High tech police gadgets to fight crime

Would you have a problem with a police van being parked in your neighborhood? This same armored vehicle has large red letters painted on the side that state, “Warning: You are under video surveillance.” The front bumper taunts, “Whatcha gonna do when we come for you?” This is the “The Peacemaker,” the Fort Lauderdale Police Department’s new surveillance weapon to fight crime.

The first Peacemaker served its previous life as a Brinks’ armored truck which was discontinued and then purchased by Florida law enforcement. The newest Peacemaker is a converted SWAT vehicle. These are unmanned crime fighting vehicles that are parked in problem or high-crime neighborhoods, or parked in front of houses where suspected drug dealers live. According to the SunSentinel, Detective Travis Mandell stated, “Make no mistakes about it. We want people to know that we are watching the bad guys.”

The SunSentinel reported, “Mixing high tech with simplicity, the in-your-face strategy is straightforward: load an out-of-service armored truck with some of the latest surveillance equipment available and decorate it with police emblems. Then, simply leave it parked in front of trouble spots.” Peacemakers are fitted with surveillance cameras that stream live video to police headquarters. Up to eight cameras are attached to each bullet-proof window in order to film panoramic footage for up to 700 hours.

In the video, one man who “loves” the Peacemaker being parked in his neighborhood said, “You have people complaining that they don’t want that on this block, so I think that’s a red flag and I think the police should focus on those people.” That seems to imply if you do not like a surveillance truck parked in your neighborhood, then you are a potential criminal (or worse a potential terrorist), one of “those people.”

If those people happen to be “anti-social” juveniles who are loitering or creating graffiti, then there’s a high tech tool for that as well. In fact, it discourages all “anti-social behavior” such as loitering, graffiti, and any “unwanted gatherings of youths and teenagers in shopping malls, around shops and anywhere else they are causing problems.” It’s a sonic deterrent security device called the Mosquito. It emits a high-frequency sound that can be heard for 114 to 131 feet by people younger than 25. Anyone, not just the police, can purchase one. The Mosquito device “usually takes between 5 and 15 minutes to take effect.” Groups and individuals who are exposed to “The Mosquito device’s persistent high frequency noise will only endure it for a short period of time before leaving the area.”

Those youths may shriek as they run away, which brings us to “sound DNA.” The Public Journal pointed out that the Department of Acoustics Criminology use “sound DNA,” which are recordings of voices that can be checked against more than 4,000 offenders and then spit out a name in seconds. By using the IdentitysVox program, it creates a sound “lineup” of suspects based off the voice prints. The sound of suspects’ voices are compared and contrasted with a “hundred voices with identical features.” Then the “system reveals a statistical value similar to that expressed in the DNA and allows you to set whether the similarity between them is strong, moderate or mild.” A computer screen also shows a curved dotted red, green and blue graph with details of how well the voice matches. Voice biometrics and forensic acoustics are not new and voice prints are used as evidence in court. How reliable is sound DNA? “There is only 1 chance in 28 million that this DNA belongs to someone else.”

If that makes your heart beat hard, hoping you are not the 1 the DNA voice print is wrong about, then that brings us to the heartbeat detector which “works like a seismograph that records the vibrations produced by the heart.” It is often used to detect illegal immigrants hiding in trucks. It not only detects heartbeats, but distinguishes between humans and animals and “even indicates the area of the vehicle where the immigrant is hidden” and if they move. “It’s located immigrants hidden in a mattress or in the structure of the pilot’s seat.”

The same heartbeat detection may make passwords obsolete. Gizmodo reported the technology is in the works to “unlock your hard drive by simply touching your keyboard. Your unique heartbeat, emitted through your fingertip, would be your password.” Even with your own unique heartbeat, no two heartbeats are quite the same. Taiwan researchers have “translated a human heartbeat into an encryption key using an electrocardiograph reading from an individual’s palm. Their unique series of thump-thumpa generated a secret key.” Right now it’s a proof of concept, but “the goal is to build the system into external hard drives and other devices that can be decrypted and encrypted simply by touching them.”


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