Accidents, including anything from alcohol poisoning to car crashes, have a huge toll on public safety in the United States: about 29.3 million people are hospitalized per year, and an additional 120,000 people lose their lives. But one statistic proves to be even more shocking – 39% of these accidental deaths are completely preventable.
One south Florida mother, Donna Denaro, knows this reality all too well. A year ago, she dropped her 15-year-old son Zach off at the beach to hang out with friends – but when she returned less than 30 minutes later, Denaro found Zach’s body lifeless and deserted.
Though Zach’s cause of death is still uncertain and his mother might never know what happened that day, she is focusing on the one thing she does know: Zach may still be alive if just one person called the police.
When people witness an incident that is not imminently threatening but suspicious nonetheless, they are faced with one major question: To call 911, or not to call? A recent study by the Bureau of Justice illustrates that many people – including witnesses of violent crimes – elect to not contact law enforcement due to fear of reprisal or reluctance to become too deeply involved.
sci-Shot, a Community Watch Mobile App, helps to alleviate these fears by providing the public with a convenient tool to get involved, to the extent desired, in reporting suspicious conduct. sci-Shot is committed to providing its Users with a trusted and impartial alternative to traditional report lines. It allows a caring public to express concerns anonymously, with little effort, and no repercussions. sci-Shot Users do nothing more than download the App, Upload a picture or video, and tag the Media – sci-Shot will take it from there, getting the report in the right hands.
Non-emergency report hotlines have been available to the public for years. From the abandoned car to neighborhood vandalism, government and law enforcement have sought methods to ensure that the public’s observations of the seemingly hazardous, harmful or illegal are reported and acted upon. While these hotlines and their web-based (as well as emerging Mobile App) counterparts have had some success, they have yet to develop a mass audience of devoted Users – and a majority of incidents go unreported.
Today’s citizens are eager to participate in our collective public safety, but need the right tool to do so. The sheer volume of hotlines across government agencies, cities and states is unwieldy and most citizens are confused as to which line to use for what purpose. These hotlines also fail to attract the new mobile generation of citizens that communicate through ‘sharing’ on social networks. Then, there is the issue of trust and intimidation. How many of today’s hotlines are truly anonymous? How certain are any of us that an inaccurate ‘tip’ will not result in consequences?
The fear of crime has consistently ranked among the top fears of Americans in national and local polls – in 2013, for example, 55% of the public regarded crime as an “extremely serious” problem. Though law enforcement tirelessly fights to stop and maintain crime, recent events have shifted their focus to finding ways to effectively prevent it.
This past Memorial Day weekend was marked by a standoff between police officers and about 200 people “who seemed hell-bent on creating trouble” at Fort Lauderdale beach. After discovering the incident through social media, baton-wielding police officers took to the streets and had to “aggressively” corral young people away from the beach.
Human Trafficking is the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world with more than 2.5 million victims at any one time. While it is generally regarded as a foreign problem, 83% of world’s victims are in the United States.
Human Trafficking comes in many forms, but follows a similar pattern in the United States: victims pay to be illegally transported into the U.S only to be forced into prostitution, involuntary labor or other forms of servitude to repay debts for travel. In 2014 alone, 240 cases of Human Trafficking have surfaced in Miami, Florida.
Public Safety Stewards are continuously implementing new technologies to prevent, reduce, and investigate criminal activity. Before technology began playing a role in ongoing investigations, criminals had little reason to worry after committing a crime. However, technological advancements have come so far that law enforcement can now use data to predict when and where certain incidents will occur. The technology available to law enforcement is always changing. See a few of the latest tools highlighted below:
Every year, thousands of people gather to attend events such as concerts and marathons in public venues. While these events typically offer increased security measures, the number of attendees greatly outweighs the number of Public Safety Stewards. Unfortunately, in the past couple of years, we have seen a sharp increase in incidents occurring at large public events.
Security Guard Trampled: A security guard at the Ultra Music Festival was sent to the hospital in critical condition this past March when the crowd broke through a fence and forced their way onto the property. Miami’s homicide unit continues to search for witnesses in hopes that they can identify and locate members of the mob who were responsible for causing the incident.
Criminals can often run, but thanks to the emergence of social media and technology, they cannot hide. Surveillance cameras not only provide an image of the suspects, but they present indisputable evidence to corroborate eyewitness testimonies. Oftentimes, the videos or still images extracted from surveillance cameras are shared on social media, resulting in tips and additional information used to identify and locate suspects.
