Editor's Note: Many of the technologies in this new summary are being used by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in their counterterrorism, homeland security and all hazards missions.
NLECTC Law Enforcement & Corrections Technology News Summary
Thursday, September 20, 2007"Crime Lab Gets a Shot in the Arm"
New York Times (09/16/07) P. 7; Kelly, Caitlin
Westchester County's Department of Laboratories and Research is undergoing a $9 million renovation for its nearly two-decade-old DNA lab. DNA testing assisted prosecutors in their pursuit for repeated Subway sandwich chain burglars in the county last year, when law enforcement matched a lost strand of hair from one of the perpetrators to his DNA in a federal database of criminals. County director of forensic sciences Frederick Drummond says there has been a high demand for the technology, while the lab will also serve law enforcement from the State University of New York system and Metro-North. Drummond adds that cases will be prioritized, whereas rape and murder cases --roughly half of all lab cases-- will have a higher priority than burglaries. The lab is three times larger than its predecessor, allowing vehicles bearing evidence to be brought in, if needed. New technology will enable lab researchers to analyze mitochondrial DNA, allowing what Drummond says will be "1,000 times more chances" to obtain a viable sample, and samples will be placed under a high-powered light containing multiple wavelengths. County medical examiner Dr. Millard Hyland says DNA testing is the definitive factor that enables perpetrators to be put in jail. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/16/nyregion/nyregionspecial2/16mainwe.html
"Miramar Buys Helmets With Microphones"
Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel (FL) (09/16/07) P. 1; East, Georgia
Motorcycle police officers in Miramar, Fla., will soon have wireless microphones connected to their helmets, replacing the typical shoulder-based microphones that are used for speaking on police radios. Earlier in 2007, Miramar commissioners sanctioned utilizing $16,180 in state law enforcement forfeiture money to buy a dozen helmets with connected microphones. They could start being used before 2007 is over. Police Chief Mel Stanley stated shoulder microphones create a great deal of wind and road noise when a officer is driving. In addition, he said, the traditional radios create a distraction and possible safety risk to officers because they have are forced to only drive with one hand in order to operate the microphones with the other. The wireless helmet kits will be bought from Setcom Communications. Stanley explained the equipment will work in conjunction with the Miramar Police Department's Motorola radios. Separately, Miramar sanctioned spending $175,000 to lease vehicles for the police department to employ in undercover operations during the coming two years.
"Simulator Tool to Help Police"
Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel (09/16/07) P. 1; Presser, Matt
Portable firearms simulators are the latest addition to the law enforcement technology repertoire, allowing officers to react to real-life situations using digital videos. Officers can use simulated scenarios that come with the system, or they can create their own. The $146,475 tool is worth the hefty price tag, says Delray Beach training officer Eric Aronowitz. The simulators allow control over variables such as weather and time of day, including the option to program equipment malfunctions so officers would need to respond accordingly. Though the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office purchased a firearms simulator about a decade ago, Lt. Jeff Swank says it is outdated but smaller agencies have more difficulty funding such expensive technology. Aronowitz says the simulator is a beneficial long-term investment, noting, "It's about as realistic as you could get." Delray Beach officers will be trained using the simulator, along with those in nearby municipalities and citizens in the police academies.
"Charleston Police Will Hone Driving Skills"
Charleston Daily Mail (WV) (09/18/07); Thompson, Matthew
In Charleston, S.C., the police department authorized the purchase of a $125,000 computerized driving simulator to improve its police officer driving courses, which currently encompass classroom and outdoor training. The simulator, which will partially be funded by $40,000 in insurance funds, could prevent police-involved accidents during pursuits and other emergency situations. In 2005, one officer raced to help another officer at a domestic violence call, but failed to put on his sirens and lights, resulting in a crash with a civilian vehicle. Department officials stated the idea to bring in the simulator surfaced before the 2005 crash. "We always discussed looking for a better way to train our officers," one officer said. The simulator has three plasma monitors, a console resembling the one in the Ford Crown Victoria, and a program to insert rain, wind, sleet, snow, and other weather conditions, as well as multiple vehicles and pedestrians. The simulator is expected to improve police and emergency response personnel's driving skills and reaction times. http://www.dailymail.com/story/News/+/2007091846/
"Bay Area Agencies Unveil Communications System"
Contra Costa Times (CA) (09/15/07); Gokhman, Roman
California's East Bay Regional Communications Joint Powers Authority, which was recently created by Alameda and Contra Costa counties and 30 East Bay cities, will construct a single emergency communications system intended to overcome problems caused by radio technologies that do not work together. The Alameda-Contra Costa system is part of a bigger network of law-enforcement groups in the Bay Area announced on Sept. 11 by the mayors of Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose--the Bay Area Public Safety Interoperable Communications Initiative. The total project will cost $200 million, with the East Bay percentage coming to $60 million. The majority of the funding will be provided by grants. When done, the whole system will encompass Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties. In addition, it will link to Sacramento to assist with California's disaster-relief coordination. The communications system functions more like a series of email lists instead of typical radio frequencies. Emergency responders and dispatchers can enter in which "talk group" to notify and then broadcast a statement.
