Facial recognition – coming soon

Technology giant NEC’s Hong Kong branch is promoting a small, “easy to install” appliance which will enable businesses to monitor their customers based on facial recognition.

From a recent NEC press release:

The new Mobile Facial Recognition Appliance enables organizations in any industry to offer an ultra-personalized customer experience by recognizing the face of each and every customer as soon as they set foot on the premises.

Face recognition is becoming ever more sophisticated and accurate, bringing automated detection and tracking of people by the way they look within reach of all sorts of people.

For law enforcement this technology is, of course, a dream. Despite limited success in the real world, any modern conspiracy thriller worth its salt includes a scene where creepily intrusive/heroically hardworking forces of law and order are shown to be able to find anyone passing near any security camera, and follow them around with minimal effort.

With the FBI’s latest plans to expand facial recognition data this sort of thing comes another step closer to reality.

It’s not just the feds and the snoops that love the idea though. In the business world, who people are and what they’re up to has become the basis of a massive industry, with big data on anyone and everyone being used to hone and target advertising and promotions in an effort to suck in a few more customers.

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FBI: NC Inmate Helped Orchestrate Kidnapping

A North Carolina prison inmate used a smuggled mobile phone to keep in touch with kidnappers holding the father of a prosecutor who helped send him away for life, federal authorities said.

Five people were arrested and Frank Arthur Janssen, a Wake Forest man whose daughter prosecutes violent crimes, was rescued late Wednesday following a raid by the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team on an Atlanta apartment.

During the abduction, the kidnappers took a picture of Janssen tied up in a chair and sent it to his wife, threatening to torture and dismember him if she went to police, the FBI said in court documents.

Janssen’s kidnapping was related to his daughter’s prosecution of Kelvin Melton, who is serving a life sentence for ordering the shooting of a man in 2011, said John Strong, the FBI’s agent in charge for North Carolina.

Authorities say Melton, 49, had a mobile phone in his cell at Polk Correctional Institution in Butner, exchanging at least 123 calls and text messages with the alleged kidnappers in the past week. Authorities closed in on the suspects by tracking their mobile phones and listening to their calls.

According to testimony from his 2012 trial, Melton is a high-ranking member of the Bloods street gang from New York City who ordered a 21-year-old subordinate to travel to Raleigh and kill his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend. Court records show Melton has a long record of felony convictions in New York, the first being a 1979 robbery committed when he was 14.

The admitted triggerman, Jamil Herring Gressett, testified that he followed Melton’s orders for fear he or his loved ones would be killed if he didn’t. The victim survived a gunshot wound.

The prosecutor in the case was Wake County Assistant District Attorney Colleen Janssen.

In a handwritten 2012 letter in the court file, Melton protested that the prosecutor had not followed proper legal procedure, citing a specific state statute.

“Prosecutor must file accuser affidavit with clerk of court ‘prior’ to seeking an indictment, this affidavit must be on file, mandatory!” Melton wrote. “The accused indictment is not legal and is rendered in-valid.”

Melton’s amateur lawyering didn’t work. He was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and being a habitual felon, resulting in a life sentence.

According to the FBI, a woman knocked on Frank Janssen’s door Saturday at his Wake Forest home in a quiet, upscale, golf course subdivision. Several people assaulted him and someone used a stun gun. He was then driven to Atlanta.

On Monday, his wife, Christie, started receiving a series of text messages from a mobile phone in Georgia. One of the texts said if law enforcement was contacted, “we will send (Mr. Janssen) back to you in 6 boxes and every chance we get we will take someone in your family to Italy and torture them and kill them … we will do drive by and gun down anybody.”

The messages made specific demands for the benefit of Melton, according to the FBI. Those demands were not spelled out in the court filings and authorities did not answer questions at a news conference Thursday.

A federal law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation, told The Associated Press that the kidnapping was an act of retaliation and that the communications of those involved suggested a link to the Bloods. The official had been briefed on the investigation.

At 12:19 a.m. Wednesday, Janssen’s wife received a text photograph of him tied up in a chair along with a message: “Tomorrow we call you again an if you can not tell me where my things are at tomorrow i will start torchering.”

