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手机短信打击犯罪

作者:admin    文章来源:盐田区外国语学校    更新时间:2017-12-24
 

三周前,荷兰海牙警方获得报告称有一艘小船被盗,他们立即通过手机短信将此案通报给了当地有关居民,这些居民均注册了用来接受社区犯罪警报的手机服务。

一小时后,一位收到短信的女士通过电话向警方报告说,她看见了符合警方描述特征的那只小船,当时她正在一条运河边上骑自行车。根据这条线索,警方很快就找到了被盗船只,并逮捕了犯罪嫌疑人。海牙警方的发言人称,这些人就是我们在街头巷尾的眼线。

短信传线索项目的广告手机短信这种无线通信方式虽在美国发展得不那么顺畅,却正在全球各地演变为打击犯罪的一种有效工具。从北京到波士顿的各地警方都在纷纷鼓励公民利用短信举报犯罪行为或者罪犯行踪。

在中国,已有十几个城市建立了手机短信报警平台。政府鼓励居民在直接致电警方可能威胁到个人安全的情况下(如绑架、在公共汽车上遇窃、或者遭遇入室抢劫等)使用短信报警。2005年年底,在中国东部安徽省的首府合肥市,一位男士向警方发送了这样的报警短信,“我被绑架了……”随后,警方在半个小时内在一处公共澡堂找到了他,并逮捕了两个绑架者。

就连短信发展比较滞后的美国,也在加紧把它运用于打击犯罪。艾德•戴维斯(Ed Davis)警长说,今年6月份,波士顿警方推出了一项新的“短信传线索”(Text a Tip)计划,旨在增加年轻人与警方的合作,因为这个群体使用手机短信的频率最高。他还表示,相对打电话而言,手机短信是与警方沟通的更加安全谨慎的一个途径。

根据此项计划,目击者可以将“TIP”(线索)发送到号码27463(犯罪)。随后,他们将收到自动设置的短信,询问有关犯罪类别、嫌犯身体特征、所使用的武器类型等相关细节。目击者可以通过回复短信提供信息。警方的一位发言人称,手机号码会被完全屏蔽,以确保目击者的身份不被暴露。

此项计划推出后六天,警方收到了50个目击者提供的线索,所涉及的案件从毒品交易到杀人案不一而足。不过,警方拒绝证实其中的线索是否帮助他们破获了任何案件。

多年来,全球一些城市的警方一直把手机短信作为打击犯罪的一个基本工具。阿姆斯特丹警方于2001年启动了所谓的“短信炸弹”项目,希望以此遏制手机盗窃案的发生。当接到手机被盗的报警后,警方便会每隔几分钟用短信“轰炸”被盗手机:“该手机已被盗。请立即交给警方处理。”阿姆斯特丹警方表示,短信轰炸造成的干扰让被盗手机实际上根本无法使用,因此对盗贼的吸引力也就降低了。当地的媒体报导也表示,此项计划确实遏制了手机盗窃犯罪。

从去年开始,海牙警方即在打击严重犯罪的时候使用短信发送公众警报。2005年,当地曾发生一起谋杀案,经过数月的侦察,该案仍未告破。后来,警方向谋杀现场附近的大约6,000名手机用户发送了短信,寻求可能的目击线索。目前,该案还在侦破当中。

针对2006年的另一起谋杀案,海牙警方也再次运用了这一策略寻求线索,虽然目前也尚未发现任何有用的线索,但海牙警方的发言人表示,他们将继续运用短信作为破案的工具。每次采取此类行动之前,警方会首先取得地方检察官的批准,因为被联系的手机用户并非自愿参与者。

各类打击犯罪的组织,无论是民间的还是政府的,也开始使用发送短信息的方式向手机用户发出有关失踪人口或在逃嫌犯的警报。比如说,作为安珀警戒(AMBER Alert)计划的一部分,当某个地区确认发生儿童绑架案时,警方会发送数千条短信,电台也会播报有关儿童失踪的紧急公告,以尽快逮捕嫌犯。这一计划仅在美国实施,警报也仅面向执法人员和注册参与该计划的用户发送。

不过,警方会在多大程度上运用短信,还不甚明朗。目前,美国大多数打击犯罪计划的短信都是“预选式”(opt-in)的,即它们只针对注册参与相关计划的用户发送。从技术上来看,警方完全可以将短信警报发送给某个社区或地区的所有手机用户,无论他们是否预先进行了注册。不过,这么做将引发不计其数的有关隐私和成本的棘手问题。

