Palo Alto Turns to Cameras to Keep Watchful Eye on Railroad

Palo Alto is turning to technology in hopes of preventing people from attempting to stand in front of or jump in front of trains traveling through the Peninsula city.

The city has installed thermal imaging-equipped video cameras designed to keep an eye out for people standing or hanging around the tracks at four railroad crossings within city limits.

While the video cameras have already been put in place, the city is still conducting rounds of testing before making the cameras fully operational later this month.

Palo Alto has hired a company to watch the camera feeds from an off-site location and call law enforcement if they spot anything unusual. Those monitoring the camera feeds can also speak via a public address system to alert someone on the tracks that help is on the way.

The Peninsula city has been paying security guards to scan the railroad crossings since about 2009 after a number of teenagers committed suicide on the tracks.

Unlike the human eye, the cameras are able to scan for movement roughly 1,000 feet away from where they are located along the tracks. The cameras can also capture movement when its dark, raining or foggy.

“We’re hoping that not only will this provide better monitoring, the ability to see much better down the tracks than the human eye, but also in the long run to provide faster notification to law enforcement and be more cost effective,” Claudia Keith with the city of Palo Alto said.

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Armed Guards in Bloomfield Elementary Schools Causes Controversy

A recently-formed group, Bloomfield Parents for Sensible Safety, came together after learning of the proposed  placement of nine armed guards (Class III police officers) at the entrances to the township’s elementary schools, to be funded by a $550k line in the school budget.

The group has created a petition urging the BOE to explore other security methods rather than placing armed guards in the elementary schools. The petition has garnered over 240 signatures to date.

Several residents spoke during public comment at the May 24th Board of Education meeting regarding the issue.

They had quite a wait to speak their piece, as public comment was only opened after a two-hour training presentation by Charlene Peterson of the New Jersey School Boards Association. Peterson took the Board through an ethics presentation, as well as a training session on how to use a new online tool to evaluate the Superintendent and a summary of the strategic planning process for the year.

The Board agreed to utilize the new, more intuitive tool for the upcoming evaluation of Superintendent Sal Goncalves’ performance, after he expressed willingness for them to use the new tool rather than the previous version.

During public comment, Mike Heller spoke first, emphasizing the importance of Board members holding themselves to a high standard and thanked the Superintendent for agreeing to being evaluated with the new online tool. He then provided a list of subjects to be addressed in future planning, including redistricting, class sizes, communications, alumni networks to track students, soliciting community input, and more.

Nahum Prasarn said he was disturbed after recently moving to the section of town served by the Oak View Elementary School, to learn that the Board intends to bring in armed guards to the school his children will be attending.

“I am a public middle school teacher in Montclair,” he said. “They are putting security measures in, not guards.” He recommended focusing on student health, identifying at-risk children, and anti-bullying programs.

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Mobile County forms task force to fight “skimming”

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) – The Mobile County Sheriff’s Office and The Attorney General Office of Alabama are forming a partnership to combat Cyber Crimes in the Mobile Area.

According to the sheriff’s office, the purpose of a partnership between the two offices would allow for investigative support when needed for large-scale Cyber Crimes such as; electronic financial crimes that occur from skimming devices on ATM’S, gas pumps and any other devices where credit/debit is used.

“Cybercrime seems like it would be a fairly open and shut case-a cybercriminal commits a crime, law enforcement steps in and catches the bad guy and the case is closed,” says Sheriff Sam Cochran. “Since the method of how they commit these crimes are so complicated, law enforcement usually has to coordinate with government agencies, international partners, and private corporations and that is why this partnership will be such an asset. Our Deputies will be provided the forensic training in order to capture the evidence immediately without compromising the investigation.”

Back in February, the Alabama Attorney General announced the launch of a cybercrime lab with federal and state law enforcement. Marshall announced the initiative with prosecutors and Secret Service, FBI and Homeland Security officials in Montgomery on Wednesday. He says the lab will use cutting-edge tools to investigate cybercrime like online sexual exploitation, human trafficking and data breaches.

