Science and Technology News

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Public Safety Technology in the News

School Cameras Boost Police Response
Worcester Telegram, (11/01/2009), Paula J. Owen

A Massachusetts high school is serving as a test site for a wireless encrypted surveillance system that provides live audio and video feed directly to police cruisers’ laptop computers. Rich P. Kelly, one of the system’s developers, said it will improve the safety of students and police because officers can see and hear what is happening inside the school from within 100 meters outside the building. In case of an incident requiring police response, police would be able to quickly obtain accurate information, assess the situation and act accordingly. Fitchburg High School is serving as a pilot site at no cost to the city of Fitchburg. The system, developed by Emergency Surveillance Systems of Glendale, Ariz., is close-looped and encrypted, which means only laptops that have the specific software can view into the high school. Other similar surveillance systems use the Internet, which Kelly said is less secure. Fitchburg will be able to use the system free of ! charge as long as the city allows the school to be used for upgrades and product testing.

Rapides Program Aims to Put ‘Career Criminals’ Away, (10/01/2009), Abbey Brown

A new project aims to get hardened criminals out of Rapides Parish (La.) and keep them out for a long time. Project 50 will focus on the 50 “worst of the worst” criminals through better investigation and prosecution of their cases. Once the offenders are convicted, project organizers want to remove them from their social criminal support network by sending them to prison far away from the area and severing their ties to the community. Project 50 coordinator and Rapides Parish assistant district attorney Loren Lampert said they are developing program criteria for eligibility, including number of convictions, age and criminal and employment history. If after three years the program does not seem to be reducing crime as hoped, the resources will be reassigned. In addition to the district attorney’s office, other partners in the program include Louisiana College, the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Alexandria Police Department, Louisiana Probation and Paro! le, the 9th Judicial District Court, the U.S. Marshal’s Fugitive Task Force and the Department of Corrections.

Citing Cost, Virginia Ends Aerial Speed Patrols
The Virginian-Pilot, (11/01/2009), Kristin Davis

The days of Virginia State Police catching speeding drivers from the air are over, due to budget cuts. Fiscal necessity has forced the agency to close its Manassas airport and sell of one of its planes. Police have been using aerial patrols for nine years. Four Cessna aircraft were equipped with devices to calculate speed based on how long it took to travel a certain distance. A pilot and a trooper flew over interstates. If an air trooper spotted a driver speeding, the officer would radio a trooper on the ground, who would pull the car over. Police might resume air patrols once the economic situation improves.

WOU Project Will Map Out a New Method for Fingerprint Analysis
Statesman Journal (11/02/2009), Stacey Barchenger

Western Oregon University has received a $685,000 National Institute of Justice grant to study how to enhance latent fingerprint technology. A group of four professors will expand the current methodologies of analyzing latent prints in order to develop standardized probability measures. The project team will look at more information taken from a print to evaluate a print’s characteristics and potentially make more reliable matches. Professor Emma Dutton said the group will apply different technology to attempt to expand and enhance current practice, for example, applying a geographical information system to perform spatial analysis. Spatial analysis is the study of distribution of features in a fingerprint. Researchers will use a three-dimensional, rather than a two-dimensional approach, for examining fingerprints.

Cell Calls to 911 Troubled at Border
Watertown Daily Times, (11/01/2009), Elizabeth Graham

Two counties along the New York border with Canada are finding that citizens’ increased use of cell phones to call 911 is making it difficult to locate callers. Officials in St. Lawrence and Franklin counties said the lack of towers on the U.S. side of the border is causing glitches in the technology that is used to pinpoint the location of a cellular 911 caller. St. Lawrence County Emergency Services Director Martin Hassett said calls sometimes don’t show up on a map; they show up on a tower, and officials have to try to triangulate it. If part of the triangulation is a tower in Canada, they can’t do it. Due to increased cell phone use, St. Lawrence County dispatchers had handled 35,331 calls through Sept. 30, 2009, compared with 18,168 calls received in all of 2006.

LAPD Shows Off Prototype Smart Squad Car
KTTV Fox 11, (10/28/2009)

The Los Angeles Police Department has unveiled a prototype “smart” squad car with state-of-the-art technology. The car has an in-dash computer, in-car video, license plate readers and a heat detection device in the grill to detect people and animals at a distance. A future version of the car would have cooling ducts in the seats. The car cost $25,000 to $30,000 to build and was developed by LAPD with the National Safety Agency in Australia. LAPD is looking for a company willing to manufacture a number of the cars.

Louisiana Beefing Up Bait Car Program to Fight Auto Theft
National Underwriter Online News Service, (10/29/2009)

Louisiana is expanding two programs to deter vehicle theft. The Louisiana Automobile Theft and Insurance Fraud Prevention Authority is expanding its Vehicle Investigation Prevention Enforcement Response (VIPER) and License Plate Recognition (LPR) programs. Under VIPER, “bait” vehicles donated by insurance companies are equipped with the latest digital, video and audio recording devices; GPS tracking; and remote door locking and engine shutoff capabilities. If someone attempts to steal the car, law enforcement officers can activate the system and stop the bait car, lock suspects in it and make arrests. Two bait cars have been placed in Baton Rouge, one in Shreveport and one in Lake Charles. The bait cars combined have resulted in 75 activations and 99 arrests. New Orleans just received a bait car in September, in addition to a second LPR. The readers capture photos of vehicle license plates and send the images to a central database to determine within seconds! if the vehicle has been reported stolen. All of the LPRs in Louisiana combined have aided in recovery of 91 stolen vehicles valued at $914,000.

Agencies Get $1.2M Technology Grant
St. Joseph News-Press, (11/04/2009)

Four Missouri law enforcement agencies will be the beneficiaries of a $1.2 million U.S. Department of Justice grant to be used for more vehicle mobile data centers. Buchanan County will use the grant to purchase equipment and software to install the technology in vehicles for the St. Joseph Police and Fire departments, the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Department and the Missouri Western State University Police Department. Equipment includes laptop computers, mobile radios, license barcode readers and handheld ticket writers. Police began installing the technology in vehicles in 2007. The technology allows officers to file reports electronically, enabling the department to track statistics quickly. Previously, officers hand wrote reports and another officer entered them into the computer weeks or months later.

Clandestine Labs Can Be Hazardous to Responders’ Health, (11/03/2009)

When it comes to investigating clandestine drug labs, when in doubt, first responders should stay out of the area and call in experts. That tip was among the advice provided by Arthur Musselman, a hazardous materials specialist for the Georgia Police Academy, during a recent presentation on clandestine laboratory safety and awareness for first responders with little experience with clandestine labs. Signs of a lab nearby can include dead animals such as squirrels or birds or dead plants or trees. Strange odors or noises are also clues. Sudden, unexplained rashes or trouble breathing are obvious signs of trouble, but the responders’ goal should be to be knowledgeable enough to avoid that happening. Many clandestine labs are cluttered with common household items such as paint thinner and bleach. When entering a suspected drug lab, responders should look for crock pots and pressure cookers, a lot of glassware, ventilation systems and raw ingredients for manufa! cturing drugs. They should use protection, such as self-contained breathing apparatus. When in doubt as to what might be present at a suspected lab, secure the scene and call for expert help.$49156

Oregon Gears Up for New Cell Phone Ban
Associated Press via USA Today, (10/31/20009), Brad Cain

Oregon has joined the list of states banning the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. The ban, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2010, carries a $90 fine. Similar bans are in place in California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia. The Oregon ban does not apply to drivers using a cell phone equipped with a hands-free device. The law also exempts certain drivers, including those working in public safety and others who are “operating a motor vehicle in the scope of the person’s employment.”

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