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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Earning Public Trust

by Anita Setnor Byer, Founder - sci-Shot7/10/2014
anonymous handshake

In the United States today, trust in government at the state and local levels is at an all-time low. In fact, a recent study by the Pew Research center reveals that a staggering 80 percent of citizens “never trust” the government.

Unfortunately, this public distrust seems to be trickling down from the government and spreading to other agencies – especially police departments.

Though there is not a clear explanation for why the public feels this way, certain events provide clarity. Six police officers in Wilmington, Delaware, were questioning a suspect in a local neighborhood when shots fired on the group, wounding a state trooper. Despite multiple witnesses, not a single person came forward – and the gunman still walks the streets.

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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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Reducing Preventable Accidents

by Gabrielle Beecher, Marketing Assistant - sci-Shot6/25/2014
crime scene

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.

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Identifying Suspicious Incidents

by Gabrielle Beecher, Marketing Assistant - sci-Shot6/18/2014
confidential report

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.

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Technology Deterring Crime

by Anita Setnor Byer, Founder - sci-Shot5/21/2014
globe and keyboard

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:

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Protecting Public Venues

by Anita Setnor Byer, Founder - sci-Shot5/14/2014
officer on phone

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.

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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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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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