Smart Policing

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Police are Crunching Data to Stop Murders Before They Happen

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Baby Missing
Kansas City’s smart policing push users computers to find likely criminals and their associates.

Civil rights groups say that tactic raises serious privacy questions.

Kansas City had a murder problem.

For the past decade it’s violent crime rate had made it one of the top ten dangerous cities in America.

Then three years ago, city officials decided to try a strategy being used by a growing number of police departments across the country: smart policing. The idea is to sift through huge amounts of data to help prevent crime.

Police and researchers use computers to figure out who is most likely to commit murders, robberies and rapes. Software also looks through law enforcement files to uncover who those high-risk individuals know so police can pressure the entire group to steer clear of violence.

“This is not about putting more people in prison, it’s about putting the right people in prison,” said Capt. Joe McHale of the Kansas City Police Department.

The program, described by McHale as a success, is a huge shift from the traditional police work of walking a neighborhood beat and building personal contacts. By using technology, police can connect information within police reports that would otherwise go unnoticed and learn where to focus their attention.

But Kansas City’s approach also raises questions by people who fear that it could violate privacy. They also ask whether police are abusing their powers by putting residents under the microscope, including innocent people and those who are just minor offenders.

The program officially launched in January 2013, but was conceived a few months earlier, when city officials were inspired by smart policing in other cities. The police department partnered with the University of Missouri in Kansas City to learn how to analyze their data.

“The police were unaware of who keeps getting picked up,” said Ken Novak, a criminology professor at the university who is helping with the program. “The first component of network analysis was looking at the police department’s own records.”

The plan Kansas City ultimately decided on goes a step further than merely data analysis. It also includes a carrot and stick approach to combating crime.

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Could the FBI See Your Selfies?

Court case may enable FBI to request more photos for new facial recognition database.

Investigative Database - FBI Can See Your Selfies?

Investigative Database – FBI Can See Your Selfies?

The FBI could have 52 million face images on file by 2015, according to new research.

Article Courtesy of:  U.S News – By 

U.S. News & World Report

The FBI is preparing to launch a facial recognition database this summer that includes photos of people without criminal records- and a court case in New York may expand the ability of the government to request data from Facebook to help.

The bureau’s database, called the Next Generation Identification system, or NGI, builds upon the government’s fingerprint database and is slated to be operational this summer, according to the FBI.

This database will contain photos of anybody who sends images as part of an application for a job that requires fingerprinting or a background check – even if that person has no criminal record – according to research by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital privacy advocacy organization. The FBI is slated to have 52 million face images by 2015, according to the EFF.

Facebook, by comparison, processes more than 350 million new images each day from its 1.28 billion monthly active users. The social network’s friends lists and group pages also make it easier for the company to narrow down possible results when helping customers tag photos using facial recognition.

Facebook’s DeepFace facial recognition system has a 97 percent level of efficiency, which any government surveillance network would envy.

That’s even better than the FBI’s new system, which so far promises an 85 percent chance of identifying a suspect from a photo, according to the EFF.

The social network is appealing a court case from 2013 that might allow the FBI the chance to request some of the facial recognition information as it uses biometrics to follow targets.

Last year a New York judge ordered Facebook to turn over nearly all of the social network’s account data on 381 people, including pages they liked, their messages – and perhaps most dangerously – their photos. Facebook is arguing this broad use of warrants for data requests violates the Fourth Amendment freedom from unreasonable searches by the government. The warrants led to 62 charges in a disability fraud case but the government may keep the seized data indefinitely.

“Facebook says its face recognition system uses…”

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FOR SALE: License Plate Investigative Database that Tracks Your Location

 “Question More”

Private License Plate Scanners Amassing Vast Databases Open to Highest Bidders

Investigative Database - License Plate Scanner Data for Sale

Investigative Database – License Plate Scanner Data for Sale

Automated license plate readers used by car repo companies, for example, collect billions of personal records per year, which contribute to vast databases that can be used by law enforcement, insurance companies, banks, and the like, with few limits.

BetaBoston, working with the Boston Globe, detailed one Boston repo company’s data collection abilities, reporting that New England Associates Inc. can collect $200 to $400 for each vehicle found by an automated reader attached to an unmarked car. The company says it can typically add 8,000 license plate scans to its database in Texas each day.

