Working in criminal justice today means having the opportunity to utilize robots, GPS systems, advanced cameras, and high-powered computer systems. These important technologies have improved investigation, surveillance, and analysis procedures – so long as they are backed by the skill set and intelligence to properly use them.
Every aspect of law enforcement has a computer program associated with the job, from DNA testing to robotic cameras to automatic license plate recognition systems – just to name a few. The number of electronics now available to make criminal justice jobs more effective is rapidly growing. Of course, criminals also utilize these technologies, so professionals in the industry have to remain one step ahead in technology to combat illicit usage.
Databases and Information Exchange
One of the most important technological tools in the field today is the computer database. There are now database systems for DNA testing and profiling, fingerprints and “hot spot” crime mapping programs. A few decades ago, everything was written down in files and information was difficult to exchange between different counties and states. Now it’s universally accessible thanks to computer databases. This has allowed law enforcement professionals to find and exchange information easily and more affordably, seeing connections between people and events. In fact, a January 2012 news report suggests that this contributes to the reason the crime rate is lower now than it’s been since the early 1960s.
For each type of database that exists, there have been corresponding technological advancements in that niche. For example, fingerprinting is much more advanced than it was ten or twenty years ago. There are image enhancement systems to make prints clearer; there are biometric tools that more efficiently analyze fingerprints; and there are portable tools that allow officers to take prints in the field. Fingerprints are just one area of advanced computer technology used by law enforcement today, but the same could be said for nearly every emergent digital tool.
Detection and Positioning Systems
Everyone is familiar with computers, but the criminal justice field also gets to see more unique forms of technological advancements, such as:
- Robots, robotic cameras, and flying drones. Instead of sending in an officer to check out a dangerous situation or diffuse a bomb, it’s now possible to send in a robot. There are even flying robotic drones that give officers a bird’s-eye-view of a crime scene without a person having to go up in the air.
- Gunshot detection system (GDS). This system of electronic sensors installed in high-crime areas helps police quickly detect where any gunshots come from. They allow for an improved response time that helps reduce crime.
- GPS and GIS systems. Officers use GPS/GIS in so many ways, from getting to a scene using the most effective route to pinpointing where a suspect is located. One great way GPS is used is to track fleeing criminals without having to engage in a dangerous high-speed chase. GIS can be used to track police vehicles so departments always know where they are located.
- Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR). There are now cameras inside of police cars that can automatically run every single license plate the camera sees. An officer immediately sees if the car is stolen or if the driver has warrants out for his or her arrest.
Technology Cost and Return on Investment (ROI)
One issue that does have to be taken into consideration when discussing technology is the cost and ROI. The technology itself can be expensive and then there’s the added cost of training the team to use it. Implementation must be weighed against the amount of money eventually saved in time and labor due to its utilization. There are many precedents set to help make these types of informed decisions. For example, twenty years ago it took a lot more manpower to map out crime patterns than it takes for a computer program to do it today. Agencies must critically analyze the investment and long-term payoff. There can be a vast difference in the technologies available in different areas because of varied funding across the nation.
With the growing number of new opportunities created from advanced technologies, this is a great time to pursue an advanced degree in the field of Criminal Justice. Learn more from industry leaders and get a top-to-bottom examination of the Criminal Justice system with a Master’s degree program.