Editor's Note: Many of the technologies in this review are being used by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies for their counterterrorism, homeland secuirty and all hazards missions.
NLECTC Law Enforcement & Corrections Technology News Summary
Thursday, September 13, 2007
"Sketch Artists Use Software Program to Nab Bad Guys"
KVOA 4 (Tucson, AZ) (09/10/07)
Tucson police Detectives Mike Walker and Chris Brown use the software program Faces to produce computer-assisted sketches of the "bad guys" that have led to arrests in some recent high-profile crimes. The program, which hit the market in 1998, has been used by Tucson police for the past two years. "The computer does all the work," Walker said, thumbing through a Faces catalog of characteristics featuring 21 categories that include everything from eyebrows to glasses, jaw structure to noses, hair to tattoos. "There are 4,400 different features that can create 1 million different composites," Walker said. Once the features are selected by the person being interviewed, Walker or Brown inputs the data. They can fine tune the final composite, moving hairlines up or eyebrows down on the computer screen. While police don't keep statistics on the composite's success rate, Walker said it's "pretty good." In addition to composites of wanted criminals, the Faces program is also useful for age progression of missing persons or enhancing a blurry video image of someone.
"LAPD Buys 'Dirty Bomb' Detectors"
Daily Breeze (09/10/07)
Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton has bought seven devices that can detect the radioactive signature of "dirty" bombs. One of the devices has apparently been implemented in a helicopter and is able to locate an unexploded dirty bomb from 800 feet above the ground. Dirty bombs use traditional explosives to disperse radioactive substances into the adjacent atmosphere. Bratton says that Los Angeles is the U.S. city with the third largest risk of being impacted by a dirty bomb, due to the special attributes the city possesses--the airport, port, and "just the symbolism of so much of what [terrorists] hate." Bratton states the Los Angeles Police Department has been given $3 million in Homeland Security money and has utilized those funds to also purchase a bomb-response truck for $900,000 that has a robot that can be worked from one mile away. In addition, the department has bought a mobile response truck for police public information officers, to function as a portable center for communicating data through news media.
"Police Take Up Tasers"
The Spectator (09/10/07); Halter, Nick
In light of the Virginia Tech tragedy, University of Wisconsin law enforcement will be equipped with Tasers this fall. As a measure to strengthen campus safety, officers also received training addressing how to prevent and respond during a university emergency. Vice chancellor of business and student services Andy Soll and University Police Chief David Sprick says implementing the Tasers has been under consideration for years, but the Virginia Tech incident was the impetus that finally led to their deployment. According to the Wisconsin Department of Justice's Law Enforcement Standards board, Tasers are ranked as an equivalent to pepper spray in terms of a force gradient. The Tasers, $800 apiece, have a 25-foot range. Additionally, they can target individuals as opposed to accidentally injuring a group of people in the case of using pepper spray. Sprick says the Tasers will be used by one in four UW campuses and that the department would like to expand their equipment eventually for the inclusion of ballistic shields and Kevlar helmets.
"Look Up: Seattle Cops May Soon Be Watching"
Seattle Times (09/07/07) P. A1; Sullivan, Jennifer
Police in Seattle may soon employ private security cameras in the downtown business area to help look out for assaults, drug deals, and additional crimes. Police and the Downtown Seattle Association are studying the establishment of a surveillance system that would permit officers to follow real-time video footage from security cameras on and near downtown buildings. The formation of such a plan, however, would likely draw criticism from the ACLU and other entities that worry such surveillance could result in a loss of privacy. In 2006, the Downtown Seattle Association acquired bids for a closed-circuit camera system on Pike and Pine streets between First and Fourth avenues. It has earmarked $50,000 and is still considering technology, the precise site of the cameras, and who will be selected to oversee the cameras. Even if law enforcement does not get involved, the association will track crimes via video surveillance. If Seattle does permit officers to watch live video surveillance, it will join Baltimore, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and numerous other U.S. cities that employ video footage to fortify their patrolling efforts. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2003873006_cameras07m.html
"Suffolk Cops Test Out Radiation-Detection Services"
Newsday (09/07/07); Armario, Christine
Over 100 new detectors that can locate radioactive material have been dispensed to law-enforcement officials in Suffolk County, N.Y. Law enforcement claims the detectors are important because terrorists might store or move radioactive substances to the region due to its closeness to New York City. The detectors are small enough to attach to an officer's belt and strong enough to locate active material traveling by inside a car on the expressway. Police in Suffolk have already used 400 less innovative units during the last two years. The new detectors were recently bought by the New York Police Department. Uncovering radiation is simpler than detecting biological or chemical weapons, partly because of the technology and partly because a biological agent might not give anything off, notes Special Patrol Bureau commander and Deputy Inspector Stuart Cameron. The detectors bought by the New York Police Department were financed by the Securing the Cities grant, a measure by the U.S. Homeland Security Department.
