Don’t Post Home Surveillance Video Too Quickly, Police Say

Authorities warn what gets posted on social media may not be accurate and can create unnecessary hysteria, particularly if an arrest has already been made that the public doesn’t know about.

As doorbell cameras and other smart home surveillance systems become more common, experts are urging residents not to post that video of the suspected burglar on your front porch until you’ve talked to police, reports the Detroit Free Press. “We like to be notified first so we can start our investigation prior to the public starting their investigation,” said Berkley, Mi., Public Safety Director Matt Koehn. An uptick in interest in home security systems, particularly affordable and easy-to-monitor doorbell cameras, and social media platforms, such as Nextdoor and Facebook, make it easier than ever for homeowners to share videos and photos of suspicious activities in their neighborhoods. Authorities warn what gets posted on social media may not be accurate and can create unnecessary hysteria, particularly if an arrest has already been made that the public doesn’t know about. In some instances, people may be falsely accusing someone of a crime when that person had a legitimate reason for being on their porch.

Video can help police identify a suspect, vehicle or license plate, provide clothing description and other circumstantial evidence and show a suspected criminal’s mode of operating. In Chesterfield Township, police are asking residents or businesses with private video surveillance to register with Chesterfield’s Observation Program. If an incident happened in the vicinity of a person’s camera system, detectives can ask the owner to review the video to see if it contains any valuable information. Peter Henning, a Wayne State University law professor and former federal prosecutor, said privately-gathered surveillance video can be helpful to police because there are no Constitutional issues, such as the Fourth Amendment, which protects people against unreasonable searches and seizures.


Opioid Epidemic Offers Different View of Addiction: Mason

“Locking people up for long sentences, arresting people and putting them in jail for drug crimes are not what produces safer communities,” says Karol Mason, president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

The movement “about rethinking about what we do with our criminal-justice system is nonpartisan,” John Jay College of Criminal Justice President Karol Mason tells the Washington Post. “It’s not a conservative issue. It’s not a liberal issue. People realize it’s a people issue.” Mason notes that many jail inmates “are really drug addicts,” adding, “The opioid epidemic has opened up an opportunity for us to think about drug addiction differently, and see it as a health issue and not a crime issue.”

“The challenge for me,” Mason says, “is getting people to think of our criminal justice system in that right framework of what’s gonna create safer communities. And we know from research that locking people up for long sentences, arresting people and putting them in jail for drug crimes are not what produces safer communities. What produces safer communities is looking at what are the causal factors putting people into our criminal justice system: lack of opportunity, lack of jobs, health care, education poverty. We’ve got so many people in our criminal justice system simply because they’re poor, and what we ought to be doing is investing upstream in keeping people out of the system and providing opportunities.”


Should Chicago Spend Money on a Police Academy?

Supporters want to spent $95 million on a new facility to train police. Opponents say Chicago already allocates too many funds to law enforcement and that an academy won’t solve the city’s crime problems.

A year and a half after the U.S. Justice Department issued a report criticizing the Chicago Police Department’s use of force and racially discriminatory conduct, tensions between the police and community remain high in many neighborhoods. One major point of contention is a proposed $95 million police and fire academy. The planned 30-acre campus would include state-of-the-art training facilities and provide much-needed jobs to residents in a community struggling with poverty and gun violence, say supporters. The academy has become a flashpoint for many politicians and community members, who argue that the money would be better spent elsewhere, reports the Christian Science Monitor. The proposal for a new police academy was made after the police shooting of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old who was shot 16 times by an officer as he walked away from police in 2014.

The Chicago Police Department solves one in 20 homicides, and that rate has been declining. At the same time, the city has paid victims of police misconduct more than $50 million this year alone, a marked increase from last year. Now, the city is creating a consent decree for the police department, which would require adoption of suggested by DOJ. Local organizers say a new police academy on the West Side will not solve the underlying problems of policing and crime in Chicago. They point out that a new facility is not the same as better training and that the police department has already changed its curriculum, graduating three classes of officers who received what the mayor has called “best-in-class training.” Chicago spends 39 percent of its municipal budget on policing, while New York spends just 8 percent and Los Angeles spends 26 percent, says the Center for Popular Democracy. This means the city has less funds for things like schools and social services.


