Editor's Note: Many of the technologies cited in this summary are used by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies for counterterrorism and homeland security purposes.
NLECTC Law Enforcement & Corrections Technology News Summary
Thursday, August 23, 2007
"Police Ask That Cameras for Traffic Be Set to Record"
Contra Costa Times (CA) (08/18/07); Fischer, Karl
El Cerrito, Calif., Police Chief Scott Kirkland has requested that the Alameda County Congestion Management Agency record the footage generated by around 24 traffic cameras along San Pablo Avenue to help in police investigations. The idea, however, is not attractive to privacy activists, who claim the cameras are not efficient crime deterrents and could be used improperly. The agency will query its 29 partner cities, counties, and transit groups over the coming two months before making a decision. Alameda's congestion council implemented the cameras three years ago to enable traffic planners and the public to determine congestion and additional driving conditions along East Bay roads, including San Pablo Avenue. While the camera images are usually clear enough to make out the color, make, and model of a vehicle, they cannot read license-plate numbers or characteristics of drivers. Law enforcement started requesting recorded footage a short while after the cameras were erected. Kirkland claims his proposal would cost around $50,000, which he says other police agencies in the area could help pay for. http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_6657592
"County Focuses on Disaster Prep"
Philadelphia Inquirer (08/19/07); Cook, Bonnie L.
To prepare for a terrorist attack, officials in Upper Merion Township, Pa., have voted to outfit their caucus room with new antiterror gear. The township is one of 61 in Montgomery County that are taking steps to improve their emergency preparedness. The county has already allocated $18.1 million to disaster readiness and is preparing to open a new antiterrorist and weapons-training facility in mid-September that will serve at the site of the county's first public-safety campus. County officials say the building will allow first-responders to train at the same site, using the same set of rules. "The coordination and training has to be led by the county," says Montgomery County Commissioner Tom Ellis. "So when there is an emergency, people aren't falling all over themselves. You can have all the equipment you want, but if you don't know what to do when you get to the scene, it doesn't work."
"Policing Helped by Sketches"
Worcester Telegram & Gazette (MA) (08/19/07) P. B1; Williamson, Danielle M.
Law enforcement officials in the Worcester, Mass., region recently met and talked about their employment of artists and computer programs that manufacture images of suspects. The most discussed case was that of a 16-year-old girl who was abducted in June 2000 from a pond in Warren. The girl's mother gave a leading sketch artist a description of the suspect, who was arrested earlier in August 2007 on a separate abduction charge. Police still do not frequently retain nationally known sketch arts to assist with an investigation. What is more typical is the employment of computer programs such as Identi-Kit, which provides numerous choices for facial characteristics that can be brought together to make a composite. While the majority of sketches have some similarities to their subject of focus, they are not often "a dead ringer," notes Northboro Police Chief Mark K. Leahy. Gardner Det. William Crockett points out that the more people who see a crime, the better the possibility that a realistic drawing will be made, as police can compare similar aspects of each description. http://www.telegram.com/article/20070819/NEWS/708190454/1008/NEWS02
"N.J. Gives Big Boost to Gun Tracking"
Philadelphia Inquirer (08/16/07) P. B1; Ung, Elisa
New Jersey will become the first state in the nation to share a federal gun database. It will have real-time electronic access to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives database, which lists a gun's initial buyer, sale date, and the store from where it was bought. This would provide the state with a formidable way to study illegitimate gun violence and trafficking trends, authorities said, and possibly enable law enforcement to rapidly connect crimes in multiple towns. The tracing data is gathered from area police records of firearm purchases. Last year, 4,743 individuals were arrested in New Jersey for having illegal guns. Of the 3,100 guns presented for tracing in 2006, just 26 percent were bought in the state. New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram stated on Aug. 15 that she was ordering all area law-enforcement groups in the state to submit their tracing data, which will be placed in a database shared by all law enforcement in New Jersey.