Digital Recognition Network, which works with New England Associates, says it collects plate scans of 40 percent of all US vehicles per year.

According to the company’s own disclosures, Digital Recognition Network operates in conjunction with around 400 repossession outfits across the US, has increased tenfold its plate scans since September 2010, and adds 70 million scans a month.

The scanners use high-speed cameras and optical character recognition technology to scoop up 1,800 plates a minute, no matter the speed or driving conditions. The scanner also collects the date, time, and GPS location of each read, punctuating the privacy threats associated with plate scanning.

The legal scanners, which usually cost anywhere from $10,000 to $17,000, have few legal limits.

For example, law enforcement – which have used the scanners for years – often have prohibitions on how long they can maintain the information gleaned, but private use is open season for those willing to subscribe for the information.

The top commercial use of the devices falls into the auto finance and auto repossession industries, which both work closely with major banks to track down those who default on loans. Digital Recognition claims its clients include Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., HSBC Holdings, and Citibank.

Banks strongly encourage its repo contractors to use plate scanners, based on their efficiency in tracking down loan defaulters.

“The banks want it,” said Liran Cohen, owner of repo company Massachusetts Recovery Bureau. “All of them make a big deal out of it, since it gives them so much value.”

Yet with few limits, there is little, if any, accountability regarding where and how repossession companies use the scanners. Many companies that spoke to the Globe said they send spotter cars to commercial lots based on the amount of vehicles open for scanning.

Digital Recognition’s website lists “target environments” for repo agents, including “malls, movie theaters, sporting events, and numerous other locations.” The company also suggests repo agents trawl workplaces and commercial lots during the day and apartment complexes and residential areas at night.

Some commercial property owners call this practice trespassing.

“We’re unaware that this is happening, and we’re reaching out to our security teams and law enforcement contacts to get a better handle on it,” said Les Morris, spokesman for Simon Property Group, which owns at least one mall in the Boston area.

“If we saw scanning like this being done, we would throw them out,” said Issie Shait of New England Development, which owns the CambridgeSide Galleria and Bunker Hill Mall District.

Two repo companies said they target low-income housing areas, given the amount of yields collected in the past.

“This is just another example of stereotyping,” said Cambridge Housing Authority deputy executive director Michael Johnston. “But our lots are open, and we don’t have any gated communities in our system, so I don’t know how to prevent it.”

For its part, Digital Recognition said it cannot be blamed for how the scanners are used.

“We have nothing to do with the actual data collection process,” said Chris Metaxas, chief executive of Digital Recognition. “We provide technology to ¬repossession professionals.”

Over 60 Massachusetts police departments have adopted scanners since 2008. In December, the Boston police suspended plate scanner use after a Globe investigation found questionable data management – including the inadvertent public release of over 69,000 license plate numbers.

“Right now, it’s the wild West in terms of how companies can collect, process, and sell this kind of data,”said Kade Crockford of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. “The best legal minds, best public policy thinkers, and ordinary people whose lives are affected need to sit down and think of meaningful ways we can regulate it.”

 “Question More”

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Forbes

Data Brokers Are Now Selling Your Car’s Location For $10 Online

Investigative Database License Plate Scanners

Investigative Database License Plate Scanners

The Berkeley Marina, a stretch of park and an enclosed yacht harbor, juts into the San Francisco Bay.

Visitors regularly drive there to admire the dramatic view that includes Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge. When I lived in the area, I often parked my car, surveyed the vista for many minutes, then drove away if the weather did not prove ideal for windsurfing.

When fertilizer salesman Scott Peterson made his last visits to the Berkeley Marina from his hometown of Modesto, Calif., he had a practical goal in mind. He wanted to see whether his pregnant wife whom he had murdered had washed up along the shoreline. In the Peterson case a decade ago, police placed a GPS tracker onto his vehicles when they began to suspect that he was lying. Peterson had driven a few times to the marina homicide site, even though he told police he had only learned his wife had gone missing after returning from a fishing expedition to the San Francisco Bay. That GPS evidence eventually helped convict him of murder; he is now on death row.

