Massivedynamic.co
Public Safety

Biometric identification is becoming an increasingly favored technology method for companies to use when verifying or searching for the identity of a person. In a recent article published by Government Technology about biometric identification, massive gains in accuracy and lower costs allow facial recognition to serve as a reliable application for governments and other companies to use. The facial recognition market is growing rapidly, estimated to reach $7.76 billion in value globally. The Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Hillsboro, Oregon, was one of the first law enforcement agencies in the country to use Amazon’s facial recognition software program at a cost of $7 per month. Using this program regularly has led to dozens of arrests for theft, violence and other crimes. 

However, as the technology becomes increasingly accurate, privacy advocates are worried about diminishing what little privacy people have left. Without proper checks and balances in place, the latest technology has the potential for abuse, intrusiveness and invasion of privacy. With this also comes the risk being raised that facial recognition technologies struggle with discerning people of color accurately, resulting in an inherent bias. Many cities are working towards keeping the use of facial recognition technology under control and being aware of privacy issues.

TRACKtech, LLC has incorporated biometric identification into our products to increase safety and verification of program members. The TRACKphone provides the supervisor with a choice of three options for biometric verification including a fingerprint, iris scan or voice recognition. Biometric verification is used to ensure that the program member is the one in possession of the phone and allows for supervisors to monitor where they are, as well as check in with them through secured verification. TRACKtech ensures that all data is secure and does not misuse biometric verification technology, in the hopes of still providing the program member with reassurance that they have privacy, even while under supervision. 

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Community Supervision, Public Safety

For years, the United States has struggled to provide effective support to the more than 650,000 people who return to society from prison every year. As imprisoned individuals prepare to re-enter their communities, there are many factors that determine whether they are going to build a successful life after incarceration or whether they end up back behind bars. The potential challenges for re-entry include compliance with probation requirements, gaining employment, housing security and access to behavioral health services. If we are to succeed in reducing the number of re-offenders in America, we must find ways of changing the status quo in current policies and practices and embrace emerging technologies.

Technology has the capacity to greatly affect this intractable problem of recidivism in countless ways. The benefit of technology is that it can be customized to fit countless situations. Devices that continuously monitor alcohol intake of a person have completely changed how supervisors tackle alcohol abuse with offenders. Access to internet-based applications can provide automatic updates on job opportunities, deliver therapeutic materials and assist with training skills for the offender. Case Management Systems make it easier for case workers to monitor compliance and provide rehabilitative support though a streamlined secure website. Electronic monitoring devices can be customized to fit the needs of the offender using it, such as approving certain apps, controlling internet access, and monitoring their behavior. Video conferencing and messaging can allow for constant contact with a probation officer, including after normal business hours or across distances, which would minimize conflicts between work, family, and probation obligations.

TRACKtech™ provides two options for electronic monitoring. The TRACKPhone™, which is a specialized smartphone issued to Program Members, is intended to enforce compliance for those in need of more severe supervision. It provides biometric verification, GPS tracking, and more strict compliance enforcement. TRACKphoneLite™ is a more moderate alternative in the form of a smartphone application. This application can be applied to the Program Member’s smartphone and allows location check-ins, communication with their supervising officer over video chat, calendar reminders, and community-based recovery resources. These emerging technologies have the potential to transform reentry compliance and drastically reduce recidivism.

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Public Safety
National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week takes place the week of April 14 – April 20, recognizing the dedicated men and women who are the first line of defense and comprise emergency response agencies. Bartlesville Police Department Dispatcher, Teri Roberts, is one of these people. She listens to the caller’s needs and types information into the computer system, which takes eight monitors to manage. She asks the caller questions about the type of call and their location, while maneuvering her mouse to one of the screens dedicated to the radio frequencies for 20 different agencies. Roberts quickly notifies the Fire Department and Ambulance of the address of the call and the details of the caller’s emergency. She takes pride in her work, and after completing the call she states, “It’s all in a day’s work, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”

Securely located in the Bartlesville Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the dispatch center has three different shifts, operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are 15 dispatchers contracted to handle all the 911 emergency calls across the entire county. Rick Silver, Special Assistant to the Chief of Police at Bartlesville Police Department, is responsible for the dispatch center. From the 1st of January to March 31st, Silver recalled that over 4,200 emergency calls and over 18,000 non-emergency calls to 911 had been answered by dispatchers. “I’ve always told everyone my whole career that being a cop was what I wanted to do. To me that was the easy thing. I would never be a dispatcher,” Silver said. “It takes a special kind of person to be able to do that job because it is very hectic sometimes. People don’t realize the volume of calls that come in there.”

