Archive for November, 2014

SAVANNAH, GA The Savannah College of Art and Design is upping its security to keep students safe. The new technology will help in case of a school shooting. SCAD just installed ShotSpotter, the same technology the city of Savannah recently purchased.

“The technology detects gunfire and helps police pinpoint the threat in seconds,” said SCAD Security Dir. John Buckovich.

The SCAD campus may be spread out over the city, but in the Command Center student safety is monitored around the clock. Besides more than 600 security cameras watching people on campus, the college also has rolled out ShotSpotter technology.

“When gunfire is detected within our campus area whether it’s inside or outside an alert will come on screen,” said Buckovich.

SCAD Security Director John Buckovich said gunfire detection sensors are placed in all of the academic buildings. If a gun goes off, the information is sent directly to Savannah-Chatham Metro police so they can quickly respond.

“It will tell you how many rounds were fired, it will tell you very closely within about 25 meters where the shot occurred, and it will tell you if the individual shooting the rounds is moving,” said Buckovich.

SCAD student Kathryn Larrabee said she already feels safe on campus but this extra precaution can’t hurt.

“It’s kind of hard with an open campus to get that balance of security and letting us learn at the same time so I think this secure campus is really exciting for us students to know that they will be there no matter what,” said Larrabee.

Buckovich said this technology will make a difference in an emergency situation.

“We hope that this never happens on our campus but it’s a proactive way that if it ever were to happen we have a system in place we can respond quickly and effectively,” said Buckovich.

SCAD is the first college in the United States to install this system on campus.

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Madison College to train police on use of drones

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Madison College is developing a program to train law enforcement officers on how to properly and ethically operate drones.

Several law enforcement agencies in Wisconsin are considering using drones, after a Senate bill passed last year allows for use of the unmanned aerial vehicles. The legislation requires agencies to obtain a search warrant before using drones to collect evidence, but there are exceptions during certain emergencies such as search-and-rescue operations. Critics are concerned the law is broadly written and problematic.

WISC-TV reported ( ) that Madison College is coming up with training that will show police and firefighters how to fly the aerial devices, as well as how to use them ethically.

“There’s a concern about the public perception … and that is why we feel the need to provide the safe and ethical training on the devices and where it cannot be used,” said Brian Landers, chairman of the Criminal Justice Department at Madison College. “Police officers are not going to be trained to fly over neighborhoods and just randomly look for things,” he added.

Landers said drones have the potential to save lives, by giving authorities a way to get eyes on something from a distance. The devices could also save taxpayers money.

Chris Ahmuty, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union on Wisconsin, said the state law is weak, and there must be guidelines to protect citizens’ privacy.

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HAYDEN, Idaho - It wasn’t exactly a Bonnie and Clyde story or an Ocean’s Eleven heist, but a husband and wife were arrested in Hayden on Friday in a shoplifting scheme that went bad according the the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office.

The Sheriff’s Office was notified by Walmart security that a woman named Celeste Vanmeter was shoplifting, and it appears her husband Russell was in the parking lot texting her instructions on how to do the deed.

Security said the pair were suspicious inside the store and then they split up. Russell went out to the parking lot, and Celeste stayed inside the store, checking her phone, and filling her cart with various items, including paint buckets, light bulbs, a small heater and an XM stereo. Security then watched as Celeste left the store with at least $148 worth of stuff before they stopped her.

Once deputies arrived and began their investigation, they asked Celeste if there was any evidence she and her husband had been planning to steal on her phone. Deputies said Celeste said no and gave them permission to look. The deputies then found the following text exchange between Celeste and her husband (Note* The text messages are written just the way deputies found them, with spelling errors):

Celeste: “I’m at Walmart.”

Russell: “Go out the grocery and wait for a bunch of people to go threw and then merge with them.”

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It was 11 o’clock in the morning when Luann and Betty Ann’s world was shattered with a single phone call.

“He says, ‘Do you have a daughter or a son?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I have a daughter,’” Luann said. “And he said, ‘Oh boy, there’s been a terrible accident. Four cars at an intersection. Everyone is unconscious.’”

“He said, ‘What kind of car does she have?’ And I said, ‘It’s a Kia,’” she continued. “And he said, ‘Oh yeah, there’s a Kia here. She’s unconscious.’”

