Has high-tech helped or hurt crime fighting? DoJ wants to know

US Department of Justice grant to look at how technology has changed law enforcement

LAPD car
The US Department of Justice is offering a $1 million grant to study the impact advanced technologies such as mobile communications, sensor networks and Web-based applications have had on the law enforcement community and crime.

Form the DoJ: "The introduction of technology into policing practices has significantly altered the way in which police officers perform their jobs. From the introduction of the automobile to the use of computers in those automobiles, police practices have kept pace with the introduction of new technologies. There remains a question, however, as to whether those technologies have had a successful impact on police practices. James Byrne and Gary Marx recently noted in their article on the implementation and impact of technology on crime prevention, -New technological innovations have been developed to prevent crime and improve the performance of the police, but we know remarkably little about how and why certain innovations are adopted, and the consequences - both intended and unintended - of technology-driven solutions to the problem of crime.  Despite wide adoption, the impact of these technologies on police performance and crime control is not clear."

More on high-tech: From Anonymous to Hackerazzi: The year in security mischief-making

The DoJ notes that the advent of the car and of two-way wireless communications systems brought about what it called an "incident-driven" policing strategy that relied on random patrol and rapid response in radio-equipped patrol cars to prevent crime. "However, research conducted in the latter part of the century on the impact of this strategy found it to be too costly in terms of the actual number of officers and vehicles that an agency would have to deploy to have a meaningful impact. Research also found that adopting this strategy contributed to the social distancing of the police from the community, with its consequent negative effect on an agency's ability to not only prevent and detect crime but also on its ability to enforce the law and to maintain order."

Today, most police cars have mobile computers or devices such as smart phones that provide the officer ready access to data and information at the scene. Although these technological innovations have been adopted to meet the needs of various police functions, they also have been linked to various policing strategies designed to control crime, such as community- and problem-oriented policing.

Police agencies are also taking advantage of Web-based social media as a means to better engage the community and as an investigative tool. In England, the DoJ says London Metropolitan Police Department used intelligence gathered from social media sites in its efforts to maintain order during the riots that took place in the summer of 2011. Policing agencies are also using Web-based collaborative working environments to engage the private sector in joint crime prevention and detection efforts.

More news: All hail: Inside the museum of nonsense

The DoJ says policing agencies are beginning to incorporate surveillance systems into their strategies on a large scale, including closed-circuit television, automated license plate recognition, and gunshot detection/sensor systems. The Camden, NJ, Police Department has lost roughly half of its officers since 2006 because of budgetary constraints. To compensate, it has adopted a strategy that uses gunshot detection and closed-circuit television systems to identify problem areas, and an integrated vehicle location and dispatch system to deploy resources, the DoJ stated.

Through the grant the DoJ hopes to address a number of issues including:

  • The impact of police technologies on policing strategies designed, developed, and implemented to control and prevent crime and improve police performance?
  • Why are certain police technologies adopted by police agencies and how are they integrated into broader policing strategies?
  • Have these police technologies adopted over the last 20 years made a difference in how the police respond to crime?
  • Explain how specific technologies are linked to policing strategies to promote the intended outcomes.
  • Community acceptance of technology, particularly as it relates to privacy concerns.

 Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8  and on Facebook

Layer 8 Extra

Check out these other hot stories:

NASA launches multi-player Facebook game

DARPA takes aim at "Achilles Heel" of advanced computing: Power

FTC to scrutinize mobile payment technology

Federal judges wary of Facebook, Twitter, Google+ impact on juries

London 2012 Olympics will see massive wireless spectrum consumption

Cutting-edge electronics will require US to revamp auto defect investigations

Anonymous takes out DoJ, RIAA in response to Megaupload.com take-down

Copyright, piracy battle rages: Megaupload.com shut down, execs jailed

NASA: Solar blasts decreased orbital debris in 2011

Security history: Nothing like an old-fashioned boot sector virus

US now backs an international space "code of conduct"

DARPA set to develop super-secure "cognitive fingerprint"

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.