Technology and Law Enforcement

Little wonder technological advances are being utilized all over the world, Jamaica included, to combat the scourge of crime by deterring criminals as well as apprehending them after the act. Snow in his book posited that many leaders in law enforcement today see technology as the key to controlling crime and making our communities safer (9). Information Technology (IT) is defined, according to the Oxford Concise English Dictionary, as the study or use of systems, especially computers and telecommunications, for storing, retrieving, and sending information.

Technology is integrated into our everyday lives in innumerable ways. It is almost impossible to go through a day without interfacing with a technological or computerized device. Technology has been of such significant benefit to our lives that it would be foolhardy of us to not explore its usefulness in combating crime – a societal problem of monstrous proportions. Crime is an offence against an individual or the state which is punishable by law. Information Technology can play a part in the fight through crime detection, applying measures in crime fighting, and implementing systems for sustained crime management.

Get quality help now
checked Verified writer

Proficient in: Crime

star star star star 4.8 (309)

“ Writer-marian did a very good job with my paper, she got straight to the point, she made it clear and organized ”

avatar avatar avatar
+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

Information Technology can be ably used in the detection of crime.

Biometrics, product protection and closed-circuit television (CCTV) are among the elements that can be utilized. Human beings can be uniquely recognized based upon one or more intrinsic physical traits. According to the Oxford Concise English Dictionary, Biometrics is the application of statistical analysis to biological data. However, the concern is with technologies that analyze human characteristics for automatically recognizing or verifying identity in a context where the biometrics is measurable.

Get to Know The Price Estimate For Your Paper
Number of pages
Email Invalid email

By clicking “Check Writers’ Offers”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We’ll occasionally send you promo and account related email

"You must agree to out terms of services and privacy policy"
Write my paper

You won’t be charged yet!

The biometric characteristics of an individual can be either physical or behavioural (Zhang 2). Finger printing, face recognition and DNA testing are a few of the ways biometrics can be utilized. Zhang explains that biometric systems work using enrolment and identification parts. The enrolment part has a user’s characteristics ready to be used as a criterion, and the identification part has the interface for verifying a captured end user’s characteristics (8). In 1984, Richard Ramirez, serial killer and rapist in Southern California, brought fingerprinting technology to the forefront.

Richard, who later became known as the “Night Stalker”, for a little over a year, while he carried out his atrocities, made efforts for the police to apprehend him a futile exercise. The police had, during the course of their investigations, gathered fingerprints from the crime scenes. These prints, however, were of little value as it would take decades to compare them to the millions on file if the police had no known suspect. In 1985, an Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) changed all of the limitations of fingerprint identification within a matter of minutes. The system was able to positively identify the fingerprint as that belonging to Richard Ramirez and he was arrested the following day after his photograph was released to the press. The police and public had witnessed a real-life example of the value of using high-tech equipment in criminal identification (Snow 1-6). Unlike fingerprinting, face recognition has the advantages of being non-intrusive, natural and easy to use (Jain 1). Face images can be captured from a distance without touching the person being identified, and the identification does not require interacting with the person. Additionally, face recognition aids in the crime detection process as face images that have been recorded and archived can later be used to identify a person of particular interest.

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) did a test run which was successful in capturing criminals and lowering the crime rate (Attir). Facial recognition software was also instrumental in Tampa, Florida where a young girl’s abductor and murderer was arrested based on footage caught on tape (Attir). Despite their success however, ethical concerns have been raised as it relates to infringements on individual rights or cases of mistaken identity. The chances of making mistakes with DNA, however, are almost non-existent. Our bodies contain over 45,000,000,000 miles of Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) – a molecule found in the cells of humans, that makes us all very unique (Farquart). Recent incorporation of DNA identification technology into the justice systems of a growing number of countries has been fast and far reaching. Biological samples, recovered from crime scenes and individual suspects, compared with archived DNA profiles have become a major feature of policing across Europe, North America and other regions (Williams and Johnson 1).

