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What Types of Technology Help Police Fight Crime?

By Christopher John
Updated May 16, 2024
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Police use many types of technologies to fight crime such as facial recognition systems, automatic license plate scanners, and satellite imaging. Facial recognition systems allow police to identify people that may be wanted by the law. License plate scanners help police fight crime by allowing them to recover stolen vehicles from car thieves. Another technology is satellite imaging, which enables specially trained officers to locate sites where people grow marijuana. 

Law enforcement agencies use facial recognition systems to fight crime. Facial recognition utilizes computer technology to compare a photograph with a database of images of known persons to find a match. It does this by measuring key points on a person’s face such as distance between eyes. The more points that match may mean that the police have located a suspect. This allows police to fight crime by helping them discover the real identities of those who use false identification to avoid capture.

Some police agencies make use of handheld facial recognition devices. Officers take a photograph of a suspect and the device compares it with photos of wanted criminals on a nationwide level. Cities are also placing these devices in public locations to secretly take photos of anyone who walks past the lens. The device helps fight crime by identifying fugitives and possibly finding missing children.

Police also use automatic license plate recognition systems or license plate scanners to fight crime. This device takes a photograph of a vehicle’s license plate and then automatically compares the plate number with records at a motor vehicle registry or with other databases. Almost instantly, it provides police with information about the vehicle, which allows them to learn whether a vehicle has insurance, is registered, or stolen. The devices can process thousands of plates in a minute and keep the information stored.

Some police departments install a license plate scanner on each side of a police vehicle. The devices automatically photograph license plates as the officer is on patrol and stores the information. When an officer drives to a crime scene or an accident scene, the device is snapping images of passing vehicles. This helps police fight crime by allowing detectives to identify possible suspects fleeing a crime scene or identify possible witnesses that were in the area.  

Law enforcement agencies are also using satellite images to fight crime. Officers specially trained with satellite imaging can identify sites where people are growing marijuana. Once they identify a location, police obtain a warrant, if needed, to enter the property. This allows them to confiscate the plants, thereby prevent drugs from reaching the streets. It may also allow them to arrest suspects found at the location. 

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Discussion Comments

By Logicfest — On Jun 22, 2014

@Markerrag -- well, DNA evidence can put a defendant at the scene, but that fact won't always be enough to convict someone. What if you have a heavily traveled area with all kinds of DNA evidence left lying around and some of it happens to belong to the accused? That won't always mean that the accused was in the area and committing a crime.

Of course, DNA evidence can be pretty powerful in rape cases and such and can be useful in other things. Still, it's not always positive proof that the defendant did the crime. It's useful, but not the atom bomb some people make it out to be in certain cases.

By Markerrag — On Jun 21, 2014

One of the handiest bits of technology police have in their bag of tools is DNA analysis and identification. If a prosecutor breaks that out in court and can tie a defendant to the scene, the chances are good a conviction will result.

The thing that makes that analysis so powerful is that getting rid of material that will produce DNA evidence is next to impossible. Criminals can avoid leaving fingerprints at the scene of the crime, but a stray hair or some other minute bit of physical evidence is often impossible to destroy.

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