Friday, June 27, 2014

Seller Beware

A quick online search turns up story after story of Craigslist transactions turning into robberies and thefts, all over South Florida.  A criminal contacts the seller showing interest in an item. When the two parties meet up, the “buyer” either snatches the merchandise or takes the item by force.
It has happened in Boca Raton four times in the last few weeks.  The first event occurred on June 4th after the victim advertised her iPhone 5s on Craigslist.  After receiving a call from an interested party, the victim met the potential “buyer” in front of her work.  The victim handed the phone to the suspect, who ran off with it.
Similar crimes happened twice on June 18th, when two different people advertised their MacBook Pros on Craigslist.  One victim had the “buyer” meet him at his place of business. The second victim met the “buyer” in the parking lot of a bank.  In both cases, the victim handed the computer to the suspect.  In the first instance, the victim grabbed the computer as the suspect tried to flee and was able to wrest it from his grasp.  In the second case, the suspect ran off with the computer.
The most recent crime happened Thursday, June 26.  The circumstances were the same as the other crimes.  A MacBook Pro was advertised on Craigslist and the victim arranged to meet the prospective buyer in a public location, inside the Barnes & Noble at 1400 West Glades Road.  The suspect grabbed the computer from the victim’s hands and ran out of the store. We arrested one person involved in this case and we expect additional charges on at least one other suspect.
Police officials across the country are urging sellers on Craigslist to use local police department lobbies to conduct transactions.  Be sure to check the operating hours of your local law enforcement facility before you make your arrangements.
We invite you to do your deal (legal, that is) at our place. Let’s be careful out there.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Crime in 2013

It is time to talk about crime again. While the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) offenses only represent a small percentage of our public safety mission, these statistics always get much attention. The report has been finalized, so let’s dig into the numbers.
Since short-term variations have little meaning, we always focus on long-term trends. In 2013, we saw the downward pattern continue. For the past five years, crime is down about 25% (see the chart below). Comparing 2013 to 2012, UCR crime was down about 9%.
The following chart depicts the index crime rate dating back to 1973. From a historical perspective, our rate is extremely low.
We continue to have a very low incidence of violent crime, so our enforcement efforts have centered on keeping criminals out of your homes, automobiles, and businesses. Last year, we arrested 78 individuals for residential burglaries and an additional 47 people for loitering and prowling.
Looking forward, we will continue to deploy our crime-fighting resources intelligently, using data-driven tactics and exploring ways to predict where crime might occur in the City. Our relationships with surrounding law enforcement agencies have never been stronger, and we will work with our partners to pursue offenders who prey on our residents from outside of our jurisdiction.
The credit for our high quality of life goes to our residents. The “Suspicious Incidents” category tops the chart for calls we receive from the public, meaning that our citizens are doing a great job looking out for things that just don’t seem right. As in the past, our future success will hinge on effective crime prevention, and your willingness to contribute to the cause. Thank you for your help and let’s stay safe out there.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Handle With Care

The topic of firearms seems to be a "third rail" issue for most folks these days. Merely mention the subject and many conversations turn awkward, at best.
There are roughly 310 million firearms which are privately owned in the US.  Guns can be found just about everywhere, in homes, businesses, parks, places of worship, and on people. Given that reality, why aren't we more comfortable talking about gun safety? Why don't we, at the very least, talk about safe firearm handling?
Guns are a necessary and important law enforcement tool. The company that produces our primary handgun, Smith and Wesson, has published some basic gun handling safety guidelines, which include, but are not limited to the following:
  • Always keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction.
  • Treat ALL firearms as if they were loaded.
  • Keep your trigger finger outside the trigger guard and off of the trigger until you are ready to fire.
  • Be certain of your target, your line of fire, and what lies beyond your target.
  • Always wear appropriate eye and ear protection when shooting and maintaining your firearm.
  • Never handle a firearm if you are drinking alcohol or using drugs.
I know there are many other gun safety guidelines, which address issues such as accessories, maintenance and storage, but I wanted to focus strictly on some key handling guidelines here.  If you are interested in more information, a simple web search will provide you with some interesting articles and videos. By the way, when your kids encounter a gun, make sure they know to stop, do not touch it and tell an adult.
So, with the sheer number of firearms out there, we need to set aside our philosophical or political differences on the subject and be staunch supporters of firearms safety. With firearms, handle with care. As always, let's be careful out there.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Knockout. It's not a new game, but it seems to be getting a great deal of attention in the media.
The knockout thugs (really cowards) pick unsuspecting pedestrians and try to knock them out with one punch. Many of the attacks are captured on video and posted online later for the sick enjoyment of the participants.
The random, explosive nature of these assaults makes prevention a challenge. At a minimum, keep these tips in mind:
Head's up! Put your smart phone away when you are walking. Pay attention to where you are going.
Most of these thugs travel in packs. Watch out for roving groups and steer clear. Maintain your personal space and demonstrate that you are alert.
Walk with someone if you can. Avoid shortcuts through isolated and/or unlit areas.
Call us. We trust your instincts. Our folks are trained and equipped to deal with these goons.

