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July 2011 

Sheriff's Office Presents DDACTS to Board

Calvert County, MD - 6/22/2011

Calvert County Sheriff Mike Evans [R] and two sheriff's office bureau leaders gave the county commissioners an overview of their latest law enforcement strategy. As of June 1, the Data-Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety (DDACTS) is being implemented by the sheriff's office.

In a memo to the Calvert County Commissioners, Evans explained that DDACTS is supported by a partnership among the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance and the National Institute of Justice.

"We didn't invent this," said Evans, who explained DDACTS is being implemented in other counties. "It's just a different way of doing business."

"It potentially doesn't cost any money to do this," said Lt. Bobby Jones of the sheriff's office's Bureau of Administrative and Judicial Services.

Evans explained DDACTS was an integration of "location-based crime and traffic crash data to determine the most effective methods for deploying law enforcement and other resources. The goal of DDACTS is to reduce crime, crashes and traffic violations across the country."

Crime and traffic data compiled from March 2010 to March 2011 was analyzed with the help of Washington College.

As a result of the analysis, the sheriff's office identified three focused enforcement areas:

  • North Beach and Chesapeake Beach
  • Prince Frederick
  • Lusby

Jones stated that on a monthly basis the sheriff's office will compile a report showing the amount of crime and traffic crashes occurring within a focused enforcement area.  Feedback from the community will be evaluated and changes to the plan will be made as needed.

"The focus areas could change," said Jones.

Among the countermeasures to be implemented within a focus area:

  • High visibility traffic enforcement
  • Aggressive driving under the influence enforcement
  • Identifying suspicious persons/vehicles
  • Use of sobriety checkpoints
  • Use of K-9 teams
  • Use of License Plate Readers
  • Use of Bike Patrol

"We are not using deputies on overtime, we are using deputies on their regular schedule," said Evans.

"No community will suffer or see a reduction of police service," McDowell added.

In its first 20 days of operation, Evans reported the DDACTS initiative has led to seven drug and disorderly conduct arrests, 90 vehicle stops and 50 contacts with citizens by deputies.

Evans pledged the sheriff's office will measure the success of its operation "based on outcomes, not outputs," meaning the number of citations written will not be a yardstick for measuring deputies' effectiveness.  It is hoped that DDACTS will yield "reduction in social harm, fewer calls for service, increased time for high-visibility patrols, increases in deterrence and field contacts," Jones stated.

States crack down on drunken boating
Larry Copeland

As the summer boating season enters full swing, states are moving to curtail a peril on the water - boating while intoxicated.

Alcohol is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents involving the USA's 12.4 million registered boats, the U.S. Coast Guard says. There were 126 fatalities and 293 injuries in 330 alcohol-related boating accidents in the USA in 2010.

"It's starting to get recognized that boating while intoxicated is just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated," says Lt. Cody Jones, a game warden for the marine enforcement section of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. "You're in a 1-ton vehicle, but this vehicle doesn't have brakes, and there's no lane of traffic or stop sign to direct you."

He and other experts say that many recreational boaters don't realize that stress factors associated with boating - such as heat, direct sunlight, vibration, wind and noise - magnify the effects of alcohol.  "Alcohol has more of an impact out there," says Maj. Chris Huebner,
North Carolina's state boating safety coordinator. "It can take as little as one-third the alcohol on the water as on land to be impaired."

Danger on water


The Lexington, KY based National Association of State Boating Law Administrators is pushing for a national marine field sobriety test standard that would enable patrol officers to test boaters while they're seated.

Other action:

  • Starting July 1, the legal blood alcohol level of someone operating a boat in Iowa will be lowered from .10% to .08%.
  • Oklahoma also lowered its legal blood alcohol level for boaters from .10% to .08%
  • North Carolina launched "On the Road or On the Water," the first statewide joint effort by police agencies to combat both driving and boating under the influence.
  • Texas uses "no refusal" weekends, during which on-site judges work with police to issue search warrants to draw blood from suspects under investigation for boating or driving drunk who refuse a breath test.
  • New York's state Senate passed a bill to change a law that allows someone convicted of boating under the influence to be considered a first-time offender even if they had a prior conviction for driving a motor vehicle under the influence.

NHTSA administrator David Strickland is focused on reducing the dangers of distracted driving.



Editor's note: In an exclusive interview with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration administrator David Strickland, Melanie Batenchuk of Be Car Chic asked about distracted driving and the agency's combined efforts with the Department of Transportation to curb this bad behavior.


David Strickland has been championing safer, distraction-free driving since the beginning of his tenure at NHTSA in January 2010. Strickland has been working tirelessly toward this goal alongside stakeholders such as Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, private-sector executives, automobile manufacturers and safety advocacy groups.


