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Incidents listed are selected by the Officer In Charge of each shift that may have significant public interest. Incidents listed are not inclusive of all incidents. Requests for information can be directed to the MPD Records Unit: (608) 266-4075.
Incident TypeTraffic Incident
Incident Date05/06/2013 - 8:50 AM
DetailsThere were zombies ahead, most of them housed in apartments and dorm rooms of college-age citizens, where battles against "living" corpses are frequent.
However, the owner of a sign rental company thought characters contained in video games were not the impetus behind the prank. Rather he told a MPD detective: "It was likely related to Mifflin Street block party revelers." Perhaps in years past, but not this year, nothing supernatural seemed to possess the well-behaved crowd of 2013.
So, it was a mystery then, as to why someone would tinker with signs on Highland Ave., near the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital.
"Zombies Ahead" read digital message boards Monday morning. The signs were supposed to alert the motoring public of Highland Avenue's closure.
"I know from previous training and research ... that a number of such incidents have happened around the country in the past several years," wrote an MPD detective, a computer expert in the department's Forensic Services Unit.
She called the Streets Department and learned signs were rentals, and the rental group had been contacted. Original messages had been resurrected, or changed back to what they once were.
The detective next contacted the rental company, and a manager confirmed two signs had been altered to state: "Zombies Ahead." He said they - the signs - are not networked but are stand-alone; meaning those up to mischief had to infiltrate individual access panels and manipulate data entry keypads. The manager asserted panels should be padlocked, but that is not always the case.
He did not know how someone managed to change the messages, and the detective advised these signs are "vulnerable to attack." She told him care should be taken to secure or – if possible – remove keypads.
She also related that technically the incident could be considered a violation of the Wisconsin Computer Crimes statute. She asked if he wished for her to probe further. He said, at this point, the problem was fixed; there was no lasting damage, and the shenanigans resulted in no real problems. He did not wish to pursue a complaint, unless tinkerers come back from wherever they have gone and put new life into the zombie messages.
The detective concluded such cases could impact the community in two ways:
"Obviously it could be dangerous if the message wasn't passed to motorists to warn of a hazard. Or, it could be a public safety issue in the event of a REAL zombie outbreak. How can the public be expected to take warning signs seriously?"
It's something for young men and women to ponder as they fire up their gaming consoles.
Released 05/07/2013 at 1:03 PM by PIO Joel DeSpain
The location shown is approximate & may not be accurate.