More armed security officers in US schools, study finds

WASHINGTON — Armed security officers are becoming more prevalent at America’s schools, according to a federal study released Thursday amid a heated debate over whether teachers and other school officials should carry guns.

While student and staff fatalities at school persist, students report fewer instances of violence, theft and other abuse during the past decade, the survey found.

Armed officers were present at least once a week in 43 percent of all public schools during the 2015-16 school year, compared with 31 percent of schools a decade before, according to data from a survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Last month’s mass shooting at a Florida high school put renewed focus on the role of armed school security guards, after a video showed that a sheriff’s deputy at the school approached but did not enter the building where the attack was taking place.

The study was released a day after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos kicked off a federal school safety panel, which has been criticized for not including teachers, students and experts. It comprises DeVos and three other Cabinet secretaries. DeVos told the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday that the panel will include the secretaries of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services and the Justice Department. The first meeting of the commission was held behind closed doors and few details were released.

DeVos said in a statement Thursday that while there were some positive trends in the survey, “we know — and tragically have been reminded in recent weeks — there is much more to be done to keep our nation’s students and teachers safe at school.” DeVos said commission members will travel across the country to look for solutions to school violence.

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6 Howard University Employees Fired for Misappropriating Financial Aid

Six Howard University employees were fired last year after an internal investigation found the financial aid office had misappropriated university-based grants to some university employees, the school’s president said Wednesday.

According to a statement from Wayne Frederick, Howard University president, an outside auditor found that several university employees received grants in addition to discounts on tuition that exceeded the total cost of tuition and kept the difference.

Some students said they felt betrayed. Employees took financial aid funds as students prepare to spend years paying off their loans.

“I’m actually on the verge of transferring schools because I can’t afford to stay here because a grant was taken away from me,” one student said.

“It’s disappointing to actually come to terms with the reality of what’s going on,” senior Quencey Hickerson said.

Parent Cecily Johnson said she was disgusted.

“Someone could totally change their trajectory if they can’t pay tuition,” she said.

Frederick said he was told in December 2016 that there may have been “some misappropriation of university-provided financial aid funds,” and launched an internal investigation.

The auditor found that between 2007 and 2016, university grants were awarded to some university employees who also were receiving tuition remission. The grants and tuition remission equaled more than the total cost of attendance, which allowed the employees to receive “inappropriate refunds.”

The grants came from institutional funds that help low-income students pay tuition. Frederick said the grants came from the university and were not federal or donor funds.

Tuition remission allows eligible employees or their dependents to receive discounted tuition at the university. Full-time employees eligible to receive tuition remission can take two classes per semester for free, according to the university’s website. Tuition at Howard for the 2017-2018 school year was $12,061 per semester, not including room and board.

Frederick’s statement came after an anonymous post on Medium.com claimed financial aid employees at the university stole nearly $1 million in funds.

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State-Sponsored Cyber Theft

Nine Iranian citizens—working at the behest of the government of Iran—have been charged in a massive computer hacking campaign that compromised U.S. and foreign universities, private companies, and U.S. government entities, including the Department of Labor and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The hackers were affiliated with the Mabna Institute, an Iran-based company created in 2013 for the express purpose of illegally gaining access to non-Iranian scientific resources through computer intrusions. Members of the institute were contracted by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps—one of several entities within the Iranian government responsible for gathering intelligence—as well as other Iranian government clients.

During a more than four-year campaign, these state-sponsored hackers “compromised approximately 144 U.S.-based universities and 176 foreign universities in 21 countries,” said FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich during a press conference today at the Department of Justice in Washington to announce the indictments. When the FBI learned of the attacks, he said, “we notified the victims so they could take action to minimize the impact. And then we took action to find and stop these hackers.”

Initially, the cyber criminals used an elaborate spearphishing campaign to target the e-mail accounts and computer systems of their victims, which in addition to the universities included nearly 50 domestic and foreign private-sector companies, the states of Hawaii and Indiana, and the United Nations.

According to the indictments unsealed today in a Manhattan federal court, the hackers stole more than 30 terabytes of academic data and intellectual property—roughly three times the amount of data contained in the print collection of the Library of Congress.