Dispatchers aren’t just the first line of defense for the people calling in, but also for the officers who are handling these calls out in the field. A dispatcher must be a multi-tasker, someone who is able to gather information and provide it to the officers and responders in the field while remaining calm and professional during stressful and intense situations.

Terri Mcarty, who has been a dispatcher for 33 years, says she wouldn’t do anything else. “It’s just what we like to do – help the community, and it makes you feel good that you are able to help somebody in their time of need. We are behind the scenes, and no one really knows who you are, but it just makes you feel good to go home at the end of the day and know that you helped somebody.”

Jon Copeland, Undersheriff of Washington County believes that dispatchers are crucial to assisting local deputies. “They are the heroes behind the scenes, the unsung heroes. They are the ones taking the initial information and letting deputies, EMS, fire, and police officers know where they need to go. They gather quite a bit of information and check up on us when they are on a call.” He is so thankful for the calm and steady voice on the radio. “It’s priceless. We can’t thank our dispatchers enough.”
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Justice Reform, Public Safety

The impact of drugs and rampant crime on Seattle has been apparent. According to a recent documentary, Seattle is Dying, there are hundreds of homeless men and women that are unable to get the help they so desperately need, and they are dying because of it. In Providence, Rhode Island, surprising steps are being made to save the lives of people like those living on the streets in Seattle.

Jennifer Clark, the Director of the Rhode Island Department of Corrections has created the MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment) program to assist inmates with overcoming their addictions. Her passion shows through all the work she has done to make this program a reality. “We can no longer ignore our way out of this dilemma, people are dying, and we have to stop it.” Inside the walls of Rhode Island’s prison, the inmates take their medicine every day. The inmates are provided with a choice of one of three FDA approved opiate blockers: Methadone, Suboxone, and Vivitrol. These drugs have been proven to help get people off heroin and stop this addiction.

The MAT program would not be as successful as it is without the assistance of the nonprofit, Codec. Linda Hurley, the CEO of Codec, states that “they will use these pills for life. They are no different than a blood pressure medication or insulin. It stabilizes them physically so they can do the emotional work to heal.” The Codec centers throughout Rhode Island provide medicine to any former inmate. They do not require appointments or paperwork, they get their medicine no matter what, so long as they’re in the system. 

Another very important aspect of the system that has been instrumental to its success is that inmates have counselors, recovery coaches, and group meetings. They develop relationships with these valuable individuals while they are incarcerated so that when they are released, they can retain those relationships within their support system. They will have group meetings and counseling up to three times a week. Inmates who were once addicted and felt helpless, learn to live life again, have access to job training, treatment, and everything they need for rehabilitation in one place. When they eventually leave, they are completely new people with a fresh outlook on life. They will have jobs and families and, in most cases, continue using their medicine daily.

Michael Manfredi became a full-fledged heroin addict at the age of 15 and used it for 35 years. He spent 20 years of his life locked behind bars. He has said that being locked up saved his life. He doesn’t believe that he would be where he is today if this program wasn’t here. “I would be dead.” He now has a reliable job, goes to support meetings, and has reconnected with his family. “My granddaughter is my whole world. I’ve never been happier in my whole life. I’ve never lived a productive life before. I’m proud of myself.”

Ray Vincent stole to support his habit. He too believes he would be dead if it was not for his arrest. He doesn’t want to continue to come to jail, and is happy to take his medicine if it is the stepping stone he needs to rebuild his life. He is now going to school to be a welder. He will be taking his medicine for the rest of his life.

Another inmate arrested for shoplifting to feed his addiction was Kevin Tunguay. He has been in prison for eight of the last ten years. He takes Methadone, and states that MAT makes sure to evaluate and monitor doses, ensuring the inmates taking them feel okay. He is concerned about going back to drugs. “When I was on them, I didn’t know what was real. I didn’t want to die alone. I want to put things together and make amends to my mother.” This system has given so many felons hope for their future, and their gratefulness is apparent.

