March, 2016 - Week 4
Security Guard's Murder Fuels Fears That Nuclear Plants in Belgium Could Be Attacked
by Tess Owen
With Brussels still reeling in the aftermath of the deadly bombings this week, the murder of a nuclear power plant security guard and the theft of his badge has compounded fears that Belgium's two sprawling nuclear plants could be vulnerable to attacks.
The security guard was found dead in his home in Charleroi, a post-industrial region known for its derelict factories and slag heaps. Didier Prospero, who worked for US-owned security company G4S, was discovered shot dead in his bathroom on Thursday night. Belgian daily Derniere Heure (DH) reported that Prospero's children found him, and that his dog had also been shot. His security pass was missing but deactivated after his body was found, DH said.
A police spokesperson was unable to provide VICE News with further information about the case due to the ongoing investigation. Belgian prosecutors told DH that they had not found any correlation between the guard's murder and terrorism. Nevertheless, the timing of his death days after the bombings in Brussels fueled concerns that militants could be trying to get their hands on materials to build a radioactive dirty bomb.
A dirty bomb combines radioactive material with explosives, but does not produce the type of devastating blast associated with conventional nuclear weapons. Instead, it seeks to contaminate the area where the device is detonated with radioactivity, creating panic and forcing authorities to launch an expensive and time consuming decontamination process.
Hours after suicide bombings rocked Brussels transport hubs on Tuesday, killing 31 people and injuring hundreds, Belgium's Tihange nuclear plant was partially evacuated, and all workers who were not strictly necessary were sent home early. The head of Belgium's nuclear regulatory agency said on Tuesday that, while there were no direct threats to the plant, the move to partial-evacuation was "based on new information and the events of [Tuesday]. Extra security measures were taken."
However, the claim that there hadn't been a direct threat mounted against Belgium's nuclear infrastructure isn't entirely accurate. In February, Belgian authorities discovered 10-hours worth of secretly recorded video footage showing one of the country's top nuclear scientists coming and going from his home. The material was discovered during a counter-terrorism raid on the home of Mohamed Bakkali, who was arrested and charged with terrorism and murder associated with the November 13 Paris attacks. Ibrahim and Khalid el-Bakraoui — brothers who authorities believe were the alleged suicide bombers at Brussels' airport and subway — are suspected to have planted the camera, which was hidden in bushes near the scientist's house.
Experts and officials have contended that surveilling the nuclear official, who had access to secure areas of a nuclear research facility in Mol, was part of a grander scheme to take him hostage and force him to hand over radioactive material.
DH reported on Thursday that the suicide bombers who self-detonated on Tuesday were originally planning an attack on nuclear facilities. However, as Belgian police started closing in on their extremist network and arrested suspected terrorists such as Salah Abdeslam, DH said, militants were under pressure to carry out an attack as soon as possible, and abandoned the grander plan of targeting Belgium's nuclear infrastructure.
Sébastien Berg, the spokesman for Belgium's federal agency for nuclear control said a potential attack poses a number of risks. First, that terrorists infiltrate the plant and shut down their operations, which would send about half the country into a blackout.
Another fear, Berg said, was of "an accident in which someone explodes a bomb inside the plant." Lastly, Berg said, "the other danger is that they fly something into the plant from outside," which would stop the cooling process of the fuel and force the plant to shut down.
Until two years ago, security around the plants was fairly lax. In 2014, Belgian officials installed security cameras and developed a plan to combat cyberattacks. They also mandated that all employees move in groups to avoid sabotage by a lone wolf.
Just 11 days before the attacks shook Brussels, Belgium's two nuclear facilities — which contain seven reactors — were guarded by unarmed security personnel. On March 11, the Belgian government deployed 140 troops to beef up security at the nuclear facilities, a temporary solution until a new armed police force is trained to take over.
ISIS attacks Iraqi base housing U.S. military personnel
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, attacked an air base in Iraq that houses U.S. military personnel, the Pentagon said Saturday.
The Pentagon said no service members in the coalition fighting ISIS were affected by the attack at the Ayn al-Assad Air Base.
Citing Iraqi officials, a U.S. military official said that between three and four fighters wearing explosive vests were killed in the attack, CBS Radio News correspondent Cami McCormick reports.
The official said there were no casualties in the attack, McCormick reports.
The attack comes a day after a bombing during a match in a soccer stadium in the city of Iskanderiyah, 30 miles from the capital, Baghdad. ISIS claimed the attack, saying it had targeted Shiite militiamen.
Iraqi officials say the death toll has climbed to 41, with another 105 people wounded.
The security and public health officials provided the updated toll to The Associated Press Saturday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.
The extremist group has lost ground in recent months in Iraq and Syria, but has struck back with a series of large attacks targeting civilians. ISIS claimed this week's attacks in Brussels, which killed 31 people.
'Cool cop' skates through community police work
One police officer in Washington proves he is one 'cool cop' by skateboarding on the job, highlighting a model for community policing that is showing results.
by Lucy Schouten
(Video on site)
Shredding with skateboarders at the local skatepark isn't part of a typical police officer's job description, but for Craig Hanaumi, an officer in a suburb of Seattle, the skateboarding gig has become an important tool in community police work.
Officer Hanaumi became the skateboarding face of Bellevue's community policing effort in 2010, after a routine request to stop trespassing became a demonstration of the officer's skills with wheels, Jillian Raftery reported for KIRO Radio. He eventually told the skaters, who were filming tricks in a back parking lot, they needed to leave, but the encounter, captured on video, gave Hanuami the nickname "cool cop." The encounter convinced him such interactions could become a way to foster better relationships between local teens and police.
The need for community policing programs have reached a new level of urgency in recent months, as rifts between minority communities and the officers who police them have exploded on the national stage. High-profile shootings of young, minority residents by police officers in cities across the country have fractured public trust in law enforcement. Police departments across the country are increasingly looking to this kind of positive engagement between officers and young people in the communities they serve as a means to boost trust on both sides of the equation.
The key to effective community policing, in Washington and elsewhere, is empathy, Lenora Fulani, the director of the New York City-based “Operation Conversation: Cops & Kids,” told The Christian Science Monitor's Harry Bruinius last summer. Her program helps inner-city police rebuild trust lost after a rough year for police relations.
She sponsors public talks between veteran officers and local teens, guiding them through conversations designed to increase understanding and build trust. The damaged trust between communities and the police charged with protecting them takes a toll on both sides.
Officer Joe Fratto, a three-year veteran of the high-crime beat in New York City, described during one talk the mental strain for officers working in a low-trust environment. “They've been in so many situations where they didn't get the respect back that they expected, or somebody cursed them out for no reason, or they were filmed for no reason, for doing something that was legitimate and right," Mr. Fratto said. "So, their personality changes, where, ‘OK, now it's 'us versus them.' "
Skateboarding is not the solution for every department or city, but the Bellevue officer's idea of demonstrating understanding while he policed highlights a strategy for developing trust. "I believe there is no way out of the trap of police-community hostility without the development of both sides,” Ms. Fulani told the Monitor.
Bellevue has invested heavily in that kind of development. The department devotes two full-time officers to community policing, but also maintains a culture of encouraging officers to spend time between calls with community members. The department offers annual "community academies," free workshops that invite the public to learn about the officers and how they work and officers regularly share pizza with youth from the Boys and Girls Club regularly.
Many of the impacts of such community police work are intangible, but others have helped directly in crime-fighting. Hanaumi spent some time working with a teen who was at-risk for gang involvement, and the teenager later came to him with a tip that helped resolve a drive-by shooting case.
“The reason why that happened was because of all the time that was spent before that trying to build a positive relationship,” Hanaumi told KIRO Radio.
Teens sought for Youth Public Safety Academy
The Morris County Department of Law and Public Safety and the Morris County Office of Emergency Management, along with the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders, will conduct the fourth annual Morris County Public Safety Youth Academy (MCPSYA).
The MCPSYA is a five-day program that will be open to all Morris County students who will be enrolled in grades 9 through 12 in the fall. The program is sponsored by the Morris County Freeholders, and is completely free of charge to the cadets and their families.
The academy will be held from Monday, Aug. 15 through Friday, Aug. 19.
The academy is a program which serves to provide high school students exposure to the various rewarding facets within the field of public safety. The program has been designed with the intent to target Morris County's young adults at a time when decision-making for the future is of the utmost importance. The MCPSYA strives to afford the students the opportunity to better understand the field of public safety in order to optimize their success in the future.
The academy's goal is to aid young adults in making a professional commitment that could potentially impact their careers, their character and their community.
The program is unique in that it exposes cadets to all facets of the public safety profession. The intensive program will provide cadets with specially designed training and hands-on experience in the fields of police, fire, EMS, emergency management and more.
Class size is limited and the class is expected to fill to capacity quickly. Applications are due by Friday, July 15.
To find out more information about the rogram, or to apply for enrollment, visit: http://www.morrisoem.org
K-9s may be best line of defense against subway attacks
For security reasons, NYPD won't say how many of these dogs it has to cover the nation's largest subway system
by The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Even in an era of high-tech crime-fighting, the best line of defense against a Brussels-style attack on airports and subways has four legs and a tail.
Dogs, with their exquisitely sensitive noses, have been trained in recent years to pick up the scent of explosives on people moving through crowded concourses, and so far they have proved a better early warning system than anything engineers have come up with.
"They outperform both men and machines," said James Waters, chief of the New York City Police Department's counterterrorism unit, which just this week graduated its latest squad of dogs capable of following the vapor from explosives such as the terrorist bomb-making material of the moment, TATP.
But experts say there are not enough of these "vapor wake" dogs to go around. Only about 130 have gotten the patented training nationwide since its development about a decade ago. And only one dog is in Europe, according to the chief trainer.
For security reasons, NYPD won't say how many of these dogs it has to cover the nation's largest subway system, with more than 400 stations and millions of riders.
New York's department already has 36,000 officers, employs counterterrorism analysts, created specialized counterterror units and uses a highly sophisticated computer system linked to surveillance footage that can spot a bag sitting for too long. It also has 100 other dogs, including traditional bomb-sniffers and drug dogs.
But the threat is changing — Islamic State extremists are using small devices in crowded areas, as seen in the airport and subway attacks in Belgium that left 31 people dead.
The NYPD's newly graduated class of eight "vapor wake" dogs underwent 15 months of training to sniff out explosive particles in the heat plume left by humans as they walk through a crowd, then follow the scent to the source. They're different from traditional bomb-sniffing dogs trained to smell a stationary object.
A dog has 200 million olfactory sensors in its nose. By contrast, the human nose has 5 million. Even though dogs get tired and distracted, no technology can match one, officials say.
One that may come close is under development at the University of Rhode Island, where professor Otto Gregory created an electronic sensor designed to continuously monitor an area, unlike a quick swab of a hand or luggage, for vapors from explosives. The sensor hasn't been deployed in any real-world scenarios yet. But one advantage is that it doesn't need training or breaks, as dogs do.
"Think of it as an electronic dog's nose that would run 24/7," said Gregory, a chemical engineering professor.
Other animals with sophisticated olfactory ability could theoretically be used, including elephants and even rats. But the canine's special social relationship with humans makes it uniquely suitable.
Dog trainers generally say Labrador retrievers are best because they are social and not aggressive. Spaniels, German pointers and other breeds are also used.
"They have an incredible capability for the detection of hazardous chemicals. But even the canine, we look at it as a technology, and over the years the instrumentation has advanced, the proactive nature of dogs has advanced and is still advancing," said Paul Waggoner of Auburn University's veterinary school, which pioneered the vapor wake training.
Because of the rising threat of suicide bombings, demand for the dogs has outstripped supply. Since January, there have been orders for 36 more, said Paul Hammond of AMK9, the security firm that works with Auburn to train the animals.
They cost about $49,000 each and are licensed for a year, after which they are retrained to account for terrorists' changing tactics.
Hammond said the demand isn't just from law enforcement agencies but from major sports teams and theme parks looking for a way to search large crowds safely.
"The threat is changing and these animals are really at the forefront of detection," he said.
From the Department of Justice
Seven Iranians Working for Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Affiliated Entities Charged for Conducting Coordinated Campaign of Cyber Attacks Against U.S. Financial Sector
One Defendant Also Charged with Obtaining Unauthorized Access into Control Systems of a New York Dam
A grand jury in the Southern District of New York indicted seven Iranian individuals who were employed by two Iran-based computer companies, ITSecTeam (ITSEC) and Mersad Company (MERSAD), that performed work on behalf of the Iranian Government, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, on computer hacking charges related to their involvement in an extensive campaign of over 176 days of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.
Ahmad Fathi, 37; Hamid Firoozi, 34; Amin Shokohi, 25; Sadegh Ahmadzadegan, aka Nitr0jen26, 23; Omid Ghaffarinia, aka PLuS, 25; Sina Keissar, 25; and Nader Saedi, aka Turk Server, 26, launched DDoS attacks against 46 victims, primarily in the U.S financial sector, between late 2011 and mid-2013. The attacks disabled victim bank websites, prevented customers from accessing their accounts online and collectively cost the victims tens of millions of dollars in remediation costs as they worked to neutralize and mitigate the attacks on their servers. In addition, Firoozi is charged with obtaining unauthorized access into the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems of the Bowman Dam, located in Rye, New York, in August and September of 2013.
The indictment was announced today by Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, Director James B. Comey of the FBI, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York.
“In unsealing this indictment, the Department of Justice is sending a powerful message: that we will not allow any individual, group, or nation to sabotage American financial institutions or undermine the integrity of fair competition in the operation of the free market,” said Attorney General Lynch. “Through the work of our National Security Division, the FBI, and U.S. Attorney's Offices around the country, we will continue to pursue national security cyber threats through the use of all available tools, including public criminal charges. And as today's unsealing makes clear, individuals who engage in computer hacking will be exposed for their criminal conduct and sought for apprehension and prosecution in an American court of law.”
“The FBI will find those behind cyber intrusions and hold them accountable — wherever they are, and whoever they are,” said Director Comey. “By calling out the individuals and nations who use cyber attacks to threaten American enterprise, as we have done in this indictment, we will change behavior.”
“Like past nation state-sponsored hackers, these defendants and their backers believed that they could attack our critical infrastructure without consequence, from behind a veil of cyber anonymity,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “This indictment once again shows there is no such veil – we can and will expose malicious cyber hackers engaging in unlawful acts that threaten our public safety and national security.”