Like DNA, counterfeiting is becoming a major feature. Fortunately, however, technology has the ability to make it a minor one. Products are not immune to crime. Counterfeiters and informal markets threaten to erode revenue, disrupt supply chains and tarnish brands. Product protection involves the use of smart inks, holograms and watermarks. In 2001, 95 million counterfeit items, with a value of two billion Euros, were seized in the European Union alone. Security measures, for this reason, are popular throughout the branded goods industry. Smart inks offer the packaging material industry added protection against counterfeiters. Using these special inks, a number of features can be integrated into the packaging. A hologram is a photograph of an inference matter which, when suitably illuminated, produces a three dimensional image. Holograms can be used by the packaging material industry to enhance their brands as genuine and authenticated. As they are almost impossible to duplicate and produce by the average criminal, they are useful for product brand security as well. Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) is the use of video cameras to transmit a signal to a specific place, on a limited set of monitors. CCTV was first used in Britain in August of 1985 to counter rising levels of vandalism on the city’s waterfront.

Less than a decade later, in 1993, some 39 towns had CCTV systems. By March of 1995, the number was 90 and by August of the following year, in excess of 200 (Goold 16-17). The detection of crime by CCTV involves the use of security, monitoring and surveillance cameras. CCTV security cameras are the building blocks of any video surveillance system. High shutter speeds, pixel resolution and memory capacity allow photographs to be taken when alerted by a motion detector or on a continuous basis (Outsourcing CCTV Monitoring). With motion detection, the camera software can be programmed to alert security personnel if movement is detected in certain areas at unauthorized times. Security cameras have in recent times been used in homes to thwart potential burglars. The presence of a camera means that illicit activity may be captured or recorded and used against them in court. Monitoring and surveillance cameras also contribute to the detection of crime.

Often times, monitoring and surveillance duties are covered by one camera with software separating the functions. Kruegle states that case histories have shown that the installation of video surveillance systems have produced a sharp decline in shoplifting and employee thefts. He said theft was not only confined to valuable property, but to information as well. Video surveillance systems successfully serve as a deterrent to such crimes in addition to detecting and apprehending perpetrators (2). Having identified the existence of crime, the job of crime fighting now comes to the fore. Information Technology incorporates elements such as forensics, wireless technology and the use of information in the fight against crime. According to the Oxford Concise English Dictionary, forensic relates to or denotes the application of scientific methods and techniques to the investigation of crime. Wikipedia defines forensics as “the application of a broad spectrum of sciences to answer questions of interest to the legal system.” This may be in relation to a crime or to a civil action. Forensics integrates areas such as ballistic testing, DNA databases and computer forensics. Ballistics deals with the science of projectiles and firearms.

It encompasses the mechanics that deal with the flight, behaviour and effects of projectiles, for example, bullets. Equally important is the firearm and the analysis of its usage in crimes. Ballistic analysis has been used by law enforcement since the 1930s. Advancements in computer image resolution technology over the past decade, however, have brought ballistic fingerprinting into the forefront of crime analysis. In 1997, the FBI and ATF set up a national level-database called the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN) to keep track of digitalized ballistic fingerprint of guns used to commit crime (Carter and Vasan 77). In addition to NIBIN, the FBI also has a database in which DNA profiles are kept. This DNA database is called the Combined DNA Index System or CODIS. Europe and South America have contributed samples to CODIS making it compatible with the databases from these countries. (Kobilinsky, Liotti, and Oeser-Sweat 163).

The United Kingdom also has a National DNA database called NDNAD. At the end of 2006 it carried over 4 million samples and grows by 30,000 samples each month with data from crime scenes and suspects. Pattavina, in her book, noted that a National Institute of Justice (NIJ) funded study conducted on the application of DNA databases, indicated that critical assistance can be had from these systems in the apprehension and prosecution of offenders. The study also found that the use of the database prevents 7.8 crimes for each DNA based conviction. (14-15). Computers are not immune to crime. Despite playing an active role in the analysis and storage of ballistic and DNA information, computers are themselves sometimes the source of criminal activities.

