Tag: GPS Tracking

“We leave behind trace chemicals, molecules and microbes on every object we touch. By sampling the molecules on cell phones, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine and Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences were able to construct lifestyle sketches for each phone’s owner, including diet, preferred hygiene products, health status and locations visited. This proof-of-concept study, published November 14 by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could have a number of applications, including criminal profiling, airport screening, medication adherence monitoring, clinical trial participant stratification and environmental exposure studies.

“You can imagine a scenario where a crime scene investigator comes across a personal object — like a phone, pen or key — without fingerprints or DNA, or with prints or DNA not found in the database. They would have nothing to go on to determine who that belongs to,” said senior author Pieter Dorrestein, PhD, professor in UC San Diego School of Medicine and Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. “So we thought — what if we take advantage of left-behind skin chemistry to tell us what kind of lifestyle this person has?”

In a 2015 study , Dorrestein’s team constructed 3D models to illustrate the molecules and microbes found at hundreds of locations on the bodies of two healthy adult volunteers. Despite a three-day moratorium on personal hygiene products before the samples were collected, the researchers were surprised to find that the most abundant molecular features in the skin swabs still came from hygiene and beauty products, such as sunscreen.

“All of these chemical traces on our bodies can transfer to objects,” Dorrestein said. “So we realized we could probably come up with a profile of a person’s lifestyle based on chemistries we can detect on objects they frequently use.”

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A convicted murderer who escaped from an Ohio prison in 1978 by cutting through cell bars and a fence was captured in Minnesota’s capital, where he had a job delivering newspapers, the U.S. Marshals Service said Friday.

Oscar Juarez, 66, was among Ohio’s most wanted fugitives and evaded being caught while on the run despite being arrested but let go at least seven times in the 1980s.

He was taken into custody Thursday night in St. Paul, Minnesota, at an apartment building on a tree-lined street, said Pete Elliott, the U.S. marshal for northern Ohio. It wasn’t clear how long he had been in Minnesota.

He was living alone in St. Paul under a different name, said Chris Clifford, the supervisory deputy U.S. marshal in Minneapolis. Juarez told authorities he’d been living in Minnesota for 20 years, but “we are finding that hard to believe,” Clifford said.

Juarez made an initial appearance before a U.S. magistrate in St. Paul on Friday. He will be held until a hearing next week to determine his identity and argue detention.

He gave the magistrate a different name when he was asked if he understood his rights. But Elliott said there was no doubt it was Juarez, noting his fingerprints were a match and the name he gave was that of a deceased person.

Juarez was arrested at least six times on minor charges in California and once in 1988 in Texas, but he went undetected because he was using fake identities, Elliott said.

“We know if he was in several different states over the years,” Elliott said. “It wasn’t one thing that led us to his doorstep. It was a number of things and good old-fashioned police work.”

He apparently worked as a welder and machine operator, the FBI said in a most wanted advisory.

It appears that Juarez had family in Texas and Ohio and may have picked Minnesota at random, Clifford said.

Juarez was serving a life sentence for fatally shooting a Toledo man after a bar fight in 1975.

He escaped from a state prison in Marion three years later by sawing through prison bars and cutting through a fence, according to the marshals. They say he also put a dummy in his bed and covered it with blankets.

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DNA has undoubtedly been a breakthrough for modern criminal investigation. It has freed the innocent, solved decades-old cold cases, and given detectives a kind of molecular witness in many cases that may have otherwise remained unsolved.

Except better and more-sensitive technology means more potential problems, in some cases. Mixes of DNA, and the “1-in-X” probabilities are currently being evaluated by some crime labs.

But the latest reevaluation involves “touch DNA” – the invisible genetic markers we leave everywhere we go, and on virtually everything we come into contact with.

A two-minute handshake, then handling a knife led to the DNA profile of the person who never touched the weapon being identified on the swab of the weapon handle in 85 percent of the samples, according to a new study by University of Indianapolis researchers, entitled “Could Secondary DNA Transfer Falsely Place Someone at the Scene of a Crime?”