“The charges announced today respond directly to a cyber-assault on New York, its institutions and its infrastructure,” said U.S. Attorney Bharara. “The alleged onslaught of cyber-attacks on 46 of our largest financial institutions, many headquartered in New York City, resulted in hundreds of thousands of customers being unable to access their accounts and tens of millions of dollars being spent by the companies trying to stay online through these attacks. The infiltration of the Bowman Avenue dam represents a frightening new frontier in cybercrime. These were no ordinary crimes, but calculated attacks by groups with ties to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard and designed specifically to harm America and its people. We now live in a world where devastating attacks on our financial system, our infrastructure and our way of life can be launched from anywhere in the world, with a click of a mouse. Confronting these types of cyber-attacks cannot be the job of just law enforcement. The charges announced today should serve as a wake-up call for everyone responsible for the security of our financial markets and for guarding our infrastructure. Our future security depends on heeding this call.”
According to the indictment unsealed today in federal court in New York City:
The DDoS campaign began in approximately December 2011, and the attacks occurred only sporadically until September 2012, at which point they escalated in frequency to a near-weekly basis, between Tuesday and Thursdays during normal business hours in the United States. On certain days during the campaign, victim computer servers were hit with as much as 140 gigabits of data per second and hundreds of thousands of customers were cut off from online access to their bank accounts.
Fathi, Firoozi and Shokohi were responsible for ITSEC's portion of the DDoS campaign against the U.S. financial sector and are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit and aid and abet computer hacking. Fathi was the leader of ITSEC and was responsible for supervising and coordinating ITSEC's portion of the DDoS campaign, along with managing computer intrusion and cyberattack projects being conducted for the government of Iran. Firoozi was the network manager at ITSEC and, in that role, procured and managed computer servers that were used to coordinate and direct ITSEC's portion of the DDoS campaign. Shokohi is a computer hacker who helped build the botnet used by ITSEC to carry out its portion of the DDoS campaign and created malware used to direct the botnet to engage in those attacks. During the time that he worked in support of the DDoS campaign, Shokohi received credit for his computer intrusion work from the Iranian government towards his completion of his mandatory military service requirement in Iran.
Ahmadzadegan, Ghaffarinia, Keissar and Saedi were responsible for managing the botnet used in MERSAD's portion of the campaign, and are also charged with one count of conspiracy to commit and aid and abet computer hacking. Ahmadzadegan was a co-founder of MERSAD and was responsible for managing the botnet used in MERSAD's portion of the DDoS campaign. He was also associated with Iranian hacking groups Sun Army and the Ashiyane Digital Security Team (ADST), and claimed responsibility for hacking servers belonging to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in February 2012. Ahmadzadegan has also provided training to Iranian intelligence personnel. Ghaffarinia was a co-founder of MERSAD and created malicious computer code used to compromise computer servers and build MERSAD's botnet. Ghaffarinia was also associated with Sun Army and ADST, and has also claimed responsibility for hacking NASA servers in February 2012, as well as thousands of other servers in the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel. Keissar procured computer servers used by MERSAD to access and manipulate MERSAD's botnet, and also performed preliminary testing of the same botnet prior to its use in MERSAD's portion of the DDoS campaign. Saedi was an employee of MERSAD and a former Sun Army computer hacker who expressly touted himself as an expert in DDoS attacks. Saedi wrote computer scripts used to locate vulnerable servers to build the MERSAD botnet used in its portion of the DDoS campaign.
For the purpose of carrying out the attacks, each group built and maintained their own botnets, which consisted of thousands of compromised computer systems owned by unwitting third parties that had been infected with the defendants' malware, and subject to their remote command and control. The defendants and/or their unindicted co-conspirators then sent orders to their botnets to direct significant amounts of malicious traffic at computer servers used to operate the websites for victim financial institutions, which overwhelmed victim servers and disabled them from customers seeking to legitimately access the websites or their online bank accounts. Although the DDoS campaign caused damage to the financial sector victims and interfered with their customers' ability to do online banking, the attacks did not affect or result in the theft of customer account data.
DDoS Botnet Remediation
Since the attacks, the Department of Justice and the FBI have worked together with the private sector to effectively neutralize and remediate the defendants' botnets. Specifically, through approximately 20 FBI Liaison Alert System (FLASH) messages, the FBI regularly provided updated information collected from the investigation regarding the identity of systems that been infected with the defendants' malware and operating as bots within the malicious botnets. In addition, the FBI conducted extensive direct outreach to Internet service providers responsible for hosting systems that have been infected with the defendants' malware to provide them information and assistance in removing the malware to protect their customers and other potential victims of the defendants' unlawful cyber activities. Through these outreach efforts and the cooperation of the private sector, over 95 percent of the known part of the defendants' botnets have been successfully remediated.
Bowman Dam Intrusion
Between Aug. 28, 2013, and Sept. 18, 2013, Firoozi repeatedly obtained unauthorized access to the SCADA systems of the Bowman Dam, and is charged with one substantive count of obtaining and aiding and abetting computer hacking. This unauthorized access allowed him to repeatedly obtain information regarding the status and operation of the dam, including information about the water levels, temperature and status of the sluice gate, which is responsible for controlling water levels and flow rates. Although that access would normally have permitted Firoozi to remotely operate and manipulate the Bowman Dam's sluice gate, Firoozi did not have that capability because the sluice gate had been manually disconnected for maintenance at the time of the intrusion.
Remediation for the Bowman Dam intrusion cost over $30,000.
All seven defendants face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for conspiracy to commit and aid and abet computer hacking. Firoozi faces an additional five years in prison for obtaining and aiding and abetting unauthorized access to a protected computer at the Bowman Dam.
An indictment is merely an accusation and all defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.
The case was investigated by the FBI, including the Chicago; Cincinnati; New York; Newark, New Jersey; Phoenix; and San Francisco Field Offices. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy T. Howard of the Southern District of New York, with the substantial assistance of Deputy Chief Sean M. Newell of the National Security Division's Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.
U.S. Marshals Service National Operation Nets More Than 8,000 Fugitives
Operation Violence Reduction12 Nabs Most Dangerous Criminals
Today, Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates and U.S. Marshals Service Deputy Director David Harlow announced that for the second consecutive year, the U.S. Marshals Service has conducted a high-impact national fugitive apprehension initiative focusing on the country's most violent offenders. This six-week initiative, called Operation Violence Reduction12 (Operation VR12), resulted in the arrest of 8,075 gang members, sex offenders and other violent criminals.
“Through Operation VR-12, over 8,000 violent fugitives who preyed on our communities were tracked down, arrested and put behind bars,” said Deputy Attorney General Yates. “Thanks to the strategic and focused efforts of the U.S. Marshals Service and their law enforcement partners, our nation's streets are now rid of over 500 accused murderers, 600 gang members and nearly 1,000 sex offenders. Fugitives initiated gun battles, forced barricaded standoffs, assaulted officers and did everything they could to evade arrest – but our Deputy Marshals, together with their law enforcement partners, stood firm and succeeded in capturing the bad guys.”
“We applied a strategically focused approach to locate and apprehend the nation's most dangerous fugitives,” said Deputy Director Harlow. “By removing these violent offenders from the streets, the communities they preyed upon can immediately feel more secure. Operation VR12 was about using our expertise and law enforcement partnerships to significantly impact our communities by focusing on the worst of the worst violent criminals.”
While Operation VR12 was conducted nationwide in all 94 federal judicial districts, U.S. Marshals focused special attention on 12 selected locations experiencing upticks in violent crime: Baltimore; Brooklyn, New York; Camden, New Jersey; Chicago; Compton, California; Fresno, California; Gary, Indiana; Milwaukee; New Orleans; Oakland, California; Savannah, Georgia; and Washington, D.C.
In order to have the greatest impact on violent crime, Operation VR12 focused on fugitives who had three or more prior felony arrests for crimes such as murder, attempted murder, robbery, aggravated assault, arson, abduction/kidnapping, weapon offenses, sexual assault, child molestation and narcotics. Operation VR12 investigators increased their focus on fugitives accused of sex crimes and on the recovery of missing children.
Between Feb. 1 and March 11, the U.S. Marshals Service used its multi-jurisdictional investigative authority and fugitive task force network to arrest 648 gang members and others wanted on charges including 559 for homicide; and 946 for sexual offenses. In addition, investigators seized 463 firearms, $390,360 in currency and more than 71 kilograms of illegal narcotics. Also during the operation, investigators recovered 17 children who had been abducted and reported missing.
Blake Edwards Fitzgerald and Brittany Nicole Harper were the focus of a multi-state investigation that received national media attention. Dubbed a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde, Fitzgerald and Harper were wanted in Missouri, Georgia, Alabama and Florida for multiple charges including kidnapping, armed robbery, burglary and firearms violations. After leading authorities on a multi-day, cat-and-mouse chase and two high-speed pursuits, the duo was located in Pensacola, Florida, on Feb. 5. Fitzgerald was mortally wounded in an exchange of gunfire with officers, while Harper sustained non-life threating gunshot wounds.
Sabino Avila, a documented member of the Two Sixer street gang, was wanted by the Chicago Police Department for home invasion and rape. On Feb. 9, Avila allegedly forced entry into the home of a 54-year-old woman, tied her up and sexually assaulted her. Local authorities asked U.S. Marshals for assistance in locating and apprehending the suspect. He was arrested without incident in Chicago on Feb. 14.
Carl Cooper was wanted by the Baltimore City Police Department for allegedly shooting two elderly siblings in front of a busy shopping center. He was named “Public Enemy #1” by Police Commissioner Kevin Davis. Operation VR12 investigators arrested Cooper in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on March 4.
“Fugitives have a propensity to commit violent criminal acts posing danger to communities and plaguing neighborhoods where we live and work.” said Deputy Director Harlow. “Working with our federal, state and local partners, enforcement initiatives like Operation VR12 severely cripple these criminal activities.”
The concept behind interagency law enforcement operations such as Operation VR12 evolved largely from regional and district task forces. Since the 1980s, the U.S. Marshals Service has combined their resources and expertise with local, state and federal agencies to find and apprehend dangerous fugitives. Operation VR12 continued this tradition.
For more information about Operation VR12, including photographs and B-roll footage, visit www.usmarshals.gov .
From the FBI
Syrian Cyber Hackers Charged
Two From ‘Syrian Electronic Army' Added to Cyber's Most Wanted
Three members of a Syrian hacker collective that hijacked the websites and social media platforms of prominent U.S. media organizations and the U.S. military were charged today in federal court with multiple conspiracies related to computer hacking.
In two criminal complaints unsealed in the Eastern District of Virginia, Amad Umar Agha, Firas Dardar, and Peter Romar were charged with criminal conspiracies related to their roles targeting Internet sites—in the U.S. and abroad—on behalf of the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), a group of hackers that supports the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The affected sites—which included computer systems in the Executive Office of the President in 2011 and a U.S. Marine Corps recruitment website in 2013—were deemed by SEA to be antagonistic toward the Syrian government.
According to the charges, Agha, 22, known online as “The Pro,” and Dardar, 27, engaged in a multi-year conspiracy that began in 2011 to collect usernames and passwords that gave them the ability to deface websites, redirect domains to sites controlled by the conspirators, steal e-mail, and hijack social media accounts. To obtain the login information they used a technique called “spear-phishing,” where they tricked people who had privileged access to their organizations' websites and social media channels into volunteering sensitive information by posing as a legitimate entity.
The FBI today added Agha and Dardar—both believed to be in Syria—to its Cyber's Most Wanted. The Bureau is offering a reward of up to $100,000 each for information that leads to their arrest; anyone with information is asked to contact the FBI or the nearest U.S. Embassy or consulate. Tips can also be submitted online at tips.fbi.gov.
Dardar, known online as “The Shadow,” also worked with Peter “Pierre” Romar, 36, on a scheme beginning in 2013 to extort U.S. businesses for profit. According to the complaint, the pair would hack into the victims' computers and then threaten to damage computers, and delete or sell the data unless they were paid a ransom.
Other examples of the conspirators' hacks include:
Compromising the Twitter account of a prominent U.S. media organization in 2013 and releasing a tweet claiming that a bomb had exploded at the White House and injured the President.
Gaining control of a U.S. Marine Corps recruiting website and posting a message urging Marines to “Refuse [their] orders.”
In a statement, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin said the conspirators' extortion schemes undermine their own claims of working for a noble cause—to support the embattled regime of their president. “While some of the activity sought to harm the economic and national security of the United States in the name of Syria, these detailed allegations reveal that the members also used extortion to try to line their own pockets at the expense of law-abiding people all over the world,” Carlin said.
The U.S. District Court has issued arrest warrants for all three defendants. The FBI's Washington Field Office (WFO) is investigating the case with assistance from the NASA Office of the Inspector General and Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security, and other law enforcement agencies.
“These three members of the Syrian Electronic Army targeted and compromised computer systems in order to provide support to the Assad regime as well as for their own personal monetary gain through extortion,” said WFO Assistant Director in Charge Paul M. Abbate. “As a result of a thorough cyber investigation, FBI agents and analysts identified the perpetrators and now continue to work with our domestic and international partners to ensure these individuals face justice in the United States.”
Martinsville working toward “Community Policing”
by Rob Manch
MARTINSVILLE (WSLS 10) – Police in Martinsville are working to be more involved in the community.
Officers there want input from the people in the community to influence how they enforce the law.
At a symposium Thursday, speaker and former Sheriff Harry Dolan says this community policing concept began after several high profile cases around the country demonstrated a disconnect between the police and the community.
He says Martinsville is one of the jurisdictions taking a lead in finding innovative ways to build that relationship, and the result is a safer place to live.
Dolan says the first step to building a community police relationship is for officers to be accessible.
“Personalize service to meet the needs, make sure the preponderance of the officers are in the neighborhoods around the clock. It's what the citizens want,” said Dolan.
Martinsville Chief Sean Dunn says he has already begun to use this advice in running his department.
“We've got the entire city broken down into 20 small, manageable areas, and each one of our officers is assigned one of those 20 areas. So we want them in those areas as often as possible, just out of the car, just talking to kids, just talking to residents,” said Dunn.
From that added exposure, Dunn says police are learning what issues matter to the public.
In Martinsville, priority number one has been drugs.
