Technology, being the gift that it is, has undoubtedly become an integral part of our lives. Today, technology is used in every area of work, and law enforcement is no exception. Among all the realms of the legal field, criminal justice has constantly leveraged the latest technological advancements not only to make their tasks easy but to also to enforce stringent safety measures.
With the crimes becoming more and more sophisticated in nature due to the use of modern technology, it is important to combat such criminal acts with the help of latest tech tools. Owing to the arrival of new technologies, the criminal justice professionals have begun to use it in legal offices, laboratories, and courtrooms. Let’s look at the role of technology in Criminal Justice System and the ways it is being used for a total transformation in law enforcement practices:
Big Data/ Data Mapping
The modern times have called for a surge in the usage of big data in each and every aspect of an industry. According to IMB, the world generates 2.5 quintillion bytes of data a day. In Criminal Justice, the collection of data tends to aid the legal experts in a variety of ways including the storage of DNA and footprints in databases for the rapid identification of suspects, helping law enforcement to apprehend and pre-empt future criminal activities.
Christopher Wray, FBI director, implored law enforcement agencies to transition to the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). This decision was seen as his comment on the “Crime in the United States, 2016” report by the Uniform Crime Reporting Program. The said system, with the help of comprehensive data reporting, strives to boost transparency and enables a clearer view of crime in the U.S. Moreover, the United States Department of Justice enlists a number of crime information systems which are readily accessible to both, criminal justice community as well as non-criminal justice agencies. These crime information systems include,
1. National Crime Information Center (NCIC): A computerized index of criminal justice information accessible to Federal, state, and local law enforcement and other criminal justice agencies. It is operational 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
2. National Data Exchange (N-DEx): An unclassified national information sharing system that enables criminal justice agencies to search, link, analyze, and share local, state, tribal, and federal records.
3. Next Generation Identification (NGI): A relatively new system, Next Generation Identification (NGI), provides the criminal justice community with the world’s largest and most efficient electronic repository of biometric and criminal history information. It includes fingerprints, palm prints, irises, and facial recognition.
4. Law Enforcement Enterprise Portal (LEEP): LEEP offers web-based investigative tools and analytical resources. Users collaborate in a secure environment, use tools to strengthen their cases, and share departmental documents.
5. International Justice and Public Safety Network (Nlets): The pre-eminent interstate law enforcement network in the U.S. for the exchange of law enforcement and related justice information.
6. National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS): The NICS is a national system that checks available records on individuals who may be disqualified from receiving firearms.
Quick Identification Systems
Due to the abundance of big data, various rapid identification systems have been built in order to let the police deep dive into an individual’s entire criminal history with a simple click of a button. One such example is, the facility of in-car search which allows the law enforcement officers to identify people that have been pulled over, in the past, for driving without a license.
Computers have the capability to crunch data more quickly than the human brain can, and therefore, with the applications of machine learning and other forms of predictive algorithms, human errors can be reduced to a great extent. Identifying someone with an outstanding warrant, the moment they are captured by a cop’s bodycam is prime example of technology playing a pivotal role in recognizing a suspect.
Constant technological updates are being made to the NGI, which is the FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) system using biometrics such as fingerprints, palm prints, iris recognition, and facial recognition to match up persons with their criminal record. Along with that, new features are being added to the NGI to make it the most inclusive way of garnering up-to-date information on a person of interest.
Detection, Monitoring, and Positioning Systems
These days, law enforcement authorities, by leveraging technology can detect and solve crimes. Such modernization in helps law enforcement agencies to become more proactive, rather than reactive.
A few ways in which detection, monitoring and positioning systems technologies are empowering law enforcement include, police using drones for the purpose of observing an area with a bird’s eye view without compromising personnel safety. Law enforcement officers taking the help of GPS to reach the crime scenes or locate the offenders effortlessly. The inclusion of GPS technologies to the police systems is resulting in the attainment of a more robust data.
Gunshot Detection Technology
Is being utilized by the authorities to automatically detect firearm discharges as it provides officers with an instant access to critical information such location of the incident, number of shooters, shots fired and much more. Sensor Technology providers such as ShotSpotter are offering solutions like acoustic gunshot sensors which detects the sound of gunfire in a particular location and generates a unique dataset involving the full universe of gunfire mishaps in a covered area. Such data is extremely useful for researchers to study the impact of policy interventions on gun violence.
Other than those technologies, automatic License Plate Scanning technology for an instant check whether a car in the area has been stolen or not and Surveillance Cameras for keeping a tab on criminal activities, are quickly gaining popularity.
3D Imaging of Crime Scene
Recent developments in the capabilities and availability of robust 3D imaging technologies have led to its increased and frequent usage for the investigation of serious criminal acts. With the help of laser scanning technology from the mining and surveying industries, a more accurate and precise mapping of crime scenes can be achieved. Being a relatively new forensic field, there are numerous considerations for organizations employing 3D imaging systems for crime scene reconstruction, in order to ensure the cogency of the material and ensuing acceptance in court.
Diagramming a crime scene often is a meticulous process with a possibility of unintentionally leaving out an important piece of evidence or simply getting the measurements wrong but with the use of a 3D scanner, a crime scene investigator can have an easy access to critical information. These types of information may be crucial to analyze bullet trajectories, map out blood-soaked evidence, and recognize intricate weapons through the impressions that they leave. All of this ideally wouldn’t have been possible to determine using conventional methods. Due to its accurate and reliable outcomes, what the 3D scanners can capture and generate is immensely useful for jurors and those who are present in the court to get an impactful visualization of the crime scene.
3D Capture can also help in reducing the time. The time saving may happen because the on-scene portion of the process takes less time, because the off-scene portion of the process requires less time, or because both the processes need less time. This is a huge advantage as the investigators can utilize the time not spent diagramming a scene on other useful tasks.
Robots for Law Enforcement
Slowly but steadily, robotics is entering the field of criminal justice. As per the report titled Law Enforcement Robots: Market Shares, Market Strategies and Market Forecasts, 2016 to 2022, WinterGreen Research predicts that robotic markets will grow from $1 billion in 2015 to $5.7 billion in 2022. Today’s Police use robots that are designed to deal with situations that are difficult to get to or too dangerous for first responders. These particularly risky tasks include defusing or disposing of a bomb.
According to the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College’s Law Enforcement Robots Datasheet, in the year 2016, police forces acquired a record number of robots from the United States military. These types of acquisitions are made possible because of the Justice Technology Information Center’s 1033 Program, which allows law enforcement agencies to acquire excess property from the U.S. Department of Defense.
In 2013, police were able to nab the Boston Marathon Bombers with the help of a robot. A couple of years later, Dallas police decided to prevent further casualties and used an 8000-pound robot from Northrop Grumman to send in a pound of C4 plastic explosive. The delivered material was then detonated, killing the perpetrator without putting anybody else in mortal peril.
To Sum it All Up…
As technology continues to reform every section of society, law enforcement leaders have an arsenal of high-tech tools and systems designed to improve public safety, catch criminals and save lives. While the role of technology in Criminal Justice System is only continuing to grow significantly, the opposite side of the coin should also be taken into consideration. With the number of tech-savvy criminals increasing day by day, law enforcement agencies’ best bet is to be two steps ahead with their technological innovations. After all, modern problems require modern solution.