Science and Technology News

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Criminal Justice Technology in the News



Law Enforcement News
D.C. Offers Rebates for Installing Surveillance Cameras to Deter Crime
The Washington Post, (02/18/2016), Peter Hermann

The District of Columbia is offering residents rebates for installing security cameras on their properties to deter crime and aid police investigations. The program offers a rebate of up to $200 per camera, with a maximum of $500 for each residence and $750 for other addresses, such as businesses.
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Northwest Alabama Law Enforcement Look to Open Forensics Lab
WHNT News, (02/16/2016), Carter Watkins

Law enforcement agencies in northwest Alabama are exploring opening up a forensic lab. The agencies currently send evidence in drug investigations to the state forensics lab in Huntsville, which has a backlog of cases. Law enforcement agencies in eight Alabama counties are working with the University of North Alabama to develop a narcotics lab.
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Minneapolis Council Committee Approves $4 Million Contract for Police Body Cameras
Star Tribune, (02/17/2016), Erin Golden

The Minneapolis City Council's Public Safety Committee has approved a $4 million contract to outfit police officers with body cameras. If approved by the full council, the city can begin equipping its officers in May. The city plans to spend $6.4 million over the next five years to cover the cost of the cameras, software and additional staff who will review the footage and respond to public records requests. A federal grant will cover $600,000 of this year's expenses. In the future, the city expects the body camera program will cost about $1.2 million annually.
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Topeka Police Officials Unveil New Emergency Center
The Topeka Capital-Journal, (02/22/2016), Phil Anderson

Topeka, Kan., has a new Emergency Coordination Center to manage the efforts of various city agencies in an emergency. The center, which cost $56,271, features dedicated computers, radios and phone lines that are tied into the city's computer network and that will allow a smooth flow of communication among departments and agencies, including police, fire, public works, hazmat and ambulance. The new facility is dedicated expressly to incidents occurring inside Topeka's city limits.
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Mich Tech Prof Developing Drone to Catch Other Drones
The Detroit News, (02/15/2016), Charles E. Ramirez

A Michigan Technological University professor is working on a method for law enforcement agencies to safely disable a rogue drone using another drone. Mohammad Rastgaar-Aagah is an associate professor with Michigan Tech's Mechanical Engineering Department. His system involves a drone that can shoot a net at another unmanned aircraft, haul it in and safely land with it. The Federal Aviation Administration recently announced it will require unmanned aircraft to be registered to make it easier to identify owners and educate novice pilots. The move was spurred by numerous reports of drones flying near jets and airports.
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Corrections News
Assembly Passes Bills Prohibiting Drones Over State Prisons
Wisconsin State Journal, (02/18/2016), Matthew DeFour

The Wisconsin State Assembly has passed legislation to thwart the flying of drones over state prisons and the use of drones in crime. One bill prohibits flying drones over state prisons, carries a $5,000 penalty, and allows municipalities to designate no-drone zones. A second bill passed by the Assembly creates enhanced penalties for using a drone to commit a crime. The amount of fine and jail time would depend on the type of crime.
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Maryland County Equips Some Detention Officers With Body Cameras
The Washington Post, (02/22/2016), Lynh Bui

Some corrections officers in in Prince George's County, Md., have been equipped with body cameras. The cameras are issued to the correctional facility's 34-member emergency-response team, which handles urgent situations such as fights and unruly detainees. The team previously recorded incidents at the facility, which houses about 900 inmates, using a handheld camera.
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Louisiana Considering Closing 2 Prisons in Budget Cuts
NOLA.com, The Times-Picayune, (02/19/2016), Kevin Litten

The Louisiana Department of Corrections is considering closing two privately operated prisons as part of a plan to reduce the state's $940 million budget shortfall. The closure would save about $4.6 million. The corrections department is trying to cut a total of $14.1 million from its budget. A potential alternative to closing the two prisons is to temporarily reduce the rate the state pays the two companies that operate the two prisons.
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New Tool Tests for Drugs in Fingernail Clippings
FOX31 Denver, (02/17/2016), Serena Ung

Testing technology is available to detect drug and alcohol abuse using a person's fingernail clippings. Parents and counselors can use it to test at-risk youth for drug and alcohol abuse. The test uses fingernail clippings to test for substances such as alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines and opiates. Ten clippings the width of a quarter can be sent to a test lab and give a three-month history of abuse. Four private labs in the country offer the testing. Fingernail clippings have been found to be more accurate than hair samples because hair treatments and dyes can weaken the test.
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Body Scanner Helps Merced County Jail Catch Smuggled Contraband
Merced Sun-Star, (02/21/2016), Brianna Calix