Finding Shooters Before They Shoot Again

A crime lab in the San Francisco Bay area has made an impressive dent in gun violence by helping local cops swiftly identify weapons used in crime through the 20-year-old National Integrated Ballistic Information Network. So why aren’t other police departments taking advantage of the network?

The criminals terrorizing the East Bay suburbs outside of Oakland, Ca., were getting bolder.

They robbed a family in well-to-do Fremont, Ca., at gunpoint. They broke into another house with pistols drawn, ready to confront residents. They shot a local school board member and pistol-whipped her husband as the victims unloaded groceries in their driveway, and then fled with a purse and cell phone.

For weeks in the summer of 2016, police struggled to gather enough evidence to arrest the men. Then one of them tried to dispose of a gun.

[That provided the evidence police needed to crack the case—thanks to a local crime lab that has uniquely positioned itself as a major player in combating the area’s endemic gun violence.]

As one suspect fled from carjacking a Danville man in his garage, police say he tossed his Glock in a commuter lot beside the freeway. Investigators from the county gang task force, who were monitoring the man through a wiretap on his cell phone, picked up the gun within minutes. They delivered the weapon to the Contra Costa County crime lab, where technicians used a sophisticated ballistics database to link it to shell casings from three other recent shootings, including the one that left the school board member hospitalized.

With those leads in hand, investigators gathered enough evidence to arrest eight members of the so-called Swerve Team gang and charge them with three murders, 14 attempted murders, six armed robberies, and two carjackings.

“The gun was the first link,” said Robert Pamplona, a senior inspector on the county’s gang task force.

Law enforcement departments across the country have access to the same system that Contra Costa has been using to catch the people committing gun crimes on its streets. It’s known as the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN), and it’s maintained by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).


When a gun is fired, it leaves a unique marking on the shell casing it ejects. Images of those casings make up the NIBIN database. Pictured: A microscope in the Contra Costa lab for examining bullets. Photo by Cayce Clifford/The Trace

NIBIN is like a giant fingerprint database—but for guns, which when fired leave unique markings on each shell casing they eject. By entering images of fresh casings into the system, investigators can make matches to those already on file, connecting different shootings to the same gun, and from there to shooters or gangs.

But NIBIN only works if police assiduously log all the casings they recover, and do so quickly, before trails grow cold. In many cities and counties, that’s not happening. Studies show many police departments and crime labs are misusing NIBIN, or not using it at all.

“Research has consistently shown that police investigators often do not receive forensic evidence testing results until after their investigation has concluded,” a team from Sam Houston State University in Texas wrote in the Journal of Forensic Sciences last year.

“These time lags prevent investigators from using this critical evidence in the manner that we expect it to be used: to assist in identifying suspects in criminal cases.”

The Contra Costa crime lab’s proficiency with NIBIN is the result of protocols put into place by its no-excuses director.

Those procedures have also made it an exception. In partnership with NBC Bay Area, The Trace surveyed California’s 18 city and county crime laboratories. On average, they report taking three months to enter evidence into NIBIN and get back leads. That’s more than 15 times as long as the turnarounds that Contra Costa achieves.

In the Bay Area, the San Francisco Police Department’s crime lab last year processed bullet casings up to 95 days after police collected them. The Santa Clara crime lab reports that it takes “months to a year” to run casings through NIBIN and look for leads. Both labs say they are working to narrow that window, and San Francisco says that, so far this year, its average turnaround time is about eight days.

At least three California counties — Fresno, Ventura and Orange — are not using NIBIN at all.

“If a lead is taking eight months to get into hands of investigators, it’s worthless,” said Sam Rabadi, who was head of the firearms division at ATF in 2012 and 2013, and who now works for Vigilant Solutions, a private investigative technology company.

“The overarching goal is to get to the shooter before they shoot again.”

Public officials are desperate for more ways to link guns to shooters. About two out of every five murders in the U.S. go unsolved, according to the FBI. Solve rates for nonfatal shootings are in the single digits in several major cities.

Unapprehended, perpetrators strike again. Street justice fills the void, leading to revenge shootings.

“NIBIN is a chance to deter that small number of people who are prone to grab guns and shoot at other people,” said William King, who authored the first comprehensive report on NIBIN for the U.S. Department of Justice in 2013.

“NIBIN holds those people accountable.”

By misusing the ballistic fingerprinting, or not using it at all, King said, “police have failed a lot of communities in the inner cities.”

