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Saturday, September 12, 2015

Drone designed to find missing persons

Our Prototypes column introduces new vehicle concepts and presents visuals from designers who illustrate the ideas. Some of them will be extensions of existing concepts, others will be new, some will be production ready, and others really far-fetched.
The concept
The Seekloc (Seek and Localize) are special drones designed to detect water and gas leaks and chemical products in the environment. They are deployed in groups from a special truck that also acts as a command center. The Seekloc could also be used to find missing persons in cities.
The background
Imagine you’re responsible for a city’s aqueduct and you need to localise a broken pipe underground; or that you’re in charge of the fire department and you need to find a gas leak or chemicals in a neighbourhood. Or imagine that you’re a police officer tasked with finding a missing person. The Seekloc was created with all these scenarios in mind.
How it works
The Seekloc are small, nimble robots that rest on two wheels, similar to the Segway RMP220. The base units would be able to fit in a special truck capable of storing, transporting, and deploying them anywhere in the city within a very short period of time.
The autonomous Seekloc truck could drive itself to a specified location immediately following an order from either the police chief or fire chief. Upon arrival, the Seekloc could immediately begin working while trained technicians are on their way to the scene, thus saving precious minutes.
The Seekloc are built with a modular system that can be adapted to the need of its owners. Therefore, various types of devices could be installed like acoustic detectors, chemical or infrared sensors, cameras, or electronic noses like the ones developed by Montreal’s Sensing Dynamics.
The Seekloc truck would act as a command center. It could be driven manually if needed, or with driverless technology and it would be able to store up to 8 units at a time. The vehicle’s windshield could also double as a widescreen to project a real-time map of the situation (from the inside) and send information and a live feed to elected officials, the media, and social networks. Each Seekloc would be equipped with a camera and would send its encrypted video feed to a live processing unit where it would be dispatched accordingly.
What’s it used for
The primary use would be to speed up the process of detecting dangerous leaks or finding missing persons when time is of the essence. Such robots could also be useful to maintenance crews and other departments of the city. Maybe it would even be useful to Google as a mapping robot.
The designer
I would like to thank Abhishek Roy, who created the incredible 3D renderings of the Seekloc. Roy is the owner of Lunatic Koncepts, a design firm based in India. Roy’s team also created the renderings for the Xoupir futuristic bus concept and the Inkubax, a local incubator accelerator concept for small towns.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Matthew Greene of Bethlehem missing in California

Matthew Greene of Bethlehem missing in California Went to Mammoth Lakes to hike, camp and climb mountains 
Author: Randy Kraft

A 39-year-old Bethlehem man is missing in the area of Mammoth Lakes, CA. Matthew Greene arrived in Mammoth Lakes around June 27 to hike, camp, and climb peaks in the Eastern Sierra. According to his family and friends, Greene is an avid hiker, as well as a rock and ice climber. According to his family, Greene, a Nazareth High school math teacher, usually goes on a trip every summer.

The Mammoth Lakes Police Department is seeking the public’s assistance to locate Greene. On Monday, a missing persons report was taken on Greene. The last known person to have contact with Greene talked to him on July 16. He was camping at Shady Rest Campground while his vehicle was being repaired at a local shop. He has not returned to Shady Rest Campground or picked up his car from the repair shop. Greene is  5’11”,  weighs 155 pounds, with brownish-blonde short hair. It is believed that he may have gotten a ride from someone to a remote area to hike or climb. The Mono County Search and Rescue Team has been notified, but without a last known location, the team cannot initiate a search. Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Greene is requested to contact the Mammoth Lakes Police Department at 760-934-2011 or the Mono County Sheriff’s Office at 760-932-6549 X7.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Overwhelmed law-enforcement miss ankle bracelet alarms