The Transportation Department has even launched the Web site to educate Americans and policymakers about the dangers of distracted driving. Strickland and his boss, LaHood, are also working with the states to enforce against distraction. To date, 33 states, the District of Columbia and Guam have passed antitexting laws. Eight of those states have also banned handheld-phone use while driving.


In a post by the Wall Street Journal blog on May 24, Strickland referenced consumers' shift in mind-set about wearing their seatbelts over the past few decades. When asked whether NHTSA and the Transportation Department should take a similar approach to turn people from driving while distracted, Strickland explained that there are similarities in both movements.


"[The seatbelt initiative] wasn't a regulatory solution as much as it was a campaign solution," Strickland said. "The belt program took off in 1994 with Click It or Ticket. With that we did some work with the states and moved it up to the national level."


A national ad campaign brought the seatbelt use numbers from 60 percent in 1994 (the start of the well-known Click It or Ticket campaign) to 85 percent today. "We think that this model--we have great hopes that it will work for distraction," Strickland continued.


The data looks appealing, but there remains a good amount of research to be done on distracted driving before moving forward with federal guidelines. Currently, NHTSA is conducting research for pilot projects in Hartford, Conn., and Syracuse, N.Y. The agency is also helping states enforce their rules by running an ad campaign called Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other.


But what about that looming federal rule that many in the automotive community have been anticipating? The lack of definitive research prevents the agency from moving into rule-making posture at this time. However, NHTSA does plan to issue voluntary guidelines for automobile manufacturers this fall.


"These guidelines will be for in-vehicle interfaces--touch screens, infotainment systems. After that, we'll be working on handheld and nomadic devices, and finally, voice-command devices," said Strickland.

Strickland also tried to clear up any fears that consumers or those in the automotive-policy community may have in anticipation of a national law. Strickland explained that state laws deal with the driver, requiring people to keep their hands on the wheel and eyes focused on the road. A federal rule would only regulate what is put in the vehicle by the OEM.


One point of contention for the auto industry is the regulation of how people can use their mobile devices when in their vehicles. But for Strickland, a gray area exists over the regulation of smartphones, which "by itself is a consumer product, regulated by other agencies," he said.


"NHTSA regulates the car--federal motor-vehicle safety standards and all that. But there really is--in terms of once that device comes into the vehicle and connects with it--no clear authority. Who actually regulates that?"


Strickland would not have us forego technology altogether but he makes a good point that the mobile applications that are so widely popular are not made to be used by someone driving a car. He wants to define how agencies deal with those issues.


"For us, guidelines are a stepping-off point," said Strickland. "[Auto manufacturers] have a strong obligation to do research and find that some applications are OK in the car--such as navigation, streaming Internet radio--what's suitable for a driver while they're operating a vehicle.


"I recognize everyone wants to be connected on the go, but if you're creating a business model in the market and it doesn't have its roots in safety, then that business model will ultimately fail.


"At the telematics conference in Michigan," Strickland added, "everyone was gawking about apps and no one was talking about their safety. When [safety] isn't part of the conversation, I see consequences on a large scale."


Strickland also discussed how mobile applications developed without safety in mind increase the risk for all drivers, namely for those with less experience, and especially for Gen Y drivers who are so attached to their mobile devices.


When asked what is next for NHTSA, Strickland was clear about his and the agency's mission--to save lives.


"All the work we're doing is to that end," he said. "We are fully supportive of good information, ease of use, and anything that helps make the driving experience more pleasurable for the driver without hurting their safety."


Strickland emphasized that while NHTSA cannot anticipate every mobile app developed, the agency does not want to stifle innovation. The agency hopes to establish a framework that explores what could come into the car down the road, and make sure that whatever that technology is does not cause an additional safety risk to drivers.


Go to to read more from Melanie Batenchuk at her blog.

All Content 2011 Crain Communications, Inc. 

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Using hidden cameras to catch car thieves

License Plate Reader technology in place at nearly 40 law enforcement agencies across region

By Don Markus, The Baltimore Sun


Sgt. Julio Valcarcel wheels his unmarked sport utility vehicle south onto U.S. 1 in Jessup as motorists whiz by in the opposite direction. The Maryland state trooper is not looking to ticket speeders, but rather is on the hunt for stolen cars.


And he doesn't have to consult a "hot sheet" to compare license plate numbers, or even remember the make, model and color of vehicles on the stolen-car list.


Images of license plates pop onto his laptop computer screen as the cars go by. An alarms sounds when the computer finds a stolen plate or car, or even a revoked or suspended registration, information stored in a database updated daily by the FBI and the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration.


