Thursday, September 30, 2010

Massachusetts Adopts No-Texting-While-Driving Law

As a public safety and law enforcement solutions company, Hunter Systems Group, aims to not only develop innovative products that allow police departments and patrol forces everywhere to exceed at targeting and processing criminals, but we also strive to keep the public informed of pertinent safety and law-related information:

Remember today, September 30, 2010 is the first day that The Massachusetts No-Texting-While-Driving Law goes into effect. Now we know that all of our readers, friends, and subscribers are smart enough already, and didn’t need a LAW to tell us not to do this not-so-smart action. But in case some of you didn’t know what exactly is forbidden under this new law, here it is:

It is now against Massachusetts law to:
-type a text message while driving.
-read a text message while driving.
-send a text message while driving.
-access the Internet in your car from any mobile device

And, finally, sixteen and seventeen year olds cannot talk on cell phones at all when they drive – only in the event of an emergency.

But, we’re sure your common sense already prevented you from doing any of the above-mentioned offenses. Stay Safe!
-The Staff at Hunter Systems Group, Inc.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Would Legislation Be Un-Social?

I read today that technologies are making our younger generations less equipped to do things on their own, i.e. use a paperback thesaurus, tie their own shoes, remove ice cubes from a tray. Is this because online wordfinders, velcro shoes and automatic icemakers have made these needs obsolete -- or is it that they spend so much time Googling, Facebooking, Tweeting, etc. that little time is left for real interaction and physical "doing"?

I would argue it's combination of both, born from a constant attachment to IPhone, Androids, Blackberries and some, still their laptops.

I am not here to judge whether time spent online is hindering or helping their socialization, common sense or educational progress. I am sure there is data to argue both sides of that debate. But when online time overtakes offline time -- we now text more than we call; we teleconference and online chat a whole lot more than we business travel-- we need to examine the law enforcement ramifications.

When an investigation is underway, law enforcement personnel utilize monitoring techniques and surveillance systems to record conversations and phonecalls. But when criminals elect to text rather than talk, or kidnappers Skype their demands, we are unequivocally behind the technology times. Presently, there is no way to access these types of communications in real time, severely hindering criminal investigations -- especially those involving suspected terrorism.

The Obama administration is seeking to remedy this disadvantage with its initiative to require social media and voice-over-technology companies to build in a way for law enforcement personnel to monitor these types of communication, when the need calls for it. As of now, applications such as Facebook, Twitter, Sykpe and others do not have this capability.

Always sensitive to the personal privacy versus public safety argument, the FBI, Justice Department and National Security Council, remind us that this is not a new, more expansive stance -- yet an extension of the already existing CALEA Act of 1987 which grants court-ordered access to telecommunications methods during criminal investigations.
I am not sure why this proposal has been bandied about for the past two years without any real movement taken. As the discussions have occurred, the prevalence of social media and encryption technologies has skyrocketed over the same time period. Law enforcement's reach into these media has been well outpaced by the actual media themselves.

So while some public safety software and equipment companies are utilizing these innovative and cutting edge technologies to prevent and report on crimes, shouldn't we also be able to monitor those applications that may be used to counter our very advancements? The technology should even playing fields -- and when there's an advantage to be given, shouldn't it be on the side of law enforcement, and not just on the side of the Velcro-wearing, ice-cube ignorant uber-online addicts?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Will Massachusetts Emergency Dispatch Services Ever Be Regionalized?

Massachusetts is one of the only states that has not, for the most part, regionalized its dispatch services. Granted, it takes years, serious investment and extreme dedication to accomplish such an undertaking. Case in point: the State of Oregon worked for 16 years to regionalize the dispatch of its state police services, but it was worth it. Now, there are two command centers that act as primary points of contact for all state police needs across the state - instead of 26. Tax payers' money is saved, scales of economies are realized, and updated technologies are enjoyed throughout the state.

It's not that the ideas and the benefits haven't been presented. In the last three years, Essex, Plymouth and Worcester counties have all brought up proposals for regionalizing emergency dispatch services. And with any Massachusetts proposal, there have been dissenters. Those opposed to the combining of services, site possible layoffs, lack of presence in overnight facilities to greet visitors, and varying degrees of dispatcher familiarity with towns involved, as main reasons to veto.

Even though finances shouldn't be the main reason to act on this trend, it is hard to overlook the hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money that could be saved. And now, when agencies are expected to do less with more, and budget cuts are forcing every department to look more thoroughly than ever at its expenditures, those savings could really be leveraged. If nothing else, then there are plenty of case studies to show us the way to regionalize emergency dispatch for our own success, and that may just be enough to lead us firmly in that direction.