“Day one I had citizens tell me hey listen I've got this drug complaint, this drug issue next door, this drug issue down the street, I'm scared to sit on my front porch because of drugs,” said Dunn.
Since then, Dunn has made stopping drug-dealing his number one priority.
Just last month, the department put 14 accused dealers behind bars.
Dolan says another important role police are taking on is dealing with mental health.
“We're asking our officers, who are the only ones left making house calls, to now become almost clinical people dealing with folks in psychological crisis,” said Dolan.
That's why Dunn says officers with Crisis Intervention Training, or CIT, are increasingly common.
“We've got probably about 50, 60 percent of the department trained, by the end of 20-16 I hope to have the entire department trained, at least the entire patrol force trained in Crisis Intervention,” said Dolan.
A department that works with, not for, the community.
Dunn says in addition to regular policing and community interaction, his department has benefited from programs like “Coffee with a Cop” and “Hoops with Cops”, which helps build a bond of trust with people in the City.
He also says there is a CIT training seminar scheduled for officers in his department next month.
Using arrest data to strengthen public safety
Faculty to research patterns, trends of domestic violence in Missouri
by News Release Missouri State University
What factors contribute to higher rates of domestic violence? How can the state of Missouri allocate resources to respond to instances of domestic violence more effectively?
Dr. Brett Garland, associate professor of criminology, and Dr. Ron Malega, associate professor of geography, both at Missouri State University, recently received more than $50,000 from the Missouri State Highway Patrol to map trends of domestic violence across the state of Missouri.
Public affairs and public safety
Their research, said Garland, engages the public affairs mission in more ways than one.
“This project is activating research on campus between two separate colleges,” said Garland. “It shows that we can utilize different resources from across the campus and pull those together and direct them toward a specific research project.”
This process of working together to find solutions to community problems can help foster strong relationships between the university and the local community, according to Malega.
In addition to strengthening the university's ties to the community, Garland said their research will also contribute to strengthening public safety.
“There is agreement across the state that domestic violence is a problem, and public affairs initiatives should address public problems,” said Garland. “Anything that you can do to inform the broader public about domestic violence, the more empowered people will be to actually remedy that public problem.”
Identifying predictors of crime
Every arresting agency in Missouri submits data to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, where it is catalogued and entered into a database. The first stage of Malega and Garland's research will focus on using this database to create a spatial description of where instances of domestic violence are taking place on a county level.
“Over the course of several years of data, we'll find out which counties have a disproportionate amount of domestic violence,” said Malega. “We can also look at the characteristics of these counties as places.”
This part of the research will look to see if there is any correlation between social factors and rates of domestic violence.
“Space and place affect crime,” said Malega. “A certain number of residents or establishments account for a disproportionate amount of crimes.”
Identifying these repeat places and spaces, such as bars, houses or downtown areas can help law enforcement to identify where they should focus their resources.
Resource distribution and future research
Once their research is completed, Malega and Garland hope it can be used to provide local officials with information to better understand the factors surrounding domestic violence.
“This information will be valuable to law enforcement because it can guide resource distribution across the state to better address domestic violence,” said Garland. “Using this information, law enforcement will be able to target where it's happening and where it's increasing.”
Future research will focus on identifying correlations between individual characteristics and rates of domestic violence as well as taking a closer look at the frequency of domestic violence within specific cities and neighborhoods.
For more information, contact Garland at (417) 836-6954 or Malega at (417) 836-4556.
Direct-file system doesn't help children - or improve public safety
The strange mechanism that allows Florida's prosecutors sole authority over whether to charge those under 18 as adults is a cold abuse of power by the state.
Known as “direct-file,” this quirk in Florida law stipulates that prosecutors can send juveniles directly to adult court with little oversight or outside input.
Many other states require a hearing of the facts in front of a judge before a child can be transferred as an adult. Part of the hearing focuses squarely on experts testifying whether a child can be rehabilitated.
In Florida, the law grants sole discretion to prosecutors to decide not only when to prosecute a child as an adult but also the authority to judge whether a juvenile could be rehabilitated. This last judgment comes despite the fact that few prosecutors — and none in the Fourth Judicial Circuit Court — have been trained to assess such outcomes using reliable and valid instruments.
RETRIBUTION GUIDES OUTCOMES
During the last year, 1,282 juveniles were direct-filed in the state of Florida. Locally, 81 were direct-filed in the Fourth Judicial Circuit -— Clay, Duval and Nassau counties — 12 percent above the state direct-file rate.
Sixty-five juveniles were direct-filed in the Seventh Judicial Circuit — Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns and Volusia counties.
While the figures are down from previous years, the state still holds the title of having “The Most Adult Transfers in the Nation.” Not an impressive record.
And although public perception is that these juveniles adjudicated as adults are usually the “worst of the worst,” that's often not the case. A report from the James Madison Institute and the Project on Accountable Justice shows that most of these children were convicted as adults for non-violent crimes.
It seems likely, therefore, that confinement within a juvenile system might have been the better placement for many of these juveniles. They would have access to the plentiful programs geared toward the rehabilitation of youngsters.
Certainly that kind of rehabilitation doesn't happen in adult prison. In fact, youngsters transferred to adult prisons are more likely to commit crimes upon their release than youngsters sentenced to juvenile centers, the report found.
But too often it's retribution and not rehabilitation that guides our justice system even when children's lives are at stake.
SYSTEM DOESN'T MAKE SENSE
So it's a myth that the majority of direct-filed youngsters were convicted of violent crimes.
There is another false perception as well.
The study found that in contrast to public perception, over 7 in 10 youngsters tried as adults aren't even initially sentenced to prison. Instead, they're sentenced to adult-style probation that's based on enforcement and not rehabilitation.
That flies in the face of the principle that these children — whose crimes were ostensibly so serious they had to be tried as adults — needed to be placed in prison to protect the public.
If we're not putting these children in adult jails to protect our streets, then why even direct-file them?
And financially, the direct-file laws make no sense.
The James Madison Institute study concluded that the cost to state taxpayers of direct-file will be $175 million over the next 10 years.
In comparison, if they were not direct-filed but sent to the juvenile justice system, it would save money in the long run.
Why? Because the juvenile system offers a variety of placements for children that would allow lower-risk individuals to be placed in less costly facilities.
In addition, youngsters in juvenile facilities are usually incarcerated for a shorter time period than their direct-filed fellows.
Not included in the report, but just as important, is that young offenders released from juvenile facilities are less likely to re-offend and are less likely to continue costing the state more money.
MAKE A CALL NOW
Pressure must be put on the state by Floridians who are interested not only in rehabilitating children convicted of crimes but also in protecting this state's fiscal and social stability.
It doesn't take an accountant to realize that the state would financially benefit from seriously altering the direct-file laws to ensure children receive their day in court when in danger of being cast into the adult justice system.
It also doesn't take a social scientist to realize that Floridians' safety and well-being can be enhanced if young offenders, instead of being locked behind adult bars or given adult probation, are given access to the rehabilitative programs already present in the juvenile system that we know work.
That's what “smart justice” looks like. It rescues children from a life of crime and makes it more likely that they become productive citizens.
In contrast, the direct-file system “sets (these children) up for failure. And when they do (fail), in the long run that costs the state more money,” says Deborrah Brodsky, director of the Project on Accountable Justice.
It's time the system is changed.
Call your legislators and demand it.
'This man left my husband to die'
Accidents involving pedestrians, cyclists soaring across Inland area and they often leave vulnerable victims lying in the street.
by David Downey
Annette Richards said she was “petrified” with fear whenever husband Phil headed out for a bike ride.
Then her “worst nightmare” came true. He was struck by a car while riding his bicycle in Calimesa, suffering injuries that would take his life a couple of weeks later.
“I lost my best friend,” Richards said in a recent telephone interview. “My husband was my everything.”
Making the nightmare worse, the driver – William Donald Johnson, 43, of Yucaipa, later convicted of second-degree murder – sped away.
“It was heartbreaking that this man left my husband to die,” Richards said.
It's a scenario that is being played out with increasing and alarming regularity around Inland Southern California. Drivers are leaving the scenes of all types of accidents much more often in Riverside and San Bernardino counties than they did just five years ago.
Many times, fleeing motorists leave behind injured or dying cyclists and walkers.
California Highway Patrol data reveal the following trends:
• The number of hit-and-run collisions involving pedestrians soared 73 percent in San Bernardino County and 51 percent in Riverside County from 2011 to 2015.
• Those vehicle-on-pedestrian hit-and-runs injured 123 people in San Bernardino County last year, up 73 percent from 2011, and 84 pedestrians in Riverside County, up 42 percent.
• Pedestrian deaths surged, too, peaking at 14 in San Bernardino County in 2014 and at 13 in Riverside County in 2013. Over the course of five years, hit-and-runs killed a total of 73 pedestrians in the two-county region, including 40 in San Bernardino.
• The number of hit-and-run collisions involving bicycles surged 40 percent in Riverside County and 34 percent in San Bernardino County during the five-year span.
• Those vehicle-on-bicycle accidents injured 53 people in Riverside County last year, an increase of one-third, and 70 in San Bernardino County, a 40 percent increase.
• Fourteen cyclists were killed between 2011 and 2015, with fatalities divided evenly between the counties.
MOST GET AWAY WITH IT
Hit-and-run accidents of all types are on the rise.
According to the CHP, there were a total of 4,654 accidents in which the driver fled in San Bernardino County and 4,276 in Riverside County last year, representing five-year increases of 44 percent and 39 percent respectively
Questions arise about why authorities couldn't stop IS attacks
The attacks have laid bare European security failings and prompted calls for better intelligence cooperation
by The Associated Press
BRUSSELS — Belgium's interior minister and justice minister tried to resign Thursday ahead of an emergency meeting of European security chiefs held amid growing questions about why authorities couldn't prevent deadly Islamic extremist attacks on Brussels despite increasing signs of a threat.
Prosecutors announced a direct connection between the Brussels bombings that killed 31 people and injured 270 others and last year's attacks on Paris, which appear to have been carried out by the same Islamic State network. The attacks have laid bare European security failings and prompted calls for better intelligence cooperation.
Interior Minister Jan Jambon said after a government meeting Thursday that "If you put all things in a row, you can ask yourself major questions" about the government's handling of the threat from Islamic extremists.
Notable among the questions is those raised by Turkey's announcement that it had warned Belgium last year that one of the Brussels attackers had been flagged as a "foreign terrorist fighter."
But the prime minister asked Jambon and Justice Minister Koen Geens to stay on, given the current challenge the government is facing. The country is under its highest terror alert level.
The meeting came as Belgian and French media reported a second attacker is suspected of taking part in the bombing this week of a Brussels subway train and may be at large.
Belgian prosecutors have said at least four people were involved in Tuesday's attacks on the Brussels airport and a subway train, including brothers Ibrahim and Khalid El Bakraoui, identified as suicide bombers. European security officials identified another suicide bomber as Najim Laachraoui, a suspected bombmaker for the Paris attacks.
Khalid El Bakraoui blew himself up on the train, while Ibrahim El Bakraoui and Laachraoui died in the airport.
Prosecutors have said another suspected participant in the airport attack is at large, a man in a hat seen in surveillance images who has not been publicly identified.
Belgian state broadcaster RTBF and France's Le Monde and BFM television reported Thursday that a fifth attacker may also be at large: a man filmed by surveillance cameras in the Brussels metro on Tuesday carrying a large bag alongside Khalid El Bakraoui. It is not clear whether that man was killed in the attack.
Prosecutors, who have not said how many people overall may have taken part in the bombings, did not respond to the reports.
The federal prosecutors' office issued a statement Thursday saying that Khalid El Bakraoui had rented a house used as a hideout for the Paris attackers, and that he had been hunted by police since December.
Several of the Paris attackers were Belgian or had links to Belgium, and the country has been on high alert for possible attacks.
Turkey's president said Wednesday that one of the Brussels suicide bombers, Ibrahim El Bakraoui, was caught in June 2015 near Turkey's border with Syria and deported to the Netherlands, with Ankara warning Dutch and Belgian officials that he was a "foreign terrorist fighter." Turkish officials said he was later released from Dutch custody due to lack of evidence of involvement in extremism.
European Union justice and interior ministers were holding an emergency Thursday afternoon to discuss the attacks, and French President Francois Hollande said France would "speak loud and clear" for better intelligence sharing and tougher measures against weapons trafficking.
Also Thursday, the chief suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was summoned to court in Brussels after his arrest last week in the Belgian capital. His lawyer, who had initially vowed to fight extradition, said Abdeslam now wants to be sent to France as soon as possible.
Abdeslam evaded police in two countries for four months before Friday's capture, and the attackers in Brussels may have rushed their plot because they felt authorities closing in. Abdeslam's lawyer, Sven Mary, told reporters at the courthouse that he asked for a one-month delay on any transfer while he studies the large dossier, but that Abdeslam "wants to explain himself in France, so it's a good thing." Mary said the extradition process should be done by mid-April.
France is seeking Abdeslam's extradition to face justice for his involvement in the Nov. 13 attacks on a Paris rock concert, stadium and cafes, which killed 130 people. Several attackers were also killed.
Belgium is holding three days of national mourning.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, in a speech Thursday, said the attacks on the European Union's capital targeted the "liberty of daily life" and "the liberty upon which the European project was built."
"Our country and our population were hit at its heart," he said in front of the Parliament building. He honored the "children who have lost their papas, who have lost their mamas" in the attacks.
Security remains tight, but barriers were removed around the subway station hit by the attack, Maelbeek. The airport will remain closed until at least Saturday.
Brussels attacks add urgency to Boston Marathon security
Two bombs planted near the finish line killed three spectators and wounded more than 260 others on April 15, 2013
by The Associated Press
BOSTON — Boston's top law enforcement official says the attacks in Belgium have added a sense of urgency to securing next month's Boston Marathon.
Police Commissioner William Evans told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday that he has no information suggesting a specific threat against the marathon, which was targeted in 2013.
Two bombs planted near the finish line killed three spectators and wounded more than 260 others on April 15, 2013.
Evans, an avid runner, said he's canceled his plans to run the 2016 edition of the race on April 18 so he can tend to security duties. He said he had planned to make it his 50th marathon and 19th Boston, but Tuesday's attacks in Brussels prompted him to reconsider.