"It's constantly taking pictures, looking for license plates," said Valcarcel, who has spent 21 years as a trooper and is now the technical manager of the license plate reader program. "There might not be a violation at the time we capture that read, but the read might be helpful for investigative purposes down the road."


State police have been using the plate reader technology since 2004, but the program is getting a new influx of money - including a $2 million state grant last summer - doubling the funding. Officials give the devices part of the credit for a nearly 40 percent drop in car theft across the state in the past three years.


But the system has limits.


Hours after Maryland State Police Trooper Shaft S. Hunter was killed on Interstate 95 on May 21 when his cruiser slammed into the back of a tractor-trailer while chasing a speeding motorcycle, authorities said they hoped to identify the motorcycle's driver using a license plate reader. There is a stationary reader on the highway near Route 32, close to the crash site.


Valcarcel said that reading smaller motorcycle tags is more difficult than license plates on cars or trucks. The reader can't scan numbers on vehicles exceeding 120 mph or motorcycle tags that have been mounted inside wheel wells or are obscured by fenders.


Doug Ward, who spent 27 years with the Maryland State Police and now is the director of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Safety, said that racing motorcycles, sometimes speeding at 160 mph, are as big a blur to the plate readers as they are to the motorists they pass.


Ward said that plate readers used at toll plazas often have a difficult time reading tag numbers on motorcycles that are stationary, let alone motorcycles traveling at triple-digit speeds.


But Valcarcel said investigators are hoping to find witnesses to the accident by reading the plates of cars that were in the same area when Hunter crashed. The man who owned the truck that Hunter hit told police that a motorcyclist wearing a white helmet flew by him at a "high rate" of speed.


Said Ward: "I applaud them for trying and doing everything they can. I hope somebody steps forward."


A single license plate reader unit costs about $20,000 and can read as many as 5,000 license plates in a typical eight-hour shift. Mobile cameras are typically mounted on the trunks of police cruisers, and stationary cameras are put in strategic spots along Maryland's interstates and at toll plazas at the Bay Bridge and Fort McHenry tunnel.


Most police agencies in the Baltimore area have mobile license plate readers, as do many across the country. Baltimore police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that 10 have been ordered for the city Police Department. The Regional Auto Theft Task Force, made up of officers from several jurisdictions, including Baltimore City and Baltimore County, have 11, many mounted on large SUVs.


The state police have 19 units, all but one of them mobile, according to Valcarcel. One of the benefits is being able to read dozens of tags in a matter of moments. Officers with equipped cruisers can simply drive up and down streets, quickly scanning tags of every parked car and instantly knowing whether one has been stolen.


Justin Mulcahy, a spokesman for the Anne Arundel Police Department, said that since fall, the technology has helped his department recover six stolen vehicles.


Capt. Don Roby, who oversees the license plate reader program for the auto theft task force, said there has been a "double-digit" drop in the number of vehicles reported stolen over the past several years.


The technology is now well-known that even suspected car thieves talk about the plate readers. "During our interrogations, they do bring it up," Roby said.


As the license plate readers become more widely used - even by parking lot owners to help people find their cars - so does the scrutiny. Privacy groups have raised concerns over law enforcement running plate numbers and collecting the data from people not suspected of breaking the law.


"We see no problem as long as the information is can be used legitimately, and used for narrowly tailored purposes" said Meredith Curtis, a spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland.


Curtis said her group is more concerned with the way the data is kept. "Police are not supposed to be keeping files on people who are not breaking the law," she said.


Valcarcel said police agencies typically keep the information for up to a year before removing it from the system.


On the outing in Jessup, the trooper drove his vehicle onto the parking lot at a light rail station. The constant drone of innocuous beeps stopped and the word "registration" flashed on the computer screen, followed by a series of faster beeps.


"What we have here is an alarm for a possible hit," Valcarcel said as he read the tag on the vehicle involved and compared it to the data on the computer screen. "It tells me that it's a partial read, it's not a match, so the system will reject it."


A few seconds later, there is another series of beeps, followed by the words, "revoked registration".


Again, Valcarcel compares the data on the screen with the tag on the car in question.


"It is a match," he said. "If the person were in the vehicle, we could take enforcement action if the operator was the owner. Since the vehicle is parked, we're not able to do anything with it at this time."


In the course of a 45-minute drive that included stops at Arundel Mills mall and along Route 295, his license plate reader scanned nearly 400 tags. There were a handful of "hits," mostly for expired registrations or suspensions because of overdue emission tests.


Last month, the trooper recovered a stolen car with the help of the reader. The driver was detained and arrested. "It was an unlucky Friday the 13th for him," Valcarcel said.


