Tagged: statistics

5 Ways Technology Boosts Crime-Fighting

POST WRITTEN BY: Daphne Holmes*

Technology helps law enforcement agencies and justice personnel stay one step ahead of criminals, furnishing new ways to detect and prevent crimes, as well as helping prosecutors convict offenders. And since emerging technology is available on both sides of justice, the cat-and-mouse game between perpetrators and police is never-ending, requiring continual adjustments from law enforcement agencies.

The good news for public safety is that crime rates have generally decreased over the past two decades, due in part to advancements in crime detection and deterrent technology. Since effective policing leans heavily on the rapid sharing of sensitive crime-related data; the recent explosion in information technology is a positive development for law enforcement agencies. Identification technology, social media, and mobile capabilities also enhance public safety, enabling justice staff to do their business more efficiently and respond to unfolding investigations in real-time.

While technology poses challenges for law enforcement agencies, which continually strive to keep up with technology-based criminal enterprises; it does more good than harm in the fight against crime. Tech advancements in law enforcement include the following capabilities, which illustrate how quickly things change alongside technology.

Sharing Information
Law enforcement agencies are spread throughout a national criminal justice system that involves, regional, state, and local authorities, each administering their policing efforts independently. Too often in the past, lack of access to timely information prevented various agencies from coordinating their efforts adequately. Advances in the way agencies share information and use criminal identification systems have led to tighter connections between independent law enforcement organizations and universal enforcement standards across jurisdictions. Sharing information about offenders also has a positive preventative impact, helping keep guns out of the hand of dangerous criminals and barring offenders from certain types of employment.

Security and Surveillance Upgrades
Property crimes continue to decrease statistically, so security and video surveillance upgrades have improved public safety dramatically. Camera technology, for example, produces modern models with higher image quality than past versions, and the size of high-quality cameras has also diminished, allowing them to be concealed for covert surveillance. Face-recognition technology is particularly rewarding, enabling law enforcement officials to literally pick faces from crowds.  In fact, the technology is so accurate as to create privacy-rights controversies among those who feel it is too intrusive.

Social Media
Though it is a social trend as much as it is a technological breakthrough, social media use nonetheless furnishes law enforcement advantages for agencies that use the technology effectively. For example, criminals leave trails using social media platforms, so justice agencies turn to Facebook, Twitter and other channels for vital clues and insight into criminal behavior. The technology also enables officers to distribute information directly to concerned citizens, informing them of unfolding crimes and dangerous developments.

Social media links law enforcement directly to the public at large, so it is a great tool for spreading descriptions, videos and other information about criminals. Communicating in real-time closes the crucial gap between the point at which crimes occur and when investigations begin, enabling citizens to respond with timely information.

Crime Mapping Technology
Modern computing power speeds up data analysis and enables law enforcement to track crime trends geographically. What was once accomplished through countless man-hours pouring over data is now a matter of a few mouse clicks. Crime mapping enables agencies to zero-in on problem areas, stepping-up enforcement efforts and assisting in bringing in fugitives. Like highly sophisticated “pin-maps” highlighting crime location, mapping and geographic profiling give enforcement officers clear snapshots of crime trends.

Mobile Technology
Mobile technology furnishes an electronic trail of texts, emails, calls and GPS location information that law enforcement uses to solve cases. Smartphones are so widespread the contact information and other data they contain give officers a starting point for their investigations, which often unfold in arrests directly related to information gleaned from mobile devices and usage. Using advanced digital forensics technology, investigators find links between suspects and their crimes, which might go unnoticed without mobile connections. In addition to investigative benefits, mobile technology speeds communication between officers, agencies and citizens.

Technology will never replace solid investigative work, but modern advances assist law enforcement efforts to stay ahead of criminals. Mobile technology, social media, and rapid access to information contribute to better enforcement and prevention. And crime-mapping and video surveillance breakthroughs also increase public safety, enabling justice agencies to direct resources to where they are needed most.

*Daphne Holmes is a writer from ArrestRecords.com. She can be reached at daphneholmes9@gmail.com.

Opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect the position of the Pace Criminal Justice Center or its Board of Advisors.  

Stop and Frisk the Statistics

BY: Annmarie Stepancic

Between 2010 and 2012, the NYPD reported 1,624,419 stops in New York City. Of those stops, slightly over 6%, or 101,688 stops, resulted in an arrest. Another 6% resulted in a summons. So – what do these statistics mean? Well, on the one hand, these statistics seem to suggest an effort to reduce the crime rate, particularly in high crime areas. This is the interpretation we hear and read about in the news as we go about our day-to-day routines. On the other hand, these statistics suggest that the stop and frisk policy is ineffective. According to the NYPD data, stops do not yield any significant results approximately 88% of the time. We rarely, if ever, study this interpretation of the statistics. I would like to suggest that it is this interpretation – the 88% view – on which we as a society should focus our attention.

A few disclosures before I continue. I am in no way suggesting that the NYPD is wrong 88% of the time or that the entire stop and frisk policy should be eradicated. It is important to understand that not every stop and frisk will result in an arrest or summons, and I am not trying to suggest that it should. Moreover, in a post-9/11 world, it is imperative for our police officers – the men and women who vow to serve and protect us each day – to have the ability to stop and frisk any individual the officers reasonably suspect of criminal activity. However, I think and hope we can do better than futile stops 88% of the time.

I think the biggest reason stops are unsuccessful 88% of the time is because there is no clear standard for conducting a stop and frisk. In Terry v. Ohio, the Supreme Court established reasonable suspicion as the standard for a stop and frisk. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968). According to the reasonable suspicion standard, a police officer may stop an individual that the police officer reasonably suspects has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime. After an individual is stopped, the police officer may frisk the individual for police safety. But what exactly constitutes reasonable suspicion? The answer: your guess is as good as mine.

While recognizing the right against an unreasonable stop and frisk, the Warren Court failed to define the reasonable suspicion required, and subsequent congresses and legislatures have not done the job.  To date, scholars have helped by defining reasonable suspicion to include,  at a minimum, more than an individual’s hunch and to require specific facts that led the officer to reasonably believe that the individual has engaged will engage, or is engaging in criminal activity. These definitions, while helpful, still fall short in defining what exactly constitutes reasonable suspicion either for the courts or the police officer on the street. I understand that we live in a world of uncertainty, but that does not mean that we are to conduct our policing policies with the same uncertainty. The stakes – constitutional rights – are simply too high.

The constitutional rights of hundreds of thousands of Americans are violated on an unprecedented scale because of illegal stops and frisks. A report published by the Center for Constitutional Rights in December 2012 found that

based on the information recorded on NYPD stop-and-frisk forms by police officers themselves, more than 95,000 stops lacked reasonable articulable suspicion and therefore violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.

Unconstitutional stops and frisks not only violate the constitutional rights of our fellow Americans, but also undercut the legitimacy of police officers. Illegal stops and frisks strain and, in many instances, destroy the very police-community relationships that could assist in the capture of the bad guys.

Related Readings:

Report Shows Stop and Frisk rights Violations Continue (By Center for Constitutional Rights, Dec. 2012).
Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968).
NYPD’s Stop and Frisk Practices: Unfair and Unjust (By Center for Constitutional Rights, 2012).
2011 NYPD Stop and Frisk Statistics (By Center for Constitutional Rights, 2011).
NYPD’s Stop, Question and Frisk Data (By NYPD, includes data for years 2003-2011).
Second Supplemental Report of Jeffrey Fagan, Ph.D.David Floyd v. City of New York, ___ F. Supp. 2d ___ (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 17, 2012) (No.: 08 Civ. 01034 (SAS)).