Computer forensics is the “collection, preservation, analysis, and presentation of computer-related evidence” (Vacca 4). White collar crimes, murder, terrorism, counterintelligence, espionage, counterfeiting and drug dealing all can involve computers. One of three roles is played by the computer in a computer crime. It is either the target of the crime, the instrument of the crime or, the evidence repository storing valuable information about the crime. Vacca states that the objective of computer forensics is to recover, analyze, and present computer-based material in a way that it is useable as evidence in a court of law (6). Wireless technology is also predominantly used in the fight against crime. Wireless technology covers cellular phones, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags in the fight against crime. With more people owning cellular phones now than any other time in history, these are the people we need when a crime occurs. Black states that the Oregon State Police received twice the number of calls from cellular phones in 2006, than they did in 2000, which they attribute to more people carrying cellular phones.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in his state of the city address that the city plans to install new technology so that 911 call centres can receive digital images and video sent from cellular phones. Cellular phones have been instrumental in solving crimes in other parts of the world. Police in London used cellular phone images to identify attackers in the London bombings in July 2005 (Reardon). Global Positioning System (GPS), another wireless technology, has joined the fight against crime. Minutes after Thomas Frisks had robbed a bank in Spokane, Washington, police arrested him and recovered $37,920 he had stuffed in a duffel bag. Unknown to him, the bank teller had given him a GPS tracking device hidden inside the packet of bills. Upon receiving notification of the robbery, the police activated the GPS tracking program on their computers. They were immediately notified of the money and the robber and moved to apprehend him.

Police were also able to recover a missing truck, equipped with GPS that had stolen artwork. Lieutenant Tim Stewart of the North Texas Auto Theft Task Force reported that more than 50 truck tractors and 75 trailers were recovered in short order using just a few GPS/cellular integrated systems (Snow 141-142). RFID on the other hand, according to Hunt, A. Puglia, and M. Puglia, is not as popular in the United States. Adoption of the technology for law enforcement applications has slowed in development due to privacy concerns and ignorance on its potential for law enforcement. Nevertheless, the United Kingdom has been more aggressive in developing and deploying RFID applications in police operations (71). Hunt, A. Puglia and M. Puglia, define RFID as “a wireless communication technology that is used to uniquely identify tagged objects or people” (1). The crime fighting potential of RFID is just beginning to emerge. Combined with technologies such as GPS and biometric identification, RFID can provide police agencies “with new and powerful technological tools to solve crimes” (Hunt, A. Puglia and M. Puglia 74).

The use of information incorporates information sharing, the Internet, and data mining. Many countries with multiple law enforcement agencies have information local to their department that would be valuable in the fight against crime. Such information should be disseminated and shared to greater increase the cooperation among agencies and public knowledge where crime fighting is concerned. Information sharing gained popularity after the 9/11 Commission Hearings. It stemmed from the lack of response on the part of the United States government to known information about the planned terrorist acts on the World Trade Centre prior to the event. Information is power, more in police work than in other spheres of activity. The Internet is similarly another source of information for fighting crime. A murdered Chicago dermatologist’s family did not leave it to the police to pursue a potential suspect. The family of the deceased posted a surveillance camera of a blood-spattered young man rushing from the building. Police and victims of crime are regularly using social-networking websites such as MySpace, as high-tech versions of “wanted” posters. Police agencies have for several years monitored MySpace, YouTube, Facebook, Xanga and other popular sites to bust sexual predators.

Police in Franklin, Massachusetts, posted a video on YouTube of two men allegedly using a stolen credit card at Home Depot. Their colleagues in nearby Bellingham, Mass., reported they were after the same men, and matched the faces with jail-booking photos. Data mining in the same way deals with information but from a different angle. Law enforcement agencies, with the current emphasis on terrorism, are faced with the daunting task of sifting large amounts of information in order to make informed decisions. Data mining serves as an automated tool that uses advanced techniques, including artificial intelligence “to fully explore and characterize large data sets involving one or more data sources, identifying significant, recognizable patterns, trends, and relationships not easily detected through traditional analytical techniques alone” (Gooch 1). Law enforcement personnel using data mining for the purpose of analysis, can link incidents, crimes or changes in crime trends to other events in making deployment decisions. Equally important is the need to implement measures for sustained crime management. Information Technology in the management of crime incorporates such elements as authentication, electronic monitoring and, data interception and retention.

Factors for the process of authentication are generally classified into three classes. They are something the user has, something the user knows, and something the user is or does. Any process that verifies someone or something as being authentic is known as authentication. Kent and Millett define it as “the process of establishing confidence in the truth of some claim” (33). Authentication covers offender tracking, voice recognition and fingerprint analysis. Emphasis will be placed on the inherent factor, something the user is or does. President Bush signed a bill on July 27, 2006 that established a national sex offender registry. It enabled citizens anywhere in the United States to find out if a person is a known sex offender. Despite the fact the registry provides the identity, address and workplace of the offenders, the police do not always know where they are. For example, though sexual predators may be forbidden to visit certain locations, such as schools or playgrounds, as a condition of their release from prison, the police cannot do anything unless they catch them in the act.

