NLECTC Law Enforcement & Corrections Technology News Summary
Thursday, February 1, 2007
"Cameras Gather Evidence, Help Catch Criminals"
Kansas City Star (01/28/07); Lambe, Joe
The use of video surveillance footage is growing increasingly important in solving crimes and convicting criminals. Surveillance video business doubled over the last five years, and is expected to increase from $9.2 billion in 2005 to $21 billion by the end of the decade. Kansas City homicide Detective Steve Morgan says the first thing the police do at a crime scene is look for video cameras, even as far as a couple of blocks away, in case a camera caught someone going to or leaving the crime scene. Kansas City police want $4 million to upgrade patrol car cameras to higher-quality digital equipment and to install cameras in high-crime neighborhoods. Chicago already has hundreds of cameras in high-crime areas and is in the process of installing about 2,000 more, and Cincinnati officials plan to spend $6 million for "smart" cameras that can zoom in on people when gunshots are detected. A pilot study of the technology in Orange, N.J., reported an 85 percent drop in gun-related crimes. The ACLU says the use of new video technology has outrun concerns of privacy and policy, and the extreme use of cameras in public places makes no sense, according to Brett Shirk, director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, citing a study in the United Kingdom that said public cameras did not reduce crime or make people feel safer.
"County Jail Officials Push for Video Bail Hearings"
Baltimore Sun (01/26/07); Mitchell, Josh
Prison officials in Baltimore County, Md., say they want to launch videoconferencing for inmates' bail review hearings to save money and time. At present, many prisoners are transported from the county detention center in Towson to district courts in Essex and Catonsville to take part in bail reviews. But if videoconferencing were established, inmates would remain in Towson while judges could review their bails remotely. Meg Ferguson, criminal justice coordinator for County Executive James T. Smith Jr., says the project could involve about six cameras, one at each court building and one or more at the detention center in Towson. However, District Court buildings would have to be retrofitted to handle the new technology. Ferguson was unable to offer an estimate for the project. Officials assert that in the long run, videoconferencing would save funds because the cost of transporting prisoners would be cut. Furthermore, police officers at precincts would have to deal with fewer inmates, officials say. Officials also feel it would be safer to keep inmates within a single facility for hearings. The videoconferencing initiative requires the endorsement of the county executive as well as district and city courts, and officials hope to deploy the new system by spring.
"Camera Planes Pitched to Parker"
Fort Worth Star-Telegram (01/27/07); Campbell, Elizabeth
Parker County, Texas, could purchase unmanned aircraft that can help police search for people lost in wooded areas. The aircraft measure only three feet to four feet from wingtip to wingtip, but are equipped with imaging cameras and software that can aid searchers. The aircraft system can also provide firefighters with an eye-in-the-sky view of fires that can aid firefighting efforts. In addition, the aircraft could also be used to monitor areas where drug activity is suspected. A person stationed at the control center guides the three digital cameras used by each aircraft, which sends live video and high-resolution images to a computer.
"Courts Installing Electronic Network"
Ventura County Star (CA) (01/26/07); Hernandez, Raul
The Ventura County, California, court system is scheduled to begin using a new electronic network in March for filing cases. Probate courts will be one of the early users of the network, with criminal courts hoping to use the network within two years. The multimillion-dollar statewide network, called the California Case Management System, is designed to allow judges, attorneys, and the public to access court files and documents over the internet from any location. The system is intended to reduce the lines at the county's court records department, and save a significant amount of tax dollars. Similar systems are in use in Colorado, Delaware, and federal courts.
"New Orleans Gets Anti-Crime Update"
Los Angeles Times (01/27/07) P. A14; Simmons, Ann M.
On Jan. 26, New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin announced efforts to fight violent crime, including more surveillance cameras, assigning more officers to foot patrols, and increasing the number of random traffic checkpoints. Nagin said 50 surveillance cameras in the city are currently functional, and that over the next two months 20 additional hot spots would be monitored through cameras. Surveillance cameras would also be erected along St. Charles Avenue ahead of Mardi Gras in March, he said. Law enforcement officials said officers would be required to walk their beats for as long as 1.5 hours per shift. In addition, officials said that random checkpoints established over the past few weeks have led to 1,600 citations, including 24 arrests involving drugs and the arrest of 35 wanted criminals. Some citizens have praised the mayor and police officials for providing weekly public updates.
