Monthly Archives: April 2010

New Speed Cameras to Use GPS to Track Drivers

Britain may soon be taking their surveillance reputation to a new level, as law enforcers consider using global positioning satellites (GPS) and advanced speed cameras with number plate recognition technology to track speeding motorists.

The system, dubbed SpeedSpike, is undergoing effectiveness and accuracy trials at two locations in London and Cornwall, with the AA (Automobile Assocation) monitoring the tests, reports

Lin Edwards writes –

The AA said they were watching the trials carefully, but do not regard the development as sinister, but a “natural evolution” of technologies already in use.  They said they believed the system is probably intended for residential areas, and it would cover a network of roads rather than just a straight line.

The system was developed by Teas based PIPS Technology Ltd. and is said to be easy to install and affordable.  Here’s how the manufacturers explains their product in promotional material –  

All cameras in the network are independently time-locked using GPS. When a vehicle passes one of the SpeedSpike cameras, the license plate is read and times tamped, and packaged with other data to form a Summary Record which is sent to the SpeedSpike Server.  This record is compared to other records of the same license plate, at which point speed is calculated and compared to the enforcement speed.  If a violation occurs, a Violation Record is created consisting of all data and images.

What will they think of next?

Warmer Weather Prompts Pool Safety Reminder

It’s that time of year again when the mercury rises and the swim suits come out.  This means it’s pool time, but the pool can also become dangerous.  The Home Safety Council encourages families to follow these safety tips to avoid injuries in and around pools and spas.

1.  When children are in or near the water, a grownup should watch them very carefully.  Do not take your eyes off them.  Older children should not be left in charge of younger children in the pool area.

2.  If you have a pool or spa, install a fence that goes all the way around it.  The fence should close and latch by itself.  It should be least five feet high.

3.  Always keep gates closed and latched.  

4.  Do not leave furniture near the fence that would enable a child to climb over it.

5.  Keep the pool area clear of things you could trip on.

6.  Keep a cordless, water resistant telephone with emergency numbers posted in the pool area.

7.  Keep poolside rescue equipment close by.  Equipment should include a rescue pole measuring at least 10-12 feet and a ring buoy with line.  

8.  Keep a life vest on hand.  Anyone who is not a good swimmer should wear a vest.

9.  Use plastic instead of glassware in the pool area.

10.  For extra safety, use a pool alarm to alert you if someone falls into the pool.  Recent studies show that sub surface pool alarms are most effective.

11.  Lock all pool chemicals in a secure cabinet out of children’s reach.

Theft happens at Church Too

In southwest Florida, a Lee County church pastor reported that someone had stolen copper coils in three air conditioners, valued at $3,500.

Pastor Randy Moody of Buckingham Presbyterian Church reported the last person to leave the church Friday evening attested that the air conditioners, which supplied cooling to the main hall and the kitchen, were present and working.  However when Moody arrived for church Sunday morning, he noticed the theft.  Two other air conditioners at the church were not touched, reports.

Deputy Scott Thompson of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office dusted the area for latent fingerprints.  He did not find any, though he did locate glove marks, indicating the thief or thieves wore gloves.

Remember, crime can happen anywhere and church is no exception.  If you belong to a church don’t hesitate to inquiry about building security.  Often times, smaller churches aren’t armed with a security system and they should be for the sake of the congregation and to protect church property.

Child Abuse Registries – Flawed or Not?

Most people know about the sex-offender registry, but there’s also registries for people suspected of child abuse.  About 40 states have one, and there’s talk about creating a national registry.  But, the AP reports that these programs have serious problems.  For one – you don’t have to be convicted of or even charged with a crime to get put on the list, which helps hospitals, schools and other employers screen for possible offenders.  David Crary writes –

Combatting child abuse is a cause with universal support. Yet a push to create a national database of abusers, as authorized by Congress in 2006, is barely progressing as serious flaws come to light in the state-level registries that would be the basis for a national list.

It’s very hard for the accused to defend themselves.   According to Crime Scene KC, Missouri requires there to be a hearing now before someone’s put on the list, but some states don’t even have that protection.  Supporters, though, say a national list could help stop child abusers from moving from one state to another.

Remember, a good way to keep tabs on what happens inside your home is to set up a surveillance system.  That’s because crime and abuse cannot only come from outside the home, but from within.

Jurors more Likely to Convict Ugly People

A new study says that some jurors tend to convict ugly people at a higher rate than more attractive defendants, The Scotsman reports, quoting a study from New York’s Cornell University.  Those jurors tend to side against the ugly suspects because they rely more on their emotions and think the suspects just “look like” they were apt to commit a crime, as opposed to those who judge rationally.