Better ballistics testing, on its own, won’t fix the problem. Many police departments are understaffed, have strained relationships with the communities they rely on for witnesses, or simply don’t prioritize solving gun crimes. But taking full advantage of NIBIN’s capabilities can help cops catch shooters who might otherwise remain at large.

Underperforming Crime Labs

Contra Costa County used to be among the many jurisdictions underperforming in their use of NIBIN. Then, in 2015, a former San Francisco detective named Pamela Hofsass took over as director of its crime lab. Without an influx of funding or manpower, she transformed how her department taps the technology’s potential. The results she achieved helped shift how law enforcement throughout the county approaches solving gun crimes.

Hofsass dramatically cut the time it took to get NIBIN leads back to sheriff’s deputies and local police officers. That, in turn, helped them make more arrests, giving them greater incentives to pick up shell casings at shootings and bring them to the lab.

Pamela Hofsass

Without an influx of funding or manpower, Contra Costa lab boss Pamela Hofsass transformed how her department taps NIBIN’s potential and processes ballistic evidence. Photo by Cayce Clifford/The Trace

“Back in the day, when there was a shooting where no one was hurt, the officer might have kicked those casings into the curb,” Hofsass said. “They thought, there’s no blood here, no injured victims, there’s nothing. Now we know that the people who end up killing people usually start by shooting randomly.”

Ron Nichols, a former ATF NIBIN head who is widely credited with redesigning the agency’s protocols to get faster results, said the changes that Hofsass wrought are possible for any department.

“It’s less about money and resources,” he said, “and more about getting labs to change their mindset about how they do things.”

Ballistic investigations used to be an analog business. Firearm examiners would take Polaroid pictures of cartridge casings and store them in paper files. When a new shooting happened, they’d pull out the photographs and eyeball them for matches.

Beginning about 20 years ago, the ATF launched NIBIN, and brought the art of ballistics comparisons into the digital age. These days, after police send shell casings to a crime lab, staffers load them one at a time into an imaging machine, which takes photographs and uploads them into the database.

A gun collected as evidence goes through its own procedure. Technicians test fire it into a water tank, then gather the casings and enter them into NIBIN, looking for matches with ballistic signatures already on file.

The ATF now touts NIBIN as a cornerstone of its national crime-fighting operation. The agency maintains 179 NIBIN sites across the country, serving 3,000 law enforcement organizations. The system contains about 2.8 million images of shell casings.

Gun Violence Blind Spots

But laggards remain, leaving blind spots in the system. As of 2016, according to The Marshall Project, 11 states didn’t have a single NIBIN machine. Another 19 had only one or two. The ATF declined to provide The Trace with updated numbers.

Where NIBIN is available, many agencies are still struggling to realize its potential.

In Chicago, officials working to combat the city’s high murder rate have made efforts to collect more shell casings. A Chicago Police spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi, said officers now try to pick up and process shell casings after every reported shooting, even when no one is hurt.

But that requires the department to know when a round has been fired, and the city has installed gunshot-detection sensors in only about half of all precincts. In the others, it’s extremely difficult for officers to locate casings after the fact.

Processing times can also hinder investigations. Casings for homicides usually get entered into NIBIN within a couple of days, Guglielmi said. But lower priority cases, including shootings that don’t result in injuries, take a few weeks.

Experts say that delay can stall officers at critical moments — when it might be possible to stop someone from killing, or killing again.

“The sooner that I can get it [a lead] in my hands, the sooner I can get to the shooter before he or she reoffends,” ATF Firearms Operations Division Chief Michael Eberhardt told NBC Bay Area.

Last year, the ATF dispatched vans equipped with NIBIN equipment to Chicago, Baltimore, and Houston. The equipment in the vehicles is no more sophisticated than what each city is already using in-house. The bureau’s goal was to show local investigators how fast evidence can be processed when protocols are streamlined, and to entice investigators by getting them quick leads that help them bring more shooters to justice.

Spread over 700 acres of rolling hills northeast of San Francisco, Contra Costa County is dotted in some parts with cow farms and in others with desperate urban blight.

A war has raged for years in the western part of the county between gang members in Central and North Richmond.

“Out of the friends I had growing up, six are dead and three are incarcerated and not coming home,” said LeDamien Flowers, a North Richmond community organizer.

Within Richmond city limits, one in every three homicides went unsolved between 2011 and 2016.