"South Dallas Hopes Cameras Will Help Deter Crime"
Houston Chronicle (09/13/07) P. B1; Korosec, Thomas
On Sept. 13, Dallas authorities launched the first of 14 remote-controlled cameras that are being erected on top of poles in a neighborhood in the southern part of the city known as Jubilee Park to stop crime and capture violators. The cameras, which have been employed for many years in cities such as San Francisco and Chicago, are the initial ones to be put in a residential neighborhood in Texas. Two-thirds of the cameras' $250,000 price tag are being financed by a church in North Dallas, while the city is paying for the rest. Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle noted that implementation of cameras in downtown Dallas resulted in a 30 percent decline in crime, although they have not resulted in as many arrests as he had hoped. Kunkle stated that panhandling and vehicle burglaries conducted by the homeless comprise the majority of downtown Dallas' crime troubles. Jubilee Park has witnessed a murder, a pair of rapes, and 13 aggravated assaults during the last year. Certain studies have contested the effectiveness of remote-controlled cameras, claiming they simply move crime to back streets and do not result in crime reduction over the long haul. http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/5133957.html
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (09/16/07) P. 1; Seibel, Jacqueline
Ann Arbor-based IES Interactive has provided interactive-simulation technology for officers at Waukesha County Technical College. "This is as close as you are going to get without being in a real-life situation," said Muskego Police Chief Paul Geiszler. WCTC trainees will be able to take advantage of the $100,000 system that aims to provide officers with virtual situations to improve their responding and reaction-time in real situations. The simulation tool mimics situations ranging from robberies to domestic disputes, involving to the extent that their adrenaline is involved; in general training, variables are controlled so the stress levels are not as intense. Trainees are placed in a padded room with a screen projecting the scenario. Loudspeakers with surround sound are used to pump sounds such as screams or glass breaking into the room, a factor that Oconomowoc Police Chief James Wallis says will improve officers' awareness of their total surroundings, versus simply being aware of what is in just in their immediate field of vision. The light can be adjusted according to the degree of vision an officer would have in the designated situation, while props can be added for simulating the dexterity to maneuver in a given situation. Trainees must also choose to respond by using pepper spray, a baton, a Taser, or a gun, according to the nature of the situation. The training is videotaped so that officers can review the trainee's performance, and allow the trainee to evaluate his own response. http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=661605
"Police May Get Mobile Computer Terminals"
Birmingham News (AL) (09/13/07) Vol. 120, No. 184, P. 3C; Gray, Jeremy
Police officers in Pelham, Ala., may receive mobile data terminals if a measure included in the 2007 proposed budget is approved Sept. 17. Chief Allan Wade has asked for $600,000 for the terminals--$90,000 in the suggested budget, the remainder payable over a five-year period. The computers, which would be incorporated in city police cruisers, could be taken out and utilized by police in the field. The computers would enable officers to retrieve mug shots or driver's license pictures to make certain the individuals they interrogate are who they claim to be. In addition, the computers would permit officers to obtain data from the state Criminal Justice Information Center, the National Crime Information Center, and municipal court records. The computers would show all the data dispatchers enter into their computers, establishing a voice dispatch. Wade added that the mobile data terminals would permit officers to type their incident statements from their cruisers instead of having to do them at police headquarters.
