Science and Technology News

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Criminal Justice Technology in the News

Law Enforcement News
Concord Funds Special Police Team to Address Gang Activity
Contra Costa Times, (02/03/2016), Lisa P. White

The Concord (Calif.) Police Department has revived a special team of five officers to address a rise in gang violence. To support the team, the city council recently appropriated $371,570 for the current fiscal year to pay for a full-time sergeant and five sport utility vehicles equipped with police radios, mobile data technology, lockboxes and siren controllers. Last year, the department created an ad hoc Special Enforcement Team in response to an increase in gang activity.
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Law Enforcement Agencies to Submit Untested DNA Kits, (02/05/2016)

Virginia is proceeding with plans to test thousands of sexual assault evidence and physical evidence recovery kits. The state has finalized a contract with Bode Cellmark Forensics to do the testing at a Northern Virginia facility. Kits from local law enforcement agencies across the state will be shipped to the lab. The testing will be paid for with a $1.4 million grant as part of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance's initiative to test 56,000 kits in 20 states.
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County Law Enforcement to Carry Naloxone
Shippensburg News-Chronicle, (02/05/2016), Curtis Garland

Law enforcement officers in Franklin County, Penn. will soon carry Naloxone, which is administered to reverse an opioid overdose. Franklin County District Attorney Matt Fogal noted in a statement that law enforcement officers are often the first to arrive at overdose events and administering Naloxone in time can save lives. He said in Pennsylvania counties where police officers carried the medication in 2015, officers reversed 453 overdoses.
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Cold Cases Could Be Solved Thanks to Grant for SHSU Researchers
KBTX, (02/07/2016)

Researchers at Sam Houston State University are using a federal grant to develop and test new forensic methods for human DNA. The grant from the National Institute of Justice allows researchers to investigate the best methods for extracting DNA from badly decomposed remains through next generation DNA sequencing.
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Study: Tasers Could Lead to False Confessions
The Philadelphia Inquirer, (02/08/2016), Samantha Melamed

People who have been stunned with a Taser can experience short-term reduced cognitive functioning, according to a new study. The study found that the 50,000-volt shocks significantly impair brain function in the short term and that people who have been stunned with Tasers may be unable to understand Miranda warnings. The study, funded by the National Institute of Justice, was published in the journal Criminology and Public Policy. Robert Kane, Drexel criminology and justice studies professor, said the study could make the case for a policy requiring police to wait one hour after using a Taser on a suspect before interrogating that person. Researchers used 142 volunteers, mostly college students. Half were shocked. Individuals who received the jolt performed worse on verbal learning tests and reported difficulty concentrating, elevated anxiety and feeling overwhelmed.
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Corrections News
Highland, Stephenson County Partner on Wind Turbine to Cut Jail Electric Bill
The Journal Standard, (02/04/2016), Karen Patterson

Officials in Stephenson County, Ill. hope to install a 150-foot wind turbine to cut electricity costs for the county jail by 40 to 70 percent. Last year, the Stephenson County Jail spent about $108,000 on electricity. The jail houses up to 216 inmates and has minimum operating standards, including lighting. Officials are working to install more cost-efficient LED lights and are exploring motion-triggered lights and solar panels. The wind turbine project, which is being done in partnership with Highland Community College's Wind Turbine Technology Department, is intended to complement those efforts.
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Probation Department Says Social Media Outreach Works
Chillocothe Gazette, (02/06/2016), Sara Nealeigh

The Ross County Probation Department's use of Facebook has proved a useful tool for tracking down people wanted on warrants after violating terms of probation. The Ohio agency created a Facebook page a few weeks ago and began posting names of probation violators and their photos, generating tips from the community. With the help of local law enforcement, 13 of the 28 people posted on the site so far had successfully been served.
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Police Are Using Eagles to Take Out Rogue Drones
CNBC, (02/02/2016), Arjun Kharpal

Police in the Netherlands are working with a raptor training company to deploy eagles to intercept drones from the sky. As use of drones becomes more popular with the public, law enforcement agencies have been testing ways to stop dangerous drones, including using "signal jammers" and shooting drones down. But birds of prey could potentially be safer. "The bird sees the drone as prey and takes it to a safe place, a place where it is not disturbed by other birds or people," Mark Wiebe, innovation manager at the Dutch national police, said in a press release.
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Videoconferencing Helps Local Gov Deliver Citizen Services
GCN, (02/03/2016), Stephanie Kanowitz

State and local government agencies, including corrections facilities, are using videoconferencing technology to accomplish tasks that previously required in-person interaction. Out-of-town visitors to Boston can appeal parking tickets via a Skype hearing. Pima County, Ariz., is using Skype for some building hearings. Corrections facilities are using videoconferencing in lieu of in-person visits to improve safety and security. In 2013, Travis County Jail in Texas stopped allowing inmates to have in-person visits at the Correctional Complex Visitation Center and began using a video visitation system. Texas' Bastrop County Jail also implemented a similar system last fall, and Dallas County allows video visits, although it also has in-person visitation.
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L.A. County Uses Data Analytics to Keep Kids Out of Jail
Government Technology, (02/05/2016), J.B. Wogan

Los Angeles County is experimenting with using predictive analytics to anticipate and prevent criminal behavior among foster children. In a pilot study, between 2012 and 2014, the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services screened foster children to assess their risk of committing a crime. The department used an actuarial tool to score children's risk based on factors associated with criminal behavior. For those identified as high risk, caseworkers connected them to services such as drug treatment, additional schooling and therapy. The department also monitored a group of children identified as high risk who did not receive a suite of specialized response services. An evaluation by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency found that after six months, the children who received services had no arrests, whereas 9 percent of the control group did.
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14 Alabama Prisons to Close as Part of Consolidation
WSFA, (02/08/2016), Michael Doudna

The Alabama Department of Corrections plans to close 14 prison facilities and replace them with four larger facilities. The result would add 2,500 to 3,000 beds to the system's capacity. The plan would replace Tutwiler Prison in Wetumpka with a new 1,200-bed facility. The remaining 13 closings would be replaced by three, 4,000 bed facilities. The department currently is at about 65 percent staffing, forcing correctional officers to work mandatory overtime, costing the state more than $20 million a year. The new system, with improved technology, could allow corrections to be close to fully staffed with the current amount of officers.
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Officials: Prisons Cutting Visits as Staffing Crisis Persists
The New Mexican, (02/08/2016), Dan Schwartz

New Mexico corrections officials are limiting the number of visiting days at state-run prisons due to staffing shortages. The Corrections Department recently instituted a weeklong ban on visitors to ease the workload on officers. A spokeswoman said the department likely will impose the ban once a month until the department can hire and keep more guards. The department has difficulty retaining officers because of comparatively low compensation of $13.65 per hour. In a letter to the state legislature, Gregg Marcantel, Secretary of Corrections, said the department is at a breaking point because it can't adequately compete in the current job market due to current pay rates for corrections officers.
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