In one-fifth of those experiments, the person who had never directly touched the knife was identified as the main or only contributor of the DNA on the handle, according to the study, in the January issue of the Journal of Forensic Sciences.

“It’s scary,” said Cynthia Cale, a graduate student and author of the paper. “Analysts need to be aware that this can happen, and they need to be able to go into court and effectively present this evidence. They need to school the jury and the judge that there are other explanations for this DNA to be there.”

The concept of “touch DNA” needs to be rethought, in both a legal and scientific context, according to Madison Earll, the other graduate student who authored the study.

“This research highlights the need to eliminate ‘touch DNA’ from our vocabulary,” said Earll, now a microbiologist at Pace Analytical. “It’s clear that this term is misleading and does not adequately explain all of the possible ways that DNA can end up on an object.”

Read more: Widow Sues City after Husband, Linked to Cold-Case Murder, Commits Suicide

“We have found that it is relatively straightforward for an innocent person’s DNA to be inadvertently transferred to surfaces that he or she has never come into contact with,” Cale wrote in a piece for the journal Nature. “This could place people at crime scenes that they had never visited or link them to weapons they had never handled.”

Cale cited an example of a man in California in 2013 who was held for a homicide for four months after his DNA was pulled from underneath the fingernails of the victim. However, it was later proven that the suspect was hospitalized and several intoxicated at the time of the crime – but the paramedics who had responded to him medically responded to the murder shortly thereafter, she wrote.

“It’s a small world,” a deputy district attorney reportedly said upon the innocent man’s release.

Other suspects have claimed their DNA was transported to incriminating places through contamination. A criminalist in a San Diego lab maintained his innocence of the killing of a girl in 1984, saying he had only worked in the lab near where the samples were originally analyzed. The criminalist killed himself before charges were brought.

The scientists said they plan to continue experiments into 2016, systematically reducing the two-minute handshake down to smaller time frames, they said.

“I think this issue has been swept under the rug,” said Krista Latham, the director of the school’s Molecular Anthropology Lab, and who oversaw the study by Cale and others. “It’s going to change the way the medicolegal system looks at DNA evidence.”

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A UPS employee has been charged in connection with the theft of handguns from a UPS facility in Sparks.

At 8:47 a.m. on October 20, Baltimore County Police responded to the UPS facility in the 14400 block of York Road 21152 for a theft report. Officers learned that a security guard at the facility had been told about something suspicious involving an employee. That security guard stopped the employee and found that he had a handgun taped to each leg. Those guns had been taken from a package at the facility.

Detectives also discovered that the employee had been in possession of two handguns stolen from the same facility on June 9.

The employee has been identified as 27-year-old Eric Michael Bruneau of the 10000 block of Magledt Road 21234. He is has been charged with four counts of possession of a stolen regulated firearm and has been released on $25,000 bail.

This incident remains under investigation by the Baltimore County Police Gun Squad.

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Investigating Human Rights

Reaching Out to Diaspora Communities in U.S. for War Crimes Tips

Five years ago, nearly a dozen former soldiers who served during the Bosnian civil war in the early ‘90s before settling in Arizona were sentenced for lying on their applications for refugee status when they came to the U.S. Last year, a Bosnian-born Minnesota man was arrested on fraud charges for not disclosing crimes—including murder, kidnapping, and robbery—he allegedly committed during his military service in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In January, a Bosnian-born Vermont man was found guilty of lying to get into the U.S. and obtain his naturalized citizenship.

These cases illustrate efforts across multiple agencies and international borders to hold accountable any individuals who committed war crimes or atrocities overseas before entering and settling in the U.S. And Bosnian war criminals represent just a sampling of the subjects being sought. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is pursuing more than 1,900 leads and cases on individuals from about 96 countries. The FBI, which works alongside HSI and special prosecutors at the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center in Northern Virginia, has pending investigations in nearly a third of our 56 field offices.