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Public officers pan private police force plan

Lansing — Michigan law enforcement groups on Tuesday panned a new Senate plan to that would allow businesses, schools or other entities to contract with private security police forces that could carry weapons and make misdemeanor arrests.

The legislation could “de-professionalize” policing, reduce transparency and create a system where public safety services could vary depending on the wealth or resources of private entities, critics said.

But sponsoring Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, said he’ll invite police to a work group in hopes of improving legislation that advanced out of the Government Operations Committee in a 4-1 vote. His bill is a second effort after a private policing bill last year drew similarly harsh criticism.

“The main intent is getting more law enforcement on the ground in areas where there isn’t any available,” Kowall said.

Senate Bill 924 would expand a 1968 law that allows entities to create their own private police agencies, giving them the option to instead contract with a third-party vendor for the service.

The Detroit Medical Center, Detroit school district, General Motors Co. and the Henry Ford Health System are among 13 entities that already operate private security police agencies in Michigan.

Public law enforcement groups say expanding the law to third-party contractors heightens concerns over transparency, accountability and logistics.

“Under this law, any apartment complex could have their own private policing,” said Bob Stevenson, a retired Livonia police chief now with the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police.

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Hillsborough security plan: trained armed guards in 100 more elementary schools

TAMPA — With scarce dollars and a mandate to provide armed protection for all students, some Tampa Bay area school officials have started to make use of a state initiative they once disparaged.

Named for a coach who was slain in the Feb. 14 Parkland massacre and enacted after opposition to an earlier proposal to arm teachers, the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program is a way to qualify other school employees to carry weapons and defend campuses against lethal intruders.

Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister was among those who earlier this year scoffed at the idea of arming teachers, which was first proposed by President Trump. And the guardian program never caught on among educators and law enforcement as the best way to protect schools.

But Chronister stood with Hillsborough school superintendent Jeff Eakins on Thursday to unveil a security plan that relies on trained security officers, including many who already work in Hillsborough schools.

“As much as I am opposed to arming our educators,” Chronister said, “there is a unique reality here in Hillsborough with an almost 40-year-old, established agency of security personnel that we can take advantage of. I can feel comfortable that they are going to provide the level of professionalism, safety and security to keep our children safe.”

Florida’s school security mandate has officials in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties scrambling to place an armed person on every campus by the new school year, which begins in August.

The hurdles are time and money, with not enough of either for districts to meet the mandate as they would like. The favored option among most educators is to hire school resource officers, or SROs, who are certified law enforcement officers. But that is proving expensive, with not enough money from the state to offset the cost.

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Oakbrook mall security using license plate readers technology

Oak Brook IL April 24 2018 If you park at Oakbrook Center, your car may be part of a candid camera scenario, as security cars drive up and down aisles in lots and garages, using license plate reading technology to check the plate numbers on vehicles.

The license plate recognition system, which has been used since late 2016, helps Oakbrook Center monitor and enforce that shopping center employees are parking in designated areas and leaving the best parking for guests, explained Marissa Ellenby, senior manager of communications for General Growth Properties, the owner/operator of Oakbrook Center.

“Our research has shown us that parking is a top pain point of our shoppers,” Ellenby stated.

But a senior investigative researcher for an organization that defends civil liberties in the digital world says the use of license plate recognition systems raise privacy questions.

“It’s important that businesses respect their customers,” said Dave Maass of the 28-year-old Electronic Frontier Foundation. “People do care when they find out about this; privacy is a major issue.”

Maass said potential privacy concerns over the type of system being used at Oakbrook Center include whether the system is being checked for cyber security, possible use of a third-party server for collected data, whether any stored photos taken may include more than a license plate, how long data is retained, whether notice of system use is posted and who is authorized to access data, including police.

He said that photos taken of license plates could include bumper stickers.

“Sometimes, a bumper sticker indicates someone’s political views, for example,” he said. “Anyone who sees the vehicle could see a bumper sticker, but if you don’t know for sure who might have access to a photo taken of it with a license plate scanner, that could be an issue.”

