Directional cell phone detection becomes a reality
Cell Detector Bloodhound sniffs out contraband phones
By Scott M. Bruner
Corrections1 Product Editor
It's quickly becoming apparent that correctional prisoners have found a dangerous new weapon to use behind bars, the contraband cell phone – and it's a weapon that hasn't been easy to control.
"Not only is the cell phone problem among the biggest contraband challenges faced by prison officials of all time, but it’s far more dangerous than those to come before it," writes Corrections1 columnist Bill Teel. "Unlike a knife or drug, cell phones can be used to harm people outside the prison. Suddenly, one of incarceration’s principal duties has been threatened."
Fortunately, new products are reaching the corrections marketplace to be able to neutralize the threat. None may be more innovative or compelling than Berkeley Varitronics Systems' (BVS) Cell Detector Bloodhound.
The Bloodhound is a handheld device that is able to detect cell phones in any secure location by scanning for radio frequency waves, and by using the built-in directional antenna, be able to locate where the signal is coming from. It does not "jam" signals, like other devices, which can not only interfere with a prisoner's phone but potentially a correctional facility's own signals. It merely finds and locates cell phone transmissions.
"Other systems that can do similar functions retail from $50-100,000 and need to be connected to a PC," Scott Schober, president and CEO of BVS said. "Most other techs focus on jamming signals. There's no mobile system to scan for signals and then directionally find them. In a way, the Bloodhound is in its own class."
The Bloodhound displays two bars, one on the left which measures the signal strength, and the bar on the right which allows the user to pinpoint where the signal is coming from by waving the unit, and the antenna, in different directions. A laser pointer on the device also allows the operator, potentially in a facility with multiple floors, to be able to pinpoint where the antenna is scanning.
Although scanning for texts can be a bit challenging due to their short radio bursts, the Bloodhound can also detect them. The Bloodhound is able to scan multiple cell phone bands from PCS to GSM to a spread spectrum. Once the power button is pressed, it instantly begins scanning.
"It can sound a bit complicated explaining it, but once you have the Bloodhound in your hand, it only takes five minutes to be able to scan and locate a phone," Schrober said.
In 2008, there were 847 confiscated cell phones in Maryland prisons, 2,809 in California, and 1,861 cell phones in Mississippi alone – prisoners are smuggling them in a variety of novel ways, from being hidden in the soles of shoes to being carried by pigeon.
“The Bloodhound will affordably allow correctional facilities to enforce a no cell phone policy since each security officer could potentially be harnessed with a cell phone detector watchdog,” Schober said. “We believe correctional facilities will come to depend on the Bloodhound to detect and confiscate the increasing number of contraband cell phones being smuggled in prisons that are not only used to threaten public safety, but also contribute to criminal activity. As a result, some prisoners may not agree all dogs are man's best friend."
The Bloodhound Cell Detector was released in December of 2009 and retails for $1,800.
For 36 years, Berkeley Varitronics Systems has provided design and consulting services for the telecommunications industry. For more information on their products and the Bloodhound Cell Detector, visit http://www.bvsystems.com/.