The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department recognizes the importance of the evidence provided by surveillance cameras, which is why they recently partnered with PublicEngines, a cloud-based solution that facilitates crime analysis, to increase the video footage available in surrounding areas. The main initiative of their partnership is to gain access to commercial and residential security cameras quickly and effectively. Community involvement is essential to making this happen. Citizens can register their cameras through CrimeReports.com and agree to share basic information. The information and camera footage will remain anonymous, and law enforcement must still request access to the footage. However, Public Safety Stewards will be able to view the location of the cameras in order to contact camera owners in the event of an incident in the area. More...
Social Media provides an invaluable source of information to law enforcement for crime prevention and criminal investigations. It permits a real-time dialogue with the public and has been instrumental in apprehending fugitives, identifying associated suspects, and linking individuals to criminal activity. Despite its many successes, though, Social Media is not a complete solution. More public-private partnerships are needed.
Gorenberg Murdered: March marked the seventh anniversary of a tragic murder that remains unsolved. Randi Gorenberg was shot and killed on her way home from the mall near Jog Road, Florida. Randi’s mother and detectives continue to seek answers in hopes of identifying the victim’s shooter. They continue to ask the public for information that may lead to an arrest.
Eyewitness accounts are a critical component in helping Public Safety Stewards identify and capture suspects, but eyewitness testimonies have been losing credibility over the past few years. The Associated Press reports that decades of studies have shown eyewitness testimonies are only accurate about half the time.
The inaccuracies are generally not intentionally caused by eyewitnesses; however, certain incidents can change the eyewitness’ perception of what occurred, or result in a blurred memory. For example, a man had been sentenced to death for raping and murdering a little girl in Maryland. While no physical or circumstantial evidence was present, five witnesses placed him at or near the crime scene. DNA evidence later helped establish the man’s innocence, and he was fully exonerated.More...
As we enter a new era of technology, methods of policing are constantly evolving. In the past, Public Safety Stewards were forced to react to a crime that had already been committed to aide in matters of public safety. Presently, emerging technologies and data mining have created an opportunity for a proactive approach to prevent crime from happening in the first place.
The LAPD Pacific Division is analyzing sets of data to identify which areas are most likely to attract crime to participate in a new trend of “Predictive Policing” . The department’s focus is not to increase the number of arrests in these areas, but to eliminate criminal activity before it can even occur.More...
The entire month of April is dedicated to National Distracted Driver Awareness Month and for good reason. Distracted Driving not only puts the driver at risk, but places passengers, other drivers, and innocent bystanders in harm’s way. While texting and driving has become one of the most common and dangerous distractions nationwide, other notable distractions include driving while drowsy, adjusting music, reading, using a GPS, eating and drinking, and talking on the phone.
To help grasp the seriousness of this growing concern, here are some key statistics provided by the Official US Government Website for Distracted Driving:
- Sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent-at 55 mph-of driving the length of an entire football field, blind.
- Engaging in visual-manual subtasks (such as reaching for a phone, dialing and texting) associated with the use of hand-held phones and other portable devices increased the risk of getting into a crash by three times.
Crimes occur everyday and without the assistance of an attentive and caring public, would often go unreported and unresolved. Yet, this needed assistance runs counter to what our public safety stewards want and expect from its citizens if the help results in confrontation and places the citizen in harm’s way.
In South Florida, corporate headquarters to sci-Shot’s Community Watch Mobile App, four separate instances highlight the need to protect citizens without limiting their engagement and willingness to participate in issues of public safety.
For years now, amateur photographers have been gathering at airport perimeters to take pictures of incoming and outgoing planes. Recently, Miami International Airport has decided to tap into these enthusiasts and solicit their help with security. A new program, Miami Airport Watch, asks pre-screened volunteer photographers to put their hobby to work, serving a greater cause. These volunteers keep their cameras poised to record any and all unusual or suspicious activities witnessed.
The group has already noticed a few incidents that are out of the ordinary, one being a man in a nearby parking lot in full costume dressed like Rambo. While it was ultimately determined by police that the man was attending a nearby comic book convention, airport security was alerted to a possible threat. More...