“Their primary goal was to obtain user names and passwords for the accounts of professors so they could gain unauthorized access and steal whatever kind of proprietary academic information they could get their hands on,” said a special agent who investigated the case from the FBI’s New York Division. “That information included access to library databases, white papers, journals, research, and electronic books. All that information and intellectual property was provided to the Iranian government,” he added.

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Town hires private security to enforce no littering law

Selwyn Township. Canada March 23 2018 A security firm will be hired to help address littering along the James A. Gifford Causeway in Selwyn Township.

On Wednesday, Peterborough County Council approved staff recommendations to tackle nuisance littering along the causeway, which spans Chemong Lake and links the communities of Bridgenorth and Ennismore.

The area is a hotspot for both local and visiting anglers. Concerns about littering were highlighted last August by area resident Brad Sinclair. Just two days after a thorough cleaning, Sinclair once again found litter scattered everywhere again.

We will have summer staff who will educate the users of where and where not to fish. We will increase and expand litter pick up throughout the season and will update signage along the causeway. Litter is an issue everywhere – we must all do our part!

Chris Bradley, the county’s Director of Public Works, says security will be occasionally hired during expected peak fishing times to ask anglers to move from the areas between the exterior guardrails.

“We are optimistic that the folks who come to the area to enjoy recreational activities will be able to do it in a bit of a safer environment than what we had before,” he said. “This should enable us to keep the area a little cleaner.”

Other recommendations include increasing the frequency of litter collection (three times a week from May to October); launching a new communication/awareness campaign and posting new and improved signage to direct anglers to areas that are safe and maintained by county staff.

The recommendations came as part of county staff consultations with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Parks Canada and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters.

However, Bradley notes there will not be a no-trespassing bylaw for the causeway. In December, county staff met with lawyers, who highlighted the challenges of developing and enforcing a no-trespassing bylaw.

Lawyers indicated that municipal bylaw enforcement officers do not have the authority to compel people to identify themselves verbally or to provide identification. As a result, tickets can’t be issued to an unidentified person and a bylaw could not be enforced.

A staff report notes lawyers recommended that “no trespassing” signage can still be posted near the prohibited areas (exterior guardrails) and that a police officer can be contacted to charge an individual.

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Glenbrook District 225 to add security guards during after-school hours

Glenview IL March 21 2018 Glenbrook High Schools District 225 will expand security at Glenbrook North and Glenbrook South high schools beginning April 2.

In a 6-0 vote, the Board of Education approved Monday a proposal to hire unarmed, civilian security officers for after-school hours at both schools. Board member Marcelo Sztainberg was absent.

The proposal recommended hiring three security officers at both schools who would work from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday, according to an administrative report.

On Saturdays, two security guards will work from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and one guard will work from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. On Sundays and holidays, one security guard will work each shift, according to the report.

Over the summer, one security guard will work during the day and one guard will work evenings Monday through Sunday, according to the report.

The security guards will be hired through American Heritage Protective Services, Inc., the security company the district currently partners with to provide one security officer at each high school from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., said Brad Swanson, assistant superintendent of human resources. The guards who work the night shift will continue to do so under the new proposal, he said.

The cost to hire the additional guards through the end of the fiscal year is approximately $80,000, and the cost for the additional guards for an entire fiscal year is approximately $330,000, according to the report. Each guard will be paid $21.64 an hour, it said.

The administration decided to fill the gap in security after school when students are participating in athletics and other school programs, said Superintendent Michael Riggle.

“We do a lot in our schools,” Riggle said. “We want our schools to be used, but we also want them to be safe.”

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TSA is testing explosive-detection technology with Amtrak

The Transportation Security Administration and Amtrak are testing new technology to detect concealed explosives, the TSA said Tuesday.

The equipment, known as “stand off explosive detection technology” can detect an explosive when an individual passes by the device, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said in a news release. An alarm would go off on the equipment operator’s laptop, triggered by an individual’s “naturally occurring emissions from the human body.”

The tests will be conducted at New York’s Pennsylvania Station in the Amtrak terminal.

Protecting so-called soft targets like railway stations has been a challenge for security officials, who are tasked with ensuring safety but need to balance that with ensuring the smooth movement of hundreds of thousands of travelers.