"California Police Department Replaces PCs in Cruisers With Neoware Mobile Thin Client Laptop"
Neoware, Inc., a leading provider of thin client computing solutions, today announced that Marysville Police Department (MPD) has joined its growing customer base. Seeking a more cost-effective and efficient computing solution, MPD is using the mobility of the Neoware m100 by outfitting all officers with Neoware m100's to be used in patrol cars and other environments such as the station. "Standard laptops were no longer feasible due to the high price point and the liability of data being compromised from a lost or stolen laptop," said Lieutenant Mike Kostas of MPD. "We could not have implemented a more perfect solution with Neoware m100's. MPD has been able to reduce costs, lessen the need of tech support and reach our ultimate goal of issuing a laptop as standard equipment." In working with Neoware MPD sought to deploy a more robust mobile computing solution that could easily expand to accommodate the growing force and unique needs of a police department. Compared to standard laptops, the Neoware m100 uses a centralized server for hosting applications and processing data, storing no data on the local device -- an important benefit for government, healthcare and financial industries. http://money.cnn.com/news/newsfeeds/articles/primenewswire/126110.htm
"Stone Jail to Be Upgraded"
Biloxi Sun Herald (MS) (09/05/07) P. A6; Bosarge, Nancy
The Stone County, Miss., Board of Supervisors voted at its Sept. 4 meeting to solicit bids on a digital surveillance system for its prison and for materials to construct a security tower at the Stone County Correctional Facility. The prison now has a VHS system. The board sanctioned a quote for $5,477.95 from Laurel Machine & Foundry for material to construct a security tower in the inmate section of the prison. Prison warden Dwaine Brewer stated he was creating four additional exercise yards for the prisoners. The tower will be capable of overseeing five yards, he noted. http://www.sunherald.com/201/story/134767.html
"Officials: We'll Pay for Inmate Tethers"
Detroit News (09/04/07) P. 1B; Feighan, Maureen
Faced with its eighth instance of overcrowded prisons in two years, Oakland County is considering paying for inmate tethers to avoid placing them in jail. Officials are evaluating plans for a $200,000 initiative that would fund ankle devices for inmates with bonds of $1,000 or less and for other inmates sentenced for nonviolent crimes. Compared with the cost of spending $96 for keeping inmates in jail, tethers only cost $8 to $16 a day. Features of the tether include a GPS device to track the offender and the ability to monitor blood alcohol content. In addition to tethering inmates, county community corrections department director Barb Hankey says the program sentences offenders to tethers upon fulfilling specific criteria, such as first-time DUI-offenders; crimes involving sexual misconduct or domestic violence would not be up for tether consideration. So far, the district courts of Novi and Waterford have also agreed to pilot the program with the circuit court.
"Sniper-Sniffing Robot Created"
BBC News (09/05/07)
Portsmouth University teamed with Ant Scientific to develop the "locust," a flying robot that can be used to identify snipers and bombs in crowded areas. Next year, the prototype will compete in a British Ministry of Defence challenge against 16 other sniper-sniffing robots. The challenge will be held at Copehill Down, the British army's urban warfare training field, where the entries will be judged on their ability to find targets. The winning developer will be given military funding and have a good chance of putting their design into commercial production. Portsmouth's head of defense and homeland security research Charlie Baker-Wyatt said, "The challenge was to create devices that could be used in the fight against people who don't fight under established rules." http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/hampshire/6980271.stm
"Atlantic City Airport to Start Car-Bomb Screening"
Vehicles entering Atlantic City International Airport will be screened for explosives hidden on their underside. Airport officials say that the new system, the first of its kind to be used at a U.S. airport, is able to capture a video image as vehicles pass over a four-inch-high ramp. The images taken from the cameras on the ramp are monitored by security personal in a nearby vehicle. State officials spent $22,500 allotted to them by the Department of Homeland Security after authorities urged the state that they needed a more advanced inspection system. New Jersey Transportation Commissioner Kris Kolluri said, "This equipment gives law enforcement officers another tool to use in the fight against terrorism and helps us to ensure a safe flying environment for the traveling public."