Josh Broadfoot is also thankful that he was arrested. He chuckles at the thought that he is thankful for being taken away from his family, but claims that “I don’t think I would ever have been able to be with my family if I had still been on drugs. I might be gone completely.” He is on Methadone. “We have counseling and medicine that helps us stay away from opiates. This program gives me hope. It’s a major help.”

The death rate of those that leave prison is a surefire way to measure success of a treatment program, and the MAT program is astonishing. People who should have died on the streets or from overdoses have not. There has been a 65% decrease in mortality for those with a history of incarceration over the three years of this program being in effect. Once they are released from prison, they must be registered in the Codec database, and an impressive 93% of people who have been released are still following up in the community for their rehabilitation.

The MAT system makes use of two simple concepts, enforcement and intervention. It could make a great difference in Seattle if it was implemented alongside stricter laws. The hundreds of drug addicted homeless people could regain their futures and overcome the need to commit crimes to feed their addictions. MAT isn’t soft or compassionate, it’s a proven program that directly addresses the issues faced by those on the streets in Seattle and elsewhere, struggling to survive while they are trapped by their addictions.

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Justice Reform, Public Safety

In 2017, nearly 40 million tourists visited Seattle, spending more than $7 billion. However, this income is not immune to the growing homeless pandemic. Homeless encampments have sprung up next to tourist attractions, businesses, and populated downtown areas. Most visitors to the city are very surprised by the amount of homeless overtaking the city. “This is a tourist spot, I don’t know why the city would let this happen.” states Glen Commins, the father of a family who is visiting Seattle. His wife, Denise, also was astonished. “I just don’t understand. Isn’t it trespassing? How can they stay there, and the city puts up with it? If I camped in a public space, I would be arrested. And the smell is horrible.” 

A recent documentary, Seattle is Dying, brought to light how misdemeanors have stopped being enforced in Seattle. Urinating on the streets or smoking a joint will not lead to anyone being arrested. 

Before, you would be issued a civil infraction and a $27 fine for urinating in front of a store. A civility charge would become a criminal charge if you didn’t pay the fine. Now, civility cases are no longer filed; sleeping in parks, urinating in public, obstructing sidewalks, and failure to pay infractions will not be reprimanded. The police have stopped issuing tickets altogether because they feel like it’s pointless.

The lack of enforcement on the homeless and drug dealing population has directly affected local shops and restaurants, a strong source of Seattle’s revenue for tourists. Bob Donegan, the president of Ivar’s Restaurants, says that these are not acceptable circumstances for a major urban city. Shoplifters are stealing every day and costing stores millions of lost dollars. “The amount of money lost due to theft downtown is staggering. Unfortunately, the businesses take the hit and the person caught stealing rarely have to deal with any consequences.”

Karan Danenburg has run her boutique downtown for many years, but when she saw a man shooting heroin on the sidewalk, she decided she couldn’t take it anymore. She never thought she would want to leave Seattle, but her boutique was struggling to survive. She has since moved to Bellevue, which she claims is “calm, quiet, and none of that stuff is going on. It’s a joy being over here. I never thought I would be ready to leave but I was.” Her new boutique in Bellevue is thriving.  

Uwajimaya, the shopping hub of the international district, has been hit by countless shoplifters. Denise Moriguchi, the CEO of Uwajimaya, thinks that the system is broken and is giving the shoplifters a sense of security that is causing them to be bolder. “They are bold when they get caught, and they don’t care, they just walk back in.” She called the police 599 times over a 19 month stretch. There were 599 reports of shoplifting at her store, and only 8 ended in some form of prosecution, mostly just because they involved assault. 

There must be some sort of intervention to break the cycle or people will continue to do what they have been doing. The addict won’t quit because it has become too easy for them to use, and the dealer won’t quit as the consequences of getting caught are minimal. The Seattle police are just as frustrated with this situation as the civilians, shop owners, and tourists. One anonymous police officer implores the city government to “spend millions of dollars on mandatory inpatient treatment programs instead of making excuses for their addiction and crimes. The option should be treatment or jail, the cycle has to be intervened on or it will never end.”

The homeless population of Seattle have been living in squalor, filth and despair. They are stealing for money to feed their addictions for life ending drugs. The laws in Seattle have made it almost impossible to help improve the lives of these people or reprimand them for their detrimental actions. They need help, and they need more help than Seattle has been providing them.

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