When Hofsass took over the Contra Costa County crime lab in 2015, there was a backlog of more than 700 shell casings waiting to be scanned. On average, it took well over a year for the lab to get back to police with the results of a ballistics test.

“We’re talking about major crimes — attempted homicides or homicides with fired cartridge cases just sitting there,” she said.

Hofsass understood from her own experience as a detective that the lab had to do better.

“I knew from when I was in homicide, if I didn’t have critical information, then I wasn’t moving forward in that particular aspect of the case,” she said. “We had to think about what the detectives really need — to streamline it and strip it down. So that’s what we did. We overhauled the whole process.”

On her watch, Hofsass resolved, technicians would get detectives leads within at least four days of the shooting—two days to get the evidence to NIBIN, another two to get the lead back from the ATF.

But first, she had to get her staff onboard.

Prior to Hofsass’s arrival, “we were just functioning to put out fires right before things went to trial,” said Donnie Finley, her chief deputy. “Some days her message went over better than others. I remember people saying ‘We can’t do that, we don’t have enough people.’ ”

Tidy and no-nonsense, Hofsass convinced her team that they didn’t need more sets of hands, just smarter protocols.

Before Hofsass took over the lab, ballistic evidence routinely sat on shelves while it waited to be tested for DNA and fingerprints. Now it was immediately assigned to a technician.

She cross-trained her staff so members outside the ballistics team could help out colleagues when their own workload got thin. Investigators who primarily worked crime scenes were taught how to enter evidence into NIBIN on the side. Latent fingerprint examiners were shown how to record the make, model, and function of crime guns when ballistics tests got backed up.

Hofsass bought iPads to replace the paperwork that lab technicians had been doing by hand. Lab workers who used to have to draw pictures of shell cases and their markings now snapped photos instead.

crime lab

A technician at the Contra Costa lab demonstrates the process of test-firing a gun to capture its ballistic “fingerprint.” Photo by Cayce Clifford/The Trace

She also asked for help from the ATF. At many local police labs, in-house criminalists do the initial side-by-side comparisons between shell casings they’ve entered into NIBIN and possible matches that the computer returns. That’s important work, since those initial hits are the ones that investigators can run with right away as they hustle to get shooters off the street. But it’s also time consuming.

In Contra Costa, and at 19 other labs across the country, those first matches are now made by ATF technicians based in Huntsville, Al. Hofsass said that’s been a huge help streamlining her process and opens up time her technicians can use to button up cases when they are ready to go to trial.

The ATF says it wants to do image comparisons for more agencies. The bureau plans to expand this service to as many as 30 additional sites next year.

The ATF also lent Contra Costa two technicians to help test fire about 600 crime guns that had been sitting in storage, and get that ballistic information into the NIBIN system. As they plowed through their backlog, Contra Costa crime lab workers started with the most recent cases, so they could get leads to detectives while the evidence was still fresh.

Rewarding Success

Today, Hofsass’s team is completely caught up. To keep her staff motivated, she painstakingly plans elaborate ceremonies to recognize techs who meet their benchmarks. When Hofsass hears that efficient lab work helped to make an arrest, or clear a suspect, she broadcasts that information to her staff, to make sure they know the work they’re doing matters.

“I’m saying there’s a way to be efficient, effective, and maintain your quality,” she said. “We’re here to make the world a safer place. So why would you want to take your time?”

Before Josh Medel worked for the FBI/Contra Costa County Safe Streets Task Force, he was an intelligence analyst in Iraq. He studied satellite images, drone data, and classified reports, trying to discern what opposition leaders were were planning. In Contra Costa, he looked at crime reports, social media feeds and cell phone data to figure out how who was running Contra Costa’s gangs and what they might do next.

When he heard what Hofsass was doing to produce faster ballistics results, he called the lab and asked for a year’s worth of the data it had collected. Analyzing it, he mapped out a sprawling diagram of the county’s gun crime: which guns were connected to which shootings, and which gang members might be connected to those guns—valuable information for prosecutors in California, where gang affiliation can mean longer prison sentences. In some cases, the webs sprawled to dozens of incidents.

The picture Medel was able to put together from Contra Costa’s NIBIN data was usually not enough to yield arrests on its own. But it was packed with valuable clues.

On the day of the carjacking that broke the Swerve case, police test-fired the gun that the suspect tossed in the commuter lot and entered the spent casings into NIBIN. When the ATF sent initial matches back, the results showed that three other recent shootings might have been done with the same weapon.