I have heard it said that you can't prevent becoming a knockout target. Let's not ever accept the notion that we are helpless victims.  Be aware and let's be careful out there.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Around Here

"This does not happen around here." So said a Boca Raton resident after a homicide on A1A earlier this week. We have heard similar sentiments shared in cities like Aurora and Newtown, albeit under distinctly different circumstances.

When I think about how we communicate with you, we deliberately try to strike a balance. Overall, crime is at an all-time low and Boca Raton is a safe city. We are, however, part of a larger society, contending with complex issues that transcend borders, like domestic violence, drug abuse and mental illness.

Boca Raton is a destination city. Educational institutions, major corporations, diverse places of worship, shopping centers, resorts, and world-class parks (don't forget the beautiful beaches) make us an attractive place to live, work and play. An airport, major arterial roads, rail and mass transit make it easy to get here.

Most arrive with good intentions. Some, not so much. Of the four homicides in Boca this year, all of the suspects were not residents of Boca Raton.

How then shall we live? Remember that we enjoy an outstanding quality of life in Boca Raton. We are not immune from what ails our society, but we can maintain our high standards of safety by remaining reasonably vigilant. Here at the BRPD, we will strive to give our folks the tools and training they need to provide the very best police services.

As we approach the holiday season, let's not be distracted to the point that we sacrifice our safety, or miss the opportunity to help someone who may be in crisis. Let's stay alert. As always, stay safe.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Apple's New iPhone 5S Introduces Biometric Scanner Security

I’ll admit it. The geek in me finds the new iPhone 5S a bit exciting and intriguing. While the overall technology of the iPhone 5S may not offer much in the way of radical changes, Apple has used this platform to launch their biometric scanning security feature. 

How Does It Work?
Most of us have seen more than our share of "scanners" in the movies and on TV. You place a hand or a finger on the screen, it is scanned and pattern matched, then access is granted. This type of technology is relatively easy to crack by a determined thief.
With the iPhone 5S no pictures of your fingerprint are taken and stored. Instead the 5S uses a highly sensitive capacitance measuring device.
Here’s how the smart kids describe it. There is an array of microscopic capacitance cells built into the home button. Each of these cells is no wider than the ridges of your fingerprint. The cells consist of a pair of plates separated by an insulator. When you place your finger on the button, the ridges cause current to flow between the plates, while those plates located under the valley do not conduct.
This allows the software to generate a mathematical algorithm of your fingerprint. The image created is far more accurate than one generated by an optical scanner. This system also measures the contours of your finger. This approach makes it much harder to fool these security systems, as opposed to the optical scanners, which use light and dark patterns to analyze your fingerprint.
What Does This Mean to You?
So, you won’t need to swipe your screen and remember a password anymore. The convenience is a big selling point, but the scanner on the iPhone 5S also makes it a virtually impossible challenge for someone to access your phone, even for the NSA.  Just kidding guys.
Passwords are passé. While many folks have expressed privacy concerns about this technology, it’s the future of device and software security. Passwords can be easily transferred to other people, not so with your fingerprint. I think all of your sensitive information should be protected by this higher level of security.
I’m sure there will be some hiccups with this new launch, but I am always happy to see any attempt to improve safety and security. As always, let’s be careful out there.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Great Phone Scam

Here’s the story. Yesterday afternoon, we arrested six people after they fraudulently purchased iPhones from the Apple Store at the Town Center Mall.  The first case involved a group of five people from New York who were working together. They purchased 28 phones with cash and were charged with organized scheme to defraud, grand theft, possession of marijuana and paraphernalia.

While we were booking the first set of suspects a second call came in. In this case, a female purchased four iPhones with cash.  She was arrested and charged with loitering and prowling.  These incidents are just two examples of several cases we’ve seen over the last few weeks.

Here's how the scheme works.  The victim’s personal information is somehow compromised, often through their cell phone carrier.  The suspect calls the carrier and has additional lines added to the account.  The suspect then goes to the store, in these cases it has been the Apple Store, and purchases the maximum number of phones allowed on the account. They pay with cash, typically at a discount. 

The challenge begins when police try to identify the victims, since the account holder is not actually charged by the carrier when the fraud is exposed.  The store selling the phones received cash payment for the merchandise, so they are often indifferent.  The account holder whose personal information was compromised is technically a victim of identity theft. However, they are not likely to get involved because they rarely live locally.  The carrier, a very large corporation, is often uninterested. All of these issues make prosecution difficult.

So what’s the solution? The phone manufacturers need to develop and deploy the “kill switch,” software enabling the fraudulently obtained phone to be remotely deactivated.  Hopefully, we will see this happen soon.

The individual cell phone account holders can protect themselves by contacting their provider and having their account flagged to allow no additional lines, unless the request is made in person and identification is provided.

Criminals are always looking for a new angle. Please take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your identity. Let’s be careful out there.