The Merced County Sheriff's Department is using a full body digital scanner to thwart the smuggling of contraband into the county jail. The technology is used on inmates being processed into the facility. The scanner will show such items as drugs, money, explosives, weapons, chemical materials, needles, scissors or nails. The department used state funding to purchase the scanner.
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Lawsuit: Private Probation Company Forced Illegal Drug Tests
The Associated Press via The Union-Recorder, (02/18/2016)

A private probation company illegally required people on probation for traffic offenses to submit to drug tests at their own expense to profit the company, according to a federal lawsuit. The Southern Center for Human Rights filed the lawsuit against Sentinel Offender Services and Stacy McDowell-Black, a private probation officer in the company's office in Cleveland in north Georgia. Sentinel contracts with court systems to supervise probationers. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two women who pleaded guilty to driving while unlicensed and who were fined by a judge and placed on probation with Sentinel. Even though the judge didn't order drug testing, McDowell-Black ordered them to take the tests and pay for them, the lawsuit says. The women objected but were falsely told the tests were a court-ordered requirement and that their probation could be revoked if they refused to submit a urine sample, the lawsuit says.
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Super-Precise GPS Could Mean Advances for Self-Driving Cars, Wearable Tech
GovTech, (02/17/2016)

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have developed a more efficient way to process data from GPS, enhancing location accuracy to a few centimeters. The optimization could be used in development of autonomous vehicles, aviation and navigation systems. It also can enhance location data in mobile phones and wearable technologies without increasing the amount of computer power needed.
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Oklahoma Prisons Director Stepping Up Contraband Crackdown
Public Radio Tulsa, (02/19/2016), Matt Trotter

Oklahoma prison officials have stepped up anti-contraband operations, conducting four raids so far this year. Teams from the Department of Corrections use dogs, cellphone detectors and deep-tissue scanners to detect illegal cell phones, drugs, lighters and improvised weapons.
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WISN 12 News Investigates Flaws in GPS Monitoring System
WISN 12 News, (02/19/2016), Colleen Henry

Two Wisconsin sex offenders wearing state-issued GPS monitoring bracelets spent time living near schools, one in Milwaukee and one in Greenfield. Greenfield police said the Department of Corrections did not notify them of the man's location close to a school. Police would like to independently monitor the state's GPS monitoring system to keep an eye on sex offenders in the community.
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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Criminal Justice Technology in the News



Law Enforcement News
Trumbull Police Open New Emergency Communications Center
Trumbull Times, (02/10/2016)

The Trumbull Police Department in Connecticut has completed a $1.7-million renovation of the town's Emergency Communications Center. The center was an essential piece of an ongoing radio system upgrade for the police department. The radio system upgrade will provide new radios for each officer and vehicle, and will operate on newer reliable digital technology. The work on the radio system is expected to be completed within the year. 
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Eden Police Implements New Fingerprint Technology
RockinghamNow.com, (02/14/2016), Dallas Britt

Police in Eden, N.C., have a new tool that allows officers to identify individuals in the field. The Mobile Fingerprint Identification, or Finger-ID, is a single-finger scanner that connects to the laptop in a police car. The device requires two fingerprints before it sends the data to a server at the Rockingham County 911 Center and on to the state. The department is training with two devices and expects scanner use to go live soon.
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Lexington Police Offer Safe Place for Internet Buyers, Sellers
ColaDaily, (02/12/2016), Rachel Ham

Police in Lexington, S.C., have created a safe exchange location for people who buy or sell an item online. Buyers and sellers can come to the town's municipal complex to make the transaction. Other law enforcement agencies in the state that offer similar arrangements include the Richland County Sheriff's Department and the Columbia Police Department.
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Elizabeth City Police Prepare for Body Camera Rollout
13NewsNow, (02/10/2016)

A committee has drafted a policy for use of body-worn cameras by police in Elizabeth City, N.C. The committee comprised members representing different agencies, including the District Attorney's office, the Public Defender's Office, the Pasquotank County Sheriff's Office and the NAACP. The committee developed a body camera policy based on research documents, best practices recommendations and policies from other law enforcement jurisdictions. The panel also hosted two public forums, conducted a community survey, and reviewed information about nine body-worn cameras that were being tested by the police department, and then recommended one.
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Drones Can Search Forest Trails for Lost People
MicrCap Observer, (02/14/2016, Amy Walsh