Investigators then gathered surveillance videos, GPS, DNA and cell phone data looking for other ties between the four shootings. They plugged that material into Medel’s map to figure out where a particular crime spree might fit in with wider county trends.

In the end, the Swerve Team linked 16 guns to 42 different shootings. Seven men were charged in the crimes. Police said that officers confiscated more than 200 illegal guns as a result of the investigation.

Getting shooters and guns off the street was not the only victory that came with the Swerve Team arrests. The headlines, and the fact that ballistics leads were key, got the attention of police at departments large and small across the Bay Area.

“Cops started saying, ‘Wow, maybe we need to clear out our evidence room,’” Medel said.

Every year, technicians at California’s Contra Costa County crime lab process hundreds of guns and shell casings recovered by police. Photo by Cayce Clifford/The Trace

Hofsass took advantage of the renewed enthusiasm for NIBIN to further refine Contra Costa’s use of the technology. She set up a drop box at the county’s central evidence locker. There, casings can be deposited round the clock with a simple evidence form, even if they aren’t collected as part of a criminal case. She’s planning a second drop box at the county jail, where police have to go regularly anyway when they book suspects.

For Carol Brown, the Swerve Team arrests marked a life-changing moment. A school board member in the leafy San Francisco suburb of Orinda, Brown and her husband were unloading groceries in their driveway in September 2016 when masked men attacked them. They beat Brown’s husband with a gun and shot her through the arm and chest.

The crime made headlines across the Bay Area, shocking in its apparent randomness.

Brown would spend two days in a locked ward in the hospital, protected from assailants who remained at large. On the third day came the NIBIN hit, when investigators connected the gun tossed in the commuter lot to shell cases from Brown’s driveway, compiling enough evidence to arrest the suspects.

Brown didn’t know that Hofsass’s ballistics team helped solve the case. What she knew was that she was safe again.

“I will not soon forget that moment,” said Brown. “Hearing they were in jail was the first time after it happened I felt like I could breathe.”

Editor’s Note: A video accompanying this story is available here.

Earlier versions of this story were originally published in The Trace and the San Jose Mercury. Ann Givens is a 2018 John Jay Crime Reporting Fellow and a juror in the annual John Jay Excellence in Criminal Justice Journalism Awards. She welcomes comments from readers.


Parkland Students Finish Summer Political Tour

Survivors of the Feb. 14 Florida school massacre visited 80 cities and towns in two dozen states, working to register young new voters who might help defeat political leaders supported by the National Rifle Association. “It’s going to take a cultural shift” to change U.S. gun laws, says a student leader.

Six months after the school shooting in Parkland, Fa., some surviving students are becoming more organized and more ambitious — what Axios calls “ringleaders of a vocal, demanding, tech-savvy strata of their generation. Axios traveled with a group of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School alumni who finished a summer-long bus tour on Sunday in Newtown, Ct., home of Sandy Hook Elementary School. The Parkland activists are aware that many baby boomers and millennial adults are throwing up their hands over gun laws and placing their hope for change in high school students. An anti-establishment strain runs through it, a trend that could be decisive in both local and national races in midterm elections.

When 17 of their classmates and teachers were killed on Feb. 14, the Parkland students shouted: “Never again.” A dozen more school killings occurred later. On Wednesday, classes resume at Stoneman Douglas and at other U.S. schools in the subsequent days and weeks. “It’s going to take a cultural shift” before U.S. gun laws change significantly, Jaclyn Corin, president of the incoming senior class at Stoneman Douglas, said in Newtown. “And a cultural shift always takes a generation or two.” Parkland classmates ran a 59-day summer bus campaign. They hit 80 cities and towns in two dozen states, working to register young new voters who might help defeat political leaders supported by the National Rifle Association. This fall, the students plan a get-out-the-vote drive that will leverage their vaunted influence on social media, especially Twitter. At event after event there appeared to be far more adults than their 18-and-older intended audience. Registration of voters 18-29 this year has barely budged from the pre-Parkland average, the Washington Post found. The young organizers are pursuing a strategy of not changing votes, but turning non-voters into voters.