Instead, he said, marathon security will be his main focus.
"I can't in my right mind go out and lace up the sneakers and run that day," he said in his office, where dozens of marathon medals decorate the walls. "We're only 3½ weeks away. My priority is here, doing my job and making sure the race goes off without any problems."
Evans did not elaborate on security precautions being taken around the 120th running of Boston, America's oldest and most celebrated footrace.
He said heightened measures used since the 2013 attacks would be in place, including stepped-up patrols by uniformed and undercover officers, a greater use of surveillance cameras and tactical units, and checkpoints for the tens of thousands of spectators lining the route.
Within hours of the Belgium bombings, Boston authorities were on the phone with the FBI as well as state and international law enforcement agencies to review threats and security plans, Evans said.
"You worry about copycats. You worry about these homegrown terrorists who are in their basement plotting something," he said. "It's a constant worry for me."
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was sentenced to death for the 2013 marathon bombing and is being held at the Supermax federal prison in Colorado.
Tsarnaev's brother, Tamerlan, was killed in a shootout with police several days after the attacks.
Evans had run the Boston Marathon in 2013 and was soaking in a hot tub when word came of the attacks.
He hasn't run his beloved race since.
"Right from the get-go, I said it would be a game time decision" whether to run next month, Evans said. "But yesterday's attacks were troubling to me."
Progressive New Laws Tackle Florida's Woeful Rape Case Record And The Spread Of HIV
The state has thousands of untested kits and leads the nation in new HIV infections.
by Chris D'Angelo
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed two bills into law Wednesday that seek to combat both unsolved rapes and the spread of HIV in the state.
One measure seeks to bring more rapists to justice by requiring that state crime laboratories test rape kits within 120 days of submission.
Scott said in a statement Wednesday that the law would “provide thousands of women with a renewed sense of safety and closure as they heal from the horrific crime of rape.”
A January Florida Department of Law Enforcement report found that the state has a backlog of more than 13,000 untested rape kits, The Associated Press reported. Florida lawmakers have invested $10.7 million for crime labs into the state budget to address the pileup.
A second bill aims to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS, hepatitis C and other infectious diseases with a pilot program in Miami-Dade County that will allow drug users to exchange used needles for sterile ones.
Florida leads the nation in new HIV infections. Miami-Dade and Broward counties place at numbers one and two in the U.S. for the rate of new HIV cases per 100,000 residents, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. New cases in Florida totaled 6,240 last year — the highest since 2002. Miami-Dade and Broward accounted for 38 percent of that total, the Palm Beach Post reports.
The University of Miami will run the privately funded Florida pilot project, which received overwhelming support in the Florida House and Senate.
“I'm thrilled that we were finally able to get this passed,” said Dr. Hansel Tookes, who will lead the program, said in a statement. “I stand at the ready to begin putting this program in place, and saving lives, as soon as we can.”
Florida joins Indiana, Kentucky and Washington, D.C., which run similar exchange programs. Research has consistently shown that providing sterile needles to drug users reduces infectious disease, ultimately saving lives.
Bill Piper, senior director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement that the consensus among scientists and politicians is that drug use is best treated as a health issue.
“Hopefully this pilot syringe program is just the beginning of major changes in Florida,” he said.
Both new laws are will take effect July 1, the AP reports.
Data security is the next evolution of public safety debate
by Julie Anderson
President Barack Obama recommitted to improving public safety and reducing crime with his recent executive actions on gun control. Increasingly, Americans are worried about crime because of recent high-profile mass shootings and incidents of police abuse.
These public policy challenges are unlikely to disappear any time before the 2016 election. Typically, presidential candidates focus on the physical safety of Americans when they debate crime and the role of police, but this emphasis is no longer sufficient in the 21st century.
Today, law enforcement agencies look to technologies, such as body-worn cameras, to reduce crime. However, while body-worn cameras provide public safety benefits, they also create a new type of public safety challenge: data security.
Although the overall rate of violent crime has declined tremendously in the past 25 years, Americans perceive the opposite trend. This unease, paired with recent attention to police misconduct, has shaped the national dialogue. As the nation learned of alleged police misconduct in such cities as Baltimore, Chicago and Cleveland, policymakers and community leaders demanded increased transparency, pointing to police body-worn cameras as a means to prevent future incidents. In recent years, local officials in San Diego; Topeka, Kansas; Houston and Washington, D.C. have decided to outfit police officers with the technology. And President Obama made more federal resources available to law enforcement agencies to help defray the costs of deploying body-worn cameras.
Law enforcement agencies that use body-worn cameras increase the stakes for communities using this technology with regards to storage and privacy.
First, law enforcement agencies using body-worn cameras must deal with storing and managing vast amounts of data collected by the devices, which is increasingly stored in the cloud. To put this in context, the Seattle Police Department alone produced more than 360 terabytes of data from dashboard cameras since its program's inception.
Second, citizens and police officers remain concerned about their personal privacy when recorded by cameras not protected from leaks or hacks. A hacker can easily penetrate an unsophisticated cloud-based storage system to access sensitive law enforcement data. This risk is particularly concerning when footage includes victims of domestic violence or child abuse.
For these reasons, law enforcement must secure the video surveillance data using the highest standards available.
Recently, a group of law enforcement stakeholders discussed creating and managing body-worn camera programs that ensure data security and protect privacy for all those affected. Participants from International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National District Attorneys Association, American Civil Liberties Union and other law enforcement groups examined how standards and best practices can be implemented to balance privacy and security when deploying body-worn cameras. Their participation made it clear that we need a consensus on the policy that will most strongly protect the critical information that these cameras will gather daily.
Fortunately, the FBI created a new Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS) security policy that addresses the challenge of securing law enforcement video surveillance data. This policy prescribes methods of data collection, transmission, storage and destruction, providing a standard level of data protection for all criminal justice information.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) also issued guidance about how these standards apply to cloud-based technology used by state and local police departments. The standards are designed to protect the security of criminal justice information in cloud systems. Under the guidelines, all levels of law enforcement are required to protect information held in the cloud such as fingerprints and facial recognition data. Police departments that use CJIS-compliant cloud technology — whether provided by the FBI or a private vendor — will take an important step in minimizing the risk of keeping video data safe.
For almost 20 years, all law enforcement agencies that want access to FBI data must comply with the CJIS security policy. Similarly, as police departments turn to using cloud-based technology to store data, cloud service providers will also need to comply with CJIS. The recent updates to CJIS security policy are intended to help state and local law enforcement ensure CJIS compliance when using the cloud.
Contrary to what many experts believe, encryption alone is not the answer. In reality, many police departments rely on automated software that cannot process encrypted data to manage body-worn camera video. Police departments that use CJIS-compliant cloud technology — whether provided by the FBI or a private vendor — will take an important step toward minimizing the risk of keeping that video data safe and usable.
Law enforcement agencies today shoulder a greater responsibility to get it right when deploying body-worn cameras. They face high expectations regarding transparency and even higher stakes when it comes to protecting Americans' privacy. The next president's administration must be prepared to meet expectations of both physical and data security, and the CJIS security policy is an important first step for our new leadership to address Americans' privacy and security concerns.
Julie Anderson is an expert in the management of government and organizational transformation. Prior to forming AG Strategy Group, she was managing director of the Civitas Group. Before that, she served as the acting assistant secretary for policy and planning and deputy assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at the Department of Veterans Affairs in the Obama administration.
Public safety IoT: using data to make cities safer
by Juan Pedro Tomas
From predictive crime applications to police monitoring, public safety IoT is driving governmental innovation
The “Internet of Things” is already offering benefits for private companies across the globe, but the adoption of these technologies by government institutions and agencies is also going through a rapid growth phase. The use of public safety IoT tools is one of the key implementations being adopted by governments at all levels.
Many solutions are already helping government agencies to improve the way they develop public safety strategies. A clear example of this is a solution unveiled last September by Hitachi Data Systems. The solution is designed to enable organizations to improve public safety by tapping into the IoT. Hitachi Data Systems said it has designed hybrid cloud systems that allow public safety officials to implement and use predictive crime analytics and video management systems to strengthen efforts to combat crime.
The suite, which combines data integration, management and visualization, is a predictive crime analytics tool that draws from social media, the Internet and other data feeds – including from past crime videos – to make accurate crime predictions.
Another example of how IoT can help agencies improve public safety is through the law enforcement field. Startup Yardarm Technologies said it has developed a smart gun equipped with an accelerometer, gyroscope, wireless GSM connectivity and Bluetooth to monitor and record data every time it is discharged. The smart gun includes sensor and location features meant to keep track of the gun's position and exact timing when shots were fired. Other guns are being equipped with biometric fingerprint sensors or radio-frequency identification chips paired with smart bracelets to ensure the gun can only be fired by the officer to whom it was assigned.
Some companies are also developing tools for police departments including real-time gunshot monitoring. SST said it has developed the ShotSpotter system, which recognizes when gunshots are fired in public areas to help police identify where the gun was fired. This system uses connected microphones installed throughout a city, town or college campus and is said to be capable of covering up to 10-square-miles. The connected system measures the range of sounds then sends the data to a police department's computer, which measures the time it took for the sound to reach the microphone to estimate the location of the gun.
IoT solutions are set to impact the way government organizations deal with public safety issues. However, the implementation of this technology faces some obstacles. According to Steven Webb, VP at Frost & Sullivan, sensors generate a huge amount of data, which is then transmitted, analyzed and distributed. This requires LTE communication networks that can replace, or work alongside, mission-critical standards such as terrestrial trunked radio.
“However, with considerable sunk cost in existing networks, and concerns over network resilience, this transformation will be slow,” Webb said. “Further challenges include how to store data, especially at a time when privacy is a sensitive issue and how to secure the IoT.”
Webb added IoT will deliver great improvements to public safety. However, he believes more research is needed to understand the significant changes and investments required to make it a reality.
IS trains 400 fighters to attack Europe in wave of bloodshed
Officials said one of the attackers in the Paris massacre was present for the Brussels bombings
by The Associated Press
BRUSSELS — The Islamic State group has trained at least 400 fighters to target Europe in deadly waves of attacks, deploying interlocking terror cells like the ones that struck Brussels and Paris with orders to choose the time, place and method for maximum chaos, officials have told The Associated Press.
The network of agile and semiautonomous cells shows the reach of the extremist group in Europe even as it loses ground in Syria and Iraq.
The officials, including European and Iraqi intelligence officials and a French lawmaker who follows the jihadi networks, described camps in Syria, Iraq and possibly the former Soviet bloc where attackers are trained to target the West. Before being killed in a police raid, the ringleader of the Nov. 13 Paris attacks claimed he had entered Europe in a multinational group of 90 fighters, who scattered "more or less everywhere."
But the biggest break yet in the Paris attacks investigation — the arrest on Friday of fugitive Salah Abdeslam— did not thwart the multipronged attack just four days later on the Belgian capital's airport and subway system that left 31 people dead and an estimated 270 wounded. Three suicide bombers also died.
Just as in Paris, Belgian authorities were searching for at least one fugitive in Tuesday's attacks — this time for a man wearing a white jacket who was seen on airport security footage with the two suicide attackers. The fear is that the man, whose identity Belgian officials say is not known, will follow Abdeslam's path.
After fleeing Paris immediately after the November attacks, Abdeslam forged a new network back in his childhood neighborhood of Molenbeek, long known as a haven for jihadis, and renewed plotting, according to Belgian officials.
"Not only did he drop out of sight, but he did so to organize another attack, with accomplices everywhere. With suicide belts. Two attacks organized just like in Paris. And his arrest, since they knew he was going to talk, it was a response: 'So what if he was arrested? We'll show you that it doesn't change a thing,'" said French Senator Nathalie Goulet, co-head of a commission tracking jihadi networks.
Estimates range from 400 to 600 Islamic State fighters trained specifically for external attacks, according to the officials, including Goulet. Some 5,000 Europeans have gone to Syria.
"The reality is that if we knew exactly how many there were, it wouldn't be happening," she said.
Two of the suicide bombers in Tuesday's attacks, Belgian-born brothers Ibrahim and Khalid El Bakraoui, were known to authorities as common criminals, not anti-Western radicals until an apartment one of them rented was traced to Abdeslam last week, according to Belgian state broadcaster RTBF. Similarly, an Algerian killed inside that apartment on March 15 had nothing but a petty theft record in Sweden — but he'd signed up as an Islamic State suicide bomber for the group in 2014 and returned to Europe as part of the Nov. 13 plot.
In claiming responsibility for Tuesday's attack, the Islamic State group described a "secret cell of soldiers" dispatched to Brussels for the purpose. The shadowy cells were confirmed by the EU police agency, Europol, which said in a late January report that intelligence officials believed the group had "developed an external action command trained for special forces-style attacks."
French speakers with links to North Africa, France and Belgium appear to be leading the units and are responsible for developing attack strategies in Europe, said a European security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss briefing material. He is also familiar with interrogations of former fighters who have returned to Europe. Some were jailed after leaving IS while others were kicked out of the terror group, and they include Muslims and Muslim converts from all across Europe.
Fighters in the units are trained in battleground strategies, explosives, surveillance techniques and counter surveillance, the security official said.
"The difference is that in 2014, some of these IS fighters were only being given a couple weeks of training," he said. "Now the strategy has changed. Special units have been set up. The training is longer. And the objective appears to no longer be killing as many people as possible but rather to have as many terror operations as possible, so the enemy is forced to spend more money or more in manpower."
Similar methods had been developed by al-Qaida but IS has taken it to a new level, he said. Another difference is that fighters are being trained to be their own operators — not necessarily to be beholden to orders from the IS stronghold in Raqqa, Syria, or elsewhere.
Several security officials have said there is growing evidence to suggest the bulk of the training is taking place in Syria, Libya and elsewhere in North Africa.
In the case of Tuesday's attacks, Abdeslam's arrest may have been a trigger for a plot that was already far along.
"To pull off an attack of this sophistication, you need training, planning, materials and a landscape," said Shiraz Maher, a senior research fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at Kings College in London, which has one of the largest databases of fighters and their networks.
"Even if they worked flat out, the attackers in Brussels would have needed at least four days," said Maher, who has conducted extensive interviews with foreign fighters.
The question for many intelligence and security officials is now turning to just how many more fighters have been trained and are ready for more attacks.
