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High-Technology vs. Crime

Grant to help SHSU, Partners Train Police
in Latest Crime-Fighting Techniques

"The era of cyber cops isn't sometime in the next millennium. It's here now."

-- LARRY HOOVER director
SHSU Police Research Center

Staying one step ahead of the bad guys now involves more than quick wits and a fast draw. Crime has gone high tech, and law enforcement is challenged to keep up.

  • In Pinole, Calif., the police department monitors a dozen 340 degree, low light, full color, pan and tilt cameras--capable of zooming in on a suspect to capture a refined color image, or read a vehicle license plate.
  • In Charlotte, N. C., officers are alerted by e-mail or pager when certain information appears in a regional database.
  • Officers in Baltimore, Miami and Los Angeles are wearing and field testing digital cameras, laser range finders, and computers that include databases with scientific and legal information.
  • Westbrook, Maine, officers are testing miniature video cameras attached to their clothing that film interactions with citizens--enhancing safety and protecting against false accusations.
  • The "patrol car of the future" developed by the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University includes an in-car laptop, to provide a history of all previous calls at an address to officers en route. They can then walk into an incident with insight they may not have had previously even after 30 minutes or more at the scene.

"The era of cyber cops isn't sometime in the next millennium," said Larry Hoover, director of the Police Research Center at Sam Houston State University. "It's here now."

And now a partnership of universities has received a $500,000 grant from the National Institute of Justice's Office of Science and Technology to train police agencies in the use of emergent technology. Coordination/administration of the Advanced Technology Against Crime (ATAC) project is the responsibility of the SHSU center.

The partnership, termed the Consortium for the Future, includes Ohio State University, the University of California at Irvine, the University of Virginia, and Weber State University. Eastern Kentucky University is also participating.

Hoover said that a focus of the project is transfer of selected military technology to the police. The group will work with the Naval Air Warfare Center in Orlando, Fla.

"Heads-up" display of computerized information on the windshield of a patrol vehicle, a technology developed for fighter pilots, will allow officers rushing to a crime or accident scene to read detailed descriptions of persons, vehicles, or events without taking their eyes off the roadway.

Global positioning system devices developed by the Department of Defense can pinpoint the location of an officer to within several feet. Tracking devices based on the same technology planted in bait cars can lead police to auto theft chop shops.

Technology can also provide officers responsible for investigations with information heretofore inaccessible. A system called Fuginet, being developed by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for instantaneous dissemination of information on parolees, will soon be widely available.

The DNA databank being maintained by the Texas Department of Public Safety was recently credited with its first "cold" hit, linking a sex offender not already identified as a suspect to an offense committed years ago. Regional information data pools are being developed nationwide.

A vexing problem for law enforcement is the growth in technology-related crime. Various forms of such crime are victimizing increasing numbers of citizens. Theft of wireless communications services, for example, is now pervasive. Unfortunately the "who you gonna call" question is difficult to answer.

The private sector can respond with preventive measures, but only public police agencies are authorized to investigate and prosecute. Hoover said that another focus of the project is identification of counter-technology available to law enforcement to deal with technology-related crime.

The ATAC project will conduct needs assessments, identify emergent technology transferable to law enforcement, and develop distance learning packages to train police specialists.

"This consortium provides Sam Houston State the opportunity to work with universities with an array of capabilities to solve national problems," said Michael Warnock, interim associate vice president of SHSU's Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. "Several other programs are in the works to capitalize on these combined resources."


Contact: Larry Hoover
Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak
Oct. 2, 1998
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