The Public Is Responsible for Crime-Not Cops

Observations Cops take the heat for rising crime, but that emphasis is misplaced. It’s communities that control crime. This is criminology 101. But if you want to see the power of law enforcement, remove them or criticize them to the point of inaction and see what happens. Author Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Retired federal senior […]

The post The Public Is Responsible for Crime-Not Cops appeared first on Crime in America.Net.

Observations Cops take the heat for rising crime, but that emphasis is misplaced. It’s communities that control crime. This is criminology 101. But if you want to see the power of law enforcement, remove them or criticize them to the point of inaction and see what happens. Author Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Retired federal senior […]

The post The Public Is Responsible for Crime-Not Cops appeared first on Crime in America.Net.


Emergency Declared Before Charlottesville Anniversary

Charlottesville, Va., officials were criticized for their handling of a white supremacist rally that turned deadly. This year, they have declared a state of emergency before the event’s first anniversary.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and the city of Charlottesville declared states of emergency ahead of the first anniversary of last summer’s white supremacist rally that turned deadly, the Washington Post reports. The declaration, which took effect Wednesday afternoon and could run through Sunday, will increase state and local law enforcement’s capacity to respond to civil unrest that may occur as white nationalists and neo-Nazis and counterdemonstrators mark the rally’s anniversary this weekend. The declaration earmarks $2 million of state money to pay for the response efforts.

The city expects a large crowd for its planned commemoration of the three people who died Aug. 12. Officials are preparing in case other violent clashes break out. “It’s hard to believe it’s been a year ago that we had the tragic events in Charlottesville,” said Col. Gary Settle, superintendent of the Virginia State Police. “And it’s unfortunate we’re here this year planning for potential violence and potential civil unrest again.” The violence at last year’s rally seemingly caught the city flat-footed, raising questions about its preparedness. A scathing independent review criticized the city’s response, and the fallout led to the police chief’s resignation. In downtown Charlottesville this weekend, several streets will be closed to vehicles and police will set up a tightly patrolled security area with just two entry points. It will be illegal for those over 16 to wear masks or other ­identity-obscuring apparel, and the city has published a lengthy list of items that will be prohibit, ranging from ice picks and swords to catapults and nunchucks. Paintball guns, BB guns and pellet guns are banned, but firearms are not.


Will Police Respond When Your Burglar Alarm Goes Off?

A study by a home security startup argues they may not. The firm, which advertises its own “artificial intelligence” alternative, says a nationwide survey of law enforcement agencies found that in cities with populations of 50,000 or more, police won’t answer alarm alerts from 40 percent of residents.

Unless you plan to take on burglars and trespassers yourself, a home alarm system might not always be a worthwhile investment, according to the home security startup Deep Sentinel Labs.

The firm, which markets what it says is a more effective alternative to security alarms, released a study Wednesday claiming that for more than 40 percent of residents living in U.S. cities with populations of 50,000 or more, police will not respond or do not guarantee a response to residential alarm calls.

Basing the study on interviews with police in cities across America, the firm claimed that “most police officers believe that 95 percent of audible alarms are false.”

“As a result, many cities and/or law enforcement agencies across America are adopting policies of not responding or not guaranteeing a response to alarms,” the study added.

Deep Sentinel said it found that 78 percent of those living in cities with populations of more than one million will not receive a response, or are not guaranteed a response to alarm calls by local law enforcement.

For cities with populations between 50,000 and one million, the proportion of inhabitants where a home alarm alert will not bring a police response drops to around 30 percent.

The unsigned study said its conclusions were based on an analysis of all city and local laws and policies governing how law enforcement responds to residential home alarm calls, and were “further validated by contacting local police departments by phone.”

The startup’s analysis makes clear that it believes its own home security product, using artificial intelligence, is a more effective and reliable form of home protection because it offers “real time prediction and prevention”—a claim for which it does not offer any statistical support.

The website suggests that the product has still not been marketed to the public.

The top 10 “no-alarm response” cities of the 765 cities analyzed were San Jose, Ca. ; San Francisco; Seattle; Detroit; Las Vegas, Nevada; Milwaukee; Fremont, Ca.; Modesto, Ca.; Fontana, Ca.; and Salt Lake City.

Some of the study’s assertions have been validated by earlier data. According to 2002 data from the Center for Problem Oriented Policing, police respond to over 36 million alarm activations every year, costing an estimated $1.8 billion, 95 percent of which turn out to be false alarms.

Still, the center added, “studies from both the United States and the United Kingdom have shown burglar alarms to be among the most effective burglary-deterrence measures.”