Managing the FBI’s role in identifying, locating, and investigating these cases is the Bureau’s International Human Rights Unit (IHRU), which works closely with partner intelligence agencies and the Department of State to identify subjects and gather leads. Agents in the unit then coordinate the FBI’s approach in the field—whether it’s collecting intelligence, developing sources, or just meeting leaders in diaspora communities to make them aware that the FBI is seeking tips on the whereabouts of suspected war criminals and human rights violators.

“We are asking those communities, ‘If you know somebody or if you have heard of somebody who has done those things, let us know and then we’ll go from there,’” said Thomas Bishop, head of the IHRU. “I think in a lot of these communities, people know someone who was involved with something—or they hear about somebody being involved—but they may not know what to do with it. All we need is a tip so we can see if there’s anything to it.”

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New app tech helps police catch phone thieves

When a thief stole a smartphone recently in Western Branch, the tech-savvy victim knew what to do.

He had been shopping in December when he set down his phone, police said. Moments later, the Samsung Galaxy S3 was gone.

So the man activated an app installed on the phone called Track Viewer. The device covertly recorded images of a stranger using the phone.

Police distributed a photo of the stranger from the cellphone in early January and solicited tips from the public through Crime Line. Within two weeks, they made an arrest.

As smartphone technology advances, so does antitheft software, and a growing number of apps are giving users the ability to lock, erase and track phones with GPS. When a person reports a stolen phone to police, officers rely on victims for information about the digital trail of bread crumbs a thief may have left behind.

Often police are asking: Do you have an app for that?

“It does happen where the victims are helping us,” said Officer Kelly O’Sullivan, Chesapeake police spokeswoman.

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(CNN) – Some residents of Oakland, California, fear their community is creating a monster.

The city calls it the Domain Awareness Center, but opponents call it a “spy machine” and a potential “tool of injustice.”

Known as “the DAC,” it’s a proposed central surveillance facility where authorities can monitor the Port of Oakland and the city’s airport to protect against potential terrorism.

But the broader issue of centralized data surveillance poses serious privacy questions for millions of people in cities around the globe.

In March, more than 100 worried Oakland residents waited past midnight to complain about it during a City Council meeting. Standing at the mic, Maya Shweiky, a self-described public school teacher and Muslim, warned lawmakers their proposal would be used to “discriminate against minorities and perpetuate racial, religious and political profiling.”

While the council voted on the proposal, rowdy protesters began chanting, “No! No! No! No!”

Council members have proposed expanding the DAC to add live, 24/7 data streams from closed circuit traffic cameras, police license plate readers, gunshot detectors and other sources from all over the entire city of Oakland.

The danger, say opponents, is putting all these data resources into one place.

“If you need to go to four different locations to track someone’s movements across town, you’re not going to do it unless you have a good reason,” said Linda Lye of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. “But when you can do it with the press of a button because it’s all at your fingertips, you’ll end up doing it based on your idle curiosity.” That, Lye said, creates a situation ripe for abuse.

Oakland represents just one battleground in a fiery debate about how cities should be using so-called “Big Data,” especially aggregated video and other types of surveillance.

City closed-circuit TV cameras performed famously when they helped identify suspected terrorists in London in 2005 and in Boston last year.

Community surveillance 2.0

But the issue has progressed far beyond the power of a few hundred video cameras and streetlight posts. Community surveillance 2.0 is now all about huge data mash-ups and incredible software that quickly sorts through mountains of information. Bottom line: A relatively small number of people have easy access to data that can track your whereabouts.

In many cities, cameras mounted on police patrol cars gather video of millions of license plates. That data that can be used to track vehicles, possibly yours. Add traffic cameras to the mix. Then include cameras at bus stops, airports and train stations. How about cameras owned by schools and private security companies?

The key to using all this information is the data-mining software that can easily and effectively rifle through it.

Cities leading the way in video data collecting include London — an early and strong adopter of widespread camera surveillance. The UK reportedly has 5.9 million CCTV cameras nationwide. For every 11 British citizens, there’s one CCTV camera, according to Salon.

Nice, France, has been expanding its surveillance center, which is projected to eventually count one camera for every 500 residents.

