Posts Tagged 'front line'

Make it right…

14791918887_891e6f7af1_z

Scrapping police cautions could mean a greater focus on ‘restorative’ remedies such as cleaning graffiti.

So then, police cautions may well soon be heading for the scrap heap.

If all goes to plan during an upcoming trial by three English police forces, we will be making room for cautions next to rainproof macs, whistles and moustaches – items gradually retired as the police service moves forward.

The proposal is that rather than the police issue cautions, effectively official warnings for low level offences, we’ll adopt a system designed to give the victim more say in how we resolve crimes.

The Ministry of Justice promote the new system as simpler and propose that (prepare a hoorah) they’ll mean less bureaucracy for us officers to face.

Under the new system, we’ll be able to arrange compensation and apologies for minor crimes with offences deemed as being more serious being dealt with by way of ‘suspend prosecution’ under which we can steer offenders towards rehabilitation.

In my experience, the perception that cautions are seen by forces as the ‘easy option’ and are being issued where the offence is so serious that they are inappropriate doesn’t really ring true with how I’ve seen them used.

They have been a handy option for addressing low level offending where the offenders have had little previous involvement with the police.

This said, there’s always room for improvement and trying new things – if the new proposals give us the same flexibility to use a little common sense and at the same time, offer more for the victim then this is no bad thing.

I won’t share you…

Jenny Lawrence

Want to avoid compromising photos of yourself popping up on the interweb? Tips below!

There are lots of things that us normal people don’t have in common with Hollywood celebrities.

We don’t have pet tigers, we can’t charter a private jet to deliver us a takeaway and we tend not to sign million pound deals with glossy magazines to photograph our weddings.

Whilst it’s true that we’re unlikely to bump into Queen B whilst we’re at Aldi, this isn’t to say that there aren’t things that sometimes happen to celebrities that could just as likely happen to us.

I don’t mean uploading a video to YouTube that wins us a record deal to be Justin Bieber, I do mean though as has recently happened to Jennifer Lawrence and others, storing compromising photos on the web that may find their way into the public domain if your security settings aren’t good enough.

This is what appears to have happened to a host of A-Listers over the past couple of days, hackers have used their geek skills to illegally access cloud* based storage services such as iCloud and download their private content then posting it openly on the interweb.

What can you do to avoid falling into the same trap then? Here are three very sensible tips -

  1. Don’t store compromising photos of yourself online – If they’re not to find in the first place, this won’t happen.
  2. Make sure your security settings are sufficient – Don’t go for obvious passwords, review the permissions you’ve granted to apps and transfer photos to secure storage. See more tips here.
  3. Don’t store compromising photos of yourself online – Again, don’t do this.

That this has happened is a reminder that whilst lots of good comes from the internet when it’s done right (cat videos etc), lots of bad can come from it too if care is not taken to be sensible when snapping away in your trailer on the set of some movie trilogy. Be warned!

* What is the ‘cloud’? It tends to mean storage space offered by a website which allow you to upload your files to a web-based service rather than saving them to your computer. That’s as best as I can describe it – truth be told, nobody really knows what it is or where it came from. It’s not dissimilar from the black monolith thing in 2001. 

Election day…

New PCC

Welcome to David Jamieson, our new Police and Crime Commissioner.

A quick post this one to congratulate Labour’s David Jamieson on his success in the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner election and to welcome him to the new role.

David fills the vacancy left by the late Bob Jones and will work alongside our Chief Constable, Chris Sims, acting to oversee how the force is run.

As you may have noticed from the press coverage following the announcement of the results, voter turnout was somewhat lower than many people had been hoping.

In fact, if you happen to be reading this blog in the company of nine friends or family (hello everyone – gather closer!), statistically only one of you likely cast a vote.

Read into this statistic what you will but I think more than anything else, it suggests people are not yet familiar with what the Police and Crime Commissioner’s role is.

They’re not ‘in charge’ of their police force as such, rather it’s their role to hold the force to account, to set budgets and outline the force’s priorities.

The Police and Crime Commissioner is there to scrutinise the performance of the Chief Constable and his or her force, he or she also has the power to dismiss a Chief Constable if necessary.

You can find out more about our new Police and Crime Commissioner on his website where you can also find out more about the role itself too.