"British Footprint Database to Help Catch Criminals"
Reuters (01/29/07); Reany, Patricia
A new database being launched by Britain on Feb. 15 will compile footwear prints and marks from crime scenes and information from shoe manufacture's to help police. Footwear marks are the second biggest evidence type behind blood and DNA, according to Dr. Romelle Piercy of the Forensic Science Service in London. Footprints can be found nearly everywhere at a crime scene from on a body or carpet to within earth or mud, and are very unique to each individual person. The Footwear Intelligence Tool will include data on shoe type, color, branding, marks, and demographic information. The database is believed to be the first of its kind in the world.
"Mayor Seeks City Funding for Gunshot Locater Technology"
Boston Globe (01/22/07) P. B5; Vaznis, James
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino is expected to submit a request to the City Council this week for the purchase of sensors to monitor high-crime areas. The technology can locate where gunshots originated from and link directly to the city's emergency dispatch center. Officials noted that the system could be activated as soon as the summer. However, Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis indicated recently that he carefully wanted to consider the benefits of the system before providing his support. ShotSpotter developed the technology, which could eventually be used in conjunction with a camera system. Menino is optimistic that the acoustic gunshot-detection system can improve the police department's success rate for solving criminal cases.
"Video Enlisted as Crime Deterrent"
Press Enterprise (PA) (01/23/07) P. B1; Moore, Steve
Palm Desert has agreed to launch a technology trial that allows 10 local businesses to receive as much as $1,500 in rebates for equipping their buildings with video surveillance gear. City officials project that the businesses will pay roughly $3,000 each to equip the surveillance technology. Businesses involved in the program are required to offer merchandise and services to consumers in Palm Desert. The types of businesses that qualify for the program include nightclubs, bars, banks, retail stores, and others. Participating businesses will equip the cameras in places that provide cover of interior, exterior, and common entry or extra doorways. The police department will be able to instantly access the images.
"Court Security Plan to Cost Freehold $66G"
Asbury Park Press (NJ) (01/23/07); Petruncio, Nick
The Freehold borough will invest $66,500 to upgrade its municipal court security plan under a mandate issued by the New Jersey Supreme Court that orders all local urban districts to establish a court security committee and security program. The urban districts were required to present preliminary security plans by Dec. 29 of last year. State Superior Court Judge Lawrence M. Lawson said all municipalities have complied with the demand and added that his staff is currently evaluating the proposals. The urban districts are required to submit their final drafts by Feb. 5. The order also requires all municipal courtrooms in New Jersey to adopt a number of security protections, such as weapons detection measures and using materials to protect the judge's bench from bullets. The Freehold borough plans to install security cameras, a walk-through metal detector, and videoconferencing as part of its upgrade.
"Parishes Now Share a Radio System"
New Orleans Times-Picayune (01/24/07) P. 1; Hunter, Michelle
In Louisiana, police departments in the parishes of Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard, and Plaquemines can now talk to each other via a single radio system. The departments launched a joint 700 MHz digital radio system on Jan. 22 funded by federal disaster money and grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The initiative is expected to encompass fire, medical, and government services in the future, according to law enforcement officials. New Orleans Police Superintendent Warren Riley noted that because the new radio system facilitates interoperability, the system would accommodate out-of-state emergency personnel if they were to reprogram their own equipment. The new radio system now allows a Jefferson deputy sheriff, for example, to communicate with a New Orleans patrol officer directly, while in the past, officers would have to go though the communications hubs of the respective departments. DHS has allocated roughly $2.3 billion for a nationwide effort to replace obsolete or damaged radio systems, says George Foresman, the undersecretary of preparedness for DHS. Law enforcement officials estimate that the four-parish upgrade cost approximately $30 million.
"Osceola Site Tracks Sex Offenders"
Orlando Sentinel (FL) (01/24/07); Aradillas, Elaine
Residents of Osceola County, Fla., will be able to look up the location of sex offenders within a 1-mile radius of their address using the Sex Offender Watch program. The program, which was added to the Osceola County Sheriff's Web site, allows residents to enter the address of their home, school, or business to see if any sex offenders live within a mile of those addresses, as well as receive email notification if a sex offender should move into a residence near those locations. The program cost $7,000 to set up and will cost the same amount annually for upkeep, and is used by 300 sheriffs in 26 states.
