Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What the heck?

I ran a series of posts a few years ago about unusual artifacts found around the police station. Well, this one wasn't physically around the police station, but it was on my computer monitor when I snapped this screen shot. Any guesses?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Don't click that link

One of my early morning pastimes is reading some of the police reports filed overnight. The stuff that happens after midnight often contains the cases that just make you shake your head. So it was this morning, when I noticed an Incident Report on a call classified as "Misc Other." I've learned that when an officer makes a report on something with this call type, it's often a doozy.

The reporting party received an email from a sender with an address beginning with "donotreply@".  The topic concerned student loan consolidation. The email contained a hyperlink, which the reporting party followed to another website. On that site, she supplied her name, address, date of birth, and social security number. Afterwards, she got a bit concerned, and called the police.

So far, no nefarious activity has been attributed to this breach, but time will tell, and our victim is right to be worried. Officer Jareke had a chat with her about the wisdom of providing such information to anonymous solicitors.

What intrigued me about this case is the fact that, as in the past, the victim is relatively young--in her 20s. I've looked into the demographics of fraud victims before, and discovered that the stereotype of elderly folks who are too trusting is not always so accurate. While retirees are sometimes targeted, most of those who are wooed by such scams aren't eligible for the senior citizen discount. Many victims are in their teens and 20s, perhaps too accustomed to laying information out there on the web for others to pick over.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

My take on smart guns

Smart guns are firearms that incorporate some type of technology that makes it difficult for anyone other than the authorized user to discharge the weapon. There are several such technologies, but to the best of my knowledge, no smart gun is commercially available in the United States.

Yesterday, a reader asked me address my view about smart guns here in my blog, so here we go. I like the concept of a smart gun a lot. You need not look far to find an example of a police officer killed with his or her own sidearm. When my colleague Deputy Sheriff Craig Dodge was murdered in 1987, his killer, Terry Reynolds, helped himself to Craig's .357 revolver. I would have been glad to know at the time that it was a brick. I also think smart guns could be a good choice for some civilian firearms owners, and would almost certainly avoid a few of the tragic deaths we read about where children have gotten their hands on mom or dad's handgun.

Here's the problem: almost all smart gun technologies rely on electronic components, turning a mechanical device into an electromechanical one. My experience with biometrics, RFID, and Bluetooth LE on other devices has been okay and improving over time, but certainly not flawless. Introducing the need for power makes a smart gun inherently less reliable. Power sources are not permanent, and electrical components add complexity. Recovering from an electronics failure requires time and effort, and sometimes can be really annoying. We see plenty of examples of this in every day life with electronic gizmos from keyless ignitions to remote controls.

I would have to think long and hard about introducing another significant potential point of failure into any device upon which my life could depend. On the other hand, I realize the ever-present risk of my own gun being used against me. In my only encounter where someone was trying to kill me, I came within a gnat's eyelash of just that scenario. I would trade a certain amount of technological failure risk, for the diminished risk of being defeated, disarmed, and killed with my own sidearm. I would need to be convinced that the technology is sufficiently robust to make that trade a wise one.

Basically, whether officer or civilian, I'd like to have the choice. If smart guns were available, I think some people would consider that option, and I think the technology would improve over time. I saw my first prototype smart gun nearly 40 years ago, fitted to a Smith & Wesson revolver. It required the user to wear a ring, without which the trigger would not move. You needed a ring on both hands for ambidextrous shooting. It wasn't electronic at all, rather magnetic. I wonder if that technology is still around, if it has developed at all, and how it might develop if market forces were at work.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Many more Thanksgiving dinners

Last week, two Lincoln police officers were in the right place at the right time, when a 42 year old man suffered cardiac arrest at a hotel. The victim's wife called 911 and with help from a dispatcher, started CPR. Two officers arrived within three minutes, and took over CPR until firefighters from Station 12 arrived five minutes later, and a return of spontaneous circulation ensued.

We received a phone call yesterday from the patient's wife, with an update on his condition and her expression of gratitude. What a great team effort by dispatcher, police officers, firefighters, and the medical team at the hospital! As a result, this man who would otherwise have passed away is returned to the bosom of his family, to enjoy many more Thanksgiving dinners.

Can you imagine the feeling of knowing you played a role in something like this? You could. If you or someone you know would be interested in becoming a dispatcher, police officer, or firefighter in Lincoln, we are always looking for intelligent, dedicated, flexible, and compassionate women and men who want to make a difference in their community--not only in big ways like this, but in small but significant ways that occur for every first responder every single day.

We are also hoping that more and more people will download the remarkable PulsePoint application, and put themselves in the position that these two police officers were in--close to a victim who needs CPR, and able to take action immediately pending the arrival of EMTs and paramedics. Three phones got the PulsePoint alert on this incident, and had it not been 2:07 AM, might have been the ones. Since the launch of PulsePoint in Lincoln, 12 CPR alerts have been delivered to 70 phones.