A senior Iraqi intelligence official who was not authorized to speak publicly said people from the cell that carried out the Paris attacks are scattered across Germany, Britain, Italy, Denmark and Sweden. Recently, a new group crossed in from Turkey, the official said.
On Wednesday, Turkish authorities said one of the Brussels suicide attackers, Ibrahim El Bakraoui, was caught last June near the Syrian border and deported to the Netherlands, with Ankara warning Dutch and Belgian officials that he was a "foreign terrorist fighter." But he was released from Dutch custody due to lack of evidence of involvement in extremism.
Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens said Wednesday that authorities had no reason to detain El Bakraoui because he was "not known for terrorist acts but as a common law criminal who was on conditional release."
The latest new name to surface this week, Najim Laachraoui, turned out to be the bombmaker who made the suicide vests used in the Paris attacks, according to French and Belgian officials. Attackers used an explosive known as Triacetone Triperoxide, or TATP, made from common household chemicals. DNA evidence indicates he died on Tuesday in the suicide attack on the airport, two officials briefed on the investigation told AP.
Fifteen kilos of TATP were found in an apartment linked to the Brussels attackers, along with other explosive material.
The unidentified man seen on security footage wearing a white jacket and black hat at the Brussels airport on Tuesday remains at large, a fugitive link in a chain still being forged.
Brussels Airport and Metro Explosions: ISIS Claims Responsibility
by CASSANDRA VINOGRAD, DAVID WYLLIE, ALASTAIR JAMIESON and JASON CUMMING
A wave of terrorist bombings in Brussels on Tuesday rocked the city's international airport and a subway station, killing at least 31 people in a chilling display of violence for which ISIS claimed responsibility.
The Belgian capital remained on lockdown as officials raised the terror threat level amid attempts to find and identify suspects, including at least two suicide bombers who detonated two of three suitcase bombs at the Brussels Airport, Belgium's federal prosecutor said. The third did not explode and was destroyed by Belgian authorities.
The blast that ripped through a morning rush-hour subway car less than an hour after the airport attack forced riders to flee in darkened tunnels. Public transportation was shut down and locals were advised to stay indoors amid the mayhem, which saw scores wounded — including several Americans.
World leaders swiftly pledged solidarity with Belgium as the small European nation tried to make sense of the bloodshed.
"What we feared has happened," Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel told the nation. "In this time of tragedy, this black moment for our country, I appeal to everyone to remain calm but also to show solidarity."
In the aftermath of the coordinated carnage, anti-terror raids were reported across the country, including one in the Brussels neighborhood of Schaerbeek, where Belgium's federal prosecutor said an improvised explosive device with nails, chemical products and an ISIS flag were found.
ISIS claimed responsibility for Tuesday morning's attacks, according to a post by its affiliated Amaq Agency. The post was deemed legitimate by NBC News counterterrorism consultancy Flashpoint.
The deadly explosions followed a flurry of counterterrorism activity in Brussels and a raid Friday that captured Europe's most wanted man — Salah Abdeslam — in connection with the Paris terror attacks.
The Associated Press quoted the city's mayor as saying the explosion at Maalbeek metro station, near the European Union headquarters, killed 20 people. The country's ministry of health confirmed that at least 11 people had been killed at the airport.
Three bombs were used in the attack at the airport, although one did not explode, said Lodewijk De Witte, the governor of Flemish Brabant province.
All of the bombs contained nails, added officials at the Hospital Gasthuisberg in Leuven, east of Brussels. Most of the 13 victims treated at the hospital had fractures, burns and deep cuts caused by metal objects, officials said. Five of them were seriously injured.
The first blast hit the airport's departures hall at around 8 a.m. local time (3 a.m. ET) and was quickly followed by a second explosion, sending passengers fleeing.
Pictures from the smoky terminal showed bloodied victims, shattered glass and debris.
A security source told NBC News that one of the airport explosions happened in Departure Hall 1, which is used by international carriers including American Airlines. The carrier said none of its employees or crew had been injured by the blasts.
Eyewitness Jef Versele was checking in for a business trip to Rome when he heard an explosion.
"Soon after that one, a second one hit — and everything came down," he told NBC News. "There was dust everywhere, glass everywhere, there was chaos. There were people on the floor everywhere. The roofing came down. It was quite a mess."
Versele added: "A lot of people were in panic. I saw a lot of blood, a lot of people were injured. People were crying, on the floor, covered by parts of the roofing. I saw a lot of leg injuries, a lot of people couldn't move anymore. There were quite a lot of people injured. In the departure hall — you saw people storming out. It was like run for your life."
American Mormon missionaries Richard Norby, 66; Joseph Empey, 20; and Mason Wells, 19, were among those injured. They were listed in critical condition after suffering non-life-threatening injuries.
In addition, U.S. military officials reported that a U.S. service member and four members of his family were injured during one of the attacks. The military did not release their names or conditions, but one military official told NBC News that their injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.
The Belgian army joined a massive emergency services response, which saw roads and public transportation leading to the airport closed and all incoming flights diverted.
Images posted on social media showed smoke pouring out of the Maalbeek subway station and injured people receiving medical treatment on the sidewalk outside.
New Jersey native Evan Lamos was on the train behind the one that was struck. The 30-year-old said he walked for several minutes in the dark underground after his train was evacuated.
"As soon as the metro stopped, everyone was talking about the blast at the airport, but there was no panicking when we were told to evacuate the train," said Lamos, who moved to Belgium as a teenager. "People were helping each other."
Michael Ryan, head of the EU delegation to Rwanda, was coming up the escalator at another station just a few hundred feet away when he felt a "soft boom."
"The air pressure from the explosion went up the line and rattled everything," he told NBC News. "Everything is tense here."
All trains, planes, trams and buses were halted in Brussels. The main Midi train station was evacuated and ambulances raced through the streets of the Belgian capital.
Sunita Van Heers had come to the train station after seeing the metro was on lockdown. Then police evacuated the station.
"Everybody started panicking, crying, not knowing what was happening," she said, describing how police ordered people away from the station. "It's scary."
The rapidly unfolding crisis caused cellphone networks in Brussels to jam, with officials urging people to use WhatsApp or Twitter because the networks were becoming saturated. Belgium's crisis center advised locals to stay home or in their workplaces, and told schools to keep students indoors.
Alleged Paris attacker Abdeslam was taken into custody along with several others on Friday. His capture has been seen as a potential goldmine of information for intelligence services — if he cooperates.
The 26-year-old and several of the attackers who laid siege to Paris on Nov. 13 had ties to Belgium.
But Belgium's federal prosecutor said late Tuesday that it was not immediately possible to link Brussels with the coordinated carnage in Paris that was also claimed by ISIS.
On Monday, officials named another potential suspect and asked for public assistance in locating him.
Belgium's foreign minister said following Abdeslam's arrest that the suspect had been planning to "restart something" in Brussels — the suggestion of a new attack was taken all the more seriously given the large amounts of heavy weapons found during his arrest.
Meanwhile, other cities and countries said they would honor the victims of Tuesday's killings.
The Eiffel Tower in Paris was awash in the colors of the Belgian flag — black, yellow and red — as was Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate.
Dutch Shut Diplomatic Post in Istanbul After Threat
by MIKE CORDER
The Dutch government temporarily closed its consulate-general in Istanbul on Wednesday because of a "possible terror threat" and advised its citizens to avoid the area, which is close to the scene of a suicide bombing that killed four foreign tourists on Saturday.
The ministry issued a brief statement announcing the closure, calling it a precautionary measure, but gave no details of the nature of the threat.
"The security of my staff and visitors ... has our highest priority," Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said in a statement. "We cannot, for obvious reasons, give further details of the nature or the threat or the information it is based on."
The announcement came just days after a suicide bomber identified as a militant with links to the Islamic State group, targeted the area.
Saturday's explosion also wounded dozens of people. Among the fatalities were two American-Israelis, another Israeli and an Iranian. The attack targeted Istanbul's pedestrian Istiklal Street, which is lined with shops and cafes in an area that also has government offices and foreign missions, including the Dutch consulate-general.
On Tuesday, Turkish security forces in cooperation with German intelligence detained three men, including an Iraqi and a Syrian, suspected of planning another attack in Istanbul. The Turkish private Dogan news agency said the trio was plotting to target the German consulate and German school in Istanbul.
The Dutch foreign ministry said 40 staff members were evacuated following Wednesday's closure.
Atlanta airport terminal evacuated as 'precaution'
by John Bacon
The domestic terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport was briefly evacuated Wednesday due to a suspicious package, airport officials said.
The incident came one day after Mayor Kasim Reed announced that security measures had been "heightened" at the airport and other locations around the city following a terror strike in Brussels, Belgium.
Video posted on Twitter from Hartsfield appeared to show people scrambling to exit the terminal, and some social media posts mentioned "shooting." That was quickly denied by Atlanta police.
"Out of an abundance of caution, APD is investigating a suspicious package and has evacuated the public areas of the domestic terminal," airport officials tweeted.
Minutes later, the airport tweeted that "The incident has been cleared and people are returning to the atrium."
Added Atlanta police: "There is no active shooter at the airport. A suspicious package has been cleared. ALL is OK!"
Flight operations returned to normal, officials said. No other details were immediately available.
The incident came one day after an attack at Brussels Airport left at least 11 people dead and scores injured. Authorities in Belgium have determined that the Brussels airport blast and one at a metro stop in the city were terrorist attacks. The Islamic State claimed responsibility.
Atlanta was among scores of city across the nation and around the world that tightened security at airports, transportation hubs and other locations after the attack.
Denver had a scare Tuesday similar to Atlanta's false alarm. A bomb-sniffing dog's reaction to packages left at a ticket counter prompted authorities to evacuate a section of the main terminal of Denver International Airport. The "suspicious packages" contained jars of oils and spices belonging to a Vietnamese family traveling home, airport officials said.
IMPD to launch beat system for community policing
by RUSS MCQUAID
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (March 23, 2016) — The effort to evolve community policing in Indianapolis, and to undo questionable measures put in place during the Ballard administration, takes a step forward this afternoon as IMPD Chief Troy Riggs will unveil a beat structure system for the patrolling of city neighborhoods.
During a morning briefing hosted by Mayor Joe Hogsett, Riggs explained that under a discredited zone patrol system introduced by then-Public Safety Director Dr. Frank Straub, based on the advice of national consultants, some IMPD officers are responsible for an 11-square-mile area.
Riggs said such a large geographical assignment is an ineffective way to patrol a neighborhood under a community policing model. Wednesday afternoon Riggs will announce that IMPD will return to a more localized beat system of one-square-mile locations throughout many parts of the city.
Riggs said that while the beat system will not be comprehensive across Indianapolis, it will be spread through focus areas and other communities. Officers assigned to those newly designated beats will receive additional training and be encouraged to park their patrol cars and walk through neighborhoods to meet residents.
The chief will also announce one-, two- and three-year plans for IMPD and its approach to community policing.
IMPD's beat system comes at a time when the Hogsett administration is revamping city government and its delivery of public safety services to residents.
On March 29 the Rules & Public Policy Committee of the City-County Council is expected to vote on reorganization of the Department of Public Safety which includes direct reporting of the police and fire chiefs to the mayor's office, creating an Office of Public Health and Safety to better integrate quality of life issues into protection of the community and placement of the Citizens Police Complaint Board under the authority of the mayor to eliminate conflicts of interest in investigating citizen complaints.
Hogsett's staff estimates more than $500,000 will be saved annually and returned to the general fund in the elimination of DPS and its reorganization as a division of city government.
IFD Chief Ernie Malone reported that three times this year his firehouses have been utilized as safe havens for children who were dropped off by parents overwhelmed with the responsibility of child care.
On April 30 IFD in conjunction with DEA will open its doors for residents who wish to dispose of prescription drugs that are no longer needed or have reached their expiration dates.
Public safety leaders talk terrorism at local security conference
by Amanda St. Hilaire
SUMMERDALE, Pa. (WHTM) – Terrorism was the topic of a homeland security conference in Cumberland County this week long before the attacks on the Brussels airport and a metro station in the city.
Speakers from all over the world and public safety leaders from all over the region have gathered at Central Penn College to prepare for emergencies including terror attacks.
This year, there's a focus on social media, open communication between agencies, and working with businesses to track people who buy large amounts of agricultural products that could be used to make weapons.
ABC27 asked if Pennsylvania is ready for a terrorist attack. Public safety leaders told us saying yes can be dangerous.
“We never want to rest on our laurels and say, ‘hey, X is going to happen and we're good to go',” Duane Hagelgans of the South Central Task Force said. “We want to make sure that we never stop. It's this constant cycle of preparedness and getting ready.”
“There are so many things that affect our world, and technology is changing literally by the minute,” said Captain Doug Burig, director of the Pennsylvania State Police Intelligence Division. “We have to adapt to the technology that both our adversaries are using and we use to try to protect people.”
Burig said the best way the public can help is to report any suspicious activity, no matter how small it may appear. The State Police Terrorism and Fugitive Tip Line is 1-888-292-1919.
2 explosions at Brussels Airport, 1 at subway station; 26 killed
by Joshua Berlinger, Nima Elbagir and Greg Botelho
Three explosions that ripped through the Belgian capital of Brussels on Tuesday killed at least 26 people and wounded 130 more, according to Belgian media, and raised the reality of terror once again in the heart of Europe.
"We were fearing terrorist attacks, and that has now happened," Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel told reporters.
Belgian federal Prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw said it was too soon to know exactly how many people died in the bombings. Yet the Brussels Metro Authority reported that 15 died and 55 were wounded in the subway station blast. And Belgian media report at least 11 more people were killed in the two blasts in the Brussels Airport departure hall.
Of the two explosions at the airport, at least one was a suicide bombing, Van Leeuw said. A blast happened there outside the security checkpoints for ticketed passengers and near the airline check-in counters, an airline official briefed on the situation said.
The subway station blast happened in the Brussels district of Maalbeek, near the European quarter, where much of the European Union is based, according to CNN affiliate RTL.
Richard Medic, who arrived at the station shortly after that explosion, wasn't surprised by the carnage after all that Europe has gone through recently, including the November's massacre in Paris that ISIS claimed responsibility for.
"I think, after the Paris attacks, we were assuming like this would happen," the Brussels resident told CNN. "And it was a matter of time."