At 8:20 p.m., the FBI says a call was placed by Melton from the prison to a phone associated with the kidnappers in Atlanta. The two male callers appear to be discussing how to dispose of a body:

“The first spot we are checking out is close to the house.”

“We want to make sure it’s in a secluded area and the ground is soft so we can go 3 feet deep.”

“Get a bag, put it over his head, and stuff something in his mouth.”

“However you feel like doing it, just do it.”

“Make sure to clean the area up. Don’t leave anything. Don’t leave any DNA behind.”

Following the call, authorities tried to enter Melton’s cell and he temporarily barred the door and smashed the phone. A few hours later, they located Janssen in Atlanta at the Forest Cove Apartments.

Charged with kidnapping were: Jenna Paulin Martin; Tiana Maynard; Jevante “Flame” Price; Michael “Hot” Montreal Gooden and Clifton James Roberts. Authorities also recovered a .45-caliber handgun, picks and a shovel, according to the FBI.

Those arrested appeared Thursday before a federal magistrate judge in Atlanta. They are due back in court for a bond hearing Tuesday, when they will each have a lawyer appointed by the judge.

According to prison records, Melton is being held on “maximum control” status after racking up several infractions over the past year, including being cited for possessing a weapon and twice for having a mobile phone.

In 2013, 747 mobile phones were confiscated from inmates in North Carolina’s prisons. So far this year, 166 have been seized.

Officials at the state Department of Public Safety concede many are smuggled in by prison employees bribed by inmates or their relatives. They are now investigating how Melton got the phone he allegedly used to help orchestrate the kidnapping of his prosecutor’s father.

“The department is deeply concerned about any corrupting influence by inmates against Adult Correction employees and will aggressively investigate and take action against offenders and staff involved in using cellphones to conduct criminal activity from inside prison walls,” Secretary Frank L. Perry said. “It will continue its ongoing efforts with increased intensity toward stopping contraband from entering any of its facilities.”

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Grand Rapids Public Schools security officers help nab man with gun

GRAND RAPIDS, MI April 5 2014 – Grand Rapids Public Schools security officers helped police track down a teen who allegedly carried a concealed stolen handgun during a fight Thursday near the district’s Central Campus.

Police were called to a fight between about 15 people in the area of Lyon Street and Prospect Avenue NE about 2:54 p.m. April 3.
Security officers from nearby Innovation Central High School, 421 Fountain St., attempted to break up the altercation and noticed a 17-year-old male with a handgun, police said. The teen rode away on a bicycle before police arrived.

The suspect isn’t a student, but a security officer provided police with his name and a description.

Police arrested the teen about a half-mile away near Hawthorne Street and Eastern Avenue NE. The handgun was recovered in a garage in the 100 block of Langdon Avenue NE. Police said the suspect admitted to dropping the gun there after the fight.

Police determined the gun was reported stolen to the Wyoming Police Department.

The suspect is held on charges of carrying a concealed weapon and possession of a stolen firearm, police said. The prosecutor’s office will review the case Friday.

Anyone with additional information about the incident is asked to call police at 456-3604 or Silent Observer at 774-2345.
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Chicago drivers top state for cellphone violations

Almost 1 out of 5 drivers in Chicago are likely violating the city’s nine-year-old ban on using hand-held cellphones while behind the wheel, according to a state study that prompts questions about whether a new and stricter Illinois law will reduce accidents caused by distracted driving.

Chicago had the state’s highest rate of drivers visibly using electronic devices to either talk on the phone or send or read text messages, according to the statewide study conducted by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

“The survey really told us a lot about what is going on every day,” said John Webber, IDOT’s communications director and the department’s former interim director of traffic safety.

The observational survey of more than 33,000 drivers was done on busy state highways, local roads and residential streets, officials said.

The purpose of the study, conducted in November and provided by IDOT to the Tribune, was to create a baseline to determine the effectiveness of a state law that went into effect Jan. 1 and is intended to further tighten restrictions enacted in 2013.