Overwhelmed law-enforcement miss ankle bracelet alarms

More than 100,000 parolees and sex offenders are wearing ankle bracelets in the US, but a new report found that police are ignoring tens of thousands of bracelet alarms, and in some cases allowing criminals to commit new offenses.
Electronic ankle bracelets are used to track an offender’s location by sending radio frequency signals at timed intervals. Depending on the crime, parolees may be under house arrest, restricted from leaving a certain jurisdiction, or have a curfew. Tampering with the ankle bracelets or leaving a restricted area sends an alert to police, who are then required to check up on the offender.
But an AP investigation found that numerous agencies fail to respond to many of the alarms set off by the bracelets, and some don’t have clear protocols on how to handle a high number of alerts. In some cases, authorities took days to respond to cases in which parolees tampered with the devices or broke their curfews.
“I think the perception … is that these people are being watched 24 hours a day by someone in a command center. That’s just not happening,” Rob Bains, director of court services for Florida’s Ninth Judicial Circuit Court, told AP.
Throughout the US, AP found that 21 specific agencies logged a total of 256,408 alarms for 26,343 offenders in the month of April. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has an average of 944 alerts per day. The Delaware department, which employed just 31 field officers, had an average of 514 alarms per day. And in Tennessee, a government audit found that 80 percent of alerts generated at the Board of Probation and Parole went unchecked over a 10-month period.
Criminal justice departments that are flooded with alerts are forced to sort through the notifications and decide which ones are appear serious enough to warrant a response.
But a nationwide lack of responses has occasionally allowed offenders to commit new crimes. With no one checking up on them, parolees and sex offenders are able to engage in further illegal activities.
Authorities in Syracuse, N.Y. ignored 46 alerts from child-porn suspect David Rentz. One alert was generated after he removed his ankle bracelet. He then raped a 10-year-old girl and killed her mother.
In another case, Colorado offender and white supremacist Evan Ebel tampered with his bracelet andkilled two people, including Tom Clements, the executive director of Colorado’s department of corrections. His ankle bracelet alarm had gone unchecked for five days.
“Technology is not going to automatically issue warrants for people. It just sends an alarm that says, ‘This thing’s been cut.’ And for people to ignore it, what’s the point?” said Colorado resident John Leon, whose son was killed by Ebel after the parolee tampered with his device.
Kelly Barnett, a member of the union representing probation officers in Michigan, told AP that it is impossible to track each offender every day, and that ankle bracelets provide “a false sense of security to the community.”
California Sen. Ted Lieu had long pushed for harsher punishments for those removing a bracelet. He believes that ideally, offenders who are at risk to the community should be sent to prison rather than out on parole, but the state lacks the funds to pay for that. He believes that when when offenders tamper with their devices, their intentions are never good.
“Dangerous parolees do not cut off their GPS devices because they want to go to church unmonitored,” he said.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

When a child goes missing, there is no playbook

When a child goes missing, there is no playbook

By Kristi Ramsay

Most parents have felt the pain of having a missing child, if only for a few seconds.

They lose sight of their child at the park or at the grocery store or at the mall. Fortunately for most moms and dads, as soon as the knot forms in their stomach, they lock eyes with their kid.

But for the parents of the hundreds of thousands of children who go missing each year, that pain is much deeper; for some, there is never relief.

Working in the media, I've followed the cases that get national attention. I've watched the press conferences and the family statements.

Last week, however, I had the heart-wrenching experience of finding out what happens in between the media updates -- what it feels like when this is real life.

A sweet 14-year-old girl who babysat my son in the church nursery was missing.

She'd left home without her parents' permission to meet up with a boy she connected with online. That was on Monday. The boy said he never went to their rendezvous point, a park, and as of Thursday, the young girl still had not come home.

The days in between were grueling for those involved in the search. I cannot fathom the depth of emotion her parents experienced.

Police never suspected foul play and thought the girl might have run away.
That scenario was both frustrating and encouraging. It was frustrating because the family did not think she intended to be gone long. She didn't bring anything with her. No phone, no keys, no money. It was encouraging because it was the best case scenario. Maybe she "just" ran away. Maybe she was fine -- angry, confused, and unaware of how loved she is -- but fine.

The conversations that unfolded were surreal. We talked to a detective about the possibility she was involved in sex trafficking or abducted or even worse. We had to avoid focusing on the "what ifs" in order to stay focused on the search.

When word got out, the community rallied around the missing teen and her family. We plastered the city with fliers and canvassed her last known whereabouts. People who had never met the family joined the search. Dozens of homeless people in the area helped out. As the story spread on social media, people around the world sent words of support.

Those of us on the ground did everything we could think of, all while having no idea what we were doing.

Three days after the girl went missing, I was helping plan a prayer vigil. We didn't know where to begin. There was no guide. We "guessed" the parents should speak first, before things got too emotional. But what should they say? How do we get the word out? How long should it go? We didn't know the answers to these questions.

The prayer vigil never happened. About an hour before it was to begin, the young girl was located. She had run away, and she was home now.

For the media, that's where the story ends. A quick update to tell local TV viewers everything is OK.
For the friends assisting with the search, there was a huge sense of relief. There were hugs, tears, and then the exhaustion and gravity of the week hit. We laughed -- about how much trouble this girl is in, about how much wine we planned to drink.

After this experience, I'll never look at news of a missing child the same.

I will hold this experience close the next time an e-mail about a missing child crosses my inbox.
I will remember the reality behind the story.