"New E.V. Central Crime Database Aims for Quicker ID, Arrests"
East Valley Tribune (AZ) (08/16/07); McDevitt, Katie
The new East Valley Gang and Criminal Information Fusion Center in Mesa, Ariz., is set to open this autumn at the Mesa Police Department. The center's staff will collect and study crime-related data so it can be shared among law enforcement agencies in the East Valley. Authorities note that sharing information will make it easier and faster to catch criminals, who frequently cross city borders. Right now, when a crime is investigated in several jurisdictions, police have to contact another official and determine who is handling the case. In the fall, however, when an agency finds out about a crime, it will send the data electronically to the fusion center, where the data will be studied to determine if the crime is occurring in other cities. All of the information is merged and transmitted to participating entities so police can study the material prior to going out on the streets. In addition, the center can monitor gang members and other individuals police need to know about. An important tool that will assist in the procedure is COPLINK, a new technology that will provide police with the capability to look through thousands of internal records in seconds. http://www.eastvalleytribune.com/story/95217
"Sheriff Mike Blakely Requests More Than $7 Million"
Decatur Daily News (Ala.) (08/16/07); Hollman, Holly
The Decatur Sheriff's Department has asked the county for an extra $1.6 million in funding. The department received $5.8 million for fiscal 2007, but Sheriff Mike Blakely has petitioned the Limestone County Commission for another $1.6 million, pushing the total request for fiscal 2008 to almost $7.5 million. Blakely said the additional money, which be used for the Sheriff's department, work release, school resource officers, and courthouse security, is necessary to keep the department and auxiliary services up and running. "We're the largest agency you have, with 40 to 50 percent of the county's employees," Blakely said. "And we operate 24 hours and seven days a week." The money would also help finance major equipment purchases, including a computer-aided dispatch system and a digital recorder upgrade that cost $235,210 and $20,000, respectively. The dispatch system would let the department enter information--caller complaints, for instance--into the computer system, which would then retrieve information from all departments on the caller, a suspect, or an address. Phone call recordings would be facilitated by the recorder system.
"ShotSpotter System to Be Deployed in Illinois Municipality"
Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal (08/16/07)
Bellwood, Ill., is implementing ShotSpotter's gunshot location system with a wireless surveillance camera network. The village is employing the system to offer police real-time information regarding gunshot incidents, exact information about the events, in-depth intelligence and forensic analysis for arrest and prosecution, and data about a shooter's location, including drive-by shooters on the run. ShotSpotter states that its gunshot location system has easy-to-use sensors that can locate gunfire in big urban regions. The firm caters to law enforcement, homeland security, and military groups.
"New Crimefighters for Newark"
Star-Ledger (NJ) (08/15/07) P. 15; Parks, Brad; Mays, Jeffery C.; Marsico, Ron
A new program, called Community Eye, will be helping police in Newark, N.J., fight crime. The program is made up of a combination of video cameras and gunshot-sensors strategically placed in about a third of the city where 80 percent of recent shootings have occurred. The system is set to cost a total of $3.2 million. By the time it is finished, Community Eye will include 127 bullet-proof, tamper-proof cameras. It will also include a number of sensors designed to specifically detect the sound of a gunshot. When a gun is fired, the sensors allow police to use global-positioning technology to locate the source of the noise. They also direct any cameras in the area to point in the direction of the sound.
"Sky Harbor Adds Black Lights, Magnifying Glasses to Security"
East Valley Tribune (AZ) (08/21/07); Hogan, Donna
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says that a pilot program at Phoenix Sky Harbor International (PHX) designed to boost security through the use of trained TSA inspectors at checkpoints rather than airline contract workers has been a success and will be replicated at airports nationwide. According to TSA spokesman Nico Melendez, the TSA inspectors are better at spotting fake identification documents and receive updated government watch lists before each shift. The inspectors are using magnifying glasses and black lights to find fake passports and driver's licenses. PHX has further enhanced security through the addition of backscatter scanning machines that serve as an alternative to pat-downs for travelers setting off alarms when walking through metal detectors. TSA says it will test more backscatters, as well as millimeter wave imaging technology, at PHX, Los Angeles International, and John F. Kennedy International.
"Belleville Police Will Soon be Able to Shoot ... Video"
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (08/15/07) P. C1; Pistor, Nicholas J.C.
The Belleville, Ill., Police Department is outfitting 12 of its police cars with high-resolution digital video recorders that will allow officers to record everything that happens during incidents such as high-speed chases and routine traffic stops. The cameras, which will be paid for with a $47,000 grant from the Department of Justice, will begin recording as soon as officers turn their red and blue police lights on. The video could be used in court to allow judges and juries to see what happened during a particular incident. Don Sax, a captain with the Belleville Police Department, said the ability to present video evidence in court would be particularly helpful during high-profile cases. For example, video would have been helpful in a case last year involving a St. Clair County, Ill., judge who was spotted by a police officer at the scene of a traffic accident with a beer can--which later disappeared.