"Council to Take Longer Look at Traffic Cameras"
Macon Telegraph (GA) (01/23/07); Barnwell, Matt
The Macon, Ga., City Council will likely convene during the last week of January to talk over a proposed agreement with Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) to erect red-light cameras at a minimum of 10 intersections in the city. Council members had earlier raised several concerns, including a pending state bill that would ban red-light cameras and citizens' opinions that Macon is more worried about making money than safety matters. ACS has informed city authorities that fines could earn the government between $4 million and $5.5 million over the deal's five-year term. Under the agreement, Macon would list 15 potential surveillance sites, and with the city's permission, ACS would then implement cameras in 10 or more of these intersections. The company would maintain the cameras and collect for Macon the fees they produce. Macon would pay a monthly fee to ACS of around $4,400 a camera, over $2.6 million during the five-year contract. The cameras would record three still pictures of vehicles that go through red lights, and a dozen seconds of video. ACS would permit preliminary reviews of camera photos and send any images that seem to portray a violation to the police, and an officer would then study the photos via a secure Web site and send a citation to the vehicle's owner.
"Your License Plate May Be On Candid Camera"
Buffalo News (01/22/07) P. A1; Watson, Stephen T.
Police are using a new system that allows them to scan license plates quickly and accurately. The system, called optical character recognition (OCR), recognizes letters and symbols using infrared cameras that read license plates and translates the images into digital characters. Washington D.C., Maryland, Florida, and New York are some of the areas using the system. In Buffalo, N.Y., police using the system at a checkpoint issued 2,119 vehicle and traffic tickets, gave out 538 misdemeanor summonses, impounded 501 cars, and made a handful of arrests for driving a stolen car or possessing stolen plates.
"System Tracks Criminals and More"
Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (01/19/07) P. A3; Mathews, Cameron
A tracking system called RiteTrack is helping detention facilities in several states improve their intake processes and how they allocate probation officers to clients. The system is "50 percent business, the other half human service," asserts Even Brande, president and CEO of Handel Information Technologies, which manufactures the system. Les Pozsgi, division administrator with the state corrections department's field services division, says the department expects to issue a request for proposals for a field-specific, electronic case management system by February. He adds that it might use RiteTrack but will consider systems from across the country. The department's spokeswoman, Melinda L. Brazzale, says the facility now uses an internally developed product called the Wyoming Criminal Information System to monitor offenders. RiteTrack technology is beneficial because it prevents the loss of crucial data and streamlines the work of probation officers and other staff members. Law enforcement agencies, drug courts, and juvenile services can also benefit from the technology, according to Handel's Web site.
"Ringing Busy: Managing Commercial Telecommunications in a Public Safety World"
Law Enforcement Technology (01/07) Vol. 34, No. 1, P. 32; Brown, Todd
Police organizations have frequently been quick to adopt new communication technology, but to take advantage of the newest cellular phones and personal communications devices, police are forced to depend on "commercial" telecommunications systems. Some of the newer options are smart phones such as the Blackberry, Push to Talk phone/radios from Nextel, Sprint, and Verizon, and geographic information systems (GIS)-enabled devices. Smart phones can be used for scheduling and internet access, Push to Talk allows for one person to talk to multiple people at the same time, and GIS creates mapping and tracking functions on cell phones, laptops and radios. Mobile Data Terminals can be used to record, store, transmit and receive mission-critical data on-site, and are in widespread use by police and EMS. There are concerns that too much commercialization of public safety communications might have reliability and network access problems.
"A Simple Plot"
Law Enforcement Technology (01/07) Vol. 34, No. 1, P. 8; Morgenstern, Henry
Although liquid explosives have not been used often in recent suicide bombings throughout the world, law enforcement agencies still must take action to stop them from being used. Investigations of the plot last August to bomb airplanes coming to the United States from the United Kingdom are finding that bottles of Lucozade--an English brand of Gatorade--with fake bottoms would have been employed. The Lucozade would have been contained in the bottle's top section while the false bottom would have held the explosives. It has been determined by authorities that the liquid would be utilized to either manufacture triacetone triperoxide TATP and/or hexamethylene triperoxide diamine. These apparently would have been mixed after take-off, and both substances can be activated by heat, friction, or electrical charge. There are numerous kinds of liquid and gel explosives that law enforcement should learn about, including WaterGel explosives, which were devised to replace dynamite, are packaged in plastic, have the appearance of very big sausages, and need a detonator. Two-element Kinepak is sold commercially and has a syrupy red liquid appearance; when combined with a white powder component it makes a highly powerful explosive, and requires an electrical or mechanical detonation. Nitroglycerin continues to be the explosive with the highest instability, and can be stabilized through freezing and reconstitution or by adding elements that can then be removed. http://www.officer.com/magazines/let/