Archive for January, 2015

Quick action by a telemarketer in Las Vegas may have helped save an alleged assault victim several states away.

When Camille McElroy, a telemarketer for a health care company called Americare Now, answered her phone Thursday, she heard faint crying in the background that got progressively louder, Americare Now president Mario Gonzalez told ABC News today.

“She could hear a woman being attacked brutally. At that point she advised her manager, and I happened to be walking through the floor,” Gonzalez said. “Her manager flagged me down and said, ‘You might want to hear this. This woman is being attacked.’”

McElroy told ABC News affiliate KTNV in Las Vegas that she could hear the caller — a woman in Oregon — “saying, ‘Please, please, stop, no, no,’ but you can actually hear the hitting.”

“He was hitting her and it was so loud that you could tell he was hitting her hard,” McElroy said to KTNV.

Gonzalez “jumped on the phone,” he said, and contacted the local Oregon authorities in Linn County, who sent deputies to the caller’s home.

The caller survived, KTNV reports, and Walter Ruck, 33, was arrested on charges including assault and strangulation.

Gonzalez said he and his employees teared up and hugged each other after learning the caller was found alive.

“Very emotional for all of us,” Gonzalez said. “Very relieved at the same time. Just emotionally drained from the whole ordeal. If you would have heard the call when it was actually happening, it was very traumatic. I honestly didn’t know if the lady would be alive by the time the cops got there.”

While Gonzalez said he hasn’t been in touch with the Oregon woman, he’s been told that she has written “and wants to speak to me. So I’m looking forward to getting the chance to say hi.”

ABC News’ calls to the Linn County Sheriff’s Office were not immediately returned.

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YouTube: The Tremendous Task of Policing Content

The seemingly impossible challenge YouTube faces to swiftly block all terrorist propaganda and hostage videos was highlighted this week during a meeting of the European Parliament in Brussels.

Speaking to lawmakers, Verity Harding, the public policy manager for Google, which owns the video website, said approximately 300 hours of video are uploaded every minute by users around the world.

That’s 12 and a half days of content every minute.

“To pre-screen those videos before they are uploaded would be like screening a phone call before it’s made,” she said at the meeting, according to the Associated Press.

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LIVERMORE (KPIX 5) — Guns with bright colors and cute characters. It’s prompting one Bay Area police department to sound the alarm about firearms deliberately made to look like toys, putting children and police officers at risk.

Despite all the attempts to make toys look like toys, nothing’s being done to make real guns look real. And we’ve seen the tragic results when police confuse a toy for real weapon.

In 2013, a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy shot and killed 13-year-old Andy Lopez after mistaking a toy gun the boy was carrying for an AK-47. Last year in Cleveland, a 12-year-old boy went to a neighborhood playground with friends carrying a fake gun and waved it around. Tamir Rice was shot by police who mistakenly believed it was a real gun.

Senator Barbara Boxer introduced legislation to stop this confusion by requiring toy guns to look like toys.

“(It’s) absolutely unbelievable,” Livermore police education officer Traci Rebiejo. “When you start searching through the internet and start looking at these websites that sell guns that look like something my daughter would be playing with right now.”

You can go to a number of websites and find all sorts of colorful, customized real guns that any one would easily assume are toys.

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Sheriffs are campaigning to pressure Google to turn off a feature on its Waze traffic software that warns drivers when police are nearby. They say one of the technology industry’s most popular mobile apps could put officers’ lives in danger from would-be police killers who can find where their targets are parked.

Waze, which Google purchased for $966 million in 2013, is a combination of GPS navigation and social networking. Fifty million users in 200 countries turn to the free service for real-time traffic guidance and warnings about nearby congestion, car accidents, speed traps or traffic cameras, construction zones, potholes, stalled vehicles or unsafe weather conditions.

To Sergio Kopelev, a reserve deputy sheriff in Southern California, Waze is also a stalking app for law enforcement.

There are no known connections between any attack on police and Waze, but law enforcers such as Kopelev are concerned it’s only a matter of time. They are seeking support among other law enforcement trade groups to pressure Google to disable the police-reporting function. The emerging policy debate places Google again at the center of an ongoing global debate about public safety, consumer rights and privacy.

