Science and Technology News

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Public Safety Technology in the News

Arizona Immigration Law Will Boost Crime in U.S. Cities, Police Chiefs Say
Washington Post, (05/26/2010), Spencer S. Hsu
Some U.S. police chiefs say Arizona's new law on illegal immigrants might increase crime, not reduce it. A delegation of chiefs organized by the Police Executive Research Forum contends that the crackdown will intimidate crime victims and witnesses who are illegal immigrants and keep them from cooperating with police. They also contend the law will divert police from investigating more serious crimes. The delegation was to meet with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to discuss their concerns. The group includes police chiefs from Los Angeles, Houston, Philadelphia, Montgomery County, Md. and several cities in Arizona. However, law enforcement opinion on the law is sharply divided in Arizona. The statute would make the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and give the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. Pinal County (Ariz.) Paul Babeau, head of the Arizona Sheriff's Association, supports the law. He says cooperation by! illegal immigrants is already low because of law enforcement corruption in their native countries and because they are in the U.S. illegally.

Savannah-Chatham Police Acquires Ballistics Machine
Savannah Morning News, (05/25/2010), Arek Sarkissian II
A Georgia police department can now test shell casings in-house using a ballistics testing machine provided by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Before receiving the equipment, Savannah-Chatham police had to send casings out to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for processing, which could take days; the new device can do the processing in about 12 minutes. According to police forensics Sgt. Scott Coleman, the machine is part of a nationwide network maintained by ATF. Usually, only larger police departments have the machines, but coverage in southeast Georgia is so limited that ATF provided Savannah with one. The device acquires a "fingerprint" that a firearm leaves on the back of a bullet, providing investigators with unique identifying characteristics. The information from examined shell casings is put into a database maintained by ATF, so casings used in local shootings can be compared to samples taken from around the U.S.

Private Labs Help County Test DNA, (05/15/2010), Jaclyn O'Malley
A Nevada crime lab is taking a novel approach to attempt to quickly reduce its backlog of DNA samples waiting to be tested. The Washoe County Crime laboratory has begun a pilot program to test DNA samples monthly at a private lab using money raised from local convicted offender court fines. The pilot program will run through December. The county has been using National Institute of Justice grants to fund testing of backlog samples. But the samples are sent out once a year, usually in a batch of thousands. By using $100,000 in local convicted offender courts fines, the lab can have samples tested once a month. The lab has a backlog of about 4,000 samples. Crime laboratory director Renee Romero said the pilot will provide a cost and impact analysis of sending out samples every month. Testing of DNA samples is based on priority factors, such as violent crimes and pending court dates.

New Gadget Extracts Evidence From Cell Phones
New Britain Herald, (05/17/2010), Lisa Backus
Police in New Britain, Conn., have a new tool to help investigate cyber crimes against children. The department has a Digital Forensics lab to help investigate crimes involving cell phones and computers. Using grant money, the department purchased upgrades to equipment used to analyze mobile digital devices such as cell phones and blackberries to obtain text messages and pictures. The grants came from Michael Bolton Charities Inc. and the J. Walton Bissell Foundation. Receipt of the grants was arranged by the Innocent Justice Foundation, which connects law enforcement agencies that need tools and training to investigate crimes against children with charities willing to provide funding.

Seattle Is Riskiest City for Cybercrime, Report Says
American City and County, (05/17/2010)
Seattle tops the list of the most dangerous U.S. cities for cybercrime, followed by Boston and Washington, D.C., according to a report. The report by Symantec and Sperling's BestPlaces ranked 50 cities. Also in the top 10 for cybercrime were San Francisco, Raleigh, N.C., Atlanta, Minneapolis, Denver, Austin and Portland. The city rankings were determined through a combination of Symantec Security Response's data on cyberattacks and potential malware infections, and third-party data about online behavior, such as accessing WiFi hotspots and online shopping.

Prisoners Turn Over a New Leaf With Eye on Environment
CNN, (05/20/2010), Patrick Oppmann
Prisons in the state of Washington are saving money while providing inmates with a sense of purpose through "green" programs. The Stafford Creek Corrections Center saved $200,000 a year by recycling trash instead of paying to have it hauled to a landfill. At another state prison, inmates are raising an endangered species of frog, observing and taking notes during the project. Dan Pacholke, state deputy director of prisons, said violence has dropped among prisoners involved in the voluntary program, and the state plans to expand it from four prisons to all 13 state institutions. Officials say the program provides inmates with skills and knowledge and makes them environmentally conscious citizens.

Violent Crime in U.S. on the Decline
Washington Post, (05/25/2010), Jerry Markon
Violent crime in the U.S. has declined for the third straight year, according to the FBI. Preliminary 2009 data from the agency indicates a 7.2 percent drop in homicides. Overall, overall violent crime was down 5.5 percent. Robberies decreased by 8.1 percent and aggravated assaults dropped by 4.2 percent. Property crimes also declined last year for the seventh consecutive year, including a 17.2 percent drop in auto thefts. The FBI collects data from 13,000 law enforcement agencies.

Pennsylvania Proposes Allowing Local Police to Use Radar Guns to Enforce Speed Limits
The Patriot-News, (05/19/2010)
Municipal police departments in Pennsylvania may be getting closer to being allowed to use radar to issue speeding tickets to drivers. State police use radar, but past attempts by lawmakers to allow Pennsylvania municipalities to use the technology have failed. A bipartisan group of legislators has introduced a bill that may have a better chance of passing because it requires departments wanting to use radar to be accredited by the Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission. Pennsylvania is the only state that does not allow municipalities to use radar. Opponents say the legislation does not provide enough detail on how officers will be trained, which could result in unnecessary ticketing and fines.

Tampa Cell Users to Get Emergency Alerts
ABC ActionNews, (05/21/2010), Brendan McLaughlin
Tampa citizens can now receive emergency alerts on their cell phones, thanks to an upgrade to the city's reverse 9-1-1 system. Previously the system could only send alerts to land lines. The old system could send alerts to 23 phone lines at a time. The new system can call thousands of people at one time, reaching everyone in the city in about two hours. The upgrade also allows municipal service agencies to send alerts, in addition to police and fire agencies. For example, the city can alert residents to a change in pick-up day for recycling or garbage collection. All published home phones are automatically included in the system, but residents need to opt-in to receive alerts to cell phones.

Prison Phone Smuggling Reduced
Omaha World Herald, (05/17/2010), Paul Hammel
Nebraska's policy of allowing inmates to use the regular prison phone system at low cost appears to have resulted in a reduction in the number of cell phones being smuggled into prisons. Officials confiscated six cell phones from Nebraska inmates in the past year. Inmates pay 50 cents for a local telephone call on the regular prison lines; long-distance calls cost 70 cents to place, plus 5 cents per minute. That's compared to Iowa, which charges $2 per local call by inmates, and a 15-minute long-distance call costs $3.50 more than it would in Nebraska.

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