Science and Technology News

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Public Safety Technology in the News

A Closer Look at the Forensic Science of Fibers
St. Olaf College News, (10/09/2012), Rachel Palermo

A Minnesota college will research new ways to analyze fibers found during crime scene investigations, thanks to a $114,000 grant from the National Institute of Justice. St. Olaf College associate professor of chemistry Doug Beussman will work with students over the next three years to research analysis of trace forensic evidence using isotope ratio mass spectrometry. As explained in the St. Olaf College News, currently, when fiber or thread is found at a crime scene, the color and the type of fabric can be determined, but cannot be connected to a specific shirt. However, the atoms in the fabric’s molecules can relate to where the material is from because the environment affects the pattern of isotopes. Different white cotton T-shirts have different isotope patterns and can be distinguished from one another. Connecting the T-shirt fibers found at the crime scene to the T-shirt of a suspect could count as circumstantial evidence, according to Beussman.
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Governor Malloy Comes to Thomaston to Announce $500,000 Grant for Emergency Communications
Litchfield County Times, (10/10/2012)

The town of Thomaston, Ct., has received a $500,000 state grant to help pay for a $4 million upgrade to the town’s municipal emergency communications system. The new system will include mobile radios for vehicles, portable radios that can be carried and two 130-foot tall towers to supplement two existing towers. The system will be used by all town public safety departments, public works, the highway department and the Water Pollution Control Authority. Thomaston citizens approved the project during a town meeting in September. The state grant will help alleviate the tax impact on citizens.
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Law Enforcement Logs On: How Authorities Use Online Activity to Fight Gang-Related Crime
CBS News, (10/10/2012), Julia Dahl

Due to recent success using social media to investigate gang activity, the New York City Police Department is doubling the size of its gang squad and emphasizing that officers should monitor social media sites. NYPD is among a growing number of police departments using social media as an investigative tool. Jeremiah Johnson of the National White Collar Crime Center (NWCC) said more police departments are requesting training, and the International Association of Chiefs of Police found that 74 percent of 600 law enforcement agencies recently surveyed said they are using social media to help solve crimes. Officers can create their own false profiles and obtain information. Also, to help law enforcement capture more social media activity, NWCC is adding new X1 Social Discovery software to its social media training. The software allows police to input monikers from sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and the software will scan for updates to those accounts.
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Cuyahoga County Sheriff: Super High Tech Boat Coming to Cleveland to Patrol & Protect Lake Erie, (10/11/2012), Paul Kiska

The Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department has a new 30-foot boat to help combat crime on Lake Erie. The Boston Whaler is equipped with advanced tools and technology to fight drug smuggling, human trafficking, terrorism and other crimes. The boat was paid for using a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The Lorain County Sheriff’s Department has been using a $500,000 Boston Whaler for nearly a year.
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Atlanta Council Votes to Spend $2 Million for Video Cameras
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, (10/15/2012), Ernie Suggs

Atlanta will be getting an additional 112 security cameras. The city council has approved $2.25 million for the cameras, which are part of an effort to address crime largely in downtown areas. Most of the cameras will be installed in the Zone 5 police district, which includes downtown, Georgia State University, Georgia Tech, midtown, Atlantic Station and the Georgia Dome. The other cameras will be spread in the other five zones. The additional cameras will bring the total number of cameras in the city to 762. The cameras are monitored out of the city’s Loudermilk Video Integration Center, which is housed in the city’s E911 Center.
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Marshall Police, WV State Police Receive Innovation for Justice Award
HuntingtonNews.Net, (10/17/2012)

Marshall University and the West Virginia State Police have received a United States Attorney’s Award for Innovation in Justice for their collaborations on digital forensics, DNA testing and investigations. The award recognized the noteworthy 20-year partnership and collaboration between the Marshall University Forensic Science Center and the West Virginia State Police. Cpl. Robert J. Boggs, a digital forensics investigator with the police, said, “Having a law enforcement investigative element placed inside an academic institution provides a chance to combine resources and efforts to do real good for the public. Digital forensics changes very rapidly, and having access to academic resources from professors and graduate students as well as access to the best hardware and software really makes a difference when investigating, and ultimately having a successful prosecution.”
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Some Pittsburgh Motorcycle, Bicycle Officers Now Wear Cameras
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, (10/18/2012, Taryn Luna

Pittsburgh police are embracing the old adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” About 45 motorcycle and bicycle officers are now wearing cameras while on patrol. The cameras are slightly larger than a tube of lipstick and can be mounted on sunglasses, uniforms and helmets. The cameras cost about $1,000 each and can hold up to four hours of audio and video recordings. Officers have to manually turn the devices off and on. The vendor is working on upgrading the device to include an automatic record trigger, which should be available next spring.
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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Police Wellness and Survival, (10/17/2012), Charles Remsberg

During a recent webinar, health experts offered several suggestions for how law enforcement officers can fight fatigue, stress and other health issues that often come with the job. Behavioral scientists provided updates on the state of the profession during a 90-minute national webinar called “Healthy Officers Are Safer Officers,” sponsored by Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and the National Institute of Justice. The scientists discussed problems that urgently need to be addressed to improve officer wellness and performance and reduce officer deaths. Citing potential safety-related fatigue problems, one researcher found that officers on 12-hour shifts tended to be sleepier and less alert. Eight-hour shifts were associated with five times more overtime than 10-hour shifts and three times more than 12-hour shifts. Another researcher said 40 percent of officers are plagued by sleep problems. Suggestions from the panelists include screening officers for sleep disorders, regular exercise to help counter dangerous tiredness, peer support programs, and instilling a “culture of wellness” in law enforcement officers, starting in the police academy.
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Will Private DNA Services Replace State Crime Labs?
Government Technology, (10/11/ 2012), Brian Heaton

A new Cloud-based DNA service could possibly serve as an alternative to state-run crime labs for DNA processing. The advantage of the technology, which is called Local Entry Accessible DNA (LEAD) and which uses Rapid DNA tools, is that police departments would sometimes not have to rely on state agencies to get samples processed. Existing DNA profiles can be uploaded to the LEAD database via an Internet connection by a local state crime lab, or can be sent to the lab of Sorenson Forensics, which developed the LEAD technology, to be analyzed and added to the LEAD system. However, using Rapid DNA is limited to cheek swabs, so genetic material taken from other areas of the body would have to be processed in a traditional laboratory. Also, LEAD is not connected to the FBI national DNA database that state crime labs use; the system would search on an individual agency’s database, or agencies could elect to share their databases with one another.
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Prince George’s County Wins $432K Public Safety Grant
BowiePatch, (10/18/2012), Bryan P. Sears and John Davisson
The U.S. Department of Justice has awarded Prince George’s County a $432,311 grant as part of $6.3 million provided to the state, county and local governments in Maryland for violent crime reduction. The funding is based on a formula that considers population and violent crime statistics. Money from the program is used to pay for law enforcement, prosecutions, education, drug treatment and technology improvements. Neighboring Montgomery County received a total of $159,701; Baltimore received the most funding, at $762,900.
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