Science and Technology News

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Public Safety Technology in the News

Desert Hot Springs Police to Install Cameras in Public Places
The Desert Sun, (11/16/2009), Kate McGinty

Desert Hot Springs, Calif., has installed a network of public surveillance cameras in public places (including city parks) and in squad cars. The network can be monitored by dispatchers and officers over a secure outdoor wireless network. Desert Springs Police Chief Pat Williams said this is the first system in the country to use this mobile monitoring application. The public surveillance cameras will be monitored live in the event of a call to check a specific site; they can also be passively monitored by reviewing tapes after an incident. The squad cameras will be continuously monitored through a live streaming function. Officers will be able to tune into each other other’s dash cams in the event they are called on to provide backup. Initial installation includes 30 cameras but the network has the potential to expand to 150 units.

Lansing to Launch New Text-Messaging Alert Service, (11/16/2009), Ryan Loew

Lansing, Mich., plans a Dec. 14, 2009 launch for a new community information text-messaging service that will deliver timely information about emergencies and other events. Users will receive texts through their individual plans and will sign up through Nixle (, which provides free secure texting services to public entities and other organizations nationwide. The city will send messages that include details on emergency situations and what actions, citizens should take. Lansing will also use the service to provide other public service announcements, such as information about snow plowing. Users can decide which classes of alerts they will receive.

New System Locates 911 Cell Phone Calls
Kilgore News Herald, (11/18/2009)

The Wireless Phase II (WP2) network recently launched in several East Texas counties and cities sends emergency dispatchers the latitude and longitude of someone making a call from a cellular telephone. Under the system, cellular providers give caller location to public safety answering point (PSAP) dispatchers with the actual location of a caller (within distances mandated by the Federal Communications Commission). Previously, the companies could only identify the tower location the call came from and the call back number. The East Texas Council of Governments (ETCOG) launched deployment and testing of WP2 in December 2008, with testing completed in August 2009. Participating PSAPs include police departments in Canton, Carthage, Gladewater, Jacksonville, Palestine, Mineola and White Oak and sheriff ’s offices in Anderson, Camp, Cherokee, Gregg, Marion, Panola, Rains, Upshur, Van Zandt and Wood counties.

Smuggled Cell Phones Pose Prison Problems
ABC7News.Com, (11/17/2009), Vic Lee

The California Penal System recently added a second cell-phone sniffing dog to a pilot program being run at Solano State Prison. Drako, an 18-month-old Belgian Malinois, is undergoing training as part of the state’s effort to stop the smuggling of cell phone to inmates. In 2008, more than 800 cell phones made their way into the medium-security facility in venues as varied as body cavities and cakes. It takes approximately eight weeks to train a dog to detect the odor that is specific to cell phones.

Warning Crooks: Bucks County, Pa., Has Your Number
GCN, (11/20/2009), Joab Jackson

In Bucks County, Pa., seven police departments have begun to use software that provides information-sharing capability among their officers. Cody Systems’ Collaborative Object-Based Regional Access (COBRA) system has been donated to all departments in the county at no cost in honor of a police officer who was killed in the line of duty. Patrol officers can access COBRA through their laptop computers, searching on persons, incidents and vehicles in any Bucks County district. Information entered into one jurisdiction’s system can be accessed by other jurisdictions within minutes. The system was donated in memory of Newtown Borough police officer Brian Gregg, killed in 2005 by a man with a history of violent behavior.

Biometrics Used in Gwinnett to Identify Illegal Immigrants
Talk Gwinnett & the Gwinnett Gazette, (11/17/2009)

Law enforcement agencies in Gwinnett, Clayton and DeKalb counties in Georgia have joined a U.S. Department of Justice/U.S. Department of Homeland Security initiative, Secure Communities, which is administered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). When a participating agency arrests an individual, Secure Communities can determine whether that individual is a criminal alien and take appropriate action. Previously, the Georgia agencies checked arrestees’ fingerprints against a system maintained by the FBI. Now, fingerprint information will be checked against both the FBI system and DHS immigration records. A match will trigger an ICE evaluation. Top priority is given to individuals with prior convictions for major offenses.

Beaumont Police Will Be Reading Your License Plates
12News, (11/21/2009), David Ingram

The Beaumont (Texas) Police Department recently began using a new automated license plate recognition system that uses cameras mounted on patrol cars to read license plate numbers of nearby vehicles, scanning them against databases of cars that have been reported stolen. The department has already recovered eight stolen vehicles using the system, funded through a grant from the Texas Auto Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority.

Montco Emergency Call Info Available in Real Time
Pottstown Mercury, (11/24/2009), Keith Phucas

Montgomery County, Pa., residents can log onto the county Department of Public Safety’s Web site and obtain near real-time data about emergency calls via a live Web-based interface with the emergency computer aided dispatch system. Located at, the site, which is the first of its kind in the nation, provides information on fires, medical emergencies and traffic-related incidents 24/7. Police calls are not included to help ensure officer safety and full residential addresses are not provided, only block numbers. The site offers integrated mapping capability, features for Web-enabled mobile phones and links to live audio streaming from emergency radio channels.

Deptford Police Get High-Tech License Plate Scanner, (11/24/2009), Barbara Boyer

The Deptford (Pa.) Police Department has used an $18,000 U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant to purchase a new license-plate recognition system that will scan thousands of plates every day. The system then runs the license plate numbers through several databases and alerts officers if a vehicle has been reported stolen or if its owner is wanted under an outstanding warrant. Deptford becomes the sixth Gloucester County department to implement the system. On the first day the system went into use, it helped lead to the arrest of two alleged car thieves. One of the men faced outstanding warrants in three states on drugs, assault and weapons charges. Other arrests followed in the first two weeks of use.

High-Tech ‘Ears’ Listen for Shots
New York Times, (11/20/2009), Cara Buckley

ShotSpotter, a gunshot tracking system that has been adopted by more than 45 jurisdictions nationwide, has recently been deployed in areas of Westchester and Nassau counties in New York and suburban New York City areas in New Jersey and New Haven. The system has had various successes, including leading New Haven police to a women with a smoking gun still in her hand. In Nassau County, the system allowed police to locate a wounded victim and transport the individual to a hospital in the absence of a citizen 911 call. Police officials also hope the system will deter would-be shooters. ShotSpotter uses microphones to transmit the sound of a gunshot to a police department computer and use wireless sensors to triangulate the location of the noises. ShotSpotter is guaranteed to locate a shot within 80 feet of where it was fired.

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