The new law prohibits drivers from using hand-held cellphones for any purpose. Hands-free technology such as Bluetooth headsets, earpieces and voice-activated devices are permitted.

The new provisions go further than a texting-while-driving ban that went into effect in Illinois last year and provide uniformity across the state, officials said. About 80 municipalities already had banned hand-held cellphone use while driving, IDOT said. That includes Chicago, which has had a ban since 2005.

In Chicago, nearly 18 percent of all drivers who were observed during the study — about 21 percent of female drivers and 15 percent of male drivers — were holding cellphones or other electronic devices close to their ears or faces.

The statewide rate was about 12 percent, the study found. There was a similar gender gap among the smaller portion of violators statewide, with about 14 percent of female drivers and 10 percent of male drivers.

Electronic device use by drivers in Cook County was 12 percent and almost 13 percent in DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Winnebago counties, the IDOT study found.

Six downstate counties (Champaign, Bureau, Effingham, Rock Island, Madison and St. Clair) had the lowest rate of illegal electronic device use, at 9 percent , the study reported.

IDOT officials said they could not provide definitive reasons for the regional differences, but they speculated that the lower average age of the population in the Chicago area and a higher average income might contribute to more drivers in northeastern Illinois owning smartphones.

In addition, slow-moving traffic on many Chicago-area roadways “may lead people to think they can text or phone safely,” resulting in higher use of hand-held devices than occurs downstate, IDOT spokeswoman Jae Miller said.

“Just more opportunity, and frankly, if the population downstate tends to be older or lower in income, there are a lot of people middle-age and up who simply don’t get that engaged in the hand-held technology,” Miller added.

But other possible explanations abound, including that there are more cellphone reception dead spots in rural areas of the state.

In any event, the total ban on using hand-held devices while driving that took effect this year should help provide police with a more clear-cut enforcement strategy, said Webber, who initiated the IDOT study.

“The texting law was almost impossible to enforce. Police and state troopers said it was often in question whether a driver looking at a phone was actually texting,” Webber said. “Now a cop knows that if a driver is spotted with an electronic device in their hand while driving, it’s illegal.”

Still, the high rate of Chicago drivers disregarding a hand-held device law that’s been on the city’s books since mid-2005 “shows us challenges remain even with the new (state) law.”

Ian Savage, a Northwestern University professor who specializes in data-driven transportation research, left open the possibility that without the cellphone ban and accompanying fines, even more distracted drivers would be on the road endangering the public.

But “overall, I’m kind of skeptical about how much of a deterrent these kinds of laws actually are,” said Savage, who added that when he’s out walking his dog he often sees even police officers driving while talking on cellphones.

Savage said that when IDOT conducts a follow-up observational survey in a year to compare data from before and after the new law went into effect, researchers should be careful to go back to the same roads and at exactly the same times of day.

“What IDOT is doing sounds like it is scientifically defensible, but the opportunity to manipulate the outcome could be quite substantial,” he said.

The new Illinois law aimed at addressing the distracted driving problem and the thousands of injuries and deaths nationally that result is being supported by a new push from the federal government. The U.S. Department of Transportation is expected to launch educational and enforcement efforts in April.

The campaign comes as newly released research shows virtually no change in the percentage of drivers text-messaging or visibly manipulating hand-held devices in the U.S. The percentage stood at 5 percent in 2012 — which means that at any given time during the day, an estimated 660,000 vehicles are driven by people using hand-held cellphones, according to the latest annual study conducted for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The study found that hand-held cellphone use continued to be higher among female drivers than male drivers; and highest among 16- to 24-year-olds and lowest among drivers 70 and older.

In 2012, more than 3,300 people were killed in distracted-driving crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In Illinois, fines for violations of the state hands-free rule start at $75. The penalty increases to $100 for a second violation, $125 for a third and $150 for each subsequent offense. After four violations, the Illinois secretary of state has the authority to suspend the driver’s license.

