Revolutionary Public Safety App to Utilize Crowd sourcing at Winterfest Boat Parade

by Marcelo Galperin, Brand Communications Coordinator - sci-Shot12/11/2014
phone overlooking boats

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla – (December 11, 2014) – sci-Shot, a new public safety and security mobile app developed by a South Florida company, will celebrate its official launch at the Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade on December 13. The app, which serves as a convenient way for participants to anonymously report non-emergency, questionable or suspicious activity, will be monitored by Crime Stoppers.

“It’s a step below calling 911 and a step above doing nothing,” explained Anita Byer, sci-Shot’s founder. “We’re encouraging spectators to download sci-Shot, register as an anonymous user, and confidentially share pictures and video of non-emergency conditions that appear unsafe or threatening and cause concern.”

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Is More Surveillance Needed?

by Anita Setnor Byer, Founder - sci-Shot9/17/2014
holding phone in crowd

In the wake of one of the most controversial police shootings in modern times, a growing interest by the public has been placed on whether or not officers should be required to wear body-cameras at all times. In case you missed it, here is a brief recap of the events in Ferguson, MO:

Fatal Shooting: An unarmed, 18 year old black male was killed after being shot multiple times by Darren Wilson, a white male police officer.  Details of the incident were slow to be released, and in the absence of information, racial tensions and violence grew.

Questions have arisen. Did the officer feel threatened? Did the victim attack the officer? Was the shooting justified?  Details of the circumstance that led to the shooting have yet to be answered and tensions remain high.

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Are Your Children Safe?

by Anita Setnor Byer, Founder - sci-Shot8/13/2014
school bus and boy

The summer is coming to an end and it is that time of the year to send your children back to school. You expect school to be a loving place where children can make new friends, learn new things, and feel as safe as they do at home. While this is the case for most, there are some important safety tips that parents and children should review before the school year starts.

Just a few tips:

1. Do not write your child’s name on their backpack or clothing. This allows strangers to call your child by name, creating a more likely scenario for your child to approach them.

2. Have your child walk to the bus stop with a friend if possible. If your child must walk alone, stress the importance of not talking to strangers.

3. Make sure to come to a complete stop in your vehicle if a bus is stopped and kids are exiting. Vehicles on both sides of the street must stop!

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Information Sharing for Managing Crime

by Anita Setnor Byer, Founder - sci-Shot7/18/2014
laptop computer phone and pen

September 11th, 2001 taught American law enforcement just how critical information sharing and analysis is to preventing and responding to crime. As a result of this awareness, The U.S. Department of Justice developed the National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan (the Plan). The Plan provides a path to “improving the collection and analysis of information to create valuable and actionable intelligence products.’ (National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan, Version 2.0, Oct 2013).

For over 10 years, the Plan has provided law enforcement with assistance on internal business processes to improve access to intelligence data.  From this effort, significant strides have been made in the collection, analysis and sharing of criminal intelligence (intelligence-led policing) across all law enforcement communities.

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Increasing Public Safety, One Download at a Time

by Gabrielle Beecher, Marketing Assistant - sci-Shot7/2/2014
woman with cellphone

Too many people look the other way when it comes to reporting suspicious activity – the undisputed Elephant in the Room. This phenomenon of watching and avoiding, coined the ‘bystander effect’ by psychologists, has led to a staggering number of unreported crimes. But what if these observations were shared, rather than disregarded?

In our tech-savvy society, this question isn’t too far-fetched. If you have a Smartphone, you have access to one of the most powerful reporting tools in the world – and now, with the help of Mobile Apps, it’s not just limited to dialing 911.

Numerous software developers across the United States have not only recognized the benefits of using modern technology to report crimes, but have provided the public with convenient ways to do so. sci-Shot, the newest of these Community Watch Mobile Apps, strives to revolutionize public safety efforts by creating a network of connected citizens who choose to report suspicious activity rather than ignore it.

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Revolutionizing Non-Emergency Hotlines

by Anita Setnor Byer, Founder - sci-Shot6/11/2014
man on phone

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?

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Preventing Public Disturbance

by Gabrielle Beecher, Marketing Assistant - sci-Shot6/4/2014
drunk guy on the beach

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.

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Partnership Brings Increased Surveillance

by Anita Setnor Byer, Founder - sci-Shot5/7/2014
video surveillance camera

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.

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Still Seeking Answers

by Anita Setnor Byer, Founder - sci-Shot4/30/2014
police car and police tape

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.

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Validating Eyewitness Testimonies

by Anita Setnor Byer, Founder - sci-Shot4/23/2014
cop and eyewitness

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.

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New Approach To Policing

by Anita Setnor Byer, Founder - sci-Shot4/16/2014
cop car and siren

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.

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Helpful Heroes

by Anita Setnor Byer, Founder - sci-Shot4/2/2014
police arrest

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.

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The Importance of Eyewitness Accounts

by Anita Setnor Byer, Founder - sci-Shot3/19/2014
police car

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.

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To Call or Not to Call?

by Anita Setnor Byer, Founder - sci-Shot3/12/2014
woman on phone

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...

What Happens When You Call 911?

by Anita Setnor Byer, Founder - sci-Shot2/26/2014
woman tangled in phone lines

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?

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Tracking Crime Probability

by Anita Setnor Byer, Founder - sci-Shot2/12/2014
police officer

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.

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