Yet Jeff Versele, who was in the airport's departure hall when the blasts occurred, said that he thinks Belgians should not hole themselves up and instead should continue to travel "to prove that we're not afraid of those who have done (the attacks)."
That doesn't mean being in the middle of it all, though, isn't frightening.
"You cannot believe it; you cannot believe it," Versele told CNN. "It was so insane. Not in my backyard."
Security precautions taken
Belgian authorities took security precautions after Tuesday's attacks, including shutting down all Brussels metro stations and evacuating the city's airport.
This comes as the terror threat level in Belgium went up four -- its highest. That step-up means that army soldiers can be sent onto the streets to meet security needs.
The ramifications were felt outside the Belgian capital as well.
Even as far away as the United States, Washington's Metro system announced that it would be increasing K9 sweeps and police patrols as a precaution. President Barack Obama was briefed on the bombings in Cuba, where he is making a historic visit.
Eurostar, a high-speed railway that goes to England and France, noted a number of schedule and other changes, including canceling service between London and Brussels.
NATO, the military alliance that is headquartered in Brussels, increased its own alert level and expressed solidarity with Belgium.
"This is a cowardly attack, an attack on our values and on our open societies," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement. "Terrorism will not defeat democracy and take away our freedoms."
British police have increased their presence at certain locations, including transport hubs like London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports, according to Scotland Yard.
And France deployed 1,600 more police around the country, according to French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.
"I express my entire solidarity with the Belgian people," French President Francois Hollande tweeted. "Through the Brussels attacks, the whole of Europe has been hit."
The Brussels Airport attack
Anthony Barrett said he heard something about 8 a.m. local time from his hotel across from the terminal building.
"When I opened the curtains and looked out, I could see people fleeing," he told CNN.
He said he's seen about 19 or 20 stretchers carrying people so far. Luggage trollies were also being used to transport the wounded.
"It's clearly a very serious incident," he said.
Federal police at the airport at Zaventem told CNN that "there has been an explosion" and "something has happened."
Witnesses told RTL that at least one of the two explosions took place in the airport's departure hall.
Dozens of people have been taken out of the airport on stretchers, according to eyewitnesses.
The Brussels Airport tweeted that there have been two blasts and said that "the building" is being evacuated. They also said all airport operations have been suspended and asked those nearby to remain calm.
The airport is being evacuated and a disaster plan has been initiated, RTL reported. Passengers have been directed to the airport runways.
One of them, Jeffrey Edison, had cleared security and was out by the gate, several hundred yards from the departure lounge, where the explosions occurred. He told CNN he didn't hear the blasts but "suddenly saw" 200 to 300 people rushing toward him from the security checkpoint.
He says it took authorities around 25 minutes to tell the passengers what had happened, before evacuating the area and leading the passengers to the runways.
The metro attack
The Belgian crisis center tweeted that all public transportation in the city has been closed.
"Stay where you are," it said.
Kristalina Georgieva, the vice president of the European Commission, said that all the organization's institutions are at "alert level orange" and that all meetings on its premises and outside have been canceled.
She advised people to stay at home or indoors.
"I am shocked and concerned by the events in Brussels," British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted. "We will do everything we can to help."
The incident comes after Salah Abdeslam, a man who authorities say was involved in the Paris terror attacks last year, was arrested in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek on Friday.
Belgium's Prime Minister deflected a question about whether there's any link between Tuesday's bloodshed and Abdeslam's capture, saying it is too early to tell.
He said Tuesday that he had "no information" about who was responsible for the attack, adding that authorities will find that out, but right now their focus is on caring for the victims.
Community policing might revitalize city
Alan Snow, the newly named police chief in Burlington City, said last week that he is increasing patrols and stepping up surveillance with cameras placed throughout the town to capture activity 24/7.
Those are methods that make good sense, but it's the community policing bent of Snow's plan that struck a chord with us.
The chief also said he wants to cultivate a partnership with residents and businesses to reduce crime.
We support Snow and other local police and law enforcement officials who are looking for more effective ways to increase public safety and improve the quality of life in their communities.
The movement toward community policing — organizing a police department to proactively fight crime and address public safety issues — has gained momentum in the last decade for good reason.
Police strategies that worked in the past don't necessarily work today.
“Our officers are riding around in the neighborhoods, and they'll get out and talk to residents. Police presence is No. 1 in deterring crime,” Snow said.
It may be No. 1, but the active participation of residents and business owners must be a close second; when police and residents partner up, crime drops.
In just two years, community policing strategies in Canton, Connecticut, have led to a 27 percent decrease in quality-of-life crimes, as well as reductions in burglaries and theft rates, according to the Canton Repository website.
Canton officers routinely play basketball, pick up trash, clean up graffiti, and walk door to door to talk to residents in high-crime neighborhoods. Any overtime required is paid with grant money.
An aloof and unresponsive police department — or the perception of one — leaves people afraid to speak out when a crime does occur. Fear keeps people in their homes and the streets empty. Empty streets contribute to more crime. Businesses and residents suffer.
Instead of forcing city residents into an after-the-fact response to crime, we applaud Chief Snow for choosing to continue to work with residents and business owners. Encouraging people to report nuisance crimes and other signs of neglect in their neighborhoods will give them a voice and help develop a rapport that could lead to reduced rates of more serious crimes.
Of course, the success of community policing relies on many factors, including the long-term joint efforts of the police, local government, businesses and other members of the community. But it's something that is essential to revitalizing the city's neighborhoods and business district. We strongly encourage all stakeholders to engage.
Reducing the fear of crime and actively involving residents will go a long way in improving the quality of life in Burlington City and allow it to thrive in the future.
Charged with racism, Plainfield police seek community support
by Marisa Iati
PLAINFIELD — Facing allegations of internal racism and political retaliation, the city police division defended itself to more than 100 people gathered Thursday night to debate a recent call for an investigation into the department.
But after watching an hour-long slideshow presentation from police officials, the city council voted down a proposed resolution that would have expressed confidence in the department's ability to handle personnel matters fairly.
Councilwoman Gloria Taylor said she stood by her earlier vote to hire an independent investigator to probe allegations of unfairness in the department. The police department's presentation about how it combats crime in Plainfield was useful, she said, but did not assuage her concerns.
"We must make community policing a major aspect to compare, to balance, the fine professional work that you do," Taylor told the more than two dozen police officers at the meeting. "That's what it means to live in community."
The flare-up began earlier this month, when about 30 people gathered to protest disciplinary action against Lt. Ken Reid, a 31-year veteran of the department. Officials have not said what he would be disciplined for, calling it a personnel matter.
Mayor Adrian Mapp said Thursday that five officers — three white and two Black — had been disciplined in the situation involving Reid.
Relatives and friends have alleged the possibility of suspension or demotion of the officer would be racially motivated or political in nature.
Council members on March 15 voted unanimously to appoint outside counsel to investigate the police department, a move Mapp quickly denounced.
Without details like who would conduct the investigation and how much money it would cost, however, the resolution calling for the probe lacks legal force, officials said.
The city council would have to pass another, more specific resolution in order for the investigation to proceed, but council president Cory Storch said he thinks that outcome would be unlikely.
The controversy comes as Plainfield police strive to strengthen ties with their community amidst ongoing national demands for police transparency, particularly surrounding officers' encounters with racial minorities.
The strife also follows a history of legal complaints against the department, at least two of which were recently resolved out of court.
Police Director Carl Riley said Thursday his department was working to hold officers accountable for their negative actions, using a fair and systematic process.
"I assure everyone that any discipline taken against any officers under my command since 2014 has not and will not have anything to do with race, gender, religion or political motivation, as suggested by some," he said.
Officials cited statistics showing there were far fewer complaints against the department in the first quarter of 2016 than there were in the same quarter of 2015. They attributed the shift to the department's recent use of body cameras and high behavioral standards enforced by Riley.
Storch, the council president, said although he felt the department should improve its community policing, it could do so by undergoing an accreditation process or via other means.
"I don't feel a need to spend more dollars on such an investigation because I have faith in the elected officials and the police division," he said.
Members of the public approached a microphone one by one to both compliment the department and express frustration about Reid's situation.
After several people said they respected the police but still wanted an investigation into the department's practices, resident Alan Goldstein said they were being hypocritical and should trust the police division's disciplinary process.
"If there isn't a process, there isn't going to be a police department," he said.
MTA re-launches public safety campaign with real stories from New Yorkers
The agency also added the new slogan “New Yorkers Keep New York Safe” to the advertising campaign.
The MTA is reminding commuters to keep an eye out and remember that they each play an important role in keeping New York City safe.
The agency re-launched on Monday its “If you see something, say something” public safety campaign with a few extra features.
As part of the new revamped campaign, the MTA has incorporated stories from real New Yorkers who have reported suspicious packages or activities and also added the new slogan “New Yorkers Keep New York Safe.”
“This is the most significant change to our public safety messaging since we first launched the ‘If you see something, say something' campaign in the aftermath of 9/11,” said Thomas Prendergast, MTA chairman and CEO. “Our goals with the new campaign are to show our customers how easy it is to report a suspicious package or activity, and remind them that they have a crucial role to play in keeping New York safe.”
The MTA has launched separate videos which feature commuter describing the situations they dealt with that led them to reporting either a suspicious package or activities.
“One afternoon about 2 p.m. I was getting off a train and noticed a large piece of luggage in a train station,” said a C train rider named Francine. “After everyone exited the train, the luggage was still sitting there. So I thought, I'm just going to leave. And then I noticed people, even with children, walking to the train station, and I didn't feel right about it.”
The videos — which will run online, on mobile devices and via Facebook — also highlight individuals whose jobs it is to respond to certain reports.
One of those individuals includes MTA Police Officer David Chin and his K-9 partner, Bishop.
“When someone reports something to us we will scan the area as we approach and he'll tell me if there's something that will hurt me inside that item,” Chin said. “I love having a job that can make a difference in New York, and to be able to work with Bishop is actually a bonus.”
Along with the videos – which run between 15 seconds to 3 minutes and 38 seconds – the MTA will also implement an advertising campaign on trains, stations and buses with the headline reading “New Yorkers Keep New York Safe.”
The MTA also said it encourages commuters to use the hashtag #KeepNYSafe.
The agency owns the trademark to “If you see something, say something,” after it was created in 2002 for the MTA by advertising agency Korey Kay & Partners. Since then, the MTA has licensed the phrase to over 130 domestic and international transportation providers and government agencies.
The campaign videos can be see on the MTA's YouTube channel.
Police: Ind. deputy wounded in deadly gunfight is doing well
The shootout left another deputy and the suspect dead
by The Associated Press
KOKOMO, Ind. — A deputy wounded in a gunfight with a suspect that left another deputy dead remains hospitalized but is faring well, a central Indiana sheriff said Monday.
Howard County Sheriff Steve Rogers said Sgt. Jordan Buckley "is doing very well" following Sunday's shooting inside a mobile home in Russiaville, about 60 miles north of Indianapolis.
Deputy Carl Koontz was wounded in the shooting and died later Sunday at an Indianapolis hospital.
SWAT officers found the gunman, 25-year-old Evan T. Dorsey, dead inside the mobile home about two hours after the gunfight ended, Rogers said.
The officers had been trying to serve a search and arrest warrant on Dorsey, who was wanted in adjacent Clinton County for failing to appear for a court hearing on a syringe possession charge. He had already served time in state prison on drug-related charges.
State Police Sgt. John Perrine said an autopsy is expected to determine whether Dorsey died from police gunfire or took his own life.
"That will give us more information about what actually happened inside the trailer yesterday morning," Perrine said at a Monday news conference with Rogers at the sheriff's department in Kokomo.
Rogers said Koontz's body would be returned Monday afternoon to Kokomo and that the deputy's widow, Kassandra Koontz, had requested a moment of silence Monday morning for her late husband.
He said the killing of Koontz, who was the father an 8-month-old son, had left his department shaken and in mourning.
"You can only imagine the loss here, a wife with a small child," he said. "... It's just what you can imagine, as far as the stress and the sadness we're dealing with right now."
Congressman introduces bill to make targeted killing of police a hate crime
The bill, dubbed the Blue Lives Matter Act of 2016, would expand the federal hate crime statute to include LEOs
by Nate Miller
GREELEY, Colo. — Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., introduced a bill in Congress that would make it a hate crime to target a police officer.
Buck filed the measure Wednesday, he said in a phone interview from Washington, D.C. The bill, dubbed the Blue Lives Matter Act of 2016, would expand the federal hate crime statute to include law enforcement officers who are targeted for acts of violence because of their jobs.
“I've been in law enforcement for 25 years before I started in this job,” the Windsor Republican said. “I've seen over and over both police officers on the street and federal agents, jail deputies and bureau of prison officials being threatened by very dangerous people. I have a passion for trying to protect those who protect us. That's what this bill is about.”
Buck said if it were to become law, the act would provide federal prosecutors an extra measure of authority in cases such as the December 2014 ambush-style killing of two New York police officers, for example. It would work the same way as existing hate-crime laws do which allow federal prosecutors to bring additional charges in cases in which victims are targeted for violent crime because of their background.
The measure comes at a time when cases of attacks on police officers — and deadly use of force by officers — have made shocking headlines across the country. It's also a time when many officers feel under attack from those who blame all officers for the actions of a few.
“This helps to stem that tide,” Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams said, noting he hadn't seen the bill but had spoken to Buck about it. “It shows that there are some legislators who are behind our efforts as law enforcement officers and understand that the job we do is a dangerous one at times.”
Reams said while he supports the bill, it's unfortunate hate-crime statutes have to exist at all.
“When you talk about hate crime legislation, that's always kind of a tough area,” he said. “What makes the assault, or the murder, of a person of a specific background any more or less heinous than someone who doesn't fit into one of those categories?”
Evans Police Chief Rick Brandt is the president of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police. He said he hadn't seen the bill and didn't know the details, but at first blush, it seemed like a good idea.
“It's an affront to society, I think, when police officers are targeted — randomly targeted — for ambush,” he said.
Last year, 124 officers were killed in the line of duty, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which tracks police deaths nationwide. That total is among the five lowest in the past 20 years. The lowest in the past two decades came in 2013, when 107 officers were killed. In 2014, 117 officers lost their lives in the line of duty. Of the 2015 deaths, 52 died as the result of criminal activity.
