Keeping up with crime

As criminals learn new ways to commit crimes, police must find new ways to prevent them. Local and national headlines show that law enforcement actively seeks out the help of everyday citizens to respond to crime.

Some new techniques allow for increased communication with those in the area. Others adjust penalties to keep arrests down and eliminate excessive court dates. In its third installment, The Oracle highlights a few ways law enforcement is trying to crack down on crime.

USF cell phone patent

Usually people call the police about a crime. New technology developed by USF researchers might help police directly contact citizens to inform them about nearby criminals.

A group of USF researchers have developed technology that would make it easier to track cell phone locations using GPS, according to the Tampa Tribune.

Patented in October, the Wireless Emergency-Reporting System combines sending mass text messages with GPS location. Police could send out messages to cell phones close to the reported crime. These messages could contain pictures and aid in situations such as Amber Alerts with suspect descriptions, according to the Tribune.

The article called it a “reverse 9-11” system. USF engineers told the Tribune that the system is not expensive and uses existing technology. This system would be similar to a MoBull alert that targets the specific geographic location of the incident and encourages communication between the cell phone users and the authorities to respond to crime.

The researchers thought about the possibilities of GPS in emergency situations after the 2005 terror attacks in London, according to the Tribune.

Tickets, not handcuffs

At first glance, arrest numbers for Gasparilla look tame compared to the past two years. But the 52 reported arrests, as opposed to last year’s 340, don’t factor in the citations handed out for the city’s new open container law. Police handed out 302 citations Saturday that are handled like traffic tickets.

Offenders have to pay $75 the first time, $150 the second, $300 the third and $450 the fourth, according to the Tribune.

Another Tribune article explains how the policy came from a Tampa Police officer who used to make numerous open container arrests in the South Howard entertainment district. The policy might be viewed as a win for both overworked officers and negligent bar patrons.

On one hand, the new policy downgrades the severity of the offense – one that doesn’t require a trip to jail or a courthouse. But the lesser severity also makes the process less work for the officers who issue them.

The policy passed just in time for Gasparilla, a day of more than 600 arrests in the last two years.

Cash for criminals

After 31 murders already this year, the city of Philadelphia needs all the help it can get to keep its citizens safe.

The mayor of Philadelphia announced last week that the city would pay citizens up to thousands for information that aided a police investigation, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The city will pay $500 for information leading to an illegal gun and $20,000 for information that lead to a homicide arrest.

Not everyone with information on a criminal is a bounty hunter. Putting large bounties on the heads of criminals might encourage witnesses to come forward, but witnesses sometimes become the next target. [Now?]

As another way of encouraging citizen cooperation, the mayor also announced the city would double its budget to witness assistance programs.

Listening for gunshots

In Camden, N.J., police aren’t just keeping an eye on their city, but an ear as well.

Police use high-powered sound-monitoring devices to detect gunshots and respond to them, according an article on the Courier Post Online. According to the article, the city’s Shot Spotter system can pinpoint gunfire citywide and give police the location within three meters.

Two high-powered rifle shots resulted in arrests within the first week of using the system, the article reported.