymers into two-dimensional patters. After more than seven years of working and improving parts, the robotic fly finally flew this spring. The robot still needs significant work, as it is currently held on a tether that keeps it moving in a straight, upward direction. The researchers are working on a flight controller so the robot can fly as instructed. The fly is also currently connected to a external power source, so an onboard power source needs to be developed. Leader of the robotic fly project Robert Wood said a scaled-down lithium-polymer batter would provide less than five minutes of flight time. Tiny sensors and software routines need to be developed and integrated as well so the fly can detect dangerous conditions and be able to avoid flying into obstacles. http://www.technologyreview.com/Infotech/19068/
"Ground Vehicles a Larger Presence at Unmanned Vehicle Exhibition"
Defense News (08/06/07); Osborn, Kris
There were more unmanned ground systems at this year's Unmanned Systems North America exhibition show--which was held by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland--than in years past, according to exhibitors and military officials. "In previous years, there were few unmanned ground vehicles at this show," said iRobot co-founder Helen Greiner. "This year, about one-third are ground." One of those robots was the 9-foot, 3,500-pound Mobile Detection Assessment Response System (MDARS), a security-guard robot from General Dynamics Robotics Systems (GDRS) that is capable of walking a beat without human control, avoiding both fixed and moving obstacles and detecting intruders up to 300 meters away. According to a Defense Department official with the Physical Security Action Group, MDARS would be the Army's first land-based semi-autonomous robot. GDRS is currently negotiating a $70 million deal t! o provide the Army with 24 to 30 robots, said Brian Frederick, manger of the MDARS program at GDRS. http://defensenews.com/story.php?F=2951265&C=america