Waze users mark police presence on maps without much distinction other than “visible” or “hidden.” Users see a police icon, but it’s not immediately clear whether police are there for a speed trap, a sobriety check or a lunch break. The police generally are operating in public spaces.

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When director of security for Danville Public Schools Dave Cochran began his demonstration of Bonner Middle School’s new security system, school security officer Melissa Miller was in the midst of catching a couple of troublemakers in gym class.

She was looking for a few students who were apparently pulling up the tape on the basketball court while waiting for class to start.

With a click of the mouse, she opened up the gymnasium camera to fill the 42-inch monitor, one of six screens in the station.

Sure enough, a couple of students were messing with the floor. Brower zoomed in with the mouse, and the students’ faces were clearly visible on the HD screen.

Bonner’s security system was upgraded last August, after a year of increased discipline issues and police activity at the middle school.

A similar system is set to be installed soon at George Washington High School, after the school snagged nearly $100,000 in grant funds from the state of Virginia.

“It’s time to update them now,” Cochran said.

At the high school, Cochran and security officer Betty Brower demonstrated the old system, installed in 2006.

Four small 11-inch monitors scrolled through the school’s camera feeds.

The only way to record vid-eo was from VHS tape, so only a few days can be stored on the cameras at a time.

“There’s just a better product out there now than there was in 2006,” Cochran said. “These have done amazing for all these years.”

At Bonner, the difference in image quality is immediately clear. Miller said she could almost instantly indentify a student almost anywhere on campus.

Bringing up one of the school’s two outside pan-and-zoom cameras, she zoomed in across the street to the café and fire station on Piney Forest Road, and pointed out the legible signs around the properties.

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RICHMOND, Va. Jan 23 2015 – Coming on the heels of unruly protests in Ferguson, Mo. and the public outcry in New York City, two examples of high profile deaths involving police officers, several Virginia lawmakers want law enforcement across the Commonwealth to wear body cameras as part of their uniforms.

Muriel Diggs agrees with the idea.

“It will protect both sides and we won’t have so much controversy when something happens,” said Diggs.

Under House Bill 2280, any law enforcement agency must adopt a written policy and procedure before using the body cameras.

Here’s how the bill breaks down:

Police have to tell a person they’re being recorded;

Police are not permitted to record in a person’s home or office unless there’s a warrant or an emergency;

Police must say where the recordings are stored;

The recordings can be destroyed in seven days, unless there’s an ongoing criminal investigation;

And, the person recorded can look at the camera and make copies, pending an open investigation.

“I’m not against cameras. I’m against how they’re trying to implement the program,” said Kevin Carroll, President of the Virginia Fraternal Order of Police.

“We take a vow to honor the Constitution, to honor the Constitution of Virginia, to tell the truth, the whole truth and if we find one that’s bad, we’ll get rid of him,” said Carroll.

Carroll also points how it will be a challenge for cash-strapped localities.

“Asset forfeiture money may be enough to get you started in the program in order to buy the cameras that are necessary,” said Carroll. “But it’s not going to be enough to sustain the program over time because asset forfeiture money is not guaranteed every year.”

However, the ACLU calls it a win-win for everyone–if the policy is followed.

“We need to be sure those policies provide disciplinary action in case an officer violates a policy because otherwise, what you get is selective picture taking and not what body cams are good for,” said Claire Gastanaga, executive director of the ACLU.

House Bill 2280 and several other bills involving police body cameras are still making their way through the Virginia’s General Assembly.

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Aldermen call for red light camera standards

City officials would have to hold community meetings and provide evidence that red light ticket cameras would make specific intersections safer before they could install the devices going forward under a plan that also would establish standard lengths for yellow lights across Chicago.

Ald. Tom Tunney, 44th, and Ald. Anthony Beale, 9th, want to require that all intersections in the city equipped with the cameras have so-called “countdown” pedestrian-control signals so people driving toward a green light could see how many seconds are left before it changes. The proposal would set yellow light lengths of at least 3.2 seconds. And it would require City Council approval of each camera location, giving aldermen who don’t want the cameras in their neighborhoods a measure of say-so.

In addition, city officials would need to produce traffic studies estimating the safety impact of the cameras at intersections where they want to put them.