The two women, who asked that their full names not be used, didn’t know who the man on the phone was but, terrified for their daughter’s life, they jumped into their own car and headed out to look for her, staying on the phone with the stranger.

“I am thinking my daughter is laying on a highway somewhere unconscious,” Betty Ann said. “And the scariest part was we didn’t even know where she was. They wouldn’t say exactly where she was.”

But then, the story took an unexpected, and even more frightening, turn.

“I was like, ‘You have to tell me exactly where you are and what the hell is going on now,’” Luann said. “And then his whole demeanor changed and he was like, ‘Now you wait a minute. … We have her, at gunpoint, and we are going to shoot her if you don’t give me $1,700.’”

But what Luann and Betty Ann didn’t know at the time was that they were on the receiving end of a phone scam, where the latest tactic in an otherwise low-tech crime is for con artists to claim to have kidnapped a loved one and are holding them for ransom.

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NORTON SHORES, Mich. (WZZM) - A mother-daughter team suspected of stealing hundreds of cans of baby formula across Michigan to resell are being charged with recent thefts from a Meijer store in Norton Shores.

Sue Surian, 55, and her 29-year-old daughter Lisa are scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in Muskegon District Court on felony charges of first-degree retail fraud and organized retail crime.

The two have quite a bit of experience in shoplifting, according to court records.

Both were convicted in Montcalm County of shoplifting from a Walmart store in Greenville and sentenced to six months’ probation. A week after the Oct. 27 sentencing, Norton Shores police released surveillance photos of two women suspected of stealing more than $1,000 worth of baby formula.

It did not take long for investigators to identify the Stanton women as suspects in the Norton Shores thefts.

Muskegon County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Tim Maat said the pair stole between 15 and 30 cans of baby food formula at a time, often concealing it in garbage cans. Surveillance video from a theft at the Meijer store in Norton Shores helped lead to their arrest. Maat says the thefts are part of a disturbing national trend.

“The attempts have been to get baby formula and to sell it nationwide,” Maat said. ” And this is not a situation where a young mother is struggling to find enough formula for their infant child. It’s being stolen in volume so that it can be resold for criminal reasons.”

Maat says the pair sold the formula stolen in Muskegon County for $2,000, charging $5 for the smaller cans and $8 for larger sizes.

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New bomb-sniffing dogs working Sea-Tac security

SEA-TAC AIRPORT, Wash. – Brand-new screening measures are in place at Sea-Tac Airport ahead of the busy Thanksgiving holiday travel rush. TSA is now using specially-trained bomb-sniffing canines at security checkpoints.

As passengers walk by with their luggage, the working dogs have the ability to sniff out explosives, including components to make a bomb. Then, the canines will alert their handlers if a passenger needs to be checked out for something suspicious.

“We know from intelligence and from experience that explosives are the number one threat against aviation, and so we can stop those from getting pass security check-points everyone can feel a little safe,” said TSA spokesperson Lorie Dankers.

Because they are working dogs, travelers are asked to not pet the dogs or give them treats.

Screening for and stopping prohibited items, especially knives of all sizes, continue to be an issue TSA agents see at checkpoints, which slows down the check-in process.

Among the items surrendered at Sea-Tac Airport checkpoints this week were a pair of 3-foot-long novelty scissors, blades that fold out from credit card-size holders, power tools and an ice axe.

To get through security smoothly and faster, TSA recommends dressing light and double-checking all carryon bags for any prohibited items.

The TSA still occasionally spots people trying to bring firearms through security. If you’re packing a firearm, it must be unloaded and inside a locked, hard-sided container in your checked bag. You cannot carry a firearm, firearm parts or ammunition on the plane with you. Realistic replicas of guns are also banned from being carried on, but rifle scopes are allowed.

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Sisters Indicted In Non-Profit Fraud

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Two sisters have been charged in separate indictments for allegedly embezzling from non-profit organizations.

The indictment states that 48-year-old Sharon Harrison of Rosedale embezzled more than $1.3 million from nonprofit organizations from which she worked and received federal funding. According to the four-count indictment, Sharon Harrison was a bookkeeper for several federally-funded nonprofit groups.

Kimberly Harrison, 46, also from Rosedale, was charged in a separate indictment for allegedly embezzling funds from a federally-funded nonprofit organization she founded called Between Friends. Between Friends helped disadvantaged kids find foster homes and provided services to foster kids and families. Kimberly Harrison was also charged with bankruptcy fraud.