As Rio de Janeiro hosts the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, the city plans to make heavy use of its IBM-designed Operations Center, which combines video and other data from 30 agencies including traffic cameras, subways and even weather satellites.

The network includes more than 550 cameras, 400 employees and 60 different layers of data streamed from citywide sensors. Mayor Pedro Junqueira says the center helps emergency teams warn residents in landslide-prone areas when to evacuate during heavy rainstorms.

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What started out as a case against a man accused of violently robbing a handful of restaurants and gas stations has morphed into a landmark court privacy decision about cell phone location tracking.

The 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled (PDF) on Wednesday that police must obtain a warrant to track mobile users’ location data. This means cell phone carriers are not obliged to hand over users’ location history to police unless a warrant in produced.

The original case that led to this decision involved a man named Quartavius Davis who was convicted by a jury for taking part in a string of armed robberies in businesses such as Wendy’s restaurant, Little Caesar’s restaurant, and Amerika Gas Station.

During the case, the prosecution’s evidence included cell phone location records that allegedly placed Davis in “close proximity” to these businesses around the time the robberies occurred.

Davis appealed the conviction saying his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure was violated since the government didn’t obtain warrants for his mobile location records. And, the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with him.

Despite this major decision in regards to privacy and warrantless cell phone location tracking, which was first disclosed by CNET nine years ago, it doesn’t do much for Davis. The court still upheld his conviction by allowing the mobile location evidence to continue to be included in the case against him.

Various courts have grappled with the issue of warrants and cell phone location tracking in the past. In 2010, a Philadelphia appeals court ruled that no search warrant is needed for police to track people’s cell phone whereabouts but individual judges can “sparingly” require one. While civil liberties groups vehemently opposed this decision, the US Department of Justice said it agreed with it at that time.

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iPhone App helped cops

Junior Metelus’ luck ran out long before police dogs bit and pulled him from beneath a shed early Tuesday.

Everywhere the armed-robbery suspect tried to hide, Orlando cops followed.

A stolen iPhone in his pocket — snatched at gunpoint from a victim near Lake Eola Park — pinpointed wherever he went with his alleged accomplices.

After the 3 a.m. robbery, police used the Find My iPhone app to track him down, Officer Joseph Catanzaro wrote in a report.

“The phone was initially located in the area of Lee Road and Interstate 4,” his report said. “The phone continued tracking westbound … I relayed the phone’s positioning over my department radio to assisting units.”

A chase began when a police car with flashing emergency lights pulled behind the suspects’ stolen Honda Accord. The suspects abandoned the car on North Pine Hills Road and ran through nearby apartment complexes. Two got away, but Metelus, 19, was found trying to hide under a shed with the stolen iPhone, police said.

Police also recovered drivers licenses, credit cards and other items taken in the robbery, records state.

Metelus was treated afterward at a local hospital before being booked at the Orange County Jail.

Similar recoveries of stolen iPhones across the U.S. have become increasingly common in recent years.

The teen, however, may not face trial.

Last month, Metelus was declared incompetent and mentally unable to stand trial in a 2013 burglary case after he was examined by two psychiatrists and treated at an Orlando mental-health facility, court records show. Records show he was first arrested at 14. He was charged as a juvenile with false imprisonment and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon in Osceola County, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The charges were dismissed. Metelus remains held without bail on charges of robbery with a firearm, false imprisonment with a firearm, aggravated assault with a firearm, grand theft of a motor vehicle and resisting arrest.

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National Security Agency snoops are harvesting as many as 5 billion records daily to track mobile phones as they ping nearby cell towers across the globe.

That alarming scoop by The Washington Post via documents provided by NSA leaker Edward Snowden included wishful thinking from an unnamed government “intelligence lawyer” interviewed in the story. This official, according to the Post, said that the data “are not covered by the Fourth Amendment,” meaning a probable-cause warrant isn’t required to get it.

In reality, however, the case law on cell-site locational tracking — while generally favorable to the government — is far from clear, with federal courts and appellate courts offering mixed rulings on whether warrants are needed.