无线行业机构CTIA -- The Wireless Association的发言人乔•法伦(Joe Farren)说:“用户必须预先进行选择。否则,这类短信可以被认定为垃圾短信。”

短信的传输费用一般是由消费者来承担的,他们每次打开一条新短信的时候需要支付少量费用,一般是10美分左右。不过,荷兰的全国紧急警报系统是由政府资助的,因此手机用户无须为此类短信支付费用。

目前,一些国家的警方和安全机构对使用短信作为通用的紧急警报系统的兴趣日渐浓厚。在过去的两年中,荷兰一直在利用一种名为手机广播的技术测试一个全国性的短信警报系统。通过这种技术,运营商可以将统一的短信警报发送给某个特定地区的所有手机用户。由于该技术使用的是无线网络的维护备用系统,因此它不会阻塞处理日常商业流量的系统。内政部的一位官员表示,与仅警告人们出现紧急情况的传统警报相比,手机广播短信的优势在于,它还会告知人们紧急情况的具体状况并给出逃离危险的指导。

在华盛顿特区、韦斯特切斯特及其它一些地区,居民可以注册接收各种手机短信警报,从恶劣天气到社区犯罪活动等应有尽有。这些警报由紧急事务机构发出。一些州和美国联邦通讯委员会(Federal Communications Commission)也在考虑发布恐怖袭击、犯罪和自然灾害警报的方式。

威斯康星州面向农村地区的无线运营商Einstein Wireless正在与国土安全部(Department of Homeland Security)及联邦紧急措施署(Federal Emergency Management Agency)合作推出一项警报短信服务。加利福尼亚州副州长约翰•加拉曼蒂(John Garamendi)于5月份向州参议院提出建立一个覆盖全州的警报系统,其中就包括向发生紧急情况地区的所有手机发送短信警报。联邦通讯委员会也已经成立一个顾问小组,探究能否建立一个以类似方式使用手机短信的全国性警报系统。

然而,此类警报系统在相关的隐私和成本问题上可能面临诸多挑战。2004年,阿姆斯特丹的短信轰炸计划无疾而终,因为荷兰无线运营商不愿与警方合作。阿姆斯特丹警方的发言人称,该计划成本太高,无线运营商并没有多少利益可得。

加利福尼亚州和联邦通讯委员会的讨论仍在初步阶段。有关官员尚未决定他们将采用哪种技术,谁将为短信警报计划买单。而手机服务运营商希望确保他们不会遇到任何潜在的法律责任,如侵犯隐私权等等。

有关官员同时也在努力界定以下问题:公众警报应在何种情况下发出,哪个机构应作出此类决策。CTIA的发言人法伦先生表示,CTIA支持全国性警报系统的建立。不过他也表示,根据国会议案,该系统属自愿性质,运营商可以自行决定他们是否要参与其中。

Three weeks ago, when police in The Hague in the Netherlands got a report that a boat had been stolen, they sent out a text message about the case to residents who had signed up to receive neighborhood crime alerts on their cellphones.

An hour later, a woman bicycling along a canal who got the message notified police via a phone call that she saw a boat that met the description. The boat was found and the thief arrested. 'They're the eyes on the street,' says a spokesperson for The Hague's police department.

Text messaging, a form of wireless communication that's gaining traction in the U.S., is turning into an effective crime-fighting tool around the world. Police agencies from Beijing to Boston are encouraging citizens to use it to report crime or inform on criminals.

In China, about a dozen cities have established text-message crime-reporting systems. Residents are encouraged through government announcements to use it when calling police could endanger their safety -- situations such as kidnapping, theft on buses or burglaries at home. In late 2005, a man in Hefei, capital of Anhui province in Eastern China, text messaged the police, 'I was kidnapped . . . . . .' Within 30 minutes, the police found him at a public bathhouse and arrested the two kidnappers.

Even the U.S., which had lagged in adopting text messaging, is catching up in using it to combat crime. In June, the Boston Police Department launched a new 'Text a Tip' program to increase cooperation with police among young people, who are heavy text-message users, says Commissioner Ed Davis. Text messaging provides them a more discreet way to communicate with police than phone calling, he says.

Under the program, witnesses can text the word 'TIP' to the number 27463 (CRIME). They will receive automated messages that ask specific questions regarding crime categories, physical description of suspects, weapon types and other useful details. Witnesses can provide the information by replying to the messages. Cellphone numbers are completely blocked to ensure anonymity, says a spokeswoman.