I thought of this story, revealed at Peterson’s murder trial which I occasionally attended, when a prominent data broker announced two weeks ago that it had begun selling locational information on license plates that have been filmed and identified. In recent years, police have also widely embraced license plate recognition to track suspected criminals. Repo men use the technology to recover vehicles; casinos in Las Vegas employ it to monitor cars in their parking lots. And now data broker TLO has begun selling information about the time and location at which cars have been sighted.

“With a massive database of one BILLION vehicle sightings and the addition of up to 50 million new sightings each month, Vehicle Sightings provide valuable information for both locating subjects and investigating the historical whereabouts of both individuals and vehicles,” advertises TLO, a data broker that caters to lawyers, private investigators, law enforcement and insurance firms, among others.The service charges $10 per category of each license plate look up, divided into current, recent and historical.  Cars are photographed or filmed and then matched with license plate recognition software.

Initially I imagined a database that knew almost as much as a GPS locator: that you drove out of state three weekends ago, stopped off at the pharmacy on the way, spent the afternoon at a baseball game, then had dinner at a specific restaurant.

In reality, the feature is quite far from the all-knowing eye in the sky, although it can still reveal intimate clues. I searched for my own car, as well that those of two relatives with their permission. Of five cars that I looked up, three cars turned up nothing, but I found data on the other two.One car had a single sighting:  it was parked on Manhattan’s Upper West Side at 12:40 in the morning last December.  The report included a picture of the car and license plate. A link showed exactly where the car was on Google Maps. For another car, the search turned up data from August last year which showed it parked in Austin, Texas, a few minutes after noon. The lot was in front of a building of doctors’ offices, potentially revealing intimate information about that person’s activity that day.

Simple math suggests it may be a while before such license plate recognition systems can regularly spot specific vehicles. TLO advertises it has a billion vehicle sightings, but according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there are more than a quarter of billion registered vehicles in the country.

That means TLO would hold an average of four sightings per vehicle.“While the coverage is nationwide, certainly there will be areas with more expansive coverage than others,” said James Reilly, TLO’s senior vice president of sales and business development. “Variables such as the amount of time the vehicles are stationed in inaccessible areas (i.e. secured lots at places of employment, gated communities, etc.) could certainly affect the number of opportunities for ‘sighting.’”

Law enforcement agencies are among  the biggest users of automated license plate recognition.

Forbes - License Plate Scanner Investigative Database

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Cyber Security – “The Virtual Battlefield”

War Drums Beat Louder For ‘World War C’

Cyber Security

Article Courtesy of: Kenneth Rapoza | Forbes

Forbes

A report by cyber security firm FireEye says cyber warfare expanding. The U.S. leads the charge in this virtual battlefield.

If the lingo of cyber security experts, zombie warfare might that be that far fetched after all.

Call it “World War C”, and it playing right now at a nation near you. It is quiet, mostly invisible and oddly as safe as it is dangerous.

The ‘C’ in this war zone stands for cyberspace, and industry experts have been warning about it for the last five years.  The war drums are beating louder. Once limited to cybercrime stealing credit card numbers, cyber attacks are becoming a key weapon for governments seeking to defend national sovereignty, project national power or spy on both friend and foe alike, as was brought to light by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed.  The United States uses its soft cyber powers to tap into the computer systems of friendly nations in the E.U. and Brazil.

From strategic cyber espionage campaigns, such as Moonlight Maze and Titan Rain, to the destructive, such as military cyber strikes on Georgia and Iran, human and international conflicts are entering a new phase in their long histories. In this shadowy battlefield, victories are fought with bits instead of bullets, malware instead of militias, and botnets instead of bombs.

“Cyber warfare isn’t necessarily part of a wider war. Sometimes it is just to collect data that is not easily accomplished by a military drone,” said Eugene Kaspersky, head of Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab.

Kaspersky said the war drums are beating louder.

“A cyber attacks are being used more and more for military purposes,” he said.  Kaspersky became famous for being part of the team that discovered the Stuxnet worm in 2010.  The worm targeted Siemens industrial control systems used at Iran nuclear power plants and is believed to have been the brainchild of the U.S. and Israeli defense departments.

A cyber attack is best understood not as an end in itself, but as a potentially powerful means to a wide variety of political, military, and economic goals.