And it’s a big deal. As of last year, there were 326.4 million wireless subscriber accounts, exceeding the U.S. population, responsible for 2.3 trillion annual minutes of calls, according to the Wireless Association.

All the while, warrantless cell-phone location tracking has become a de facto method to snoop on criminals in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision that probable-cause warrants from judges are generally needed to affix covert GPS devices to vehicles.

Yet the mobile-phone location data issue has never been squarely addressed by the Supreme Court, and the dispute isn’t likely to be heard by the justices any time soon. All of which means that the legality of the latest crime- or terror-fighting method of choice is equally up in the air.

The high court in June rejected an appeal (.pdf) from a drug courier sentenced to 20 years after being nabbed with 1,100 pounds of marijuana in a motor home camper the authorities tracked via his mobile phone pinging cell towers for three days from Arizona to a Texas truck stop.

In that case, and without comment, the Supreme Court let stand a ruling from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. The appeals court ruled that probable-cause warrants were not necessary to obtain cell-site data.

The appeals court had distinguished the case from the GPS decision decided by the Supreme Court two years ago. The high court had ruled that the physical act of installing a GPS device on a target’s vehicle amounted to a search, which usually necessitates a probable-cause warrant under the Fourth Amendment.

“Here, the monitoring of the location of the contraband-carrying vehicle as it crossed the country is no more of a comprehensively invasive search than if instead the car was identified in Arizona and then tracked visually and the search handed off from one local authority to another as the vehicles progressed. That the officers were able to use less expensive and more efficient means to track the vehicles is only to their credit,” the three-judge appellate panel of the 6th Circuit ruled 2-1.

According to the Post, “the NSA pulls in location data around the world from 10 major ‘sigads,’ or signals intelligence activity designators. A sigad known as STORMBREW, for example, relies on two unnamed corporate partners described only as ARTIFICE and WOLFPOINT. According to an NSA site inventory, the companies administer the NSA’s ‘physical systems,’ or interception equipment, and ‘NSA asks nicely for tasking/updates.’”

Regarding whether that’s legal, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — which covers Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas — in July sided with the government in a case involving three lower court rulings concerning unidentified suspects. A lower court said “compelled warrantless disclosure of cell site data violates the Fourth Amendment.”

The government argued that a mobile-phone company may disclose historical cell-site records created and kept by the company in its ordinary course of business, where such an order is based on a showing of “specific and articulable facts” that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the records sought are relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation. A court warrant, on the other hand, requires the higher probable-cause standard under the Fourth Amendment. The appeals court agreed. (.pdf)

The government’s argument is based on a 1979 Supreme Court ruling upholding a Maryland purse snatcher’s conviction. The conviction and 10-year term came after the cops compelled the phone company to make a record of the numbers dialed by defendant Michael Lee Smith. A warrant, the high court reasoned, was not required because people do not have a reasonable expectation that the records they maintain with businesses would be kept private.

That same case has provided the legal justification for the NSA’s massive phone-metadata snooping program.

Still, another appellate court to have ruled on the issue was the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The appellate court said in 2010 that the lower courts have the option to demand a warrant for cell-site data. The court covers Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge Richard Bennet of Maryland last year cited the purse-snatching decision when declining to suppress evidence that Aaron Graham and Eric Jordan were allegedly involved in a string of Baltimore City fast-food restaurant robberies. They were arrested in connection to one robbery, and a 7-month historical look of their phone records placed them on the scene when other restaurants were robbed, the authorities said.

Bennet ruled:

For the following reasons, this Court concludes that the Defendants in this case do not have a legitimate expectation of privacy in the historical cell site location records (.pdf) acquired by the government. These records, created by cellular providers in the ordinary course of business, indicate the cellular towers to which a cellular phone connects, and by extension the approximate location of the cellular phone. While the implications of law enforcement’s use of this historical cell site location data raise the specter of prolonged and constant government surveillance, Congress in enacting the Stored Communications Act, has chosen to require only ‘specific and articulable facts’ in support of a government application for such records.

That decision is on appeal with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Oral arguments are slated for next month.

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