In Chicago, 32,141 cellphone violation tickets were issued by Chicago police in 2013 to drivers who failed to use hands-free devices, according to the Chicago Department of Administrative Hearings. The number of tickets has increased each year since 2005, records show. More than $3.6 million in fines were collected last year, although part of the revenue was for tickets issued in earlier years, city spokesman Bill McCaffrey said.

The average city fine is $100 and, since 2008, the violation, like a parking ticket, has not counted against a driver’s record. In 2005 through 2007, violations of Chicago’s hands-free cellphone law were treated as moving violations and cases were handled in Cook County Circuit Court.

Meanwhile, under state law, distracted drivers who are convicted of injuring others on the road face penalties of up to $2,500 in fines and less than a year of jail time. If deaths are involved, the fines could reach $25,000 and prison time could total up to three years.

Almost 6,000 crashes have occurred in Illinois from 2008 through 2012 in which driver distraction involving a cellphone was cited by police, according to IDOT, adding that 30 deaths resulted. A breakdown for 2013 is not yet available, officials said.

The good news is that total fatalities on Illinois roads so far this year are down from last year. Through March 23, 130 people have died in crashes. The toll was 199 fatalities for the same period in 2013, according to provisional data provided by IDOT.

But the short-term trend does not point to drivers putting more of a focus on their driving. Instead, traffic experts attributed the decrease primarily to this year’s severe winter.

“Fewer people ventured out during the extreme cold and stormy winter we experienced,” said Miller, the IDOT spokeswoman. “Nothing limits traffic crashes like unpredictable and severe weather.”

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Gunfire, police chase, crash in Logan Square

A police chase that began in Logan Square when officers witnessed gunfire ended a few blocks later when the fleeing car crashed into an SUV, authorities said.

The chase started about 2 a.m. at the intersection of Kimball, Diversey and Milwaukee avenues. Police saw gunfire coming from a car and gave chase south on Kimball Avenue. A gun was tossed from the car during the brief pursuit and recovered by police at Kimball and Schubert Street, officials said.

The chase ended at Fullerton Avenue, about half a mile south, after the fleeing car hit a parked SUV while heading south.

The SUV was pushed into a car in front of it, which hit another car, and the fleeing car spun around and ended up facing north in the intersection of Kimball and Fullerton avenues.

The crash left a trail of debris half a block long.

The car that fled, a gray four-door sedan, sustained major front-end damage. A woman’s purse sat atop the car as snow dusted the neighborhood about 2:30 a.m. A man and a woman in the car were arrested and taken into custody.

The car’s driver was not in custody.

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Chicago voters want gun limits, no taxi fare hikes

Chicago voters weighed in on three city referendums Tuesday, with a majority coming out in favor of keeping firearms out of restaurants that serve alcohol and limiting the size of gun magazines, and most taking a dim view of raising taxi fares, according to preliminary results.

The three questions on the city’s primary ballots carry no official weight but serve as a poll on what voters think about the topics. The low election turnout in Chicago, thanks to a lack of top-of-the-ticket contested races among Democrats, raises questions about the value of even the nonbinding opinions in taking the pulse of the electorate.

On the question of whether the state’s concealed carry law should be amended to ban the possession of concealed firearms in any place that has a liquor license, nearly three-quarters of voters said yes, with 96 percent of precincts reporting.

The City Council already has adopted an ordinance to revoke liquor licenses from establishments that do not ban firearms. State law bans weapons only in bars or restaurants that make more than half their money from selling alcohol.

About 76 percent of voters said yes to a referendum asking whether the state should pass a measure to ban gun magazines with more than 15 rounds, again with 96 percent of precincts in. The proposal is backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Pat Quinn.

Just less than 40 percent of voters were in favor of hitting the pocketbooks of cab passengers by increasing rates, with 96 percent of precincts reporting. The referendum question asked whether fares should go up to “bring Chicago’s taxi fleet in line with other cities” and noted that it would be the first hike in eight years, but it did not specify to what the rate should be raised.

Cabdrivers have asked for an increase on the $1.80 per-mile charge but haven’t gotten a hearing since summer 2012, when aldermen declined to raise rates.

