Science and Technology News

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Public Safety Technology in the News

U.S. Bureau of Prisons to Arm Some Guards With Pepper Spray
McClatchy Newspapers, (06/22/2012), Michael Doyle

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons will distribute pepper spray to guards at some high-security federal prisons in California, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Although some states, including California, already provide state prison guards with pepper spray, federal authorities have resisted the idea until now, saying the potential disadvantages outweigh the benefits. Officials have warned that inmates could possibly seize the pepper spray canisters and turn them against guards. Under the pilot program, federal prison officials will study the use of pepper spray (oleoresin capsicum) over the next year. In 2010, federal prison inmates committed 73 serious assaults on staff and 1,623 less serious assaults, according to BOP.
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LAPD to Install 16 Wireless Surveillance Cameras in Topanga, West Valley Divisions
Daily News, (7/03/2012), Eric Hartley

Sixteen wireless surveillance cameras are planned for two areas patrolled by the Los Angeles Police Department. The cameras will be placed in the department's Topanga and West Valley divisions, which cover 66 square miles and 450,000 people. The city police commission approved the plan to spend nearly $680,000 on the cameras, which are mobile and will send video over cellphone networks. The cameras will be watched by officers and by members of a 40-member volunteer surveillance team shared between Topanga and West Valley. The cameras will record footage, so officers can also view it at a later time.
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Vermont State Police Initiate Excessive Driving Speed Enforcement Campaign, (07/04/2012)

The Vermont State Police have initiated an intense enforcement campaign to stem the number of fatal vehicle accidents in the state. So far this year, 37 crashes have killed 42 people. Factors contributing to the accidents include excessive speed, alcohol and not wearing seatbelts. On July 4, police kicked off 63 days of Operation Summer H.E.A.T. (High Enforcement Area Team). The effort will run through Sept. 3, 2012 and include stepped up patrols with more state, county and local law enforcement officers working in the specific areas that have been identified as having higher crash rates. Analysts will monitor data every day to evaluate where and when the deployment of enforcement resources will provide the most significant impact.
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Pasadena Discontinues Red-Light Camera Program
Los Angeles Times, (07/01/2012)

Pasadena city officials have decided to scrap the city's red-light camera program. Pasadena launched the program with seven cameras in 2003. The contract with the vendor expired in June 2011, and officials decided not to renew it, citing a lack of enforcement from Los Angeles County courts, time wasted by Pasadena police officers and questions about the cameras' effectiveness in improving traffic safety. Also, the Pasadena Sun reported that the program is running at a $4,487 deficit. In the first year after the red-light cameras were installed, transportation officials noted a decline in collisions, but that may have been due to lengthening the time that lights remained yellow, according to Bahman Janka, a Pasadena transportation administrator. Further studies found that the frequency of collisions at intersections with and without cameras was similar.
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Utah Law Enforcement Scanning License Plates
Salt Lake Tribune, (07/03/2012), Nate Carlisle and Brennan Smith

Police departments in Utah are using license plate recognition technology in a variety of ways, including recovering stolen cars, recording cars found at crime scenes, and tracking trucks suspected of supplying marijuana fields. Police departments that don't have their own LPR systems can borrow a car outfitted with the technology from the Utah State Tax Commission. The Salt Lake Tribune identified 47 police departments and county sheriffs' offices that either use LPR scanners or have permission to borrow scanner cars from the commission. Statewide agencies, such as the Utah Highway Patrol, also use the scanners. The tax commission operates the Utah Division of Motor Vehicles, and recovering stolen vehicles is the primary purpose of its LPRs, which are also programmed to look for vehicles with expired or revoked registration, no insurance, or that have been entered into a national database associated with a missing person or Amber Alert. Tax commission LPRs recover an estimated 1,000 stolen vehicles a year. The St. George Police Department says the technology should be used at crime scenes to record the cars present. Brigham Young University has scanners mounted in parking lots and around the campus perimeter. The technology is used to patrol parking and for security.
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D.C. to Introduce Enhanced 911
Washington Post, (07/12/2012), Mihir Zaveri

Residents of the District of Columbia can sign up for an enhanced emergency system called Smart911. The system enables citizens to provide a range of information to be stored in profile, such as location of gas valves in house, floor plans, presence of seniors or people with disabilities and preexisting medical conditions. The information will pop up on a 911 dispatcher's computer screen. Officials say the information could help police, firefighters and other emergency workers better understand what awaits them at an emergency scene, because people calling 911 are often stressed and panicked, and may forget to tell the dispatcher useful details. The system will cost the District about $70,000 per year, according to Tom Axbey, chief executive of Rave Mobile Safety of Framingham, Mass., which supplies the software for the computers and the online form residents use to register for the system. He said more than 300 communities in the United States used Smart911.
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Pr. George's Police Department Purchases New Simulation Training System
Bowie, (07/13/2012), Alexandra Scarfone

The Prince George's County Police Department in Maryland has purchased a scenario-based training system with grant funds from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The $85,000 Judgmental Enhancement Training Program MILO Range Pro System allows officers to experience realistic scenarios that might require police use of force. The scenarios use types of weapons that could be used by the public, including handguns, rifles, shotguns, pepper spray and Tasers. The system includes 425 training scenarios and features active shooters and emotionally disturbed individuals, and will also train officers in homeland security awareness.
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Calif. to Start Bringing Back Inmates in Out-of-State Prisons
California Watch, (07/12/2012), Michael Montgomery

California is starting to bring back to its prisons inmates housed in correctional facilities in other states. Currently, about 9,500 inmates are serving sentences in prisons in Arizona, Mississippi and Oklahoma operated by the Corrections Corporation of America, a private prison operator. Those inmates are expected to be back in California facilities by 2016. The return of the first group, 600 inmates housed in Arizona, will begin immediately, according to California Corrections Secretary Matthew Cate. Another 4,000 inmates will return to California in 2014. California began housing inmates in other states due to overcrowding. In 2006, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in the prison system due to crowding. California is under court order to reduce its prison population to 137 percent of design capacity about 110,000 inmates. However, Cate said the return of all inmates to California is dependent on the court increasing the population threshold to 145 percent of design capacity.
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Feds Significantly Expand the Use of Iris-Recognition Technology, (07/13/2012), Aliya Sternstein

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is testing iris recognition technology to determine its usefulness in operational settings. Kimberly Weissman of the office of US-VISIT said US-VISIT and Customs and Border Patrol will soon test technologies that match irises, and potentially faces, of people officials suspect have entered the country illegally in Texas. US-VISIT handles the DHS ID database. The pilot program planned for the Border Patrol station in McAllen, Texas, is a follow-up to an earlier iris trial, and will test the feasibility of using the technology in an operational environment. It will include storing facial recognition photographs as well as iris images. In the earlier trial in 2010, Border Patrol officers photographed suspects' irises during booking and upon release to determine if the database could accurately match live images with previously recorded images. The iris recognition technology could also some day be used for the Trusted Traveler program, which currently allows airline passengers to quickly get through airport security by consenting to background checks and fingerprinting.
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Coppell PD Launches New Online Crime Mapping System, (07/16/2012)

Residents of Coppell, Texas can now go online to find out information about crime in their neighborhoods. Through the police department website, citizens can enter an address to view crimes that have occurred in a certain area, or can view information for the entire city. The map lists the type of incident and date and time it occurred, and individuals can also submit an anonymous tip regarding a crime. Coppell is the latest North Texas police department to employ online crime mapping. Other North Texas police departments using the same technology include Fort Worth, Euless, Highland Village, Farmers Branch and Collin County.
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