Darts and laurels

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 5, 2008

Dart to the latest contraband item being smuggled into the state’s prisons: cell phones.
Here’s how bad it has gotten: N.C. prisons director Gary Bennett said his staff is using a phone-sniffing dog to try to cut down on the cell smuggling. That’s not a joke. The dog has been trained to detect a component within cell phones that produces a unique scent.
Cell phones are prohibited among inmates because they can be used for any number of nefarious purposes, including maintaining communications with criminals beyond the prison walls, plotting escapes or helping to plan and coordinate mayhem within prisons, Bennett told the News & Observer. In one North Carolina case cited, a gang leader in one prison used a cell phone to contact inmates at another prison to give them the go-ahead to attack another inmate.
A cheap cell phone reportedly can sell for as much as $500 behind bars (we presume that’s without the network).
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Laurels to news that Samaritan’s Purse has seen an increase in donations compared to last year for Operation Christmas Child, which sends millions of gift boxes to children overseas.
This is in contrast to the many nonprofits, charitable groups and aid agencies that are reporting significant downturns in donations this holiday season. Credit loyal supporters and the project’s worthy mission, which this year will distribute approximately 8 million gift boxes to children in 100 countries. Samaritan’s Purse head Franklin Graham said many of those gift boxes will target children displaced by war in Georgia, where conflict with Russia forced many people to flee their homes. Since its founding, Operation Christmas Child has hand-delivered gifts to more than 61 million children worldwide.
You can find more information on the program at the organization’s Web site, www.samaritanspurse.org.
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Dart to cemetery vandals, whose mischief can range from spiriting away vases and flowers (a problem that often surfaces in Salisbury) to damaging or defacing headstones and fences. City officials in Greensboro are taking an innovative approach to the problem. They’re planning to go on the defense at four cemeteries by installing automatic cameras that detect movement. The cameras turn on when they sense someone entering the area, then sound an audio warning, followed by three flash photos รณ which should provide quite a jolt for anyone skulking around a cemetery in the wee hours. The cameras are solar-powered, with batteries that enable them to take pictures at night. And they’re bulletproof, too.