Voters in about 5 percent of Chicago precincts were asked if the minimum wage in the city should be increased to $15 per hour. With 90 percent of precincts counted, 87 percent of voters said yes.
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Missing Malaysia Airline Flight: What We Know Now

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 took off from Kuala Lumpur heading toward Beijing on the morning of March 8, but lost contact with air traffic control an hour later and disappeared off the radar.

No trace of the plane and the 239 people on board have been found and few details about what could have happened to the plane have been released.

Here’s what we know now as of now about the investigation into missing flight MH370.

“Indications” Send Searchers into Indian Ocean

The U.S. moved the USS Kidd into an area where the Indian Ocean and the Andaman Sea merge because there are “indications” the plane may have crashed into the water there, a senior official told ABC News. That is hundreds of miles to the west of flight MH370′s flight path, which was northeast towards Beijing.

The Pentagon official said the U.S. didn’t have detailed information about why they think it went into the Indian Ocean, but that it may have flown four to five hours after its last contact with radar and gone into the sea there.

Malaysian officials admit that the plane could have continued to fly for several hours after it dropped off the radar.

They dismissed as “inaccurate” a Wall Street Journal report that the plane’s Rolls Royce engine sent signals after radar lost contact. The engines, which are designed to transmit bursts of data to ground during the flight, did not convey any meaningful data about the plane’s location or disappearance, they said.

Malaysia, which continues to be the lead country investigating the disappearance, said that the last concrete data they have from the plane is a radar contact at 1:07 a.m. local time.

Chinese satellite images that were thought to show possible plane wreckage led to a search that came up empty.

The Search Expands:

The search has been expanded again, now into the Andaman Sea and the northern edge of the Indian Ocean.

Malaysia has asked India for help in searching for radar contacts with the plane and for searching for the plane.

More than 40 ships and 39 aircraft from 12 countries are scanning the Straits of Malacca, the Andaman Sea and the South China Sea for signs of the plane but have not found any debris yet.

The search has been broadened to encompass 27,000 square nautical miles, an area roughly the size of Indiana.
The Timeline

Flight MH370 departed Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia, headed for Beijing, China, around 12:41 a.m. local time on Saturday. It showed up on radar two minutes later.

The last reading from MH370′s transponder was at 1:21 a.m. The last sighting of the plane on radar was at 1:30 a.m. At the time the plane was on its route over the South China Sea heading for the southern tip of Vietnam. An air traffic controller told the plane’s captain he was about to be handed over to air traffic control out of Ho Chi Minh City. The pilot responded, “All right, good night.” The pilot never made contact with air traffic control in Ho Chi Minh City.

Authorities have discovered that a flight showed up on the country’s military defense radar at 2:15 a.m. local time in the Straits of Malacca, hundreds of miles due west of their last contact point and far from its route to Beijing. They said today that contact could possibly have been MH370.

The military radar also showed something make a turn back, meaning some aircraft reversing course, but they are not sure whether it was flight MH370. Because of the uncertain radar data, they are not sure of the plane’s last position.

The Investigation

Aviation experts say there are two possible causes of the disappearance: mechanical error or human error on board, which could include an electrical outage, a fire, a hijacking or bomb, and many other reasons. There is no hard evidence one way or another at his point, they say.

The transponders on board the plane that transmit signal’s about the plane’s location were somehow disabled or turned off, according to authorities.

Investigators are looking at how and why they transponders were not functioning.

Authorities have not ruled out terrorism but have found no evidence of it.

The Passengers

Four passengers who were waiting on the stand-by list to board flight MH370 were given seats on the plane after four ticketed passengers did not show up for the flight.

239 people were on board the flight, made up of 227 passengers (including one infant and one toddler) and 12 crew members.

Three Americans, including two children, are among the missing. Philip Wood, 50, an IBM executive, had just come from Texas where he was visiting family on his way to Beijing.

Fourteen nationalities were on board, though 152 passengers were Chinese.

Twenty passengers on the plane worked for the Austin, Texas, company Freescale Semiconductor. Another passenger, Chng Mei Ling, worked as an engineer for the Pennsylvania company Flexsys America LP.