"Harris System Can Detect Illegal Border Crossings"
Florida Today (09/12/07) P. 1A; Blake, Scott
On Sept. 11, Harris Corp. introduced its new Harris Border Security Shelter system. The shelter locates illegal border crossings and additional threats to U.S. security, the Melbourne, Fla., firm stated. Harris intends to promote the shelter to border patrol groups in this country and other nations. The Border Security Shelter is specially devised to heighten the "flow of information and speed response times to potential threats," Harris explained. From the shelter, border staff are able to watch border regions utilizing ground radar, unmanned sensors, or video cameras; talk to the field and their superiors employing tactical, microwave, and satellite radio; and transmit and obtain email and additional forms of media, Harris noted. In addition, the shelters have "remote networked management and advanced Harris visualization/data fusion software known as Harris SafeGuard." Harris added that the shelters can be permanently implemented at particular locations or quickly deployed to certain areas of operation. Numerous shelters can be deployed and connected to create protective networks.
"Online Crime Reporting System Now Available to City Residents"
Los Banos Enterprise (CA) (09/11/07)
As part of its technology upgrade the Los Banos Police Department will enable city residents to report incidents online through the police Web site. "This is a wonderful tool that allows us to provide more effective service to the community," Police Chief Chris Gallagher said. The system can be accessed by logging on to the city's Web page, www.losbanos.org, and clicking on the "Citizens OnLine Reporting System" link found on the left column. There will be a selection as to what type of incident the user would like to report. "We are not going to restrict people from talking to an officer," Gallagher explained. "This is just a way for people who are comfortable with their computer to file a report instead of coming down here." Once a report is submitted the police department will e-mail the reporting party a temporary case number. Once the report is reviewed and approved by a supervisor a second e-mail will be sent out with an official case number. The report can be rejected based on inadequate information or other errors but it will be explained in an e-mail. http://www.losbanosenterprise.com/
"New Law Enforcement Tool From LeadsOnline Fights Metal Theft Epidemic"
Business Wire (09/17/07)
State-of-the-art technology now allows police to easily search scrap metal recycling center records for stolen metal. LeadsOnline has made it easy for law enforcement to search and locate stolen metal, as well as link the property to the thieves who stole it. By nature, scrap metal is difficult to track and identify once stolen, but now there is a way for law enforcement to track these thieves. LeadsOnline introduced a new investigative system specifically designed to fight metal theft on a national basis. Now, instead of keeping track of information on paper tickets, metal recyclers around the country send LeadsOnline their transaction information via a secure internet connection. Law enforcement investigators simply log in and enter the information about their case into the system, including type of metal, date of the theft, location, and other parameters to see if the stolen items were sold for scrap. Investigators are instantly provided with descriptions and even pictures of the property, suspect, and suspect vehicles matching their description. In the days following the launch of the LeadsOnline metal theft investigations system, Detective Courtney of the Shreveport Louisiana Police Department used LeadsOnline to identify an employee at a local oil company who was stealing equipment and selling it to a local scrap yard. Some of the stolen metal, valued at more than $76,000 was recovered.
"State Plans to Complete Communications System"
Omaha World-Herald (NE) (09/13/07) P. 1B; Stoddard, Martha
Nebraska will utilize almost 50 percent of 2007's $7.2 million in federal homeland security money to erect the final links of a statewide communications system, Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy announced on Sept. 12. He stated that over $2.4 million of the money will be split up between seven areas that are creating communication networks. The networks will permit state and local law-enforcement officials and others to speak with each other. A good number of the areas have finished the job of linking all first responders in their counties, Sheehy explained. Nebraska is currently almost ready to connect the regional network onto one statewide system. The state has employed a significant percentage of its homeland security money in the last few years to establish the network. In addition to the regional grants, Nebraska will spend another $1.1 million of the 2007 homeland security funding on licensing technology for the communications network and offering network support. Nebraska will also utilize part of the $8.5 million of a different federal communications grant initiative to complete the network plan.