In the six days following the program's launch, the department received tips from 50 witnesses, on alleged crimes ranging from drug dealing to homicide. The police declined to confirm if any tip has helped them in solving any case.

Police in some cities around the world have used text messaging as a rudimentary crime fighting tool for years. In 2001, Amsterdam police began a so-called 'text message bomb' program to curb cellphone theft. After thefts were reported, the police would bombard the stolen phone every few minutes with messages saying, 'This cellphone was stolen. Bring it back to the police.' The annoyance made the stolen cellphones virtually unusable and, therefore, less attractive to thieves, says a spokesman for the Amsterdam police department. Local news reports suggest that the program did put a dent in such crimes.

Last year, police in The Hague started using text messaging to send out mass alerts when fighting serious crime. After a 2005 murder case went unsolved for months, police sent out text messages to about 6,000 cellphone numbers that were believed to be in use near the murder scene, asking for potential witness tips. The case remains unsolved.

The police used the tactic again in another murder case in 2006 and although it again failed to generate a useful tip, they will continue to use it in the future, says a spokesperson for The Hague police department. Each time, they first get permission from the district attorney, as the people who are being contacted aren't voluntary participants.

Crime-fighting organizations, private and governmental, also have begun to use text messaging to alert people about missing persons or suspects on the loose. Thousands of text messages are sent, for example, as part of 'AMBER Alerts,' urgent bulletins that are broadcast throughout a region to catch child abductors soon after they strike. The program operates only in the U.S. and the alerts are sent to law-enforcement officials and people who sign up for the program.

What's unclear is how far police agencies will go in using text messaging. Currently, messages in most U.S. anticrime programs are 'opt-in,' meaning they are sent only to people who sign up to participate. Technologically, it would be possible for police to broadcast text alerts to practically every cellphone in a neighborhood or region regardless of whether they opted in or not. But doing that would raise numerous thorny issues regarding privacy and cost.

'People have to elect to do it. Otherwise it could be deemed spam,' says Joe Farren, a spokesman for CTIA -- The Wireless Association, a trade body for the wireless industry.

The cost of the transmission is typically borne by consumers who pay a small fee every time they open a text message, usually about 10 cents. The nationwide emergency alert system in the Netherlands, however, is government-sponsored and phone users don't pay for those messages.

Interest is growing among police and safety agencies in several countries in using text messaging as a general emergency warning system. In the past two years, the Netherlands has been testing a nationwide text-warning system by using a technology called cell broadcasting. It allows operators to broadcast uniform text warnings to all phone users in a defined region. Because the technology uses the maintenance system of wireless networks, it won't jam up systems that handle the commercial traffic. The advantage of cell broadcasting messages is that unlike traditional sirens, which only alert people of emergency situations, it also tells people what the situation is about and gives evacuation instructions, says an official at the ministry of interior affairs.

In Washington, D.C., Westchester, N.Y., and some other regions, residents can register to receive text alerts ranging from severe weather to neighborhood crime activities on their cellphones. The alerts are sent by emergency agencies. Some states and the Federal Communications Commission also are looking at ways to broadcast terrorism, crime and natural disaster alerts.

Einstein Wireless, a small rural operator in Wisconsin, is offering an emergency broadcasting text-message service in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In California, Lt. Gov. John Garamendi proposed to the state senate in May a statewide emergency alert system that will include broadcasting text messages to any cellphone in the area in which an emergency situation has occurred. The FCC has formed an advisory group looking into a nation-wide emergency alert system that could use text messaging in similar ways.

But the privacy and cost issues related to this type of alert system could prove challenging. The text-message bomb program in Amsterdam was dropped in 2004 after wireless carriers in the Netherlands became reluctant to cooperate with the police. 'It cost too much and there wasn't enough in it for them,' says the spokesman for the Amsterdam police department.

Discussions in California and at the FCC are still in early stages. Officials haven't decided which technology they will use or who will pay for the text-message programs. Operators of cellphone services want to ensure they're cleared of potential liabilities, such as privacy intrusion.

Officials also are trying to determine under what circumstances mass alerts should be sent out and which agency should make those decisions. Mr. Farren, the CTIA spokesman, said his organization supports the creation of a nationwide emergency-alert system. But the system is voluntary under a congressional bill so carriers can decide whether or not they'll participate, he says.