Morning Security Brief: Police Contact Statistics, Commuters Become Unwitting Smugglers, and More

By Carlton Purvis

 ►As a supplement to the National Crime Victimization survey, the Bureau of Justice Statistics administers a survey to gather statistics on the outcomes of contact between members of the public and the police. The survey was administered in the last six months of 2008.The subsequent report, published on Wednesday, came from a survey of 60,000 people 16 and older. Some of the findings: Blacks, whites, and Hispanics were stopped at similar rates, but black drivers were three times as likely as whites to be searched at a traffic stop. Male drivers were stopped at higher rates than female drivers. And most police contact was traffic related. Read the complete report here.

►The latest tactic for drug traffickers moving product from Mexico to the U.S. involves tricking the general public into doing their work for them. In El Paso, traffickers made copies of keys for the cars of people who regularly commuted from Mexico to work or school in the U.S. Traffickers would hide drugs in commuter cars on the Mexico side and retrieve them in El Paso once the person parked for the day. Unwittingly, the commuters became drug mules. Commuters are ideal targets because they possess commuter passes that give them expedited entry into the United States. The passes are only issued after having passed a background investigation. In a 15-month period, at least five people were stopped on the same bridge “under strikingly similar scripts,” the Houston Chronicle reports. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol are telling people who make trips back and forth to start checking their trunks.

►The Screening Passengers by Observation Technique program has cost about $1 billion since 2007, but one Canadian researcher says it may be misplaced money, The Province reports. Lisa Feldman Barrett says threat detection methods that rely on facial expression recognition are based on a flawed research design. “When we're trying to read the intentions of other people — which is the basis of deception detection — the face is not necessarily the key…The idea that people can read emotional expressions, or microexpressions, in the absence of context doesn't seem to be borne out by the literature,” she said. In her research, Barrett says when participants were asked to match facial expression with no other cues, accuracy was just 42 percent, but when people where asked to match faces to specific emotion words, accuracy rose to 83 percent. She says in past experiments researchers inadvertenetly gave context clues by the words they used. Her argument is presented in the latest issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science.

►In other news, the U.S. will deploy its first cargo-carrying UAV in Afghanistan next month.♦The Mexican government is launching an offensive to regain control of Veracruz.♦ And the Department of Health and Human Services is proposing a rule that would designate security classifications for toxins and regulate possession, transfer, and use.



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