An Ohio man wanted for failing to appear in court on a DUI charge sent police a selfie after deciding he didn’t like the booking photos of him posted online by police to assist in his capture. He apparently sent a photo of himself behind the wheel with a cool looking pair of sunglasses, complete with the caption, “Here is a better photo that one is terrible.”
Police responded by putting his selfie online on Facebook as well, noting, “This photo was sent to us by Mr. Pugh himself. We thank him for being helpful, but now we would appreciate it if he would come speak to us at the LPD about his charges.”
Mr. Pugh was subsequently arrested in Florida.
Ohio fugitive who sent police a selfie is arrested [via CNN]
An interesting article shows that the inspiration for Agatha Christie’s police detective sleuth Poirot may have been a relatively unknown Belgian cop named Jacques Hornais. Christie first introduced Poirot in her 1920 novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, and went on to write 33 novels about his adventures. The renowned author never identified a specific person as the source of her inspiration, but an amateur researcher uncovered evidence Hornias could have been the real-life Poirot.
Real-life Poirot? Researchers reveal identity of policeman from Belgium who may have inspired Agatha Christie’s sleuth [via Daily Mail]
Google’s self-driving cars are getting better each year. Now, in addition to driving themselves, they are able to identify all kinds of potential road hazards, including cyclists, pedestrians, construction zones — even the hand signals from a school crossing guard or police officer. Though the busy streets of San Francisco are going to pose a larger challenge than the relative quiet of Mountain View, where the cars are currently being road-tested, according to project director Chris Urmson, “We still have lots of problems to solve, including teaching the car to drive more streets in Mountain View before we tackle another town, but thousands of situations on city streets that would have stumped us two years ago can now be navigated autonomously.” A recent Google blog post was even more optimistic about the vehicle’s future:
We’ve improved our software so it can detect hundreds of distinct objects simultaneously—pedestrians, buses, a stop sign held up by a crossing guard, or a cyclist making gestures that indicate a possible turn. A self-driving vehicle can pay attention to all of these things in a way that a human physically can’t—and it never gets tired or distracted.
Google Says Self-Driving Cars Will Run Over Fewer Pedestrians [via Forbes]
The above clip from CNN details how a recent Kansas City police murder investigation may have been solved by the help of license plate cameras fixed to the back of many of the city’s police cars. Apparently, the plate numbers are stored in a database with the time, date, and location the vehicle was scanned by the license plate readers. Recently, Kansas City was terrorized by an individual who was randomly shooting area motorists. A 27 year old man has now been arrested; it happened after a female motorist phoned in the man’s license plate information after believeing she was being followed. Police went to their database and found that plate had been used on several different cars in various locations; with additional old-fashioned policework, they arrested their suspect.
Did police cameras help solve a crime? [via CNN]
Police in Compton, CA last year quietly began testing a real-time surveillance system which allowed them to record all happenings in the city – meaning all crimes – in real-time. Unlike CCTV-type stationary cameras that are widely used in the United Kingdom and have gained some traction in cities like New York, the new system is aerial based, in which a plane is outfitted with a special high resolution camera that can surveil a 25 sq. mile area at a time. Specifically, cities like Compton, Baltimore, and Dayton have tested a wide area surveillance system developed by Persistent Surveillance Systems, which is owned by retired Air Force veteran Ross McNutt. This system can record and zoom in on street crimes as local and targeted as a purse snatching from a pedestrian on a sidewalk, and then follow the getaway vehicle as it drives around town. Though the system is not yet good enough to identify individual faces, it represents a promising advance for law enforcement to observe and track criminal activity.
Hollywood-style surveillance technology inches closer to reality [via The Center for Investigative Reporting]
Some 2 to 5 percent of all international trade involves counterfeit goods, according to a 2013 United Nations report. These illicit products — which include electronics, automotive and aircraft parts, pharmaceuticals, and food — can pose safety risks and cost governments and private companies hundreds of billions of dollars annually.
Many strategies have been developed to try to label legitimate products and prevent illegal trade — but these tags are often too easy to fake, are unreliable, or cost too much to implement, according to MIT researchers who have developed a new alternative.