The TSA’s administrator, David Pekoske, said in November that airport-like security, in which passengers have to line up for personal and carry-on bag screening, was not necessary at rail stations.

“We don’t intend to roll out anything like what we have in the airports,” Pekoske said, adding that random passenger checks and police with canines among other measures are sufficient. “We are satisfied at his point.”

However, in December, a man was injured by a pipe bomb he had attached to his torso with Velcro in a blast that went off at a 42nd Street subway station in Manhattan.

The technology aims to help officials detect concealed suicide vests or other improvised explosives, the TSA said, which is better known for its passenger screening at U.S. airports.

“The use of these devices enables a rail or transit agency to help safeguard against terrorist threats in the mass transit environment,” the TSA said. “TSA is supplying two models of the equipment for the purposes of the pilot.”

The TSA last year started testing the equipment in the Los Angeles transit system.

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International Criminal Communication Service Dismantled

International organized crime and drug trafficking groups were dealt a blow by the takedown of an encrypted communication service they used to plan and commit their crimes, the FBI and its international partners announced yesterday.

Canada-based Phantom Secure was a criminal enterprise that provided secure communications to high-level drug traffickers and other criminal organization leaders. The group purchased smartphones, removed all of the typical functionality—calling, texting, Internet, and GPS—and installed an encrypted e-mail system, so the phones could only communicate with each other. If a customer was arrested, Phantom Secure destroyed the data on that phone, which is obstruction of justice under U.S. law. In an attempt to thwart law enforcement efforts, the company required new customers to have a reference from an existing user.

Given the limited functionality of the phones and the fact that they only operate within a closed network of criminals, all of Phantom Secure’s customers are believed to be involved in serious criminal activity. Most of Phantom Secure’s 10,000 to 20,000 users are the top-level leaders of nefarious transnational criminal organizations in the U.S. and several other countries, and the products were marketed as impervious to decryption or wiretapping.

“Working with our international partners in Australia and Canada, we learned that these phones have been used to coordinate drug trafficking, murders, assaults, money laundering, and all sorts of other crimes,” said Special Agent Nicholas Cheviron of the FBI’s San Diego Division, who investigated the case along with U.S. and international counterparts. “By shutting down Phantom Secure, criminals worldwide no longer have that platform to conduct their dangerous criminal activities.”

In collaboration with the Australian Federal Police, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and law enforcement agencies in Panama, Hong Kong, and Thailand, Phantom Secure’s founder and chief executive Vincent Ramos was arrested in Bellingham, Washington, on March 7. Four of Ramos’ associates are fugitives. They are charged with conspiracy to distribute narcotics and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act violations.

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School district creates own police force

CENTER POINT TX March 12 2018 — He’s still getting used to being called “chief,” but it’s clear that Jimmy Poole is comfortable leading the newly created Center Point Independent School District Police Department.

“I like to talk to kiddos,” said Poole, 62, whose long law enforcement career includes two years as a school resource officer in Kerrville.

He also spent 25 years as a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission officer and was a Kerr County deputy for five years, ending last November.

He encourages students to call him Officer Poole, saying: “I feel awkward with the title. I’ve never been a chief before.”

Despite Poole’s relaxed outward demeanor, he’s all too aware of the gravity surrounding his new job, especially in the wake of last month’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead.

“In law enforcement, you’re always defensive,” said Poole, whose time behind a badge began in 1977 as a Brazoria County deputy. “I am always in fear of my life and in fear of someone harming others.”

The Center Point rural district moved to establish its own police presence last year after the Kerr County sheriff’s deputy who’d been assigned here part time took a different job and no other deputy immediately wanted the position.

Local school trustees, who authorized district employees several years ago to bring guns on campus if they are kept locked in vehicles, considered arming teachers and/or having no security presence before spending just over $100,000 to establish the district’s Police Department.

“We had to buy everything, from a new Tahoe down to the reflective vest to wear while directing traffic,” Superintendent Cody Newcomb said.

Security problems are rare on the single campus that includes three schools serving 560 students in prekindergarten through 12th grade, but Newcomb noted that without Poole, it could take 20 minutes for help to arrive from Kerrville in an emergency.