The issues Maass raised, including the use of third-party servers, how long data is saved, whether data is used for marketing purposes and if the system is audited, were asked of Ellenby via email, but were not answered.

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Sarasota County Florida will create internal school security force

Sarasota County FL April 19 2018 The Sarasota County School Board decided Tuesday to create and manage an internal school security department over the next two years, dramatically shifting course from earlier discussions about continuing and expanding a program employing sheriff’s deputies and police officers from elementary through high schools.

Under the plan — a direct response to demands for increased security because of school shootings — the program would be phased in beginning this fall and completely implemented by the end of the 2019-20 school year, and will cost the district a total of about $3.1 million over those two years. The district plans to hire about 30 employees in the first year and 26 the following year, staffing their elementary schools with the trained and sworn law enforcement officers first and then adding them to middle and high schools.

For the 2018-19 year, Bowden will try to negotiate with local law enforcement agencies to retain the school resource officers in middle and high schools for that year while the district attempts to integrate their new, district-managed police officers at the elementary level. That will cost the district anywhere from an additional $1.4 to $2.5 million.

Three of the board’s five members, Caroline Zucker, Jane Goodwin and Shirley Brown, spoke highly during the meeting of the idea of an internal police department. The concept was compared to the college police forces that staff many higher education campuses.

They will buy into the district and buy into the kids and keep those kids safer because they are responsible and they don’t report to anybody else but the school system,” Zucker said. “I like your plan for two years, because this gives you ample time to be able to put everything in place.”

Goodwin echoed that point, adding that the school police department employees could work with students after school and have a positive impact on their lives.

But School Board members Bridget Ziegler, the chairwoman, and Eric Robinson, were reluctant to quickly sign on to the new program, noting that it was a big task to undertake with only four months before the next school year.

Zucker, reflecting on previous criticism by Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight that the board was moving too slowly on security after the Parkland school shooting in February, countered one of Ziegler’s comments by saying, “We were told we’re moving too slow, and now we’re moving too fast?”

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TSA agents ask some travelers to remove snacks from carry-ons

Washington DC April 1 2018 You’ve taken off your shoes and removed your laptop from your carry-on bag to go through airport security screening. You candy bar may be next.

Although it’s okay to board an airplane with food, some Transportation Security Administration agents have been asking travelers to remove their food from carry-on bags at checkpoints before putting them on the conveyor belt. Signs have also appeared at some TSA checkpoints directing people to remove snacks before screening.

It’s apparently a recommendation, however, not a requirement, and part of a new policy that is not really a policy – or at least not a uniform one. Whatever it is, it’s left peckish travelers feeling a little peeved, as USAToday and others have reported.

Travelers are permitted to take food and snacks onto an airplane after the bags have been screened. A TSA official also said Wednesday there has been no nationwide policy change requiring people to remove food from their carry-ons to get through security.

But confusion appears to have set in as the TSA adopted new, unrelated procedures last year for screening electronic devices, the TSA official said.

As terrorists became more skillful hiding explosives, the federal agency announced July 26 that TSA agents would require travelers to remove electronic devices larger than a mobile phone and put them in a separate bin for screening. The new procedure on electronics – which was rolled out little by little so as not to interfere with peak holiday travel last year – is expected to be fully in place at all checkpoints by this summer.

But while the TSA was implementing the procedure for screening personal electronic devices, some agents started directing travelers to remove their snacks, too. That’s because high-tech scanners detect organic compounds contained in some explosives and sometimes give false alerts on food. That requires a hands-on bag check, which slows down the line.

At some checkpoints, TSA agents who were telling travelers to remove their large electronic devices would spot a stash of potato chips or cookies and have the traveler to put those aside, too. It was, as a TSA official described it Wednesday, more or less an opportunistic request.

But somehow this has morphed into procedure at some airports and not others. Some passengers who have been asked to remove junk food from bags have reported that TSA checkpoint officials told them the agency planned to adopt a policy that would make everyone to do it.

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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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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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