Pilot Zahari Ahmad Shah, 53, was a veteran pilot who joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981 and had over 18,000 flying hours.
Fake Passports Used By Two Passengers

Investigators discovered that two passengers used stolen passports, one from Austria and one from Italy, to board the flight.

Interpol identified the two as Iranians Seyed Mohammad Reza Delavar, 29, and Pouria Nourmohammadi, 18, and said they have no known links to militant groups, downplaying the possibility they were terrorists.

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Allow armed ‘school safety’ employees on every campus

Every Florida school could have an employee carrying a concealed gun, under a bill a House education panel approved Wednesday. The bill is a reworked version of an armed-teachers bill that died in the Florida Legislature last year. Both are a response to the fatal shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 and an effort, one lawmaker said, to provide “one additional gun for the good guys.”

Like last year’s bill, this year’s is controversial, though opponents said the 2014 version was much improved.

The House bill (HB 753) would allow districts to have at least one “school safety designee” on each campus. That person would carry a concealed gun but would first need to meet firearm and school safety training requirements. To be tapped, that person would have to be an active duty or retired military or law enforcement or licensed to carry a concealed weapon.

Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said previous laws that made schools “gun-free zones” were well intended but inadvertently left schools defenseless, if a “monster” got on campus.

“They don’t even have a water pistol in which to charge the gates of hell…to confront this monster,” he said.
“I think it’s time to embrace this,” he added. “Firearms save people’s lives. That’s why policemen carry them.”

The bill passed with strong support from the House education k-12 subcommittee’s Republican leadership.

But Democrats on the panel said their local school districts did not support the legislation.

“They’re saying arming administrators and teachers does not guarantee any more safety in the school system than what is in there now,” said Rep. Gwyndolen Clarke-Reed, D-Deerfield Beach.

But Rep. Dave Hood, R-Daytona Beach Shores, said it was a “creative solution” to school safety worries and provided “one additional gun for the good guys.”

Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, the bill’s sponsor said it would allow “properly trained individuals” to help defend students. Schools would not have to create the new armed “designee” program, however.

But Steube said it could help those campuses that feel vulnerable. “Let’s give ourselves the Constitutional and God-given rights to defend ourselves.”

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Oak Park, La Grange police vetting gun permits

Police chiefs in Oak Park and La Grange said their departments have carefully vetted dozens of local concealed-carry permit applications, as the first round of state permits hits mailboxes this week.

Eighty-nine Oak Park residents and 75 La Grange residents applied for concealed carry permits as of Feb. 25, according to Illinois State Police. Statewide, about 50,000 people have applied since January. About 5,000 security guards, firearms trainers and others who paid extra to get permits early are expected to start receiving them this week, Illinois State Police officials said.

Under the new law, the state checks applicants’ backgrounds before approving permits. The law also gives local police departments discretion to file objections to individual applications up to 30 days after they are filed. Neither the Oak Park nor the La Grange departments have objected to any applications so far, police chiefs said.

The state bars anyone with three gang-related arrests or five other arrests in the last 7 years from getting permits. Applicants also must meet certain requirements regarding past drug and alcohol convictions, and must meet the criteria to obtain a Firearm Owners Identification Card. Applicants are fingerprinted and are required to take a 16-hour training course.

The objection process for local departments allows police to screen applicants based on behavior that might have raised concerns but did not rise to the level of criminal charges, Oak Park Police Chief Rick Tanksley said in an email.

“Generally, we are screening for applicants that have demonstrated a pattern of behavior that indicates that they may be a danger to themselves or others,” Tanksley said.

Police investigators in La Grange have been looking for familiar names among the applicant list, including people who have made gun-related threats in the past, La Grange Police Chief Michael Holub said.

So far, no such names have appeared on the list, Holub said. He said he doesn’t expect the new law to increase any gun-related confrontations, adding he is more concerned about people carrying weapons illegally.

“Quite frankly, I don’t anticipate those kinds of issues because the people who have concealed carry are probably not the ones who will be causing us trouble,” he said.