Thanks in part to social media, personal observations and conversations are an accepted and integral part of our public dialogue. And, this dialogue seems to have the greatest impact in the public safety arena. People are sharing, confidentially or otherwise, their stories and are often taking action when asked to participate in our collective well-being.
Nodding Mother on Bus: In early March, a video of a woman on a bus falling in and out of sleep, with child in tow attempting to wake her, went viral. Surprisingly, none of the passengers contacted police at the time of the incident. Nonetheless, one of the passengers posted the video on YouTube and it went viral, helping police to identify the woman who has a record with convictions of theft, disorderly conduct, and promoting prostitution. The child was removed from the home, pending further investigation.More...
People are often hesitant to call 911 when they witness an unusual or suspicious incident. While an incident may not be clearly illegal, it may raise suspicion. This creates a grey area in which witnesses question whether or not they should call the police.
Man Carrying Purse: In early February, a suspicious man was seen walking behind a home in Oak Lane, Florida carrying a woman’s purse. A witness, suspecting something unusual, contacted the police. When the deputy arrived at the scene, he discovered that other property was missing from the home. The suspect later admitted to stealing the purse, and is now charged with burglary and larceny. More...
Google’s partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children recently led to a February 2014 arrest of a Florida man on child pornography charges. This cyber-tip illustrates how technologies developed by the private sector aid our public safety stewards in their efforts to keep our communities safe, and errant behavior contained. Nonetheless, some argue that technology has become too obtrusive, and risks compromising our rights to privacy in order to ensure our safety. It is to this concern that sci-Shot’s social movement app speaks.
sci-Shot’s app is a crowd-centered, and crowd-focused app that provides a reliable and confidential resource for users to voluntarily and anonymously share pictures, video and comments of their observations of the suspicious or unusual, as defined by the user. sci-Shot is not a report line for imminent threats, but rather a need breed of app that empowers a caring public to share and preserve their real-time eye witness accounts of socially curious conduct, conditions or events until such time the account is needed in order to bridge the gap between what is known and unknown.More...
A recent campaign by the Washington County Dispatch in Oregon is trying to spread awareness for the proper use of 911. The campaign, ‘You Called 911 For That?!’ publishes the most ridiculous use of the 911 system each week. Agency Spokesperson Mark Chandler told ABC News, “You should only call 911 if there is an emergency involving your life or property.” So how are you supposed to know who to call for non-emergency incidents? That’s where sci-Shot’s mobile app comes in handy.
sci-Shot provides a discretionary reporting system for incidents that are curious or suspicious and worth sharing but may not warrant a call to law enforcement or another emergency responder. sci-Shot users can act on an impulse without concern about calling on the limited resources of emergency responders.
Oregon’s campaign has featured non-emergency 911 calls such as a debit card not working at a gas station or complaints of a person smoking a cigarette on a train platform. These types of calls should be directed to local law enforcement so that the emergency lines do not get tied up. That leads to the question of what types of incidents are worth reporting to sci-Shot?
The Supreme Court recently gave airline employees ‘breathing space’ to report potential threats to security officials without fear of civil liability for a few inaptly chosen words. According to the Court, airline employees reporting suspicious behavior “should not face financial ruin if, in the heat of a potential threat, they fail to choose their words with exacting care.”
In reversing a pilot’s $1.2 million defamation verdict, the Court sought to encourage employees to report suspicious activities in a manner that is consistent with the Transportation Security Administration’s ‘when in doubt, report’ policy.
sci-Shot agrees that the public should not hesitate to provide potentially valuable information about threatening or suspicious behavior to those who may need it. This is why we have taken steps to protect sci-Shot users who share their pictures and video of seemingly hazardous, harmful, or illegal incidents.
Police have been analyzing information for years in an attempt to predict and prevent crimes from happening, but the process of collecting and analyzing the data has been laborious and time consuming – that is, until recently.
Today, predictive analytics software, such as that developed by IBM, assists law enforcement with how to better identify criminal hot spots. And, the information is available in seconds. The software can analyze the release dates of convicted criminals, building permit applications, bus schedules, weather forecasts, etc. to identify patterns and predict areas with the highest probability of certain types of crimes occurring.
Predictive analytics software lets the user ask ‘what’s next?’ And, when combined with the aggressive surveillance of social media, permits law enforcement to direct their resources to the next imminent threat to public safety.