When first introduced as a criminal investigation tactic in the early 1900’s, the concept of fingerprinting to identify criminals and prior offenses, was revolutionary. It is still a common practice used to service the analysis of the crime scene, today. Advancements in scientific technology play a critical role in improving the process of criminal justice investigation. To learn more, checkout the infographic below created by Boston University’s Master of Criminal Justice Online Program.
Technological advancements are embraced when proven useful in replacing antiquated investigation methods. Pencil and paper are still used for hand-drawn crime scene sketches to quickly document the physical facts, and fingerprinting kits continue to be used to collect evidence, including tweezers and cotton swabs. However, investigators are now adopting the use of cutting-edge technology to digitally reconstruct and investigate crime scenes.
Photography, specifically 35mm cameras, have been a staple in crime scene investigation for decades to document evidence and create a conclusive record of a crime scene. Today, digital cameras are replacing 35 mm cameras used at crime scenes because of the value of a memory card.
Tablets and iPads, rather than pen and paper, are used for crime scene notes, recording suspect and witness statements, and even wirelessly filing reports from the scene. Law enforcement officers are now able to access state databases to retrieve suspect photos and information on crimes, Google maps, and other useful data, through mobile devices. Teleforensics offers the ability for real-time communications with colleagues and the storage of collected evidence.
Other technological advances make it possible to collect DNA-on-a-chip, which takes physical evidence, such as fluids, skin cells, and/or blood, creates a DNA profile, and uploads it to CODIS. High-speed photography is being used for ballistics analysis. The old collection kits for gunshot residue have been replaced with shotspotter gunshot detection systems utilized in cities across the U.S.
Police officers are beginning to wear body cameras in order to provide objective evidence of police and suspect interactions. In addition, controlled wireless robotic cameras are used at bomb threat and live crime scenes. Drones have already been deployed to aide in missing person searches. More uses are being explored.
The FBI’s Next Generation Identification System (NGI) is similar to the British EFIT-V system used in 30 countries. The technology expands AFIS and uses fingerprints, DNA, voice recognition, and iris scans for biometric identification and CCTV photography. NGI has proven effective in increasing the criminal history database to reduce terrorism and crime.
In an effort to more effectively ID criminals and lower the crime rate, the DNA Genetic Fingerprinting Database was created and is in full use by the Federal Government and 28 states. The database provides law enforcement and government agencies with the access to DNA data for improved consistency on positive violent criminal ID’s. Used in conjunction with the FBI’s CODIS, the DNA Genetic Fingerprinting Database can help limit the number of false positives usually generated in the CODIS database.
The Real-Time Paradna Analysis Machine is designed to reduce the backlog of DNA assessments, by processing data to find identification within 75 minutes. The Cywatch-24-Hour Command Center connects Interpol, Homeland Security, The Hague, and 56 different cyber task forces to improve the protection systems of banks against high-level hackers.
The goal of introducing new technology into criminal investigative work is to support the successful apprehension and conviction of criminals, and to act as a deterrent to criminal behavior before it occurs. Many advances have occurred in the last thirty years and many more are still to come.