Public Safety

  • Identifying the criminals among multiple DNA samples

    Providing certainty without a reasonable doubt is not possible when the DNA at a crime scene comes from multiple sources; this happens in about one in ten cases, meaning that important evidence for putting a criminal behind bars is lost; a new technique takes the uncertainty out of DNA samples, when more than one person’s DNA fingerprint is in the mix

  • Studying counterterrorism in Israel upsets Cambridge residents

    Some residents of Cambridge, Massachusetts are upset that sixteen law enforcement and emergency services officials from the city went to Israel in an Anti Defamation League-sponsored trip to observe Israeli counterterrorism methods; the trip was funded by a local businessman; in a city hall meeting residents expressed discomfort with a privately organized trip for public officials — and with the fact that these officials chose Israel as the place to study counterterrorism tactics; one local resident said that what Israel calls “counterterrorism” is “a mechanism of oppression suited to employment in a police state, a status I do not regard our city as having obtained. At least not yet”

  • A new threat: organized crime, terrorists links

    Lawmakers and security analysts around the world are growing increasingly worried about links between terrorists and organized crime; terrorists and organized crime gangs have increasingly worked together around the world to finance operations; in 2000, it was estimated that FARC, Colombia’s largest terrorist organization, received as much as $400 million annually from its role in the drug trade; intelligence reports found that al Qaeda was looking to work with Mexican cartels to sneak into the United States; Islamic extremists have also become organized criminal networks themselves engaging in kidnapping, human trafficking, counterfeiting money, fraud, and armed robbery to raise money for their causes

  • Vallon showcases innovative mine detector

    German company Vallon unveiled its latest mine detection system; one of its advantages is that it can detect mines made with no metal parts (the device can detect metal-free particles at a depth of 40 cm, and metal objects at greater depths); the UN is already deploying the device in mine-clearance operations in thirty countries

  • Army water contracts fraudster appeals

    Last Tuesday, a man convicted of defrauding the U.S military of millions of dollars on water purification contracts requested the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals to throw out his 210-month sentence because a key witness was unable to testify; Richard E. Long was convicted of bribery, wire fraud, and money laundering for WATEC, Inc., a Tennessee based firm that provides water purification services to the military; Long accepted $550,000 in bribes in exchange for rewarding contracts worth as much as $66 million to WATEC, Inc.

  • Effort to stem flow of firearms to Mexico backfires

    There are no limits in the United States to the number of long guns (as opposed to pistols or revolvers) a person is allowed to buy; the Mexican drug cartels exploited this buy sending thousands of straw buyers to gun shows an gun shops to buy hundreds of thousands of fire arms, then smuggle them to Mexico; to stem the flow of guns, the ATF launched Project Gunrunner: rather than just take down low-level straw buyers here and there, the agency hoped that by “letting the guns walk,” the sales would lead investigators to cartel members higher up in the organization; insiders say it never did; ATF could have told gun owners not to sell, or later seize the guns in an arrest; instead, gun store owners were allowed to sell even though agents often knew the buyer was a straw for the Mexican cartels; those guns can be traced to hundreds of robberies, rapes, and murders; experts said the numbers are much higher

  • Explosive-detecting rats to save soldiers' lives

    An Oklahoma State University researcher received a $740,000 grant from the Department of Defense to conduct the research into using rats as landmine sniffers; rats have three advantages as bomb sniffers: the rodents, about the size of a small cat, can cover a lot of ground quickly; their acute sense of smell enables them to sniff out land mines, but they are small enough that they do not detonate the mines; also, they do not form attachments to their handlers so anyone could deploy them

  • Pentagon testing "Taser grenades"

    The Pentagon recently placed an order for a test batch of “Taser grenades,” a long-range electroshock projectile; the grenades, designed by Taser International under a $2.5 million contract, are a forty-millimeter Human Electro-Muscular Incapacitation (HEMI) projectile that is intended to stick to a target and deliver a series of intense electric shocks, leaving them incapacitated; if tests are successful, HEMI could be ordered for rapid deployment to Afghanistan

  • Force Protection Equipment Consortium to meet in mid-May

    Held every two years since 1997, the collaborative effort between government and more than 575 exhibitors from U.S. and allied industries known as the Force Protection Equipment Demonstration will feature more than 3,000 commercial off-the-shelf items of equipment and systems for countering terrorism

  • New study aims to find why body armor fails

    A new study is currently underway to discover the best materials to use in the construction of body armor and to understand why body armor can at times fail; working in conjunction with the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), Baltimore based H.P. White Laboratory is researching which materials can best stand up to the rigors of real-world physical and environmental impacts and still maintain their efficacy throughout a body armor’s lifespan

  • Police turning to Facebook to fight crime

    Local police departments across the United States have are beginning to use Facebook and Twitter to communicate with local residents and track down criminals and missing persons; departments have successfully apprehended suspects minutes after posting photos online; police have also received tips on the whereabouts of wanted criminals and Facebook has become a part of the investigative process; Facebook’s traditional functions of outreach and communication have helped departments keep residents informed and build trust; critics of police patrolling Facebook and Twitter for tips say that it is an invasion of privacy; police have been careful to only use publicly posted information that users choose to display

  • Wisconsin introduces law to ban fake caller IDs

    Republican legislators in Wisconsin have introduced a bill that would make it illegal to use a fake caller ID number to “defraud, cause harm, or gain anything of value”; last year Congress passed a similar bill that banned the use of “phone spoofing” technologies — technology that allow an individual to choose what number they wish to appear on another person’s caller ID; the new bill would allow law enforcement officials to target individuals making prank calls in addition to prosecuting companies that provide spoofing technology; critics question the timing of the bill as it comes after a high-profile prank call to Wisconsin governor Scott Walker

  • DHS develops shared biometrics database with DOD

    DHS is currently developing a joint database to gain access to the Department of Defense’s (DOD) biometrics database and hopes to have the system operational by the end of this year; the goal is to allow DHS agents at points of entry to run an individual’s fingerprint to determine if that person had any run-ins with the U.S. military and also includes fingerprints taken from improvised explosive devices; this new system is a vast improvement over current joint data exchange plans between DHS, DOD, and the FBI which are often done manually; this database must be implemented according to Homeland Security Presidential Directive 24, which mandates that all biometric data shared between government agencies must conform to local privacy laws

  • A cautionary tale of local information sharing

    Calhoun County, Alabama recently spent $850,000 on interagency communications equipment, but so far only one local police department uses it and the system is the source of significant tension among law enforcement officials across the county; poor communication, proprietary databases, and high costs have effectively prevented the county from creating an information sharing system for local law enforcement; each police department uses laptops tied to different servers with different information on them, and though each system was designed to share information, none of the departments’ databases can communicate with one another due to proprietary data and non-compatible physical infrastructure