But it went on to say, “a number of other measures that do not impose a substantial burden on police are also effective at preventing burglary.

“Occupancy, or signs of occupancy, is the biggest deterrent.”

The center concluded that while burglar alarms provide a “modest” amount of security burglaries have steadily “and substantially” declined in the U.S. since the early 1980s.

“During the same time, the number of premises with alarms rose, but there is no evidence of a link between the two,” said the center. “During the 1990s through 2004, when alarm ownership experienced a steep rise, other types of crime declined just as sharply as burglary, suggesting that factors other than an increase in the number of alarm systems fueled the burglary decline.”

According to the 2002 study by the Center, some 32 million security alarms have been installed across the United States.

The Deep Sentinel analysis argued that the high number of false alarms has become a major factor in law enforcement policies governing how and when to respond to burglar arms.

Since false alarms “drain resources that would otherwise be used to address real offenses,” many police agencies around the country have “adopted policies of not responding or not guaranteeing a response to alarms,” the study said.

The complete study can be downloaded here.

This summary was prepared by TCR news intern Elena Schwartz. Readers’ comments are welcome.


Criminal Justice Programs Get National Awards

The National Criminal Justice Association honors programs nationwide that deal with imprisoned fathers, opioid overdoses, domestic violence victims and diversion of low-level drug suspects.

Anticrime efforts in the nation’s four regions won awards this week from the National Criminal Justice Association, which met in Fort Worth, Tx., for its annual forum. The awards went to projects that addressed an important issue, involved collaboration among agencies, provided evidence of effectiveness and can be replicated easily elsewhere. In the Northeast, the award went to the Hope House Father-to-Child effort, which aims to improve relationships between children and their incarcerated fathers. One part of the program involves fathers recording videos of themselves reading stories that are sent to their children. Honored in the Midwest was the Heroin Partnership Project in Ross County, Ohio, which works to deal with opioid overdoses. Elements include the use of Narcan by first responders and treatment services provided in jails. Overdose deaths dropped 25 percent in the county last year while they rose elsewhere in the state.

The award for the Southern region went to the Tennessee-based Jean Crowe Advocacy Center, which helps ensure that domestic violence victims are safe while they go through the court process. The center helps 8,000 victims annually, with the collaboration of the police department, the district attorney’s office, the legal aid society and private organizations. Success of the program has prompted Nashville to build a Family Justice Center that will open next year. Winning the Western award was the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program in Seattle’s King County. Its goal is to provide law enforcement “a credible alternative to booking people into jail” in low-level drug cases. An evaluation found that people who enter LEAD are 58 percent less likely than non-participants to be re-arrested, and the cost averaged $532 monthly, compared with up to $5,000 for incarceration. LEAD-type programs are operating in 17 places in the U.S., with eight other sites in the process of launching.


NYC Will Send ‘Mobile Trauma Units’ to Crime Scenes

New York City will spend $1.8 million this year to roll out “mobile trauma units” — buses filled with counselors and peacekeepers known as violence interrupters — to crime scenes throughout the city in an effort to ease tensions in communities after acts of gun violence.

New York City will spend $1.8 million this year to roll out “mobile trauma units” — buses filled with counselors and peacekeepers — to crime scenes throughout the city in an effort to ease tensions in communities after acts of gun violence, the Wall Street Journal reports. The buses will be deployed in January 2019 to each borough. Some team members have prior criminal records and former gang affiliations. Known as “violence interrupters,” they use their credibility and connections to resolve disputes before they escalate. “A lot of people don’t realize once the funeral is over, once the candles stop burning, once the media is gone, people are still suffering, people are still afraid,” said Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson, former chair of the City Council’s public safety committee, who pushed for the initiative.

Eric Cumberbatch of the Mayor’s Office to Prevent Gun Violence said the program will likely cost $875,000 annually following the roll out. He said the program would help community members heal while allowing anti-violence advocates to take responsibility in ensuring public safety. Like the New York Police Department’s mobile-command posts, the advocates’ units will stay at crime scenes up to a week after crimes are committed. Eugene O’Donnell, a professor of law and police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said it would be hard to justify the use of such a program. “They’re going to try to stop retaliation. The claim will be since they intervened, there was no retaliation action,” O’Donnell said. “As with any preventive strategy, it’s going to be hard in this case to prove if they’ve actually had any success.”