Crime never sleeps, sad to say, so over the years, law enforcement professionals have fought a constant battle to reduce the numbers. So many steps have been taken to reduce crime levels as well as to help those who have been accused, but technology has been one of the most crucial driving forces in fighting crime.
Firearms injuries and other violent crimes can sometimes be predicted and prevented, thanks to some key recent trends in tech.
Predictive Policing Tools
Although no tools that can predict the precise people who might get injured, or the time a particular crime will be committed, some incredible technologies have enabled the police to predict the likelihood of crime in certain locales.
Daniel Neill, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, was a key team member behind the creation of a tool known as CrimeScan. It generates maps of the areas where crime is most likely to occur.
The information is based on a variety of data, including arrest records, dates of recent crimes, locations of high criminal activity, and other relevant input. It has been an incredible resource for preventing crimes before they happen.
With the stats in mind, police departments can dispatch a certain number of units to roam the streets and watch for suspicious activity. They might also focus on certain individuals who are at a high risk of committing another offense.
“Police already know where the bad neighborhoods are,” Neill told NBC News. “What they don’t always know is the dynamics — like when a bad neighborhood is suddenly going to see a flare-up in crime. Those are the sorts of questions [predictive policing] can answer.”
The results from use of this technology have been outstanding. After using the tool to monitor crime across L.A., law enforcement personnel reported the predictive model was twice as accurate at pinpointing crime hotspots than their previous models. Crime rates fell significantly as a consequence.
General Technology Tools
Predictive policing technology is just the tip of the iceberg. Hundreds of other tools are available to help officers do their job correctly, and hundreds more are in the works.
“There are a lot of issues facing law enforcement in virtually every encounter they are involved in, and they are using technology more and more to address those issues,” David Roberts of the International Association of Chiefs of Police said in an interview. “The changes are coming at an extremely fast rate.”
These technologies range from communication tools to software built into police vehicles to aid in crimefighting efforts. This keeps law enforcement professionals safer and helps them to identify and apprehend perpetrators more accurately.
“Officers can drive down the street, and have a smartphone or a tablet device, and have the map app open,” Roberts said. “The app can tell them the addresses of a person wanted for a crime, known incidents of felonies in the area, someone who is a registered sex offender. It provides situational awareness that is integrated with records management and emergency call systems.”
One unique tool uses geo location and photo identification software to identify patterns in crime rates and help the police locate suspects. Many police departments are encouraging their citizens to use the app to aid their crimefighting experts.
For example, Police Corporal David Melancon of Thibodaux, Louisiana invited his town to get involved. “If you come across graffiti or something that you would want to notify us of, you could actually take a picture of it and the app would geocode your location when you send it in,” Melancon said.
“We also did a warrant roundup involving 10 nonviolent offenders and put them on the app. We allowed the public to participate in the police effort by submitting tips using the app. It was a fun way for the community to interact with us.”
The technologies continue to grow, and it’s inspiring to see the way they can be used for public safety and well-being.
Technology Use Challenges
It’s not a perfect system, admittedly. Nuria Oliver, chief data scientist at Data Pop Alliance, an organization that focuses on correcting social issues, also points out that tech can be misused for racial profiling and other activities of concern to social justice activists.
“There’s a massive opportunity for using big data to have positive social impact,” says Oliver. “But at the same time, we need to be aware of its limitations and be honest in terms of its performance.” Other officials are concerned about how the technology might be employed to invade the privacy of citizens and even heighten the threat of danger in certain situations.
“One of my biggest concerns is that mobile technologies can be used to gather info about people in ways that violate their Fourth Amendment rights,” said Jennifer Lynch, a senior staff attorney with the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Technology can clearly serve as an incredibly empowering tool, but officers have to be reminded regularly to take proper precautions in the field.
Larry Alton is a professional blogger, writer, and researcher. A graduate of Iowa State University, he's now a full-time freelance writer and business consultant. Currently, Larry writes for Entrepreneur.com, Inc.com, and Forbes.com, among others. In addition to journalism, technical writing and in-depth research, he’s also active in his community and spends weekends volunteering with a local non-profit literacy organization and rock climbing. Follow him on Twitter (@LarryAlton3), at LinkedIn.com/in/larryalton, and on his website, LarryAlton.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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