Furthermore, you can contact David by a variety of ways here and can meet him in person by attending one of the regular surgeries held around the West Midlands.

There goes my gun…

Firearms on display

We’re holding a firearms amnesty between July 19th and August 2nd 2014 during which people can turn over weapons without fear of being prosecuted for gun possession.

In Britain, one of the tightest areas of the law concerns the control of firearms.

Without a licence, you can barely so much as look at a gun without getting into trouble. Even if you don’t break any of the laws concerning discharging them, merely having possession of a component from a gun is likely to attract a hefty sentence from the people in funny wigs.

With a licence, there are still plenty of restrictions in place about what sort of weapons you can own, where you can take them and what you’re allowed to do with them.

Assuming you’ve been granted a licence, you still can’t your shotgun to the pub with you after a long day blasting holes in grouse – you’re expected to rigidly follow the guidelines and risk having weapons confiscated if you don’t.

Considering the misery that both real and imitation firearms can cause when they fall into the wrong hands, it’s clear why these strict controls are sensible.

This month the law has been made tighter still with the maximum penalty for illegal gun possession having leapt from ten years to life in prison.

Another change is that anyone given a prison sentence, including suspended sentences, of three months or more is now banned from possessing antique firearms which could previously be held as a “curiosity or ornament” with a relevant certificate.

To help get as many firearms off the streets as we can, we’re taking part in an amnesty between July 19th and August 2nd 2014 during which people can turn over weapons without fear of being prosecuted for gun possession.

This includes guns, imitation firearms, antiques and ammunition, all of which can be turned over to any police station front office in the West Midlands.

To do so, it’s recommended that you give us a call beforehand on 101 to check opening hours and obtain advice on how best to transport a weapon or alternatively, if you’re not able to reach a station, to make arrangements for the weapon or ammunition to be collected.

Running alongside the knife surrender bins that we’ve recently unveiled in Whitmore Reans and Edgbaston, the amnesty is all part of our aim to drive down violent crime.

Writing as an officer who works on the Violent Crime Team, the last thing any of us want to do is investigate a stabbing or shooting that could have been avoided had the weapon been surrendered so please, spread the word the use this period up to August 2nd to help us make your streets safer.

P.S. Of the firearms cases I’ve dealt with recently, all of them have involved imitation firearms which I’d advise it’s a good idea to dispose of too. There’s no good reason to have them and as this person found, walking in public with an imitation handgun very nearly ended up in him being shot by our firearms officers.

Losing my favourite game…

Zeus

The ‘Gameover Zeus’ malware is threatening computers. Unlike with real Zeus though, you can protect yourself by following some simple internet safety steps.

I imagine there’s a fair chance you’re sitting reading this thinking ‘As this isn’t ancient Greece, there’s little-to-no chance that Zeus will descend from Mount Olympus and attack me today’.

This is usually quite a safe assumption.

Sitting in Bloxwich, or Aldridge, or maybe even Dudley, there’s so little chance that an all-powerful mythological deity is going to suddenly appear and wreak havoc that it’s really not worth worrying about.

Problem is, you might not be as safe from godly thunderbolts as you think.

As the National Crime Agency is warning, we may have around two weeks to protect ourselves from the ‘Gameover Zeus‘ malware that is currently slinking around the internet, creeping its way into people’s computers and causing all sorts of problems.

Often spread by people downloading attachments on apparently legitimate emails, the software then hunts for financial information and may encrypt the user’s own files demanding a ransom for their unlocking.

The good news is that by following some sensible crime prevention tips, you can greatly reduce your chances of being bothered by Zeus and his big beard over the coming weeks -

  • Never open email attachments unless you are absolutely, positively, definitely sure of their source
  • Install some decent anti-virus software, making sure it’s running and up to date
  • You know all those ‘updates are available’ dialogue boxes that you’ve been ignoring? Time to actually click on them and install the latest patches
  • Back up your files – see more here on my previous blog about this

The FBI suspect a Russian national called Evgeniy Bogachev of being behind the malware attacks (if you spot him in Walsall, let me know) but even if they do arrest him after a helicopter assault on his fortified moon base, it’ll still be best practice to follow the above pointers.

By being sensible with your internet safety, there’s no reason for an attack from Zeus to be as unlikely as you thought it was in the first place – be vigilant, check your anti-virus software and help keep the Midlands Zeus-free.