There are many people out there willing to help, and it is probably inevitable that the stars will align and put a PulsePoint user in the perfect place at just the right time.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

We'll keep looking around

A bit of a kerfuffle occurred last week, revolving around our attempts to find suitable land for the four fire stations which will be built with funding from the voter-approved sales tax increase in Lincoln. Although it will be quite awhile before we turn a shovel, we need to find sites, and either purchase land or acquire a first-right-of-refusal. Otherwise, when the time comes to build, we may find that all the suitable parcels have evaporated. We are not the only ones looking for reasonably-priced building sites with good access to arterial streets in rapidly-developing areas. Go figure.

One of the more problematic locations identified in our optimization study is the S. 84th Street and Pioneers Boulevard area. We really need to be within a half mile radius of the intersection, and the pickings are getting slimmer as time passes. So earlier this year, when we were contacted by an owner of two parcels that abut 84th Street about a quarter mile south of Pioneers, we expressed an interest. Before we signed an agreement, however, we thought it wise to meet with the neighbors, and sent a letter to all the property owners within 500 ft. of this potential site.

Last Wednesday night, Assistant Chief Pat Borer and Battalion Chief Eric Jones heard an earful--so much so that we have put negotiations on hold for the time being, and are studiously looking at every other potential site within that half-mile radius. We're checking to see if any other suitable sites are for sale, large enough, have access to the streets, and would meet our needs. We are happy to do so, and my fingers are crossed.

We want to be good neighbors. Right now, 11 of our 14 fire stations are right next to residences, directly across the street, or both. While you might have your conversation interrupted by a siren from time to time, for the most part I think a fire station can be a very good neighbor, and far better than some other land uses that you tend to see along busy five lane arterial streets.

This new station near 84th and Pioneers replaces the extant Station 12, which is about a mile and a half further north. That station is woefully inadequate, and falling into disrepair. Our optimization study found that if it was relocated we could dramatically improve our coverage and response times to areas of Lincoln that have developed since it's original construction in the 1970's.

A lot of the concerns our staff heard last week dealt with lights and sirens. Station 12 is not among our busiest, nor our least busy fire stations. So far this year, Engine 12 has made 232 emergency runs between the hours of 10:30 PM and 6:30 AM--less than one per day during those hours. This time period is the slowest portion of the day for emergency calls, so it's not as if the din is constant late at night and in the wee hours of the morning. About a third of those emergency runs went south of Pioneers, so Engine 12 was driving right by those same residences.

I think our other three optimal locations will be somewhat less problematic. In the meantime, we will keep looking for the best place to relocate Station 12, with an eye on the cost of land acquisition, suitability of the building site, impact on response time and coverage, and concerns of neighbors. Lots of things have to be considered and balanced.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

PulsePoint update

I just got back from Washington, DC where I participated in my first meeting after being appointed to the Law Enforcement Forecasting Group, a DOJ think tank composed of both academicians and egghead-leaning practitioners like me. We had lively discussions on issues of concern now and in the future for American policing. I'm working on a blog post about one of those issues, but it's a slow go.

In the meantime, I just sent an internal email to some of the staff most interested and involved in our PulsePoint initiative, providing a status update. It's probably worth sharing, so here's the latest:

"As of 0800, we have 3,011 people who've downloaded PulsePoint and are following LF&R. Richard Price, the foundation president, tells me that a good target for a community is to reach 1% of the population within the first year. We blew by that in the first week, so I think we've done pretty well. 
In all, 8 alerts have landed on 29 phones since the soft launch on Sept. 2nd. I suspect that's about the volume we will see--around 4 to 6 incidents in public places per month of a call type that generates an alert.  
One of the big benefits I'm seeing is a greater awareness by citizens of the volume and variety of what we do. We're generating some in-person, on blog, and twitter comments about that, and a it has come up in a couple radio interviews I've done this month. That's a good thing. The traffic crash alerts in particular seem to be valued: about 850 people receive those alerts right now, and there seems to be an immediate uptick of a few new followers after each one.  
We've also had quite a bit of activity in new AED registrations spurred by PulsePoint. Back on July 17, we had 155 AEDs registered in Lincoln, and we now have 268. 
The American Heart Association just released their latest CPR and ECC guidelines on Thursday, and for the first time include a recommendation for mobile apps such as PulsePoint. The post on their blog yesterday summarizes:  

Friday, October 16, 2015

The story behind PulsePoint

I blogged earlier this week about PulsePoint, a remarkable application that uses location-based services to deliver CPR alerts to nearby citizens who could potentially be rescuers. There is an interesting back story to PulsePoint, by it's founder, Richard Price.