Both the Oak Park and La Grange police departments have been training officers for the new law, and have been advising local businesses, schools and other institutions of its specifics, police officials said. The law allows concealed weapons in some public spaces and in businesses that don’t post signs banning them. Concealed guns are banned in government buildings, schools, public parks, hospitals and some other places outlined in the law.

Procedures for transporting armed people to hospitals will not change much with the new law, La Grange Fire Department Chief Bill Bryzgalski said. The fire department oversees emergency medical services.

“In reality, we’ve been working with this for many years,” Bryzgalski said. “We have to be cautious, but it’s the same as pulling up on any other scene. We have to make sure the scene is secure.”

Ambulances are gun-free zones under the law in the same way most public buildings are, he said. When police are present at the scene of an emergency, they will take custody of weapons, Bryzgalski said. If police are not on the scene, the ambulances have been outfitted with lockboxes to hold the weapons until police can take them, he said.

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Illinois’ 1st concealed carry permits go in the mail

If you’re out at dinner next week, the person at the table next to you just might have a gun tucked under his or her coat. And it would be perfectly legal.

On Friday, Illinois State Police officials said they had approved 5,000 concealed carry applications. The new licenses are expected to arrive in mailboxes next week and upon receipt will allow bearers to carry guns in public.

The first round of licenses was approved weeks ahead of schedule, but those licenses represent only a fraction of the 50,000 applications state police have received since opening the process to the public in January. Officials had 90 days to process the applications, so many didn’t expect the licenses to start going out until April.

“A lot of people thought the state police was dragging their feet, but they really did a great job rolling this program out,” said state Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, one of the sponsors of the concealed carry law approved by the General Assembly last summer.

The first round of licenses is being sent to security guards, firearms trainers and other residents who paid extra to be fingerprinted so they could move to the head of the line.

Valinda Rowe, spokeswoman for IllinoisCarry.com, a plaintiff in the lawsuit that forced Illinois to join all other states in allowing residents to carry firearms in public, said once people who are apprehensive about the new law get over their initial fears, life will go on as usual.

People with licenses to carry guns figure to be the ones whose lives change more, Rowe said.

“At first people will be excited,” she said of those getting licenses. “And the next moment, they will think, ‘What a responsibility.’ The excitement that we finally got it done will wane, and people will be taking their responsibility very seriously. You have to keep your mind on making sure you’re following the law and being sure you’re being safe.”

Gun carriers might initially feel a little “self-conscious,” but likely no one will know they are carrying a concealed firearm, Rowe said.

On the other side of the issue, Mark Walsh, campaign director for the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, said he is not sure people will ever be comfortable with the idea of concealed carry.

“This is going to be a strange situation for people in Illinois because guns will be legal in public places, and we always thought that was bad public policy,” Walsh said. “Illinois has some of the strongest training requirements in the country, so hopefully we won’t see incidents of accidental shootings, guns being used in anger and other problems we have seen in other places.”

Of the 50,000 applications received, 300 were denied, said state police Col. Marc Maton, who heads the administrative process for the agency. An additional 800 were opposed by law enforcement officials and are still under review by an advisory board Gov. Pat Quinn appointed to review all rejected applications before making a final decision.

The approval process has been criticized by some law enforcement officials who say it will allow some violent people, including domestic abusers and those involved in gang crimes, to end up with a license to carry.

But Robinzina Bryant, chairwoman of the Concealed Carry Licensing Review Board, said the board considers each case individually.

“The board investigates those cases. We request additional information and look at the circumstances as a whole,” she said.

State police spokeswoman Monique Bond said the agency is confident that the approval process works as it should.

“We feel confident that the ISP has implemented the process with multiple layers of review that thoroughly review an applicant’s criminal history for the (prohibited violations) listed within the act,” Bond said in an email. “It is exactly how the legislature envisioned the process to work, collective law enforcement input with multiple reviews.”

She said the agency is still sorting out the logistics for applicants who are unable to apply for a license online. She said police are on track for taking paper applications by July 1.

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