Effects of Technology on Criminal Investigations

The contemporary world is experiencing rapid technological changes. The changes have not spared the criminal justice system. The hurricane of technological change has caught up with the criminal justice system and, in particular, criminal investigations. The technological revolution is moving at a very high pace such that previous breakthrough technologies seem to be ordinary in the contemporary world. Wearing of police vests is common in the contemporary world. In addition, it is common for judges to request for electronic monitoring as one of the conditions of probation. Telemedicine has also enabled prisons to provide healthcare without the need to move prisoners. Sophisticated computerized maps also enable police officers and community groups to assess crime in various neighborhoods (Cole, Smith & DeJong, 2014). Some of the technologies that have significantly affected criminal investigations include drug testing technologies, DNA, concealed weapons detection technology, and information technology.

Drug testing technology is used to test people in various sectors. Police officers, federal employees, pilots, and sportsmen should undergo drug tests as one of the conditions of their employment. As such, drug testing technologies have far-reaching effects and are not simply restricted to criminal investigations. Availability of relatively simple and cheap drug testing technology has made drug testing technology have a profound impact on the criminal justice system and, in particular, criminal investigations. For instance, urine tests, which are cheap, may help in proving the culpability of certain individuals. It would help in determining whether an individual under investigation has consumed certain drugs. This helps in expediting the criminal investigations. Moreover, the results of urine tests are widely accepted in the criminal justice system. However, the drug testing technologies have certain limitations. For instance, there is a relatively short window of detecting cocaine usage. This necessitates the use of more powerful drug testing technologies which are less intrusive into an individual’s privacy. Research shows that drug use is closely related with criminal behavior. Therefore, criminal investigators may use this fact to build their cases around certain offenders. These findings show that arrest would provide an opportunity to use drug testing technology to break the cycle of drug use and crime (Dutelle, 2013).

DNA technology is one of the most powerful technologies in the criminal justice system. DNA technology enables criminal investigators to match a biological sample to an individual with almost absolute certainty. DNA evidence is admissible in all American jurisdictions. Certain high profile cases such the O.J Simpson and Sam Shepherd cases have been solved using DNA evidence. DNA evidence has also been used to exonerate individuals who were previously convicted of serious crimes. Prior to the availability of DNA evidence several individuals were wrongly convicted of serious crimes using eyewitness and other types of forensic evidence. This is despite the fact that they had valid alibi witnesses. When DNA evidence became available these individuals were proven to be innocent. Therefore, DNA evidence has helped in determining the intrinsic weaknesses of the criminal justice system (Li, 2012).

DNA evidence is expected to be used in the future to determine the innocence or culpability of suspects in criminal investigations. In addition, DNA evidence is expected to be used to convict offenders who have not been convicted yet. In a world where DNA evidence is used more frequently than fingerprints, criminal investigations would be more accurate. It would enable forensic investigators to carry portable DNA labs to crimes. This would also facilitate the testing of multiple samples simultaneously at low costs. The results would also be immediate. Running the results against the rapidly increasing DNA database of offenders would enable criminal investigators to match the samples and include or exclude certain suspects. The above explanation highlights the impact of DNA technology on the criminal justice system. It has virtually revolutionized the criminal justice system. Other technological advances have also increased the ability of criminal investigators to verify the identity of suspects with biometric precision. These include AFIS and live-scan fingerprint devices. These devices have facilitated the latent processing of fingerprints, which have enabled law enforcement agencies to identify positively suspects and solve cases that would have otherwise not been solved (Robertson, 2012).

Concealed weapons technology is also one of the technologies that have had a profound impact on criminal investigations. The Act system, which was designed by Thermal Matrix USA, is one of the common concealed weapons detection systems. The system can also detect contraband. It can detect any threat such as guns and knives, guns, explosives, and liquids. This is regardless of whether they have been hidden under layers of clothing. Concealed weapons technology helps in reducing the threat posed to criminal investigators and law enforcement agencies. However, the use of concealed weapons technology raises several issues that relevant parties must strive to address. These include what is the legal threshold of using these devices and how should it be used in an environment where it is usually legal to carry a concealed weapon (Newburn, Williamson & Wright, 2012).

Information revolution is the technological revolution that most people are familiar with. Criminal investigators can access vast databases with a simple click of the mouse. Information technology also enables criminal investigators to check the backgrounds of suspects. It also enables them to track their movements. Computers play a critical role in information revolution. They can not only be used for administrative work in the office, criminal investigators may also use them out in the field. The computers can connect with other field computers or other computers in other police stations. The information from these computers would help in determining whether other agencies want a certain individual or if the individual is a suspect in other cases (Li, 2012).

Technology may also help criminal investigators determine places where crimes are occurring. It helps in tracking hotspots and identification of similar crimes in a certain area. This would enable criminal investigators to prove the pattern of criminal activities, which is vital in apprehending criminals. Mapping crimes and ascertaining similar crimes would help in determining whether a series of similar crimes were committed by the same individual or group of individuals. Technology enables even small and rural police departments to connect with other law enforcement agencies to share their crime mapping. This helps in preventing the occurrence of similar crimes within the jurisdiction of law enforcement agencies if they take appropriate action. Sharing of information helps in not only building quality data, but it also helps in building edits into the existing data. This helps in improving the accuracy and completeness of the data making it more useful to criminal investigators (Becker & Dutelle, 2012).

Technology has ultimately led to changes in the operation of law enforcement agencies. It has enabled them to manage and deploy resources more efficiently and monitor crimes trends more efficiently. It has also enabled them to deploy intervention and investigative assets more efficiently. The popularity of social networking sites has also helped in empowering the general public and raising expectations on the transparency of law enforcement agencies. It has also increased the ability of members of the public to communicate with law enforcement agencies. The anonymous tips by members of the public may play a criminal role in solving certain crimes, which would have otherwise been very difficult to solve.

GPS tracking devices are currently available to law enforcement agencies. The tracking device may be a small pen, which may be placed on a moving object and track it wherever it goes. The tracking devices enable criminal investigators to track suspects without having to do physical surveillance. This helps in reducing the costs of undertaking criminal investigations. However, the tracking devices raise several issues such as the infringement to an individual’s right to privacy. Blatant violation of an individual’s right to privacy violates Saint Leo University’s core value of integrity. As such, tracking devices create an ethical dilemma that must be addressed by legislation that would restrict the use of tracking devices in criminal investigations and generally law enforcement agencies. This would help in preventing the illegal use of the technology (Li, 2012). As discussed above invasion of privacy is one of the major issues that have been brought up by technological advances. Law enforcement agencies can listen to people’s conversations to determine their culpability in certain crimes. However, it is vital for the law enforcement agencies to ensure that they are doing so legally.

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