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Crooked Michigan Doctor Sentenced

From 2010 to 2015, Advanced Care Services (ACS), located in Southfield, Michigan—a suburb of Detroit—billed itself as a pain management clinic and HIV infusion center that primarily served Medicare recipients.

But as it turned out, ACS wasn’t serving anyone but itself. It was nothing more than a pill mill involved in the illegal sale and distribution of dangerous prescription medications, including opioids, into nearby communities. And if that wasn’t bad enough, ACS was also involved in a related multi-million-dollar health care fraud scheme. The lone doctor employed at the facility, Rodney Moret, personally enabled both of these conspiracies through his actions at the clinic.

Fortunately, law enforcement ultimately uncovered the actions of Moret and his four co-conspirators, and he was sentenced last month to a federal prison term on various drug and health care fraud charges after previously pleading guilty. Moret’s associates have also pleaded guilty in connection with their roles in the criminal activity and have been sentenced. All five were ordered to pay more than $2.5 million in restitution.

And ACS—a clinic that ostensibly offered medical care for a vulnerable population but instead broke its promise to the communities it served—was put out of business.

According to FBI case agent Larissa Kramer, the Bureau’s Detroit Field Office opened an investigation into ACS in December 2011 after receiving a referral from the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) concerning suspicious billings from a Dr. Rodney Moret. “Shortly after that,” Kramer explained, “an ongoing Detroit investigation into another pill mill led directly to the doorstep of Advanced Care Services, Moret’s employer. And our case, run jointly with HHS-OIG investigators, took a new direction.”

Kramer said that a variety of investigative techniques—including confidential informants, consensual recordings, analysis of financial records, and interviews with ACS employees and patients—uncovered the breadth and depth of the fraudulent activity being perpetrated by Moret and company.

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Brockton men ran organized retail crime ring

BROCKTON MA March 8 2018 – They double-dipped, switched tags and stuffed boxes, police say, on their way to hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of stolen merchandise from dozens of stores over the last year.

Police say two Brockton men operated an organized retail crime enterprise in which they stole items from home improvements stores on more than 80 occasions to re-sell the merchandise at reduced prices online.

An investigation that began with the Bellingham and Weymouth police departments last fall resulted in the arrests of 46-year-old Shawn Monteiro and 49-year-old Paul Licciardi in Brockton on Tuesday.

Brockton police detectives assisted Bellingham police in executing search warrants at two homes — 78 Orchard Ave. and 712 North Quincy St. — and on three vehicles just after 7 a.m. on Tuesday.

Bellingham police Officer Amy Kirby and Weymouth police Officer Stephen Demorat previously began separate larceny investigations that led to the same “organized retail theft ring,” said Bellingham police Detective Stephen Daigle.

The investigation, which also included police in Blackstone, Hopedale and Medway, resulted in police identifying Licciardi and two others “as being responsible for committing regular thefts from home improvement retailers,” Daigle said.

The men, including two whose identities weren’t immediately released, were supplying the merchandise to Monteiro for resale, he said.

“Monteiro then arranged for the sales of the stolen goods through secondhand sale applications and websites,” Daigle, who applied for the arrest and search warrants, said.

The men are accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of items, including expensive power tools, generators, portable vacuums, and various Dewalt products, from The Home Depot and Lowe’s Home Improvement locations throughout the state, including locally in Avon, Bridgewater, Brockton, Plymouth, Quincy, Rockland, Taunton and Wareham.

Police say Licciardi, who was the one sent to stores to steal items, used three different methods – double dipping, tag switching and box stuffing, according to a report filed in Milford District Court.

Licciardi would often purchase an expensive item, but set up two more carts with the same item near exits, the report states. After purchasing one of the items, he would re-enter the store with his receipt to make it look like he was picking up an item he had already paid for.

“In every instance where Mr. Licciardi made an apparent legitimate purchase with his card, he followed up the transaction by stealing at least one, but often two or more, of the same item that he had just purchased,” Daigle wrote in the arrest report. “Mr. Licciardi would immediately come back into the store and return the single item that he had paid for.”

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