“Serious cyber attacks are unlikely to be motiveless,” Martin Libicki, Senior Scientist at RAND Corp. said in a report released this month by cyber security firm FireEye. “Countries carry them out to achieve certain ends, which tend to reflect their broader strategic goals. The relationship between the means chosen and their goals will look rational and reasonable to them if not necessarily to us.”

Just as each country has a unique political system, state-sponsored attacks also have distinctive characteristics, which include everything from motivation to target to type of attack.

World War C is a FireEye creation.  They noted in their 22 page report that their out-of-this-world war scenario is hard to fully describe. There are very little physical casualties involved. For the general public, collateral damage is unheard of so far.

Cyber war has been compared to special operations forces, submarine warfare, targeted missile strikes, and assassins.

But some say it could be as bad as a nuclear weapons, Pearl Harbor, 9/11 or a natural disaster.

FireEye’s zombie analogy is not new. Often, any compromised computer, if it is actively under the surreptitious control of a cybercriminal, is called a zombie, and botnets are sometimes called zombie armies. Also, compared to stockpiling tanks and artillery, writing cyber attack code, and compromising thousands if not millions of computers, is easy. Moreover, malware often spreads with the exponential growth of an infectious disease.

The analytical waters surrounding cyber warfare are inherently murky, write FireEye analysts in their report. At the strategic level, governments desire to have a degree of plausible deniability. At the tactical level, military and intelligence organizations envelop such operations in layers of classification and secrecy. To be effective, information operations rely on deception—and the Internet offers an ideal venue for a spy’s smoke and mirrors.

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Predictive Policing Software

Police play the odds in tracking crime:  Real Time Prediction Software Aids Investigations

Article Courtesy of:  Sun Sentinel

By Larry Barszewski | Article Courtesy of:  Sun Sentinel

Predictive Policing Investigative Database - LP Police

Predictive Policing – Link Analysis – Investigative Database – LP Police

FORT LAUDERDALE — It may not be a crystal ball, but police are testing a new system that more accurately predicts the likelihood of crime in your neighborhood.

The effort, called predictive policing, relies on computer software that analyzes information police have used for years, along with other data they may have never used before.

It can all be done in real time, quickly putting the information at the fingertips of police, possibly finding correlations they didn’t know existed.

A better name might be “probability policing,” said Jim Lingerfelt, of IBM, which developed the software, because the program tries to determine the odds of crime happening in a given area.

“You’re identifying those areas with the highest probability of a certain type of crime occurring,” said Lingerfelt, public safety manager for the company’s Global Smarter Cities initiative.

Palm Beach County police agencies have been exploring a similar idea through the county’s law enforcement exchange program.

Boca Raton Police Chief Dan Alexander said the exchange hasn’t developed any predictive tools, but plans to do so after implementing some more conventional data analysis methods.

The IBM program will take whatever information officials download — from building permits and crime reports to bus routes and the daily weather forecast — to see what it can tell police about potential criminal activity.

Among the data that could be compiled: the release date of a burglar who frequently targeted your neighborhood. Or building permits, which might show your neighbors are putting on additions, a magnet for thieves stealing construction materials. Or it could be that police reports are documenting a pattern of car break-ins that indicates your street may be next.

“It’s very similar to the information they had before,” Lingerfelt said. “But before it was very cumbersome, very labor intensive and nowhere near as complete as what they’re getting now in a matter of seconds.”

Patrol officers can start off the day on their laptop checking out the trends in their assigned areas, which can help them figure out how best to spend their time.

Command staff can use daily reports to direct resources to potential hot spots.

“I think every day that we wake up, that we’re part of this law enforcement environment, that we need to be creative and innovative and come up with the next best method on how do we reduce crime,” Police Chief Frank Adderley said.

Commissioner Bruce Roberts hopes the program will help police identify and keep track of repeat offenders, which he said could go a long way toward lowering the city’s crime rate.

“Most of your crimes are committed by a core few criminals,” said Roberts, a former police chief in the city. “When they’re released, they’ve been arrested again.”

The city last week approved using $200,000 in federal law enforcement dollars to pay overtime to a task force of detectives, patrol officers and others who can be assigned as needed, based on the computer analysis.

lbarszewski@tribune.com or 954-356-4556

Article Courtesy of:  Sun Sentinel