“We want to make sure red light camera installations are for public safety, and not the perceived revenue issues they have been,” Tunney said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he had not seen the ordinance, and he declined comment Wednesday on whether he thinks the proposed changes to the red light camera program are a good idea. If Emanuel doesn’t back the plan, it has little chance of success.

The move comes after the Chicago Tribune reported last fall that the Emanuel administration quietly issued a new, shorter yellow light standard when the city began the transition from red light camera vendor Redflex Traffic Systems to Xerox State & Local Solutions in February 2014. The switch to a 2.9-second yellow came after the city had long set the standard length for yellow lights at three seconds.

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Starting in the next two weeks, some Chicago police officers will begin wearing body cameras, police announced today.

As part of a 45- to 60-day pilot program, officers working afternoon shifts in the Northwest Side’s Shakespeare District can wear body cameras on their headgear and clothing. The Shakespeare District covers parts of Logan Square, West Town and Humboldt Park.

“This new program … will ensure more transparency from CPD and a new view of the work performed by our officers,” Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said in a statement. “While they are not the be-all-end-all, I believe body cameras will strengthen police and community relations.”

The department is being provided 30 cameras that attach to officers’ glasses, headgear or clothing. Officers will turn the cameras on during routine stops as well as “high-risk situations,” according to the statement. They will be required to inform anyone they contact that they are being recorded.

The equipment is being provided by Taser International Inc., at no cost to the police department, according to a news release.

After 45 to 60 days, the police department will evaluate the program. A police spokesman did not have details on what would constitute a successful pilot program.

“It’s a pilot program; we’re trying to implement it and we’re going to try and address questions,” police spokesman Officer Veejay Zala said.

Widely publicized incidents across the country in which police officers killed civilians in the line of duty have magnified calls for body cameras over the past few months, said Ed Yohnka, a spokesman for the ACLU of Illinois. Some say requiring officers to record incidents reduces incidents of excessive police force.

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New police radars can ‘see’ inside homes

WASHINGTON — At least 50 U.S. law enforcement agencies have secretly equipped their officers with radar devices that allow them to effectively peer through the walls of houses to see whether anyone is inside, a practice raising new concerns about the extent of government surveillance.

Those agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, began deploying the radar systems more than two years ago with little notice to the courts and no public disclosure of when or how they would be used. The technology raises legal and privacy issues because the U.S. Supreme Court has said officers generally cannot use high-tech sensors to tell them about the inside of a person’s house without first obtaining a search warrant.

The radars work like finely tuned motion detectors, using radio waves to zero in on movements as slight as human breathing from a distance of more than 50 feet. They can detect whether anyone is inside of a house, where they are and whether they are moving.

Current and former federal officials say the information is critical for keeping officers safe if they need to storm buildings or rescue hostages. But privacy advocates and judges have nonetheless expressed concern about the circumstances in which law enforcement agencies may be using the radars — and the fact that they have so far done so without public scrutiny.

“The idea that the government can send signals through the wall of your house to figure out what’s inside is problematic,” said Christopher Soghoian, the American Civil Liberties Union’s principal technologist. “Technologies that allow the police to look inside of a home are among the intrusive tools that police have.”

Agents’ use of the radars was largely unknown until December, when a federal appeals court in Denver said officers had used one before they entered a house to arrest a man wanted for violating his parole. The judges expressed alarm that agents had used the new technology without a search warrant, warning that “the government’s warrantless use of such a powerful tool to search inside homes poses grave Fourth Amendment questions.”

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In the wake of the latest high-profile hack of Sony and claims of “cyber vandalism” being thrown about, it’s normal to feel a sense of unease. Just this week, yet another proposal for new cybersecurity legislation has been made, and by the president no less.

Yes, cybercrime is rising and does result in losses. However, successfully committing cyber crime isn’t as easy as one might think.

The direct losses from data stolen through hacking, online card fraud and online scams are actually relatively low when compared with the direct losses from welfare fraud or tax evasion.

Moreover, current federal spending on cybersecurity dwarfs the losses suffered by victims of online scams, fraud and other crimes, by at least three or four times. And yet we have very little idea how this money is being spent, so it’s hard to judge how effective it is.

As we ponder how much to spend and what to do about so-called cyber vandalism and cyber warfare, we need to keep these figures in mind. It’s usually the most low-tech, low-cost and simplest remedies that are actually the most effective in deterring crime online.

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