Information Technology, in the form of offender tracking, has now given the police a new tool which they can utilize to “monitor the movement of these extremely dangerous individuals” (Snow 140). Extremely dangerous individuals can now be nabbed by the sound of their voice. The Computer Voice Stress Analyzer (CVSA) is a “voice-based investigative truth verification tool.” Nine year old Rowan Ford’s killers underwent CVSA examinations after their polygraphs examinations were determined to be inconclusive. As a result of the precise results of the CSVA examinations, both killers were charged with first-degree murder and rape. Fingerprint Analysis uses computer algorithms to determine similarities between a physical print and one stored in a database. Analysis is executed on multiple levels where algorithms are first compared to the prints to determine the type, and then subsequently to determine additional details until a match is found. The FBI fingerprint system boasts an accuracy rate in excess of 98% (Lichanska). With their unique qualities, it is easily understood how fingerprints can be used to manage crime.

In addition to authentication, electronic monitoring is another aspect of crime management that warrants exploration. Electronic monitoring includes surveillance systems, Geographical Information Systems and radio frequency monitoring devices. These aspects of electronic monitoring are similar to those covered in crime detection as both crime detection and prevention sometimes employ like techniques. The Oxford Concise English Dictionary defines surveillance as the close observation, especially of a suspected spy or criminal. Under the umbrella of electronic monitoring, such observation would be carried out electronically and is normally done with the use of CCTV. Law enforcement finds surveillance useful as it enables them to maintain social control, recognize and monitor threats, and prevent criminal activity.

Alun Micheal, Minister of State in England proffered the following on CCTV: The advantages of CCTV, properly managed, speak for themselves: crime prevention, the deterrent effect of knowing that there is observation, the alerting of police at an early stage to stop dangerous situations escalating, the operational assistance to the police in sizing up a situation, the safer convictions that can be obtained – the savings in court time can be enormous – and, above all, the fact that people’s confidence is renewed, which has led to many town centres being revitalised. Vulnerable groups in particular feel the advantage. (qtd. in Goold 1)

Geographical Information Systems (GIS) likewise assists the police with crime management. As most crime data have a specific location, all types of data, including registered sex offenders, suspects and crime locations can be added to a map. Having identified spatial patterns, law enforcement resources can be effectively deployed for crime analysis and prevention. For example, law enforcement can prioritise locations for activities such as drugs or prostitution stings based on where those crimes as most prevalent. In “Geographic Information Systems and Crime Analysis in Baltimore County, Maryland,” Philip Canter states that GIS can be used as a tool to identify contributing factors to crime, thus allowing police to proactively respond to situations before they become problematic (156). Proactive response can also be had from radio frequency monitoring devices. These monitoring devices impose a curfew on offenders and, monitors whether or not they are home at the required times. The system works through a transmitter worn on the ankle and a receiver connected to the landline telephone of the offender. Electronic contact is maintained with the receiver at all times and the authorities are alerted if the offender strays too far. (Kardasz).

In the same way data access can be detected, it can also be intercepted. Data interception and retention involves snooping, wire tapping and data retention. In the last nine months of 2006, Lomas reports the United Kingdom’s (UK) snooping watchdog revealed that it received 253,000 requests to eavesdrop on an individual’s communications. According to Lomas, hundreds of UK public bodies are authorized to intercept communication for the purpose of crime prevention and detection. Lomas quoted the communications commissioner as saying “this highly intrusive investigative tool” has “contributed to a number of striking successes” in combating crime and terrorism as, it played a vital role in the battle against serious crime and terrorism that could not be achieved by any other means. Snooping means to investigate or look around furtively in an attempt to find out something. Another unobtrusive means of obtaining information is that of wiretapping.

The U.S. Congress passed the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) in 1994. CALEA was passed in an effort to aid law enforcement’s drive in conducting criminal investigations requiring the tapping of digital telephone networks. Wiretapping, though normally associated with telephones, can include other forms of electronic communication such as emails, faxes, and data transfers as a result of advancements in technology. This method of data interception can prove to be a very powerful tool, allowing law enforcement to detect criminal conspiracies and present the information as hard evidence. Wiretapping tools are especially advantageous as the communicators have no way of knowing they are being intercepted (Cheung). Equally important is Britain’s passing of laws in 2006 to assist its law enforcement officials. Data retention laws, requiring telecom operators to store phone and internet data, were passed with the aim of assisting in the fight against terrorism and organized crime. Hermida, Technology Editor for the BBC News website, quoted Home Secretary, Charles Clarke stressing the importance of the measures.