Buck spokesman Kyle Huwa said he didn't know how many of the 2015 deaths might have qualified for hate crime prosecution had the law been in place, but he pointed out ambush style-attacks often have hate as a motivation. In 2015, there were six such killings of officers and 15 the year before, according to National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund data.
Alan Franklin, political director for the liberal group Progress Now Colorado, said it's an interesting question whether police officers rightly fit in hate-crime statutes.
“The question is whether or not a police officer is really appropriately covered by such a statute, especially when there are many laws that severely penalize violence against police officers already,” he said.
Still, he pointed out, Buck made use of bias-motivated statues as a prosecutor. As the Weld District Attorney, he successfully prosecuted Allen Andrade in 2009 under a bias-motivated crime statute for the murder of Angie Zapata, a transgender woman.
“With that said, I think that Ken Buck is probably going to run into more problems with this in his own party, legitimizing the concept of biased-motivated crimes at all,” Franklin said. “As you know many conservatives are wholly opposed to that in theory.”
Buck said he doesn't know who might oppose the bill, but he noted even on Wednesday as he walked to the House floor to file it, several Republicans — Reps. Trey Gowdy, Pete Sessions, Jason Chaffetz, and John Ratcliffe — asked to be added as co-sponsors.
“I haven't walked down the Democrat aisle yet,” Buck said. “We'll see. I can't imagine anyone would be opposed to protecting police officers.”
Justice Dept.: Focus is on more serious drug criminals
The number of federal drug prosecutions has dropped in the last year, but the cases that are pursued involve more serious crimes
by Eric Tucker
WASHINGTON — The number of federal drug prosecutions has dropped in the last year, but the cases that are pursued involve more serious crimes, the Justice Department announced Monday.
Federal prosecutors also are charging drug criminals less frequently with crimes carrying rigid mandatory minimum punishments, Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates said in an interview with The Associated Press. Fewer than half of all drug cases in fiscal year 2015 involved charges with a mandatory minimum sentence, in which punishments are closely tied to drug quantity, according to new data from the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
Justice Department officials see the new data as support for their "Smart on Crime" initiative, which then-Attorney General Eric Holder announced in 2013. The goal of that effort was to give prosecutors greater discretion in charging decisions and sentencing recommendations so that Justice Department resources and decades-long prison sentences could be reserved for major drug kingpins or more dangerous drug offenders.
"The data that we're releasing reveals that Smart on Crime is more than just a paper policy," Yates said. "It's really a whole new approach to criminal justice."
Before implementation of Smart on Crime, Yates said, prosecutors were required to charge defendants with the maximum offense possible.
"There are some defendants that need the max, but what Smart on Crime does is it entrusts prosecutors to make charging decisions that take into account more than just drug quantity," while also encouraging judges to fashion more proportional punishments.
The statistics show that a 6 percent drop in federal drug cases from fiscal year 2014 to 2015. But the percentage of defendants who were armed and played leadership roles in the crime rose during that same period.
Though some prosecutors had expressed concern that they'd lose leverage in plea negotiations without the threatened hammer of a mandatory minimum sentence, the Justice Department says drug defendants are still cooperating with the government, and pleading guilty, at the same rate as before.
San Bernardino firefighters won't respond to calls until police arrive
Because the streets are so dangerous in San Bernardino, crews must wait until there is a police presence before responding
by PoliceOne Staff
SAN BERNADINO, Calif. — Firefighters in San Bernardino will not respond to a call unless there is a police presence because of how dangerous the streets have become.
CBS LA reported firefighters were across the street from a 12-year-old boy who had been shot but waited until police arrived before getting involved.
“As soon as I saw him fall, I called 911 and said, ‘Oh, my gosh, a kid has been shot,'” said Elsa Castro, a witness to the shooting of Jason Spears and his cousin.
Castro waited for help to come with Spears, who later died.
“I felt like running over there and just getting one of them and rush them to him,” Castro said.
Because of the new policy, paramedics across the street did not leave the station until police arrived at the scene eight minutes after the call.
“We are definitely prioritizing calls,” said Eileen Hards, with the San Bernardino Police Department.
“There is a lot of crime going on in our city and obviously we want to respond to every call as quickly as possible. But our resources are down, the bankruptcy allowed for some cuts in the department, so we're slightly understaffed.”
Castro said she believes the firefighters and paramedics should have done more.
“I understand protocol, but work faster and when you hear it's a kid, just answer the call,” she said.
Canton police see success with community policing
Since 2014, Canton police have played basketball, bagged trash and walked door to door in high-crime neighborhoods to decrease violence and build community trust.
by Kelly Byer
The police were outnumbered.
A body camera worn by one officer captured shaky footage of him and three other officers in a street basketball game against a group of kids on Sherlock Place NE. As the ball was shot, the camera captured the sound of a rim hit but no view of the net.
"We still got this," the camera-wearing officer said. "We ain't done yet. We're just playing easy."
He tossed a football with the boys as they moved to the side of the road to let an SUV pass. The department's year-old video has 2,000-plus shares and more than 400 overwhelmingly positive comments on Facebook.
The video moment came as the Canton Police Department began its brand of community policing in the northeast neighborhood around Sherlock Place. Seven months earlier, teens in the Shorb area on the city's northwest — a high-crime area and first to receive the new treatment — were upset after officers confiscated their streetside hoop. So the basketball video from the northeast side of town stands as a small but significant step toward improved perception of the department.
Since 2014, Canton police have played basketball, bagged trash and walked door-to-door in high-crime neighborhoods in hopes of decreasing violence and building community trust. They have spent nearly $34,500 in grant money to pay for expenses such as officers' overtime and safety brochures.
Police, community leaders and residents say it's paying off.
The northwest and northeast target areas — which take up about 1.7 square miles of the city's 25.5 square-mile footprint — regularly produced about 26 percent of Canton's crime until 2014. Two officers then were assigned to patrol the northwest Shorb area between Sixth and 12th street and Fulton Road to High Avenue.
Residents noticed the first improvement in at least a decade but also criticized police, saying they harassed young men for minor infractions such as walking in the street. In 2015, the department expanded the northwest boundaries and promised to improve community relations as officers started patrolling the northeast — 12th Street to 17th Street and Spring Street to St. Elmo Avenue.
“Those have been the two consistently violent, crime-ridden areas in our city,” said Lt. John Gabbard, who leads the initiative as commander of the newly created Priorities Bureau. “This is the first time that we've been able to significantly reduce crime, keep it down."
The department incorporated a two-year state grant into a philosophical shift that began when Bruce Lawver became chief in 2012. Officers focused on quality-of-life issues and established a presence through foot patrols in the high-crime neighborhoods.
Statistics provided by the department show violent crime decreased by 41 percent and quality of life crimes, such as burglary and theft, decreased by 27 percent in the Shorb area between June 2014 and 2015 compared to the prior year. Citywide, violent crime was down 3.4 percent and quality of life crime was down 12.2 percent in 2015, as compared to the three-year average from 2012 to 2014.
Crimes considered violent include murder, burglary, assault, robbery, rape and menacing. Offenses categorized as "quality of life" are breaking and entering, burglary, theft, damaging, vandalism, harassment and illegally discharging a weapon.
Although burglaries, break-ins and thefts in Canton dropped considerably in 2015, simple and felonious assaults rose by 10 percent and 6 percent, respectively. The reason for the increase was uncertain. Gabbard said simple assaults have been increasing for years, possibly because more people are making reports for minor offenses and officers classify them as assault more often than lesser crimes.
The rise in felonious assaults, he said, "was not associated with gun violence."
The number of shooting victims citywide in 2015 decreased by 30 percent compared to the past three-year average. Shots fired decreased by 22 percent citywide and between 15 and 26 percent in the northwest Shorb neighborhood and northeast Gibbs neighborhood.
"We're still on the right track," Gabbard said.
Recent statistics specific to each target area were not available because of a switch to a new dispatch system, which doesn't accurately map crimes yet, and budget cuts that led to the loss of a part-time crime analyst, he said.
Police will not evaluate their approach on statistics alone, though. Lawver said they're not a complete representation of performance, which would include resident perceptions of safety and law enforcement. It's also difficult to measure how many crimes officers deter.
"You don't get the credit for something that never did happen, that you prevented," Lawver said.
Cleanup with a cop
Lynn Butts watched from a porch swing topped with ragged pillows as officers bagged trash outside his house on Rowland Avenue NE.
“Kind of surprised me,” the 35-year resident said, having not previously seen police fill garbage bags with discarded napkins and debris. “Looked out and saw them.”
The November trash pickup was the first in the northeast target area and followed a graffiti cleanup. Officers Scott Jones and Scott Dendinger, who were assigned to the neighborhood, were joined by other community officers and Pastor Walter Moss, who directs Community Initiative to Reduce Violence — a countywide effort to reduce gang and gun crimes.
The northeast side does not have the established neighborhood associations like the Shorb area does in the northwest, where police cleanups drew a larger turnout. The only community member who helped clean near Gibbs Elementary School spent most the time telling officers of his theories on corruption and telling police how they should do their job.
“This might be the most irritating thing I've ever done,” Jones said when officers regrouped after about an hour.
They shared resident reactions, which ranged from people unwilling to help to those who assumed there was a shooting when they saw glove-wearing officers. Judi Solly, who had been the department's community liaison officer, said residents greeted her kindly as she walked the area.
“I had all positive,” she said.
Inella Gadison, a northeast-area resident most her life, said she picks trash from her yard nearly every day. She watched officers clean from her 14th Street NE house.
“It ain't gonna do no good,” she said. “Because all that stuff's going to be right back out there.”
Gadison and Butts said they would like to see more police in the area and didn't feel they were aggressive, as residents in the northwest initially did. Both said the city had torn down more vacant houses in the area.
Community officers are expected to prevent people from breaking into or vandalizing vacant properties, record the empty houses and other issues such as broken lights, and contact city staff so the issues can be fixed. Dendinger said the neighborhood's appearance has improved, and people now wave at officers as they patrol.
“No matter how big or small, or even if they're police-related or not, we try to help them out with their issues,” he said.
An empty lot where a house was demolished is opposite Butts' house, where he lives with his grandchildren. He's installed security cameras to curtail crime and said he's had items taken from his yard and witnessed drug deals and a gang-related assault.
Crime has been “considerably down,” though, which Butts attributed to residents no longer tolerating criminal behavior. He has noticed an increased police presence and said crime seemed to be migrating north.
“I like to see it,” Butts said. “It's a shame you have to have them out here all the time because it tells other people you've got a bad neighborhood, if police got to patrol it all the time, but it also keeps things down.”
Building trust, diversity
The department's neighborhood involvement has improved relationships with residents, particularly minorities.
Ron Ponder, a WHBC talk show host who moderated some of the department's community discussions, said trust is being rebuilt. As president of the Stark County NAACP in the 1980s, he sued the city to force safety services to hire more blacks and women.
“I can look back and see how it was, and I can compare it with what it is right now,” Ponder said. “And it's a big difference, really big difference.”
The department of 165 sworn officers includes 24 black officers, two Hispanic officers and one Asian officer. There are 13 women on the force, including three who are black, according to police.
As the city's population dwindled from about 80,000 to 72,000 between 2000 and 2014, the Hispanic population grew from 1.2 percent to 2.6 percent. The U.S. Census Bureau recorded the city's makeup in 2010 as 69.1 percent white, 24.2 percent black and 2.6 percent Latino.
The Canton Police Department's new goal has been to work with youth, community groups, and black and Hispanic leaders toward a safer city.
"If we don't have respect, people don't trust us," Lawver said. "They're not going to call us. They're not going to confide in us, and we'll never reach any type of potential."
With a department history stung by racial tension, misconduct and brutality, administrators know it will take time. They've tried to communicate better with residents, in English and Spanish, and explain their policies and practices at community meetings.
People have responded in kind. The Stark County NAACP invited area law enforcement and state Attorney General Mike DeWine to have a dinner conversation last spring at the first local gathering of its kind.
"The dinner grew out of a concern that every city would be the next Ferguson," Deb Shamlin, president of the Stark County NAACP, said of the community near St. Louis where an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed in 2014 by a white police officer. "And that it was important that there be a community-police relationship."
She had recently taken office in Canton after moving from Chicago. Despite criticism for cooperating with police, Shamlin said, her first year as president has established crucial relationships.
She attended a Police Executive Research Forum meeting last year in Washington D.C. with Lawver, who is a NAACP member, and said NAACP staff, the police and city officials have shared information to "de-escalate situations."
"What I find helpful is they are open," Shamlin said. "They are receptive to comments, suggestions and criticism, and in return, we are also open to the response."
The department's community-oriented approach is evident in their interactions.
Ponder said police have achieved a level of diversity and accountability he hoped for a quarter century ago. He commended Lawver and Shamlin for their strong leadership and willingness to "tackle the issues."
By trying an approach not solely based on arrests, Ponder said, Lawver has made Canton safer by encouraging residents to confide in police.
"He's gone out of his way to try to make inroads into the community, and not just the black community, into communities, plural," he said.
The department's also translated safety tips and designed brochures to explain cultural police differences to Hispanic residents. A few hang on a bulletin board inside the 12th Street Laundromat, where the Latino Business League hosted a Latino festival outside the shopping plaza in 2014.
The summer festival came two months after the owner of a nearby Mexican grocery store was beaten and robbed at gunpoint. Police and city officials attended the event, organized to improve connections and prevent the victimization of Latino residents.
Wilter Perez Barrera, formerly executive director of the Latino Business League and now a self-employed consultant, said the language barrier is one of the greatest challenges and can deter Spanish-speaking residents from contacting police. He helped translate safety pamphlets but said police, who have said they want people to report crime and are not concerned with immigration status, could work even more closely with Spanish-speaking residents.
"It goes beyond brochures," Barrera said.
Alfredo Carranza, founder of the Latino Business League and an occasional translator for police, said communication has improved but could benefit from more bilingual officers and dispatchers. He began working with police about two years ago when residents contacted him about assaults, robberies and break-ins.
"I believe, from the time that we started working together, the issues with Latinos have reduced a lot, and they got more respect," Carranza said.
Carranza and Barrera both are natives of Peru.
All about perception
Henry Renfro, a Hartville resident and owner of the 12th Street Laundromat in Canton, said he opened the business in 2014 despite "horror stories" about the area's crime.