She’s a waterfall…

1

What do the burglary team do all day? Sometimes we fight foes on top of waterfalls. We do other stuff too though…

What do the burglary team at Local CID do all day?

The obvious answer would be that we look for clues with our magnifying glasses, try on deerstalkers and place pins on large wall maps.

To be fair, this is pretty accurate.

Without magnifying glasses, we’d miss the vital piece in the jigsaw that cracks the case.

No deerstalkers and nobody would know we’re from CID, no randomly-placed map pins and our office wouldn’t look professional.

Whilst it is pretty accurate, the role does involve more than just fighting nemesis at the top of the Reichenbach Falls*.

For the burglary team, one of the first things we do in the morning is to check overnight crime to see what’s been happening on our beats.

Any house burglaries that we find, we look into to see what areas they’re in, how they’ve been committed etc and then will give the victim a call for an update.

We’ll chase up any forensic results, check out the intelligence using our clever computers and follow up any oustanding enquiries with witnesses and CCTV.

One of the most important things we’ll then do is to liaise with a magpie.

This isn’t the result of something funny being slipped into our pipes, rather the ‘magie’ officer is a specialist who links in with the pawn shops and helps track down stolen property.

Aside snooping around the second hand market, the magpie officer also makes enquiries with the National Mobile Property Register – the ‘PNC of property’ – to check that outstanding items are correctly listed.

If there’s sufficient evidence, we speak to the Local Priority Team and Offender Managers who can lend assistance with arrests, we then conduct property searches to help locate evidence before interview suspects at the station.

If all goes to plan following an arrest then hopefully we’re able to charge and remand (keep in the cells) our suspect and dispatch him or her to court the following day.

Whilst this is a flavour of the sort of work the burglary team does, it’s important to point out that by following some simple crime prevention advice, many of the burglaries that come to us could be avoided.

You’re likely to pick up some handy tips on our Safer Homes website on how to keep your home secure, equally important though is to register all of your goods on the property register.

Doing so is quick, easy and will cost you no pennies whatsoever.

Simply log onto www.immobilise.com and start listing your valuables – doing so makes it much, much easier for us to identify them so please make it the next website you visit! 

* Realistically this only happens once or twice a month.

On your own…

Minesweeper!

Time to update your operating system? Support for Windows 3.1 ended years ago, XP has now gone the same way.

Anticipating the mood swings, messy bedrooms and questionable hygiene to come, this week Microsoft did what most parents can’t and cut loose support for their thirteen year old ‘child’, Windows XP, before the troublesome teenage years really kicked in.

This means that they’ll no longer be releasing security updates and bug fixes for the still popular operating system and users will be largely on their own.

Using a computer without any sort of security support is a bit like lion-taming without a whip and a chair – it’s generally not a good idea and whilst you stand less chance of being eaten by a lion, you could be gobbled up by the digital equivalent.

As such, the large numbers of people still using XP, maybe a quarter of all users, are now realistically left with three options -

  1. Upgrading their operating systems
  2. Paying Microsoft several million pounds for extended support on an individual basis as some governments have done
  3. Continuing on XP and hoping for the best

The reason you don’t want to go for option three is that the the internet bad guys are now free to exploit any vulnerabilities in the operating system for their own malicious ends, safe in the knowledge that nobody at Microsoft is countering them.

Option two is largely ruled out by the whole multi-million pound thing which really only leaves option one, abandoning XP in favour of a new program.

This could mean a newer version of Windows, 7 or 8 comes to mind which may require a hardware upgrade or new computer to run, joining the hipsters at Apple or alternatively, checking out one of the FREE open-source Linux operating systems on offer such as Ubuntu.

Whilst XP will still work, the lack of security support means any computer running it is now much more vulnerable to malware, viruses and other bugs that could see your files compromised and transactions across the interweb possibly open to interception.

Sure, updating your operating system isn’t particularly convenient but less convenient still is having your computer’s front door left wide open to the internet by a hormone plagued teenage operating system so please, act now to secure your PC from the criminals!

P.S. There are a couple of useful guides here and here on upgrading/securing your PC in light of the XP move, you’re also advised to change all website passwords after a recent bug found in the encryption that many sites use.

 


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