Researchers from the Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence and the University of Zurich have developed artificial intelligence software to teach a small quadrocopter to autonomously recognize and follow forest trails. In Switzerland, emergency centers respond to around 1,000 calls annually from injured and lost hikers. The drone used by the Swiss researchers observes the environment through a pair of small cameras. The drone uses artificial-intelligence algorithms to interpret the images to recognize manmade trails. If a trail is visible, the software steers the drone in the corresponding direction. The research team warns that much work is needed before a fully autonomous fleet will be able to swarm forests in search of missing people.
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Corrections News
Drones Pose New Contraband, Smuggling Challenge for Prisons
Associated Press via ABC News, (02/15/2016), Ivan Moreno

States are trying to address the potential of people using drones to deliver contraband to prison yards through preemptive legislation. Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan are among states with pending legislation to criminalize the use of drones over prisons, after smuggling incidents involving drones occurred in several other states. Tennessee is the only state with a law specifically relating to the use of drones over prisons, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Under the proposed measure in Wisconsin, anyone who flies a drone over a state correctional institution would face a fine up to $5,000.
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Bill Seeks to Ban Drones From Flying Near Prisons
WTAX News Radio, (02/14/2016)

A bill introduced in the Illinois state senate would ban drones near prisons in an effort to keep the devices from being used to drop packages containing contraband onto prison property. The concern is that inmates will get weapons, drugs and other contraband delivered to them. The bill proposes a punishment of an additional year added to an inmate's sentence if they are caught smuggling in banned goods. The bill would also charge individuals who intentionally fly drones over prisons with a misdemeanor.
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Criminal Justice Alcohol Program Linked to Decreased Mortality
National Institutes of Health, (02/10/2016)

A program that requires offenders convicted of alcohol-related offenses to stop drinking and submit to frequent alcohol testing was linked to a significant reduction in county-level mortality rates in South Dakota. The study funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the National Institutes of Health, found that the 24/7 Sobriety program was associated with a 4.2-percent decrease in all-cause mortality over six years. Under the program, people convicted of an alcohol-related offense must submit to twice-a-day breathalyzer tests or wear a continuous alcohol monitoring bracelet. Any violation carries a swift and modest sanction; people who fail or skip tests immediately receive a short jail term, typically one to two days for a failed test.
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Hogan's Budget Calls for Drone Detection at Maryland Prisons
The Baltimore Sun, (02/15/2016), Erin Cox

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has proposed spending $1 million to install drone detection technology over two high-security prisons in Jessup and Cumberland to prevent people from using drones to drop contraband onto prison property. Last year, authorities caught two men parked outside the Western Maryland prison with a drone and a car full of drugs, pornography, tobacco and a cellphone. Last year, authorities caught drones carrying contraband into at least six prisons across the country.
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Investigators Exclusive: Prison Drone Flyover Reveals Potential Security Threat
WABC-TV, (02/15/2016), Jim Hoffer

A drone flew over the wall of the Clinton Correctional Facility in New York and took video of the yard, several weeks after two inmates escaped from the facility last summer. The drone operator said he was testing his Constitutional rights. The operator was free to go with no penalty because there are no laws restricting drone flights over prisons in New York state.
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New Publication: The State of Sentencing 2015: Developments in Policy and Practice
The Sentencing Project, (02/10/2016)

The State of Sentencing 2015: Developments in Policy and Practice highlights reforms in 30 states that demonstrate a continued trend to reform sentencing policies and scale back the use of imprisonment without compromising public safety. The report provides an overview of recent policy reforms in the areas of sentencing, probation and parole, collateral consequences and juvenile justice.
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FOX25 Uncovers Disturbing Number of Electronic Devices Being Removed
FOX25, (02/15/2016), Blair Miller

About 700 people a year in Massachusetts tamper with or cut off their ankle monitoring devices. The devices help the courts and police track and monitor criminals placed under house arrest or parole. The Massachusetts Probation Services monitors 3,000 offenders who wear electronic devices from its Electronic Monitoring Program headquarters in Clinton. Arrest warrants are immediately issued for violators. A spokesperson for Probation Services told FOX25, "for a significant portion of these individuals, the warrants are resolved the next day in court and they are returned to supervision, so an even smaller portion of the 700 generate a termination of probation supervision. An even smaller number than that remains as open active warrants."
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Report: How Technology Has Stopped 1.77 Million Drunk Drivers
Mothers Against Drunk Driving, (02/10/2016)

In-car breathalyzers, or ignition interlocks, have stopped more than 1.77 million would-be drunk drivers in the U.S. since states first passed ignition inter locks, according to a report from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). The device will stop a driver from starting a vehicle if alcohol is detected. The report shows how many times ignition interlocks have prevented drunk driving in each of the 50 states. Every state requires ignition interlocks for some drunk driving offenders, but MADD wants all 50 states to require ignition interlocks for all offenders following a drunk driving offense. Twenty-five states currently have all-offender laws.
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