"Gun ID Bill Takes a Shot at Illegal Weapons Market"
Los Angeles Times (08/15/07) P. B6; Hsu, Tiffany
The California state Senate is considering a bill that would require all new handguns to be stamped with microscopic identification tags. The bill, known as the Crime Gun Identification Act, would also require that handguns be equipped with lasers that imprint a "microstamp" of the gun's make, model, and serial number onto shell casings when the weapon is fired. The new requirements would take effect January 1, 2010, if the bill is passed. According to California Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D), who authored the bill, the legislation would help law enforcement officials trace shell casings back to a gun's registered owner. The legislation would also deter gun owners and retailers from selling to unlicensed purchasers, which would in turn reduce the number of armed criminals, Feuer said. However, opponents of the bill claimed the technology is prone to tampering and does not prevent unlicensed criminals from using the stamped guns. In addition, the microstamping technology could cause crime scenes to "easily be contaminated by a criminal throwing down a handful of shell casings he picked up from the local gun range," the Golden State 2nd Amendment Council wrote in letters to Assembly members.
"Clearing Emergency Radio Waves"
Wall Street Journal (08/07/07) P. A4; Boles, Corey
Sprint Nextel admits it has played hard ball in negotiations with local public-safety agencies regarding its pledge to pay at least $4.86 billion to separate the frequency channels used for its service from the airwaves used for emergency communications. The effort is an ambitious one, everyone agrees, requiring modifications to the wireless-network equipment of public-service agencies across the nation, as well as the radio communications devices they employ. It all must be accomplished while maintaining online public-safety networks. "People's lives are hanging on this," says an official with the Utah Communications Agency Network, which is supervising the channel switch in Utah. "You're having to redesign and rebuild the airplane while it's still flying." Sprint Nextel says by year's end it will have spent some $1.5 billion toward the effort and notes it has committed to spending at least $4.86 billion, meaning anything over that amount would be absorbed by the company. An official with Chester County, Pa., emergency services says he has been negotiating for three years with Sprint Nextel just to agree on funding for a preliminary study on how much it would cost to upgrade its emergency communications equipment. Presently, Sprint Nextel's offer of $400,000 is $250,000 shy of what the county requested. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118644768507989972.html
"Fit and Clean for Life"
Police (07/07) Vol. 31, No. 7, P. 40; Fahl, Keith
Body armor used by law enforcement needs to fit properly, in order to provide maximum comfort and protection, writes Armor Holdings Products Group armor technical specialist Keith Fahl. The front panel of the vest should rise above an officer's duty belt when sitting down so that it does not wrinkle or roll at the bottom of the vest, and the top neck edge needs to fit within an inch beneath the clavicle notch at the top of the sternum. The vest also needs to come slightly above the duty belt, but not touch any of the equipment connected to that belt. In addition, the vest needs to be in line with the points of the wearer's shoulders, and the vest's sides should come together or overlap to shield side areas. When cleaning the vest, the ballistic panels need to be taken off first, with both elements of the vest cleaned individually. The protective panels of the vest can be wiped down with a damp cloth or sponge, using cold water and a gentle soap. When cleaning the carrier, employ a soft bristle brush or cloth to get rid of loose dirt from the surface of the carrier and the hook-and-loop fasteners, Fahl recommends. The carrier should be washed by hand or in the machine in warm or cool water on the gentle cycle utilizing detergent or mild soap. http://www.policemag.com/Articles/2007/07/Fit-and-Clean-for-Life.aspx
"The Valley of Surveillance"
Governing (07/07) Vol. 20, No. 10, P. 38; Perlman, Ellen
Phoenix, Ariz., has acquired a surveillance camera system that allows police to keep an eye on the city's activities. The nearly $500,000 system allows Phoenix police to follow camera images from police headquarters, in patrol cars, or via handheld gadgets. The system allows police to rotate the cameras 360 degrees and have enough bandwidth to obtain almost real-time video. In addition, the cameras can perform "smart searching" of the video, without having to view the entire footage. While opponents contend that erecting cameras just moves violators to another location to avoid being caught on film, authorities note that it throws criminals off-balance, and that forcing them to uncharted areas places them at a disadvantage and enables police to possibly apprehend them as they are making errors. Phoenix's cameras are moved on a regular basis and are set up in regions where criminals are predicted to attack next. The cameras employ mesh technology, which transports images and information to the online nodes erected around a region. The mesh structure manufactures coverage "umbrellas" and information moves from one umbrella to another. http://www.governing.com/articles/7cameras.htm