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Morning Security Brief: Extortion in Mexico, Dirty Bomb Detector, Occupy Resurgence, and More

By Carlton Purvis

►The fastest growing nonlethal criminal enterprise in Mexico is extortion. Extortion in Mexico has grown 180 percent in the last decade, according to the National Citizens' Observatory, a group that compiles crime statistics. “From mom-and-pop businesses to mid-size construction projects to some of Mexico's wealthiest citizens, almost every segment of the economy and society has been subjected to extortion schemes, authorities and records indicate,” reports the Los Angeles Times. Extortion is a crime that feeds off of a culture of fear and criminals take advantage of Mexico’s instability. Most of the shakedowns happen by phone. A caller pretends they’ve kidnapped a relative or that they are outside of a home ready to open fire. “In these scams, the extortionist actually has little or no real information about the target and could easily be calling from hundreds of miles away. He counts on fear and in fact poses little real danger. Still, people pay,” the Times reports. Other schemes are run by gangs who control an area and demand protection money.

►Scientists at the University of Liverpool are developing a mobile detection system for radioactive material to prevent dirty bomb attacks. “Current systems to detect special nuclear material have a number of limitations. Materials tend to be smuggled inside commercial containers and special enclosures inside can minimize the escaping tell-tale radiation. The system we’re developing will rely heavily on noble gas detection modules supported by robust, lightweight electronics and intelligent analysis algorithms, integrated in portable units that can be used by security personnel at ports of entry,” said Professor Christos Touramanis from the University’s Department of Physics. The final version of the system will be small enough to fit in the back of a car, according to a University of Liverpool press release. The £3 million project is being funded by the European Commission.

►Police are seeking a subpoena to identify an Occupy protestor who said the movement “won’t make a difference if they don’t kill a cop or two” on Twitter during clashes with more than 200 protestors in Zucotti Park over the weekend. Protestors took to the park to mark the 6-month anniversary of the Occupy Movement and kick off what’s being called their Spring offensive. This time, occupiers are hoping to rally toward specific goals. "I think we've learned a lot about being strategically and tactically smarter," one organizer told Reuters.

►In other news, Police in Maharashtra, India, are building a database to keep track of private security guards across the state. The database will include a person’s address, photograph, arms license status, criminal record, and qualifications and will be accessible to anyone doing a background check for employment reasons. ♦ Security workers in Kenya are threatening to strike unless the government fast tracks a security reform bill that has been in parliament for two years. The Private Security Industry Regulation Bill 2010 calls for security firms to register with the government and properly train workers. Supporters of the bill are also calling for an increase in the minimum wage for security workers. In the past, the government pledged to raise the wage annually, but has yet to make good on that promise, Capital FM News reports. ♦ And the response to the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Japan was exacerbated by communication gaps between the government and the nuclear industry, according to a new report from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, titled "Fukushima in Review: A Complex Disaster, a Disastrous Response."

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