Clarke said “agreement on retaining communications data places a vital tool against terrorism and serious crime in the hands of law enforcement agencies across Europe.” He added that “modern criminality crosses borders and seeks to exploit digital technology,” and that an important step was taken in delivering to citizens across Europe, a right to live in peace from “the negative impact of terrorism and serious crime” (Hermida). Data retention refers to the storage of electronic communication records which includes call record details, Internet traffic and transaction data. As a developing country with a notorious record for crime and violence, Jamaica has given information technology a role to play in boosting its crime fighting capacity.

Former Minister of National Security, Senator Colonel Trevor MacMillan, launched CCTV monitoring system in the towns of Mandeville and May Pen. The minister stated that “the wide scale use of modern technology will be pivotal in addressing the crime problem plaguing the nation, as outdated methods have proven to be ineffective, and will have to be shelved” (Ministry of National Security). Improvements are also being made to the government’s Forensic Laboratory’s technology to deal with the expected increase in DNA test requests under the lastest anti-crime initiative. Plans to establish a DNA database was announced by the Prime Minister to assist the police in convicting criminals. The use of technology, albeit limit, is a step in the right direction to rid Jamaica of crime.

Information technology has drastically changed the approach of law enforcement to crime fighting. Advanc es in technology has improved, and in other cases, totally revolutionized the methods used in the areas of detecting, fighting and managing crime. Biometrics, product protection and CCTV have made an indelible mark on the detection capabilities of crime. Equally important is the profound impact on the fighting of crime. In this regard, information technology makes excellent use of forensics, wireless technology and information. Finally and ineffaceably is the role of information technology in management of crime. Authentication, electronic monitoring and data interception and retention have made strident inroads in the sustainability of crime management. Information technology in its various roles continues to take its byte on crime bit by bit.

Works Cited
Attir, Heidi. Pros and Cons: The use of Facial Recognition Software in Crime Prevention. 22 August 2008. 17 April 2009 <>. Black, Kate. Prevention Works: Can Your Cellphone Help Fight Crime. 29 May 2008. 19 April 2009 <>. Carter, Gregg. Gun Control in the United States: A Reference Handbook. ABC-CLIO, 2006. Contributors, Wikipedia. Forensic Science. 16 April 2009. 19 April 2009 <>. Farquart, Digby. DNA Criminal Investigation, Crime Prevention and Detection. 18 January 2007. 18 April 2009 <,-Crime-Prevention-And-Detection&id=422683>. Gooch, Teresa. Data Mining and Value-Added Analysis. November 2003. 18 April 2009 <;col1>. Goold, Benjamin. CCTV and Policing: Public Area Surveillance and Police Practices in Britain. Cary: Oxford University Press, 2004. Hermida, Alfred. “UK rapped on data retention law.” 24 Febraury 2006. BBC. 21 April 2009 <>. Hunt, V, A. Puglia and M. Puglia. RFID: A guide to Radio Frequency Identification. Hoboken: Wiley-Interscience, 2007. Jain, Anil. Handbook of Face Recognition. New York: Springer-Verlag New York, LLC, 2004. Kardasz, Frank. GPS Tracking of Internet Sex Offenders – Mapping Wireless Hotspots and Beyond. 20 January 2009. 20 April 2009 <>. Kasindorf, Martin. Websites Host Wealth of Crime-Solving Clues. 4 February 2007. 19 April 2009 <>. Kobilinsky, Liotti, Oeser-Sweat. DNA: Forensic and Legal Applications. Wiley, 2004. Kruegle, Herman. CCTV Surveillance. Burlington: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2005. Lichanska, Agnieszka. Fingerprint Analysis. 2008. 20 April 2009 <>. Lomas,

Cite this page

Technology and Law Enforcement. (2016, Jun 05). Retrieved from

Technology and Law Enforcement

👋 Hi! I’m your smart assistant Amy!

Don’t know where to start? Type your requirements and I’ll connect you to an academic expert within 3 minutes.

get help with your assignment