“Non-profit organizations that receive federal funds have a legal duty to use them for the intended purpose,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “Sharon Harrison and Kimberly Harrison allegedly helped themselves to federal funds intended to provide services for disadvantaged children and homeless families in Baltimore.”

The Harrison sisters each face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for each county of theft. Kimberly Harrison faces an additional maximum penalty of five years for bankruptcy fraud.

Both of the sisters do not have a court date scheduled as of now.

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The United States is facing an epidemic of unscrupulous debt collectors who pose as law enforcement, threatening their victims with jail time unless they pay bills for things they never bought, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said as he announced the arrests of seven people who worked for a Georgia-based company.

A criminal complaint was filed Tuesday against employees at Williams Scott & Associates LLC, based in Norcross, Georgia. The alleged thieves posed as debt collectors and local law enforcement, conning 6,000 people of out more than $4 million in recent years, authorities said.

Victims were tricked into believing they’d committed a crime such as fraud — then bullied into paying up bogus debts or going to jail, authorities said. According to the criminal complaint, the employees used aliases such as “Investigator Ace Rogers.”

“I don’t care if you’re nine months pregnant, I have a job to do here,” a phony collector said on one of the calls, which was recorded.

In another recorded call, a person was threatened with legal backlash.

“I will have no choice but to forward it to Los Angeles County, However, Los Angeles County will issue you a warrant for your arrest,” a recorded caller said.

Experts warned that more fraudsters are on the loose — and that federal authorities are cracking down.

“There are lots of companies that do this and victimized not just 6,000 people, but I think tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people all over the country,” Bharara said.

Actual debt collectors won’t aggressively harass consumers, said Christopher Koegel, the assistant director of the Division of Financial Practices for the Federal Trade Commission.

“A legitimate debt collector will not lie or deceive the consumer, try to abuse the consumer, or call at inappropriate times, or use other high-pressure tactics,” Koegel said.

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A quick-thinking teenager is credited with helping to save the life of an 11-month-old baby who suddenly stopped breathing inside a Missouri Walmart.

The frantic situation occurred Wednesday inside a store in High Ridge, Missouri. Surveillance video showed the mother desperately trying to revive her baby.

The store’s manager called 911.

Abby Snodgrass, 17, heard the commotion from aisles away and ran to help, performing CPR. She had recently learned the procedure in her health class at Hillsboro High School in Hillsboro, Missouri.

“The one thought that crossed my mind was, ‘What if this doesn’t work?’ And I just had to push it out of my mind and keep going because I knew that’s what I had to do,” Snodgrass said.

Eventually the baby started breathing again.

“I can’t explain how happy I was when she started to breathe,” Snodgrass said. “It was a huge relief.”

Without the teen’s swift action, the infant may have died, emergency responders said.

Authorities said that the mother and child were doing well.

The baby’s family released a statement to ABC News acknowledging Snodgrass’s efforts.

“We are exceedingly grateful to the young woman who helped our daughter,” the statement read. “Our daughter is home and healthy, and we couldn’t be more thankful.”

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TACOMA, Wash. – Tacoma Public Schools are testing a new video monitoring security system for people trying to enter selected school buildings while class is in session. The school district looked at a number of different security options after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut.

The video monitoring system has been installed at four schools in the district. Campuses at these schools are completely locked up from arrival to dismissal.

Anyone trying to get into the school building during those hours must show ID at the video camera installed at the front entrance of the school before they’re allowed inside. Along with showing an ID, visitors have to explain why they’re there.

School staff monitor the video from a computer system at the main office and then decide whether to buzz the visitor, student, staff or parent indoors.

The four schools were picked because of issues with their layouts. Staff couldn’t see where people went after they entered through the main doors. For example, at Mason Middle School the main office isn’t near the front entrance.

The district has heard some complaints about inconvenience, but overall staff and students say they feel safer knowing exactly who’s coming into their building.

“I do think it’s necessary and unfortunately they don’t have these in my children’s schools. I wish they would, as a parent, mom and employee I feel like our school building is safe and secure,” said Andrea Borell, Mason Middle School secretary.

Each video monitor security system costs $10,000 and was paid for by a Capital Bond Levy passed by voters. If the district determines they’re effective, the video monitoring system could roll out to other schools in the district.

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