"CSI Could Benefit From Computer Sidekick"
New Scientist (08/31/07); Simonite, Tom
A team from Birmingham University in the United Kingdom has developed a new computerized sidekick that will enable crime scene investigators to produce faster and more detailed reports. The prototype system makes use of a thin computer about the size of a small book, GPS, a digital camera, and a RFID tag reader. The CSI wears the computer and uses a headset to provide voice commands to the system, such as to snap a picture or record a verbal description of evidence. The GPS is used to mark location, a RFID tag is used to label (time, location, and type) evidence, and images can also be annotated to focus on a particular feature. In tests, the system cut the amount of time in half that it takes to put together a standard CSI report. "Writing is both time-consuming and interruptive," says Chris Baber, a computer scientist at Birmingham. "We've attempted to remove the need to explicitly report what you are doing." The team is now working on a version that would make it easier for different teams of investigators at the scene of a crime to share data.
"Wi-fi Unites Wisconsin Cities"
PCWorld.com (09/02/07); Messmer, Ellen
Three small Wisconsin cities--Fitchburg, Middleton, and Sun Prairie--have joined together to implement an interlinked encryption-protected microwave system that offers a wireless connection to law-enforcement and safety systems. The cities chose to employ the same police-management application as a collective purchase a few years ago for police-dispatch facilities to replace legacy systems. In addition, the cities wanted direct network links to share law enforcement data that includes records and dispatch access. While the application began as a T-1 private line, the cities changed over in June to faster-speed point-to-point microwave links with a flexible encryption ability founded on the CipherOpticsEngine. The cities chose to utilize microwave radios and antennas from CommConnect, which at 100 Mbps were quicker and cheaper than the terrestrial T-1, states Fitchburg's information-technology manager for police systems, Matt Plough. He explains that the encryption choices included purchasing microwave radios with incorporated encryptors or installing individual gateway encryptions. The three cities decided to use a separate decryption/encryption gateway and acquired the CipherOptics Ethernet Security Gateway ESG100 and the CipherEngine Policy & Key Manager, which permits for Layer-2 encryption of law enforcement movement on a virtual LAN basis. http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,136684-pg,1/article.html
"Q&A: Hurry Up and Wait"
Washington Technology (08/20/07) Vol. 22, No. 15, P. 32; Lipowicz, Alice
The Real ID Act of 2005 requires states to phase out all existing driver's licenses and to replace them with new documentation that adheres to national standards and connects to a national system. Governors are seeking funding from Congress for the $11 billion mandate, but critics have voiced fears regarding identity theft and privacy issues. Richard Barth, assistant secretary of the Office of Policy Development, is the DHS' top official for generating the Real ID requirements. When asked about the Real ID card's machine-readable zone (MRZ), Barth explains that public safety officials endorse maintaining the current procedure of encoding the printed data on the license's front side in the MRZ. Privacy advocates, however, fear that data will be skimmed off the MRZ for commercial and other reasons. DHS is exploring solutions that would not hinder law enforcement functions but would supply improved security for personal data. Enhanced driver's licenses will implement technologies already employed at the land border for aiding travelers, such as vicinity radio frequency identification and a MRZ based on the International Civil Aviation Organization standard, says Barth. In terms of sharing Real ID information between states, DHS may use the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrator's system for commercial driver's licenses, as that system has functioned for years without any reports of misuse or abuse. If DHS does build on the model, DHS will be sure to heighten the model's security and privacy protections for the national ID program. When asked why the Real ID card is not also a smart card, Barth explains that such a renovation is not warranted for the goal of establishing minimum standards for state driver's licenses, though states can opt to shift to more sophisticated technological solutions. http://www.washingtontechnology.com/print/22_15/31243-1.html
"Out-of-Range Communications Solutions"
Advanced Rescue Technology (07/07) Vol. 10, No. 3, P. 28; Careless, James
The New Mexico State Police have implemented mobile satellite information terminals manufactured by Mobile Satellite Ventures (MSV). Patrol vehicles have been equipped with PDT-100 Satellite Packet Data Terminals that are mounted on the roof. An end of each terminal is connected to a Panasonic Toughbook laptop inside the vehicle, while the other wirelessly links to MSV's MSAT geostationary satellite. As a result, cars that are equipped with the satellite always have information connections to their headquarters. An MSAT G2 can run between $3,200 and $4,000 per unit, and costs between $69 and $129 per month for unrestricted PTT based on how big a region the user wishes to cover, and phone airtime is around $1.19 per minute. Satellite phones made by Globalstar or Iridium are a cheaper option, and both firms provide portable satellite phones which can facilitate voice and different speeds of information transmission. A basic Globalstar GSP-1600 portable satellite/cellular phone goes for about $645, while an Iridium 9505A handset is priced at $1,495, and yearly service fees cost between $450 and $6,600. Even cheaper alternatives include vehicular radio repeaters, for which Iridium plans begin at $129.99 for 75 minutes, and Walkie-Talkie handsets, which operate on the Nextel National Network and are offered as the Motorola Blend ic402 starting at $39.99. http://www.advancedrt.com