How Police Officers Are Using Technology to Stay Ahead of Crime
Police officers’ jobs used to be simple; they did routine traffic stops, did the paperwork, and helped stop crime. Now that crime is getting more sophisticated, police officers have taken up technology to help them stay ahead of crime. There are better crime detection tools available to officers which also keep them from putting themselves in dangerous positions. Below, we will look at some innovative technologies and gadgets helping police officers do their jobs.
Drugs are a big problem. It gets worse when one realizes that it could take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to ascertain the identity of a substance. Handheld lasers are helping police officers do this within seconds.
When the officer points their handheld laser at an unknown substance, the laser can break down the composition of that substance thereby identifying it. This makes the work of stopping the distribution and use of drugs a lot easier for these police officers. Because of the amount of time saved, police officers now have more time to deal with other issues.
It is almost impossible to pick out a suspect from a crowd. Facial recognition can scan a wide area and, regardless of the number of people in the vicinity, can pick out suspects with pinpoint accuracy.
Once a suspect is identified:
- Their picture is fed into a facial recognition system.
- The system takes advantage of every type of street camera available to law enforcement to analyze every face it sees
- The system then alerts law enforcement if a match to the picture fed to it is found.
There is a worry, though, that facial recognition could be abused. Those of this school of thought say that it can be used to secretly record and monitor people even if no crime has happened.
With the increasing number of Internet of Things devices, more data is being collected than at any other time in history. All of this information is valuable to law enforcement officers and they have to find a way to analyze all this data.
To extract actionable insights from this large amount of data would take an incredible amount of time and human power. This is why the police are turning to artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence can not only help analyze data, but it could also help support other technologies used by police officers like facial recognition.
AI can be used to map crime, thereby helping police areas that are hotspots for crime. That said, the effectiveness of any AI algorithm depends on the data that was used to train it. If the data was biased in any way, the results of the analysis of new data could also be skewed.
Police rush into danger all the time. Before rushing through a door, police officers would benefit from knowing how many people are in a certain space. This is where thermal imaging comes in.
Thermal imaging uses infrared imaging to detect heat from objects like animals and humans. This gives the police a better picture of what they will run into before they decide to storm a house or any other space.
Thermal imaging is also vital in dark conditions. Since police officers cannot see the suspect in the dark and cannot use flashlights to not give their position away, they can use thermal imaging to track a suspect in the dark. Thermal imaging does save lives as it allows police officers to avoid putting themselves in danger when dealing with unknown spaces or suspects in the dark.
Police officers are now using robot-mounted cameras to get video and audio feeds of areas that are either:
- Too hard to reach, or
- Too dangerous to enter
In addition to cameras, police officers can also use the robots to:
- Gather information and provide communication capabilities where humans cannot
- Patrol areas that can be targeted such as schools and banks
- Patrol areas where a lot of people gather where the robot can send information on what is happening on the ground.
Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Police officers have been experimenting with drones for the past little while. These unmanned aircraft can be used to:
- Patrol an area
- Search for suspects if they are equipped with facial recognition technology, and
- Survey areas where a disaster has struck and that are inaccessible to helicopters or planes
Even though unmanned aircraft systems can save money and save police lives, there has been some pushback from the public due to surveillance concerns. There are also legal hurdles to get over before they become a standard policing tool.
Automatic Number Plate Recognition
When a car is stolen, it would be almost impossible to find it in a sea of other cars. Automated license plate recognition helps police officers:
- Know if a car was stolen
- Identify the driver of a car
- See if the driver or owner of the car has outstanding warrants
These systems use cameras and a database of all license plates to match a number plate to a car, its owner or its driver. The system takes the picture of a car and relays that to a database that processes that license plate and alerts the police if something is wrong. These systems can also be used to identify stolen number plates.
Because these systems are automated, they could save vital time by allowing police offices to know if something is wrong in an instant as opposed to where a police officer uses a computer or calls dispatch to find information about a number plate or car.
GPS Vehicle-pursuit Dart
Car chases are not only dangerous for police officers, but they also put the lives of pedestrians, the driver and their passengers in danger. There is always a chance of something going wrong during a car chase and that is why police divisions are experimenting with GPS vehicle-pursuit darts.
When the police see that a driver is about to flee, they shoot this dart at the vehicle and then follow behind at a safe distance and speed. The GPS vehicle-pursuit dart relays the vehicle’s information to a central system where police officers can see where the car is going.
Gunshot Detection Systems
Guns are a part of a police officer’s life. They have them, and more often than not criminals do too. That is why police officers must be trained in proper gun handling. If you want to become a police officer and learn this valuable skill, click here.
Gunshot detection systems let police officers know exactly when and where a gun was fired. Even though this system is still new, it helps cut down response time as police officers can go directly to the scene instead of canvassing for it. It also allows medical teams to arrive faster in case of a shooting which could save lives.
Smart Police Cruisers
The police cruiser has been a mundane vehicle for a long time. Now, they come fitted with all kinds of gadgets. These include:
- Computers that are always connected to the network
- Dashboard cameras
The computers and tablets can be used to collect information as well as look up information on suspects. Enhanced dashcams can be used for:
- Evidence gathering
- Accountability, and
Other technologies coming to the police cruiser include autonomous driving as well as armor-piercing bulletproof doors and windows.
Even though police have been using biometrics such as fingerprints and DNA to find suspects for a long time, some new technologies are being developed or introduced to help police catch suspects and solve crimes faster. These include:
- Voice recognition
- Iris recognition
- Wrist veins
- Gait analysis
Law enforcement agencies are already building a database to hold all this information. In some places, police officers are using portable fingerprint detection systems to identify suspects within a minute.
The Implications of the Use of Technology in Policing
Technology has changed so many aspects of our lives and how we work, and police officers should not be left behind. When police officers start using the pieces of technology outlined above their work becomes easier and safer.
It becomes easier because police officers can collect and analyze vast amounts of data in a very short amount of time. They can also use systems like facial recognition to find suspects faster. Police officers do not have to put themselves in danger anymore because there are now technologies they could use, such as drones and robots, to avoid doing so.
On the flip side, there is the fear of surveillance. People do not feel comfortable that law enforcement agencies are always collecting data on them. The one thing that people must understand is that all this information is being used to make and keep them safe. Even when you have nothing to hide out in public, the person sitting or walking beside you might, and it would be better if dangerous people were taken off the streets.
Technology is here to stay. As crime becomes more and more sophisticated, it becomes important that police officers adapt, and they can do this by using different pieces of technology.