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21st Century Criminal ID Procedures Essay Sample

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21st Century Criminal ID Procedures Essay Sample

The introduction of innovative technology in law enforcement has tremendously aided federal and state agencies to effectively do their job and slightly improve the condition of communities around the country. According to Greg Mullen, the Police Chief at Charleston, “Technology is an accelerator for the other things we are doing…It saves so much time and really increases the efficiency of what we’re doing” (Smith, 2008). However, some technology may promise more than it can deliver (Reyes, 2007). Indeed, technologies that are used in law enforcement such as video camera surveillance, wiretap surveillance, license plate reader, fleeing vehicle tagging system, DNA analysis, inter-agency DNA Database, and biometric identification such as retina scan, have its own disadvantages and advantages.

Video Camera and Wiretap Surveillance

            Video camera surveillance is prevalent these days especially in banks and other businesses. Even though there are 30 million surveillance cameras all over the country, 71 percent of Americans still want an increase of video surveillance (Vlahos, 2008). The reason why people do not mind having more video surveillance in public places is they feel more secure knowing that activities of molesters, petty thieves or criminals are caught on tape. According to Police Chief Mullen, “video surveillance cameras in high-crime areas monitor public spaces for signs of trouble.  Cameras can help police spot “crimes in the making and better track crooks as they try to make their getaway” (Smith, 2008). Thus, video surveillance help solve crimes because recorded images cannot be disputed in court (Vlahos, 2008).

            However, heightened security comes at price. In this instance, people exchange their privacy for extra measure of safety (Vlahos, 2008). Another form of surveillance that invades  a person’s privacy is wiretap surveillance. This kind of surveillance is used “[w]hen police cannot use other investigative techniques to safely and successfully collect evidence and intelligence,” that can be used as indisputable proof in court (Congressional Testimony, 2004). This technology is disturbing because people cannot even escape intrusion in their own homes. Also, this technology may be utilized by people who are not in the law enforcement agency. Imagine the possible damage that may occur if this technology is in possession of the wrong hands.

            Surveillance, whether video camera or wiretap, makes people careful and more discerning about their actions. But this does not necessarily translate into deterrence. The only value that surveillance has is that justice can be served swiftly because conviction will be expedited due to irrefutable evidence. Still, video surveillance has its limitations because the camera cannot completely zoom in on the face of a specific person, whatever is recorded is all the evidence someone has. In addition, if a person is wearing a cap so that his or her face is hidden or the person is positioned in a location that is not covered properly by the camera, identifying the said person will not be easy.

            Wiretap surveillance done by people, that are not for the sake of putting a guilty person behind bars, involves deceptive methods such as blackmail. Blackmail is used by people to extort money from another person. It can also be used to expose private information about someone’s life publicly to cause humiliation on an individual.

License Plate Reader

            Moreover, another technological advancement that is assisting law enforcement agencies across the country are license plate readers. A license plate reader can be “mounted on the outside of a squad car and connected to a computer database in the vehicle” (Vlahos, 2008). Licence plate readers make the process of identifying if a “vehicle is stolen or if the driver has any outstanding warrants” faster than it used to be (Vlahos, 2008). License plate readers can check 10,000 license plates during an officer’s shift and the sensors “work whether the police car is parked or doing 75 mph” (Vlahos, 2008). According to Tennessee police officer Black, “the benefit of the license plate reader system is more efficiency from officers and improved crime detection” (Harris, 2007). Also, Governor Janet Napolitano of Arizona acknowledges that the device helps to “combat human trafficking. Because smugglers often use stolen cars…cruisers equipped with readers at the border can help break up trafficking rings” (Frazier, 2007).

            The license plate reader does not violate due process because people are informed why they are being pulled over. Also, the license plate reader cannot penetrate the inside of one’s car so invasion of one’s privacy is not an issue. The license plate reader may lessen human trafficking and incidents of stolen cars. This statement still has to be verified but there is no doubt that it can bring some positive change on the roads and highways. It is also an added benefit for officers because they can instantly determine if a car is stolen or not. Usually reports have to be issued or broadcasted and an officer may not be quick enough to detect the plate of a speeding car. However, the license plate reader is another set of eyes that aids the officer on the road.

