Law Enforcement

  • Police cell-phone tracking raises privacy concerns

    Law enforcement agencies around the country are using the International Mobile Subscriber Identity locator (IMSI catcher), known as Stingray, to track cellphone users for the purpose of assisting criminal investigations. Stingray masquerades as a cellphone tower, tricking phones into sending it a signal that law enforcement can later use to identify the serial number of the phone and track the subscriber or cellphone user. Privacy advocates are worried about widespread police tracking of cellphones and violations of privacy.

  • One percent of Swedish criminals commit 63 percent of all violent crimes

    The majority of all violent crime in Sweden is committed by a small number of people. Researchers have examined the case of all the people who were brought up on charges of violent crimes in Sweden between 1973 and 2004 – 2.5 million people in all. Of the 2.5 million individuals included in the study, 4 percent were convicted of at least one violent crime — 93,642 individuals in total. Of these convicted at least once, 26 percent were re-convicted three or more times, thus resulting in 1 percent of the population (23,342 individuals) accounting for 63 percent of all violent crime convictions during the study period.

  • Texas terror case may hinge on reason for a FISA warrant

    The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), passed in 1978, was the center of a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals trial last Thursday in New Orleans. The case involves Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, a former Texas Tech student serving a life sentence for an attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. At trial, federal prosecutors described Aldawsari as a “lone wolf” terrorist planning to wage a personal “holy war” from Lubbock, Texas. In the application for the warrants, however, prosecutors identified Aldawsari to a FISA court judge as an “agent of a foreign power.”

  • More states move to limit LPR use

    Law-enforcement units across the United States have been using license plate readers (LPRs) to monitor vehicles on public roads in order to locate missing individuals, investigate murderers, or track hit-and-run drivers. Privacy advocates are concerned with the wholesale storage of license plate information, and the fact that some municipalities have no limits on how long plate numbers can be stored. LPRs proponents are worried that the recent revelations about the NSA surveillance programs make it difficult for LPRs and other law-enforcement technology to get a fair hearing.

  • Wisconsin legislature considering restriction on LPRs

    State legislators in Wisconsin have proposed a law to limit the use of license plate readers, drawing criticism from local law enforcement. Republican state Representative David Craig, the sponsor of the proposed legislation, said: “The vast majority of [the LPR] images are becoming nothing more than a database of the whereabouts of average citizens. The time has come to ensure the civil rights of citizens are not being violated, while also ensuring law enforcement has the tools needed to effectively enforce our state’s laws.”

  • NSA surveillance leads to San Diego conviction of al-Shabaab supporters

    Three Somali men residing in San Diego were sentenced to prison on Monday for aiding al-Shabaab, a Somali terrorist organization. The sentencing hearing in a San Diego federal court came four days after the men lost their bid for a new trial, requested after discovering that the charges were supported by evidence from theNational Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance program.U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller denied the defense’s request to dismiss the NSA surveillance-generated evidence, saying the collection of the evidence did not amount to a warrantless search, and that while the agency’s surveillance programs were controversial, the protocol that was followed aligns with the law.

  • Fashion scouts and cops: the logic behind stop-and-frisk

    New research compares practices used by fashion industry casting directors to the New York City Police Department’s controversial stop-and-frisk program. Fashion casting directors belong to a select group of mediators responsible for shaping the pool of modeling talent by scouring familiar territory for the young and beautiful. These casting directors had been similarly indoctrinated into the industry and the talent they would choose often resulted in over-representation of certain kinds of people. Similarly, police officers are a select group responsible for making a city safer. Their training — reinforced daily through the institutionalization and public acceptance of such practices — disposes them to scour familiar geographical and social territory for potential criminals, often resulting in over-representation of people from certain groups.

  • Security agencies concerned about plastic guns

    The Undetectable firearms Act of 1988, which makes it illegal to manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, process, transfer, or receive a firearm which is not detectable by walk-through metal detection, is set to expire on 9 December 2013. If Congress fails to reauthorize the law, plastic guns will no longer require metal components which are detectable by metal detectors. “When these 3D firearms are manufactured, some of the weapons can defeat normal detection such as metal detectors, wands, and it could present a problem to public safety in a venue such as an airport, an arena, a courthouse,” says ATF assistant director Richard Marianos.

  • Local enforcement of immigration law does not achieve intended goals

    A new study found that when local law enforcement agencies begin to inquire immigrants about their immigration status, some immigrants relocate within the United States but few go back relocate to their home country. Those who move to other states tend to be educated – and legally in the United States. The only exception is Arizona’s Maricopa County — which made a name for itself owing to Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s controversial approach to immigration policies — where immigrants are likely to leave the country, perhaps due to unusually intense enforcement and a short distance to the border.

  • Ohio lawmakers want to limit use of drones by law enforcement

    State lawmakers in Ohio want to limit the use of drones by law enforcement agencies in the state.A proposed bill would require law enforcement to obtain a search warrant before using drones. It would prohibit law enforcement from using drones to search for missing persons, locate illegal marijuana operations, or perform several actions officers currently handle with helicopter surveillance.

  • Wrong crowd: social networks are key to city violence

    A new study of gun violence in Chicago reveals that a person’s social network is a key predictor in whether an individual will become a victim of gun homicide, even more so than race, age, gender, poverty, or gang affiliation. “Risk factors like race and poverty are not the predictors they have been assumed to be,” one of the researchers said. “It’s who you hang out with that gets you into trouble. It’s tragic, but not random.”

  • Rochester, Minn. wants to stop crime before it happens

    The Rochester Police Departmentin Rochester, Minnesota is using IBM’s Infosphere Identity Insightto predict, and combat, crime. InfoSphere Identity Insight is used to identify frequent crime offenders, and even when multiple false identifications belonging to one individual are stored on record, the associated relationships of those identities could lead to the correct individual.

  • DHS: conspiracy theories about DHS purchases unequivocally false

    Conspiracy theorists have pointed to several DHS solicitations for gear and ammunition as “proof” that the department is in the process of creating, training, and equipping a secret force, the purpose of which would be to suppress public dissent – or worse: one blogger wrote that “Another possible conclusion [regarding DHS’s ammo purchases] is that the bullets are intended to coerce and, if need be, kill us.” DHS flatly rejects these conspiratorial assertions as unequivocally false, saying that each and every purchase is in line with past purchases and in support of on-going, legitimate, and transparent departmental operations.

  • ShotSpotter helps Washington, D.C. police track gunshots

    Law enforcement officers in Washington, D.C are better equipped to track and monitor gunshots in the city’s most violent neighborhoods by using ShotSpotter, a system of rooftop sensors which recognizes sounds from gunfire. Law enforcement officials can track shooting incidents and also predict locations and time of future shooting incidents by analyzing records provided by ShotSpotter.

  • Cool technology from DHS

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employs more than 240,000 people in a variety of areas and activities, from border security and aviation to emergency response and cybersecurity, plus everything in between. Many may not be aware of the fact that DHS has also been busy developing some cool, high-tech, life-saving gear to protect people before, during, and following disasters and emergencies.