Public Safety

  • The Big One will have frightening consequences for Los Angeles: Scientists

    Scientists cannot accurately predict when California’s next massive earthquake – or, the Big One – will strike, but they can predict the effects, and it is frightening. Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) say these effects will include powerless rescue services, widespread fire damage, and no fresh water for months on end. The 1994 Northridge Earthquake was the region’s the last mega-quake, but scientists say that “When we have the San Andreas earthquake, that earth fault will probably be about 20 to 30 times larger than the fault that produced the Northridge earthquake [which still resulted in $20 Billion in damages].”

  • New cyber initiative to put Israel’s Beer-Sheva region on the world’s cyber map

    Ben-Gurion University of the Negev is a central component of the new CyberSpark initiative, an ecosystem with all the components which will allow it to attain a position of global leadership in the cyber field. The CyberSpark initiative is the only complex of its type in the world – a government-academic-industry partnership which includes Fortune 500 companies and cyber-incubators, academic researchers and educational facilities, as well as national government and security agencies. The CyberSpark Industry Initiative will serve as a coordinating body for joint cyber industry activities with government agencies, the Israel Defense Force (IDF), and academia.

  • Nanoparticles will allow detecting previously undetectable fingermarks

    A group of researchers from Switzerland has thrown light on the precise mechanisms responsible for the impressive ability of nanoparticles to detect fingermarks left at crime scenes. The researchers have provided evidence contesting the commonly accepted theory that nanoparticles are attracted to fingermarks electrostatically. The attraction, they claim, is in fact chemical and is caused by compounds on the surface of nanoparticles bonding with a complex cocktail of compounds present in fingermark residue.

  • Experts urge caution in relying upon eyewitness identifications in criminal cases

    A new report from the National Research Council recommends best practices that law enforcement agencies and courts should follow to improve the likelihood that eyewitness identifications used in criminal cases will be accurate. Science has provided an increasingly clear picture of the inherent limits in human visual perception and memory that can lead to errors, as well as the ways unintentional cues during law enforcement processes can compromise eyewitness identifications, the report says.

  • Transparent nanoscintillators for radiation detection in homeland security, medical safety

    Researchers say recently identified radiation detection properties of a light-emitting nanostructure built in their lab could open doors for homeland security and medical advances. The researchers describe a new method to fabricate transparent nanoscintillators by heating nanoparticles composed of lanthanum, yttrium and oxygen until a transparent ceramic is formed. A scintillator refers to a material that glows in response to radiation.

  • In U.S. criminal courts, non-citizens face harsher sentencing than citizens

    Non-Americans in the U.S. federal court system are more likely to be sentenced to prison and for longer terms compared to U.S. citizens, according to a new study. The researchers analyzed U.S. federal district court data from 1992 to 2008 for this study. In 2008, for example, 96 percent of convicted non-citizens received a prison sentence, compared to 85 percent of U.S. citizens. The researchers said that the issue of punishment disparities between citizens and non-citizens is a growing concern as the number of non-citizens in the United States — estimated at more than twenty-two million — continues to grow.

  • Law enforcement agencies use technology to compensate for shrinking budgets

    With funding shrinking in many sectors of law enforcement, agencies are searching for new ways to operate affordably while maintaining quality standards.Police departments’ budgets quadrupled between 1982 and 2006. With federal budgets shrining, there are simply too many challenges which would not allow for police budgeting-as-usual.

  • Assad retains secret caches of chemical weapons: Israeli intelligence

    Despite committing to dismantle and give up its chemical weapons – Syria was in possession of the world’s largest chemical weapons stock — President Bashar al-Assad’s regime still maintains a “residual” chemical weapons capacity, consisting of a few tons of the proscribed materials. Israel’s intelligence community has concluded that the Assad regime has decided to keep this reduced, but still formidable, chemical weapons capability, and has successfully concealed it from the inspectors of the UN chemical weapons watchdog who, a few weeks ago, have declared the chemical disarmament of Syria to be officially complete. Israeli defense officials believe that these sarin gas weapons would likely be deployed if the Assad regime faced an imminent threat to its survival. The Syrian regime is continuing to use chemical weapons which were not covered by the U.S.-Russian chemical weapons disarmament agreement, especially chlorine gas.

  • Los Angeles revises rule requiring flat rooftops for skyscrapers

    For more than forty years, the building code in Los Angeles required skyscrapers to have flat roofs in order to facilitate helicopter landing in cases of emergency. Now, however, with newer technological advances and techniques that enable Angelinos to be safe during an emergency, the flat-roof code is seen as outdated, and it was changed on Monday. Instead of helicopter pads, skyscraper designers will now focus on other safety features, including special elevators for fire fighters, special exit stairwells, advanced sprinkler systems, and video surveillance technologies.

  • Storm-surge app improves public and administration responses to flooding

    An environmental group called Wetlands Watch in Virginia has integrated crowd-sourcing into the Sea Level Rise app, allowing users to issue and receive alerts in real-time regarding waterlogged streets and improve public safety.The newest evolution of the app is expected to be launched within the next few weeks and the information provided and distributed to users will also be tracked by scientists and emergency planners to better grasp the flood patterns in the region and how to prepare for them.

  • Flying robots will go where humans cannot

    There are many situations in which it is impossible, complicated, or too time-consuming for humans to enter and carry out operations. Think of contaminated areas following a nuclear accident, or the need to erect structures such as antennae on mountain tops. These are examples of where flying robots could be used.

  • Investigative genetics technology helps nab criminals

    Every year, investigators collect tens of thousands of biological samples from crime scenes that may hold valuable clues to solving criminal cases. Unlocking those clues now is easier thanks to a new software solution unveiled last week by Battelle researchers who have applied advanced bioinformatics to next-generation sequencing data. ExactID analyzes biomarkers that can predict physical appearance, ancestry, clinical traits, and familial relationships among people. This information can be invaluable to forensic analyses and case work.

  • New DOJ pilot program aims to deter Americans from joining terrorist groups

    Boston, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis will host the Justice Department’s (DOJ) pilot program aimed at deterring Americans from joining terrorists groups, particularly those fighting in Syria and Iraq under the Islamic State (IS) and Somalia under al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab. The program will rely on prevention and intervention initiatives.

  • A second drum at nuke waste repository poses radiation leak danger

    At a recent meeting of the New Mexico Legislature’s Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Committee in Carlsbad, officials were informed that a second waste drum containing nuclear materials, could also contain the same mix of ingredients as the waste drum from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) which caused a radiation leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in February.

  • More police departments adopt predictive policing

    More police departments have adopted data analytics as a way to combat urban crime. Supporters of the approach, also referred to as predictive policing, say that if it is used in conjunction with existing policing techniques, such as community policing, it could have a drastic impact on crime. Some note, however, that the predictive policing methodology is more useful for its general tactical utility rather than the accuracy of its predictions.