Each missing child poster represents a family in heartache and a community at a loss.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Montgomery County teen Zykee Smith missing since July 3

LANSDALE, Pa. - Police in Montgomery County are on the lookout for missing teen. Family members of 16-year-old Zykee Smith say he's been missing since the afternoon of July 3. That afternoon he left his home in teh 300 block of East Second Street in Lansdale

Smith is 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighs 155 pounds, and has black hair and brown eyes. Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to call Lansdale police at 215-368-1801.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Abner Twins Face Triple Murder Charges After Arson Investigation

Abner Twins Face Triple Murder Charges After Arson Investigation
By Elaine Hirsch

After three Alabama toddlers died in a fire last Wednesday, police arrested their mothers. The twin sisters Akeevia Lajoseia Abner and Tekeevia Lajoseialan Abner face three counts each of reckless murder. The case is yet another that has master's degree pundits and online commentators up in arms about motherly murder.

The fatal blaze occurred Wednesday night after the Abner twins left their three children alone in their home. The parents were allegedly visiting a home several blocks away. Firefighters located the children around 8:00 PM and reported finding an open oven. The oven is suspected to be the cause of the blaze, according to the fire marshal's preliminary report. Two of the children were in the hallway while one was in the bedroom. Firefighters removed the children from the home and took them to Atmore Community Hospital, where they all died from smoke inhalation and burns.

After investigating the fire and its cause, the fire marshal arrested the mothers on Monday. The Abner twins are currently held while they await trial for the three counts of murder. At their hearing today, bail was set at $300,000 each. It's unlikely this amount will be met, so the sisters will probably remain in custody.

The Abner twins are eighteen years old, and accordingly will be tried as adults rather than as juveniles. The Alabama Penal Code states that murder occurring as a result of arson is a capital offense, which means the state of Alabama could ask juries to consider the death penalty for the twins if they are convicted.

The district attorney's office hasn't released any statement regarding whether prosecutors will seek the death penalty at this point. If the state doesn't choose to pursue the death penalty, the twins still face the possibility of three life sentences, as they are each charged with three separate counts of reckless murder.

The charge is reckless murder rather than the less severe manslaughter because district attorney Steve Billy believes the twins showed "grave indifference" toward their children's lives. The children's funerals were held this past Thursday.

It remains unclear whether evidence suggests the twins deliberately meant to kill their three children, but the charges of reckless murder indicate that will be prosecutors' argument.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Amanda Knox Acquittal

The Amanda Knox Acquittal
Elaine Hirsch

Amanda Knox is an American woman arrested and later convicted of slander, murder, and sexual assault in Italy in 2007. The story made headlines when it first broke, but died down after the trial. It resurfaced after two of her sentences were overturned in 2011. A number of debates among PhDs and other experts online have cropped up as people try to determine whether she actually committed sexual assault and murder.

The Knox family was jubilant when the new verdict was read. Knox spent four years in prison for a crime she says she didn't commit. The question many people want answered is why the conviction was overturned. There are many variables, but the most central reason is the questionable physical evidence presented in court.

Amanda Knox and two others were convicted of the murder of Knox's roommate, Meredith Kercher, based on testimony and physical evidence. Knox claimed she was not at the flat when Kercher was attacked. She said she was with her boyfriend, Raffaele Sallecito, who was also convicted of murder and sexual assault in this case. However, Knox had incriminated herself when she lied to police during an initial interrogation, stating that another man had committed the murder.

Knox first said she wasn't there but then said she knew who the killer was. She was either in the apartment when it happened or she didn't actually see the murder. In other words, she lied in either case. That led to greater suspicion by police. She later stated she lied because she'd been under stiff questioning for well over forty hours and wasn't thinking straight. She also claims to have been struck on the head during the interrogation.

The key piece of evidence against Knox for the slaying was a knife bearing Knox’s fingerprints. Police claimed that particular knife must have been the murder weapon, though the fingerprint was the only thing found on the knife. Though prosecutors presented the knife as the murder weapon, it had no blood on it. Though it seemed to be simply a knife Knox had used at some point in the apartment, the prosecution presented DNA evidence to play up its role as a murder weapon.

The decision to overturn the conviction was finalized by the testimony of experts who said this evidence was contaminated when it was handled by police. Police also admitted they made the decision that Knox was guilty because of her demeanor at the scene after the body was found. There were simply too many discrepancies in the case which caused enough doubt to overturn Knox's conviction, as well as Sallecito’s.

Amanda Knox has returned to the United States, hoping to resume her life after four years imprisoned in Italy. She has been offered a million-dollar movie deal for her story, but has made it clear that the most important thing to her at the moment is spending time with a family from which she has been separated for far too long.