NHTSA: Motorists Should Check Tires in Hot Weather to Improve Safety

The latest data from the Department's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that over the five-year period from 2005 to 2009, nearly 3,400 people died, and an estimated 116,000 were injured, in tire-related crashes.

Jun 04, 2011

In a consumer advisory issued recently, the U.S. Department of Transportation urged all motorists to inspect their tires for proper inflation and signs of tread wear and damage before driving in hot weather. The consumer advisory coincides with National Tire Safety Week, June 5-11, and as driving increases with the kick off of the summer travel season.

"As the weather warms up, it's especially important for drivers to ensure their tires are properly inflated," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. "For your safety and the safety of others on the road, inspect your tires regularly and maintain the proper inflation."

The latest data from the Department's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that over the five-year period from 2005 to 2009, nearly 3,400 people died, and an estimated 116,000 were injured, in tire-related crashes.

"While it's true improperly maintained tires can contribute to a crash at any time of year, it is particularly critical for motorists to check tires during hot weather, when families and luggage often overload vehicles for long vacation trips," NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said. "Under inflated tires spinning on hot asphalt for extended periods of time can be a recipe for disaster."

The Department urges motorists to check their tire pressure before long trips and to inspect tires periodically. Motorists should also be aware that aging tires and hot weather can be a potentially deadly combination, as older tires are more susceptible to heat stress, especially if they are not properly inflated. Motorists should check the tire sidewall to see how old their tires are, and to check with the tire manufacturer or the vehicle owner's manual for recommendations on how often to change tires.

Properly inflated tires will also improve a vehicle's fuel economy and help stretch the family dollar at the gas station. According to the Department of Energy's fuel website, under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3 percent for every 1 PSI (pound per square inch) drop in pressure of all four tires.

For more information on tire safety, go to NHTSA's safety website


Title:  DDACTS - Teen Seat Belt Use Initiative


Project Overview:  The purpose of this cooperative agreement is to assist State, county or local law enforcement agencies interested in utilizing a Data-Driven Approach to Crime and Traffic Safety (DDACTS) to enhance their law enforcement activities as it applies to teen seat belt use and teen crimes.  This project aims to assist the Grantee(s) in identifying where teen traffic safety problems (e.g., teen seat belt non-use, teen unrestrained fatalities, teen-involved motor vehicle crashes) and teen crime problems are occurring in their community or communities, determining where they most intersect, and working to counter both problems at the same time in the designated area(s).

The following outcomes are anticipated through participation in this Cooperative Agreement effort:

  • An increase in observed seat belt use among the teen population in the program area(s);
  • An increase in law enforcement engagement and sustained enforcement through application of the DDACTS model as evidenced by the number of enforcement contacts made with teen drivers and occupants;
  • An increase in the awareness of the perceived risk of receiving a ticket and the importance of being restrained;
  • A decrease in the incidence of teen criminal activity in the program area(s)

The DDACTS Operational Guideline is available on line at For additional information regarding DDACTS, feel free to visit the DDACTS Website at


Period of Performance:   18 months


Award Details:  It is expected that up to 2 awards will be made under this RFA with each not to exceed $250,000 for a project total of $500,000.


Closing Date for Applications:  Thursday, June 30, 2011; 2:00pm (EST)


Funding Opportunity Number DTNH22-11-R-00492  (use this to search for the announcement on


2011 GHSA Annual Meeting 

Registration Now Open

Registration is now open for the 2011 GHSA Annual Meeting--Shifting Gears: Driving Culture Change in Highway Safety--September 25-28 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The cost to register before August 19 is $450 for GHSA members and $550 for nonmembers and federal agencies. Exhibit rates are $900 for GHSA members and $1,000 for nonmembers. See GHSA's registration page for more information, or click below for the online registration forms.
Online registrations save $25!


Despite Ryan Dunn's Death, DUI Fatalities in US Falling

Despite the attention became focused upon the drunk-driving death of former MTV star Ryan Dunn, the incidence of DUI deaths has actually been decreasing in the U.S.

According to data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 10,389 people died in alcohol-related vehicle crashes in the 2009, representing about one-third (32 percent) of all traffic fatalities for that year. This also means that on average a person is killed in an alcohol-related crash about every fifty minutes.

However, in 1982 (when NHTSA started collecting such statistics), there were 21,113 drunk driving-related deaths - which means that the number of people dying like this has been cut in half in less than three decades.

By 1991, that figure has dropped to 15,827.

The falling numbers suggest that public service announcements about the dangers of drunk driving are working.

Sadly, it came too late for Ryan Dunn.