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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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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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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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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National Distracted Driver Awareness Month

by Anita Setnor Byer, Founder - sci-Shot4/9/2014
woman applying makeup while driving

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.

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Airport Watch Now in Effect

by Anita Setnor Byer, Founder - sci-Shot3/26/2014
flying airplane

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.

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Cybertips

by Anita Setnor Byer, Founder - sci-Shot3/5/2014
employees on a computer

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.

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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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Defamation When Reporting Suspicious Behavior

by Anita Setnor Byer, Founder - sci-Shot2/19/2014
frustrated business man

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.

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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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Know Your Rights

by Anita Setnor Byer, Founder - sci-Shot1/22/2014
woman taking a photo

Our public safety social movement app permits a caring public to confidentially communicate their public safety concerns by taking photos and videos of the seemingly hazardous, harmful, or illegal incidents they witness each day. Because we’re counting on you to take photos and videos we wanted to make sure you know your rights as a photographer/videographer. According to the American Civil Liberties Union: 

  • You can photograph or record anything that is in plain sight when you are in public spaces
  • When you are on private property, your right to photograph or videotape is up to the property owner. If you disregard the property owner’s rules you can be arrested for trespassing if you do not comply
  • The right to photograph/videotape does not give you a right to disregard any other laws
  • You cannot take photos or video of someone in private. For example, you cannot take photos or video of someone in their home because that is considered private. You cannot take photos or video of someone in a public restroom because that is considered a private space.

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National Radon Action Month

by Anita Setnor Byer, Founder - sci-Shot1/15/2014
lung x ray

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has declared January as National Radon Action Month. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers, and we are joining many organizations in an attempt to spread awareness of this lesser known public safety risk. Here are a few tips from us to avoid risk from radon:

Learn About Radon: The more you know about the risks associated with radon the better off you are at avoiding them. Radon is a naturally occurring, radioactive gas that is odourless and colorless. According to the Cancer Prevention Centers, one in 15 American homes contains high levels of radon. Learn more about radon by visiting http://www.radonmonth.org 

Test Your Home: You can’t see, smell, or taste radon but you can test for it. It’s easy to do and relatively inexpensive. All you have to do is get a Radon Test Kit or call your State Radon Contact to determine the best way to test your home. Don’t forget radon can also be present anywhere so test your schools, office building, etc.

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