The study, “When Emotionality Trumps Reason” sheds new light on how jurors reach their decisions.  Researchers say they detected an “unattractive harshness effect” at work in jury rooms.

The study involved using psychological tests to split a group of mock jurors into those who make decisions emotionally and those who do so rationally. They were then asked to study a criminal trial transcript and look at pictures of alleged defendants who varied in physical attractiveness.

Justin Gunnell, a New York lawyer who led the research, explained:

“We suspected that potential jurors who were more prone to base their decisions on emotion or intuition would be more likely to consider legally irrelevant factors such as defendant attractiveness when rendering verdicts.  The results supported our suspicions.”

Gunnell now believes scientists will come up with a quick test to enable US attorneys – who, unlike their Scottish counterparts, are allowed to challenge jurors without giving a reason – to weed out those who rely on gut feeling.

Burglars Break into Prison to Steal TVs

Thieves broke into a Dutch prison to steal the inmates’ televisions.  It happened in the Netherlands at a minimum-security prison near Amsterdam.

Reuters reports that twice in the last six weeks, burglars broke into a minimum-security prison and stole TVs from cells while prisoners were on weekend furloughs.  A prison spokesperson says they don’t know how the burglars broke in.

The facility is what the Dutch government calls a “very modestly protected environment,” where prisoners transition back into society.  They are typically allowed weekend leave, which is when the burglars broke in and took the goods.

AG’s Office Warns of Home Security Scams

In Indiana, the attorney general’s office is investigating complaints involving home security services in the central part of the state. 

On Wednesday, the AG’s office received four reports of a person going door to door claiming to work for a business known as Platinum Protection, WRTV-TV reported.  Apparently, the person told homeowners that their security company was going out of business and that Platinum Protection would take over the service once they sign a new contract.  Then they installed what they claimed to be upgrades, but in reality removed the current system and installed their own, leaving the homeowner paying two separate security bills.

“You could (be victimized twice) in the sense that you had a perfectly good system and then now you are being asked to pay additionally for a new system, Abby Kuzma, deputy attorney general with the state’s Consumer Protection Division, told WRTV-TV.

Meanwhile, Jack Nielson, the head of corporate communications for Utah-based Platinum Protection, says that the company is taking immediate action to investigate the complaints and is committed to resolving the matter.

89-year-old Fires Gun at Intruder

Des Moines police in Iowa say an 89-year-old gun-toting woman scared off a burglar after he broke into her home.

Police were called out to the woman’s home on a burglary in progress around 5:30 a.m.  Upon arriving they found the 36-year-old suspect, Nelson McAlpine, and arrested him.

Officers then went inside the home and met with the homeowner, Beatrice Turner, who said she heard and saw McAlpine punching her front door and putting a hole in it.

“He kicked this, he broke all this out. And then he kicked all this out. See, and all this here,” Turner told KCCI-TV.

Turner told police that she grabbed her 22 caliber pistol and confronted the burglar and then shot once at him once inside the home. The bullet did not hit McAlpine, but it was enough to send him running out the door.

“After he started kicking the door, that’s when I got my gun. And that’s when he stood there. And that’s when I fired my shot, you know. The Lord was with me, I never got scared,” said Turner.

Although the bad guy was caught, it could have been a lot worse.  Besides a gun, a home security system is a great way to protect your family and your home.

School District accused of taking 56,000 Images of Students at Home

In Philadelphia, the plot thickens surrounding a lawsuit that alleges a local school spied on students at home through school-issued laptops.

The webcam spy case against the Lower Marion School District (LMSD) has taken a few twists.  According to reports, 56,000 images were taken by the district’s security software, capturing students in their homes.  Apparently, LMSD was using software to track stolen laptops.  However, the district is accused of taking images even when laptops were not reported stolen. 

The lawsuit came about after one student, Blake Robbins, got in trouble based on images taken with his school-issued laptop.  As The Tech Herald reports, the problem was two-fold.  First, the discipline issues were mistaken, as he was popping candy and not pills, and second, neither he nor his parents knew about the security software before it was allowed in their home.  LMSD said that Robbins was being monitored because his parents did not pay the insurance fee so he was not authorized to take the laptop home. 

Meanwhile, LMSD issued a statement saying they regretted that the security software was never mentioned to students and parents, and that there were fewer than 50 activations of the software and only two people had access to images.  However, new reports indicate the software was activated nearly 80 times and that about 56,000 images were taken.  The count for Robbins alone is 400 images which include him partially dressed, sleeping, his family, and desktop screenshots showing IM conversations.