Led by MIT chemical engineering professor Patrick Doyle and Lincoln Laboratory technical staff member Albert Swiston, the researchers have invented a new type of tiny, smartphone-readable particle that they believe could be deployed to help authenticate currency, electronic parts, and luxury goods, among other products. The particles, which are invisible to the naked eye, contain colored stripes of nanocrystals that glow brightly when lit up with near-infrared light.
This is about as cool as it gets. Camera resolution is getting powerful enough that it is now possible to identify reflections in the eyes of individuals who are photographed, thereby allowing you to see who else was in the room at the time the photograph was taken, to possibly include even the person taking the photo. In a paper titled Identifiable Images of Bystanders Extracted from Corneal Reflections, British psychology researchers Rob Jenkins and Christie Kerr found recognizable images of the faces of unpictured bystanders can be observed using modern, high-resolution photography by zooming in on subjects’ eyes to see the reflections in their corneas. The researchers noted:
For crimes in which the victims are photographed (e.g., hostage taking, child sex abuse), reflections in the eyes of the photographic subject could help to identify perpetrators. Cameras are routinely seized as evidence during criminal investigations. Images of people retrieved from these cameras may be used to piece together networks of associates, or to link individuals to particular locations. In particular, it may be desirable to identify the photographer, or other individuals who were present at the scene but were not directly captured in the photograph. Bystander identification may be especially important when the images record criminal activity, as when hostage takers or child sex abusers photograph their victims.
Several U.S. police departments are now using software originally developed by the military to track connections between insurgents to identify possible gang members and the inter-relationships between them. Called the Organization, Relationship, and Contact Analyzer (ORCA), the software basis its ability on the observation that current counter-insurgency (COIN) strategy is similar to law enforcement efforts to counter gang violence. After inputting arrested individuals’ biographical data into ORCA, within seconds the software can accomplish the following objectives:
- Predicting the likelihood an arrested individual is a member of a gang, even if they do not voluntarily disclose this information at the time of arrest. This is determined based on various factors such as who they were arrested with.
- Identifying groups of individuals in position of inﬂuence in a gang, even when there is no centralized or formal leadership structure.
- Identifying sub-groups or “crews” within a gang, such as those who work the same street corner to sell drugs or who work together to engage in other illegal activity.
The research paper into ORCA’s use by law enforcement analyzed 5,418 arrest records from the Chicago Police Department, and the software used the data to assemble a social network consisting of 1,468 individuals, who were members in one of 18 gangs. Identifying de facto gang leaders is important because taking them off the street can help to reduce criminal activity by other gang members:
According to the law enforcement professionals we met, the idea of inﬂuence is critical to understanding the behavior of violent street gangs. Of particular concern is the inﬂuence of radicalizing gang members – charismatic individuals that not only participate in abnormally risky and violent behavior, but have the ability to encourage others to do the same.
Social Network Intelligence Analysis to Combat Street Gang Violence
The above documentary, produced by an individual but of professional caliber, is nearly an hour long, but from the beginning it hooks you in and is well worth it. It’s the story of Keith Jones, who was scammed out of $110,000 by a fraudulent investment firm. Since law enforcement did not initially do much with the case, Jones decided to take matters into his own hands and tracked down the criminals himself. His adventure led him from his home in Australia to Thailand.
Here are two nifty topics on passwords and cybersecurity:
- Telepathwords is a novel website that tries to predict your password, character by character, as you type it. It effectively tests the strength of your password based on how easy it is for the website to predict it. It’s pretty cool to use, too.
- The latest effort to get rid of passwords altogether is Nymi, a heartwave-sensing wristband. Bionym, founded in 2011, has developed a biometric recognition system in the form of a wearable wristband, Nymi. It is now available for pre-order for $79 for early 2014 shipping. What makes Nymi different is unlike other biotech authentication methods like fingerprint scanning or iris/facial-recognition systems, it doesn’t need the user to authenticate every time they want to unlock something. Since it’s a wearable device, Nymi makes authentication automatic as long as the wearer keeps the wristband on.