He tells the full story in this 12 minute TEDx, but here's the condensed version: he's the fire chief in San Ramon Valley, California. One day he's grabbing lunch at a deli when he hears sirens approaching. One of his own rigs ultimately pulls up right outside the deli and the crew jumps out and attend to a sudden cardiac arrest in the shop rnext door. Had he known about it, he could have been there almost immediately and rendered care to the patient until more help arrived.

The experience made Chief Price think about how he might be able to use the concept of location-based services to notify willing citizens of these events when they occurred in public places nearby. CPR by a bystander is critical to improving the odds of survival. Perhaps the geo-aware feature of the smartphone could harness the good will of many who would gladly help save a life if the opportunity presented itself.

This is a brilliant application of location-based services, and one that has and will continue to save lives. Interestingly, Chief Price had this thought at about the same time,as I did, back in November of 2009 when the concept of P3i jumped into my head as I used Google maps to navigate to the nearest craft brewery in Los Angeles on a business trip.

Two chiefs, same idea, both in need of some iOS and Android developers. One was a pretty good idea for its time, which was at the dawn of the modern smartphone. The other was a genuine life saver. Doubt that? Google "PulsePoint saves".

Monday, October 12, 2015

Tips for using PulsePoint

If you've downloaded PulsePoint, good for you. If not, I wish you'd consider doing so. We blew by my initial goal of 1,200 over the weekend and cracked 2,400 followers last night, which is mighty encouraging. There are a couple of features in PulsePoint I want to point out that I think might be of particular interest, completely apart from the CPR-needed-in-public-place alert that is its primary purpose.

The first is the public safety radio feed. Down at the bottom of the list of recent dispatches is a red tab. Tap it, and it slides up to reveal a toggle to turn the radio feed on and off. Its pretty nice, when you see a big event, to toggle on the radio for a few minutes to listen to the transmissions. You can usually figure out quickly whether it's a big deal or not. The feed is actually stereo: fire & rescue on the right, police on the left. If you use earbuds, you'll get the separation. I use a Bluetooth connection to send the audio to my car stereo, which is really cool. The balance control allows me to emphasize and/or mute one or the other if I wish, and the left-right separation actually lets you make sense of both at the same time.

The second feature is the ability to set alerts for other kinds of calls, like structure fires and hazmat incidents. I particularly like the alerts for vehicle accident and expanded vehicle accident. These calls are the injury traffic crashes to which Lincoln Fire & Rescue responds. The expanded collisions are the ones with multiple patients, severity or where the mechanism of injury is more dangerous, such as an overturned vehicle, a car-motorcycle collision, and so forth.

The expanded injury crashes involve several emergency vehicles, unlike your typical fender-bender. Thus, setting an alert for one or both of these accident types will give you advance notice of a potential traffic snarl. These alerts will usually arrive on your phone even before the dispatcher has had the opportunity to speak the words needed to sen the first responders. In PulsePoint, go to settings, and you'll see the list of incident types you can choose from for alerts on your phone.

Here's a few more tips to consider:

  • Didn't sign up for CPR alerts because you haven't had training in a while? No problem, the American Heart Association can teach you the basics in 90 seconds. There are other ways to help at a cardiac arrest, too. Don't let the fact that you're not carrying a card in your wallet keep you from being the one. 
  • CPR alerts will only be received when the incident is at a public place and you are within a quarter mile. All the other alerts, though, are not tied to your location--you will get those on fires, crashes, hazmat, and so forth regardless of where you are.
  • You can follow other agencies, for example a city to which you are traveling, or your Mom's home town--as long as it is a PulsePoint-connected community.
  • While hands-only CPR is easy, more training is always a good thing. The Red Cross offers lots of opportunities for individuals, and if you're an employer or the team leader, maybe you should sponsor one for everybody!
  • Too many alerts bothering you? I'd suggest picking only CPR and Expanded Vehicle Accident to reduce the volume and still get the ones that are most important. Also, find the "do not disturb" setting on your phone, and select those times of day that you do not want to be buzzed.
  • Do you tweet? If so, the PulsePoint foundation has a twitter feed that republishes all the CPR alerts that are sent out from agencies nationwide, which is rather interesting to see @1000livesaday.
  • If you happen to have an Apple Watch, these notifications will work very well on your wrist.
  • PulsePoint is a smartphone app, but it will run on your iPad. It's a bit tricky to find it in the app store: you'll need to search for PulsePoint (it is NOT the blue Elevon app), then tap the "iPad Only" link at the top left and change to "iPhone only."
  • PulsePoint AED is a companion app for crowdsourcing information about AEDs in the community. The icon looks the same, but is yellow. Information from the public helps us keep the data current, and we appreciate your contribution to the database!