Shortly afterward, a nearby Mexican grocery store was robbed, and police visited the businesses near 12th Street and Fulton Drive NW to share crime information and security suggestions. Renfro, who was born and raised in the United States by his Mexican mother, said it was reassuring.
"If people don't feel safe down here, no one will come down here and shop," he said.
At the laundromat, which is in the police department's initial target area and frequented by Hispanic residents, several signs warn of security cameras and metal bars cover the front door. Renfro's few complaints include sometimes slow police responses, officers who haven't shown interest in his security footage and an apparent decrease in patrols since the fall.
Renfro believes in the neighborhood's future, so much so that he is trying to buy the entire plaza, which is less than two miles from the Pro Football Hall of Fame and its proposed attractions.
"We believe that it's going to become safe for tourists, safe for people," Renfro said.
Within the department's extended boundaries to the south, which ends at Tuscarawas Street W, is Project Rebuild, an education and job training center for at-risk youth. Executive Director Joanna James attended the kickoff community meeting and said she contacted the department about a partnership.
Officers began to visit and became like mentors to the students, who are between 16 to 24 years old. Most in the nine-month program have had experience with law enforcement or the court system, James said, so she wanted to remove the "us versus them" mentality.
Officers' presence a few times a month still takes new students by surprise.
"The majority of the time, they go see my students," James said. "They know where the classrooms are, the computer lab. They know where to find them."
That's where an officer found Darius Smalls, 20, who had an outstanding warrant for failure to appear. Instead of making an arrest, the officer told him to take care of it. Smalls did.
"They don't harass you no more like they used to," Smalls said. "They used to harass you a lot."
Craig Burnett, 18, agreed and said he has a new respect for police since joining Project Rebuild in late 2015.
He couldn't recall the officer's face, but a smile spread across Burnett's when he remembered the details of their basketball games last summer on the city's northwest side.
"They're actually trying to do something in Canton," he said. "They're actually trying to, you know, be human."
‘Text to 9-1-1' to boost access to public safety resources
by The Journal-News
BUTLER COUNTY — Butler County Sheriff's Office is introducing an alternate method for Butler County residents and businesses to reach vital emergency services.
The “Text to 9-1-1” service provides wireless subscribers on major wireless carriers the ability to text a message to 9-1-1 from most areas of the county, according to the sheriff's office.
Texts will be retrieved by dispatchers at the Butler County Sheriff's Office Communication Center, who will then notify the appropriate law enforcement, fire or emergency medical service agency to respond.
Text to 9-1-1 provides a method for notifying emergency services when circumstances make voice-to-voice contact difficult such as when a caller is hard of hearing or in a situation where they fear for their safety.
Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones said his office is providing the Text to 9-1-1 service to provide Butler County citizens better access to public safety resources during an emergency.
“This will be a great way to make contact with someone in a domestic situation or in situations where a victim is in fear of someone hearing their voice,” Jones said. “Call 9-1-1 in an emergency when you can. Text 9-1-1 when you can't.”
In addition to receiving texts to 9-1-1, dispatchers are able to send text messages in response to ‘abandoned wireless 9-1-1 calls' — a situation where the wireless caller hangs up before reaching 9-1-1.
Using the phone number provided by the 9-1-1 system, the dispatcher sends a message to the caller to determine if they have an emergency.
Wireless carriers can deliver the caller's location when they text 9-1-1 in some situations, however, it is absolutely imperative that callers provide their location to the dispatcher when texting.
As of now, the Butler County Communications Center is unable to receive pictures or video via 9-1-1 text message.
Canton changes tactics with approach to community policing
Defining the undertaking Canton police began in 2012 when Bruce Lawver became chief is no easy task. Community policing, the most common term, can be applied to a wide range of tactics, but Lawver asserts the new approach is a philosophy — not a project.
by Kelly Ryer
Intelligence-led, evidence-based, hot spot or community policing.
Defining the undertaking Canton police began in 2012 when Bruce Lawver became chief is no easy task. Community policing, the most common term, can be applied to a wide-range of tactics, but Lawver asserts the new approach is a philosophy — not a project. Crime reduction requires police and resident participation.
"What we do is incumbent upon everybody," Lawver said. "We're just the fortunate few who get paid to do it full time."
In 2014, the department began patrolling high-crime neighborhoods on foot and hosted community events in hopes of building trust. They've steadily increased the number of officers assigned to neighborhoods and the northwest Shorb area and northeast Gibbs area boundaries.
As a result, violent crime has dropped about 40 percent in the initial northwest neighborhood. Police statistics show violent crime also slightly decreased across Canton.
A new direction
Past police task forces and resources spent in the same neighborhoods came and went. They temporarily put officers on bikes or more people behind bars but didn't affect crime.
"We knew, practically, we had to start over," Lawver said.
In 2012, he inherited the problems that persisted for years in pockets around the city's core. Lawver reorganized the department and assigned a lieutenant from the Narcotics Division, John Gabbard, to lead a community police team spurred by a Project Safe Neighborhoods grant.
The department's involvement in the Northern Ohio Violent Crime Consortium, a collective of law enforcement in the U.S. Attorney's Northern District, led to the $34,500 grant to reduce gun and gang violence. The money, of which $3,000 remains until the end of March, funds community officers' overtime, printed brochures and other costs incurred by targeting high-crime areas and repeat offenders.
"I think police have to get over the fact that we're just not the crime fighters," he said. "It's got to be a more holistic approach."
Lt. John Gabbard created an "intelligence-led" policing model before his title changed.
He commanded two officers in the northwest, then led an eight-person Community Interaction Team in larger northwest and northeast areas, and now commands the new 13-person Priorities Bureau. An analysis of gun shots, burglaries and other crimes against people or property showed those areas had the highest concentration. Officers began patrolling the northwest in early 2014.
"I put them in that area and told them, 'Act as if you live in this place. If you lived here, what changes would you make?'" Gabbard said.
Officers noted vacant houses and broken street lights and then contacted city staff who could fix them, making the area less appealing to criminals. They went door-to-door and hosted neighborhood meetings and trash cleanups.
The department based its community policing on models used in Philadelphia, Boston and Lowell, Massachusetts. Gabbard educated officers and commanders on their best practices but gave them freedom.
"I've really relied on them to come up with the ideas themselves," he said.
Police also increased enforcement against gangs and repeat offenders with the help of Gangscope, a software that stores information such as vehicles and associates of known gang members. Officers have worked with parole and probation officers and the county-wide Community Initiative to Reduce Violence, using "call-ins" to warn offenders to stay out of trouble.
Lawver said identifying the most violent people and putting them behind bars for at least 15 years has increased the department's credibility. It also sends a message to other offenders, who are now easier to identify.
"I don't care where you're at in this country, you can go into the worst neighborhood, and there's only a small faction of that criminal element," Lawver said.
Communication and technology
The department in 2013 instituted ShotSpotter — a system with sensors that detect and locate gunfire, and Tip411 — an anonymous tip text line.
Resident complaints about gunfire prompted the city to use ShotSpotter in portions of Canton to quickly alert police to shots and those that might not be reported. Lawver said residents benefit most from consistent police response.
"They see officers following up, investigating, knocking on doors and talking to people," he said. "They know we're concerned about this. They know this is a priority, and it sets a whole different standard in that neighborhood."
Two officers specifically have been assigned to reduce gun violence since early 2015. They assist detectives and follow up on gun-related crime, more recently working with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to trace guns.
ShotSpotter also has been a significant part of Canton's crime analysis and measurement of success in the Shorb and Gibbs areas. After examining the time of day with the highest volume of calls and crime reports — 3 to 11 p.m., the department scheduled more officers for afternoons.
Communication and confidence in police has been further bolstered by Tip411. Lawver said the quantity and quality of crime tips since the department began using Tip411 "easily" outpace any other time in the past 20 years.
Gabbard said he's had similar luck with social media accounts, which police have revived in recent years. Photos of suspects have been identified in 20 minutes on Facebook.
The department also added its own surveillance by installing two cameras along the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival parade route in 2014. One camera now is at 14th Street and Fulton Road NW. The other is at 10th Street and Shorb Avenue NW. The city placed signs nearby to deter crime, Gabbard said.
"We want people to know there's cameras there," he said. "We're not trying to hide them."
Lawver started changing the department by updating its policies.
He used Lexipol, a company that helps write policies, and changed use-of-force procedure. Officers now file a report any time they point a gun at a person, and supervisors immediately review use-of-force reports from each officer involved, often responding to the scene to talk with witnesses.
The patrolman's union did not initially think aiming a weapon warranted a report, but Lawver reasoned that, if no shots are fired, it demonstrates an officer's decision-making abilities and restraint.
"But if you don't have that documentation, you can't show that," he said.
Police say community outreach efforts do not appear to have changed the number of internal or external complaints. Records show complaints against officers have generally decreased, from 15 excessive force complaints out of 67 total complaints in 2011 to nine out of 25 total cases in 2015. Only one excessive force complaint was deemed factually true in 2014, and one in 2015, though others remain open.
Bill Adams, president of the Canton Police Patrolman's Association, said the union is pleased with the outcome after working with the chief on policy and staffing changes.
"All it is is more checks and balances," he said. "And, ultimately, more checks and balances help everybody."
The patrol officers in Gabbard's community unit have given positive reviews to him and the chief, Adams said, and the union has developed a "cohesive relationship" with the administration.
Lawver said that made it easier to enact changes within the staffing requirements of union contracts. He conducted his own staffing study to reorganize the department, reducing patrol staff so officers could spend time in specific neighborhoods.
Two officers were temporarily transferred to Gabbard's command to patrol the northwest neighborhood the first year.
"To make this work, though, we had to go to every bureau, the Patrol Division, and every place we could look, and say, 'This is how we could cut to make room for this to happen,'" Gabbard said.
The department, which shrunk to a 35-year low of 142 officers in 2012, had already operated with less. So when the department could hire, the chief in 2015 staffed an eight-person Community Interaction Team, Gabbard said.
Officers applied for the positions, which were filled based on seniority. The team consisted of two officers who continued to patrol the Shorb area and slightly extended boundaries to its north and southwest, and two officers who patrolled a new northeast neighborhood. Two other officers assisted with community outreach throughout the city, and two focused on gun-related crimes.
The team dropped to seven by the end of the year after an officer moved to the K-9 unit following a retirement. The unit morphed in 2016 into the Priorities Bureau, which includes 13 officers under Gabbard's command.
The bureau covers the same boundaries, plus this year's expanded area west of Fulton Road NW to Perkins Avenue NW between 15th and 12th streets. Four officers patrol the northwest area, two in the northern and two in the southern portions, overlapping in some areas. Two officers patrol the northeast area near Gibbs Elementary School.
The rest of the bureau is comprised of a social media coordinator, two downtown walking beat officers, two community engagement officers, and two officers assigned to gun crimes.
"That is what I think really makes us unique is because we've never had a unit put together that was community forward and community policing and gun violence reduction," Gabbard said.
Gabbard's position creates cohesion between the Canton community and the department's investigative and patrol divisions.
"Our communication has never been better," he said.
The lieutenant acts as an "information hub" and shares crime bulletins and trends in a way inspired by Toledo police. He visited Toledo and Milwaukee for inspiration on Canton's version of CompStat — computer statistics that are used hold commanders accountable for understanding and addressing when and where the city's crime takes place.
The Canton Police Department instituted its performance management system in 2015. Every few months, Gabbard organizes a command staff meeting to review the department's progress and goals. He asks department commanders to come with an example of their staff's good police work.
"So it always has a positive tone," Gabbard said.
Lawver has taken a similar approach with officer complaints and discipline. Officers need to be trained and educated about the behavior expected of them, he said, which in turn must be modeled by others.
In addition to issuing a gun, radio and other equipment, the chief gives officers a book: "Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement" by Gill Martin. Lawver said he's quick to refer officers to a psychologist for evaluation or counseling, if needed.
A suspension, the traditional response to misconduct, does not properly educate or train the officer, he said.
"There is appropriate time for punitive discipline, absolutely. But that shouldn't be your only goal."
Community policing part of regular patrols
by Christopher Smith
LOWER TOWNSHIP – The Lower Township Police Department's weekly police blotter contains the number of calls the department receives each week for anything from burglary and theft to traffic stops and domestic violence.
The report also lists calls described as “community policing,” contact the police officers have with members of the community, which was not the result of a call for assistance.
Lower Township Police Chief William Mastriana said community policing is contact generated by the police officers themselves with members of the public. The department listed 65 community policing calls between Feb. 29 and March 6.
“Last year we issued a press release saying we were having the officers getting more active,” Mastriana said. “We wanted them getting to know store owners, and get more involved in areas where there was more crime or areas where more issues arising.”
The department's year-end report, which can be found at lowertownshippolice.com, says the Patrol Division responds to all 911 calls, motor vehicle crashes, first aid calls, man-made and natural disasters, fires, reports of crimes and disorderly person's offenses.
“They are also expected to provide proactive services such as traffic enforcement, crime detection and suppression, conducting business and property checks, and initiating contacts with community members so as to incorporate a spirit of cooperation with both the business community and citizens alike,” the report says.
“What we did was incorporated the Walk and Talk Program we had years ago,” Mastriana said.
Mastriana said, particularly when the police have issues in a particular area, the department wants offices more involved there.
“We want them to get out of their cars and talk to people. It actually generates more calls for services because the guys are getting more involved,” he said.
Mastriana said it is a way to get officers engage with people.
“We want them engaging with people who are there, introducing themselves,” he said.
Mastriana said like most law enforcement agencies, a lot of department calls are self-generated. He said the Patrol Division performs property checks on local businesses each night, and during the day he wants to see his officers making community policing stops.
“We talk about things like this at the county chiefs (Cape May County Chiefs of Police Association) meetings and try to figure out how to go about (community policing). It's a way for us to track issues and be proactive,” Mastriana said.
Mastriana said neighboring police departments, such as Middle Township Police Department and the Wildwood Police Department, were sending more officers out at the street level to combat crime as well. A recent press release indicated the Detective Division arrested a person for drug possession after conducting surveillance near a convenience store.
“Part of our goal is to beef up the detective unit,” Mastriana said. “We will probably be seen doing a lot more Memorial Day through Labor Day to look at the street level crime and do more open air surveillance. The detective unit is getting out there more to see what is going on.”