"Tracking People With Imbedded Radio Chips Is No Longer Sci-Fi"
Royal Gazette (Bermuda) (09/05/07)
About 2,000 U.S. workers already have radio frequency identification (RFID) chips embedded under their skin or carry them around in various devices so managers can keep track of their locations, prevent workers from entering certain sensitive areas of the firm, and gauge workers efficiency. However, union leaders, legislators, and others contend the use of RFID to track workers is an invasion of privacy and violates human rights. Generally, RFID is used to track products throughout the supply chain, and the tags contain information on its shipment origin, its make-up, date produced, and other data. In California, state legislators are prepping a bill that would ban the coerced or forced use of RFID in humans, and other states are following suit. However, voluntary use of the chips would be permitted under legislative measures pending before state legislatures, opening the door for employers to use the technology.
"License Plate Scanners Give Police New Edge"
Times & Transcript (Canada) (09/10/07) P. D4
A $20,000 device that employs small infrared cameras outfitted on police cruisers automatically reads license plates and compares the numbers against databases of stolen cars and individuals wanted for crimes. Around 400 of the United States' 18,000 police agencies possess a minimum of one license-plate scanner, and authorities predict the scanners will become more popular in the future as the cost of the devices drops. The scanners allow police to read around 75 times more plates during an eight-hour period than they would if they wrote down numbers and gave them to a dispatcher. Although scanner-outfitted vehicles only comprise a small percentage of a police department's fleet, the units are enabling authorities to recover stolen vehicles, locate individuals wanted on criminal warrants, and respond to emergency situations, such as thieves on the run. Civil-right activists contend that scanners bring up the controversial issue of whether the government will widen its utilization of the technology to monitor Americans' private lives. Police note, though, that anybody can write down a license-plate number on the street, which is what scanners do, just more efficiently. Though no studies have proven the effectiveness of scanners on a sizeable scale, certain police agencies stress that scanners have increased their vehicle recovery and arrest figures. http://timestranscript.canadaeast.com/search/article/69339
"A Closer Look: Florida Department of Law Enforcement Crimes Against Children Mobile Unit"
Police Magazine (08/07) Vol. 31, No. 8, P. 74; Kyrik, Kelly
In 1984, Terry Thomas, then a special agent for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, started the Crimes Against Children Mobile Unit to help the state address the growing problem of missing and abducted children. The unit features an ordinary-looking Fleetwood sleeper trailer that is used as a mobile interview room. Although many people said that the trailer would be traumatic for children because it was unfamiliar territory for them, it has actually become a hit with kids. Before their interview begins, kids are allowed to explore the trailer, which helps them to feel more at ease. In addition, the main room of the trailer features child-sized bean bag chairs, as well as teddy bears and other toys. The trailer is also equipped with strategically-placed hidden cameras and microphones, which allow agents in the front and back of the trailer to monitor the interview. The use of the mobile unit helps the Florida Department of Law Enforcement achieve a number of things in situations where it has to interview children. For example, the mobile unit helps to ease the fear that many victims feel when faced with repeated questioning. In addition, the mobile unit is perfect for cases that would overwhelm a brick-and-mortar CAC unit, such as cases where there are a number of victims or offenders, as well as in cases where law enforcement officials do not want the media and others to know that they are interviewing victims or offenders.
"Communications Interoperability: Chasing the Dream"
Police and Security News (08/07) Vol. 23, No. 4, P. 30; Kanable, Rebecca
Emergency communications lacking interoperability has remained a hurdle to both efficient security and safety. Yet technological developments will now enable law enforcement, fire departments, and EMS to all communicate through integrated radio frequencies. Researchers have developed "smart radio" technology that allows frequency range, modulation type, and output power controls to be manipulated with cognitive radio technology. The cognitive radio can automatically program itself to communicate with several radios, as Dr. Charles Bostian of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University says the device "acts like a trained intelligent human operator." Software-defined radios can handle voice bandwidths in 25 KHz, 12.5 KHz, or 6.25 KHz ranges. Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO) technology is being speculated for use with software-defined radio technology to increase the available capacity for sending data and accommodating higher bandwidths. Implementing cognitive radios would also allow law enforcement to carry less equipment. The necessity for specific public safety technology is crucial in the case of an emergency, so law enforcement and other first-responders must rely on their own kind of enhanced communications systems, rather than using cellular providers or simply a 2.4 MHz frequency. http://www.policeandsecuritynews.com