Fleeing vehicle tagging system

            On the other hand,  a fleeing vehicle tagging system is still being tested. This technology poses a great potential in tracking and capturing criminals that have escaped. This is because during a car chase that involves criminals, instead of pursuing the criminal for hours police officers will just “mar[k] the vehicle to locate it at a later time” (Boyd, n.d.). This is possible because the vehicle will be tagged by “tiny radio transmitter,…[that] sticks to the car and allow[s] police to track the vehicle from a safe distance without endangering lives or allowing the suspect to escape” (Boyd, n.d.).

DNA Analysis

            Equally important is DNA analysis, which has drastically improved crime scene investigations since it has been introduced. DNA analysis has been responsible for wrongful convictions in the past to be exonerated. Currently, it aids in eliminating the slight possibility of convicting innocent people accused of heinous crimes. This helps the criminal justice system because it saves them money in investigation, prosecution, and incarceration of the wrongfully accused (DNA Forensics, 2007). DNA analysis also helps in “ensuring accuracy and fairness in the criminal justice system” (Using DNA to solve crimes).

            Furthermore, DNA is used to “link and solve a series of crimes…perpetrated by the same individual”  (“Using DNA,” n.d.). This enables the authorities to track down the person, observe his actions and even possibly catching him either before or when he is about to commit another crime (Case history: forensic DNA success, 2005). DNA also has the ability to provide “a major breakthrough in a series of crimes that remained to be unsolved for years” such as the Green River killings in 2001  (“Using DNA,” n.d.).  DNA can also identify deceased victims who have been drowned or drowned themselves or been burned. It also makes identifying bodies that are near or total decomposition a possibility (Case history: forensic DNA success, 2005). It also aids in investigating crimes involving more than one person that has been killed or injured (Case history: forensic DNA success, 2005). Lastly, DNA profiling can even minimize possible suspects in a criminal inquiry (Case history: forensic DNA success, 2005).

            In addition, inter-agency DNA database are run and maintained by government agencies in order to prevent possible crimes in the future. Once a prisoner is released from prison, his or her DNA is taken and kept for records. This is because there is a fifty percent chance that the person may commit a crime (Curran, 2007). To be one step ahead, DNA database will enable investigators to determine if a perpetrator have been convicted before. To do this, DNA samples have to be available to enable investigators to conduct DNAcomparison and analysis.

            Despite the benefits that DNA technology can bring, it also comes with its own set of drawbacks. In the future, genetic discrimination can ensue because government, insurance companies, employers, schools and banks may use this information when hiring or accepting a person in their institution. This is because DNA can reveal not only one’s medical history but also personality traits such as aggressive behavior for instance (DNA Forensics, 2007).

            Besides, DNA is not a hundred percent accurate all the time. DNA samples can be easily contaminated by external factors. For instance, if a person sneezes or coughs on the DNA samples obtained, they would immediately be contaminated. Also, DNA samples have to be handled with utmost care. DNA samples cannot be exposed to direct sunlight, moisture and cold temperature (What every law enforcement officer should know about DNA, 1999).

            In addition, DNA test costs $50 per analysis (Travis, 2003). The cost should be reduced because DNA analysis is a common practice in crime scene investigations and has become a part of the legal system since 1988 (Travis, 2003). The cost of DNA analysis should not become a massive burden to the government. It should also not limit the ability of investigators and law enforcement officers to properly carry out their job.

            Also, for DNA analysis to be more effective, analysis should be completed in a timely manner (Travis, 2003). This actually ensures the public that the enactment of justice will not be delayed. As the saying goes, “Justice delayed is justice denied.” Likewise, DNA analysis on the field should be possible (Travis, 2003). The only way for this to be attainable is for portable labs or equipments to be supplied to various agencies at a reasonable price. Affordable price is what makes it feasible for any agency to adapt new technology into their system and mode of operation.

            Furthermore, analyzing DNA samples cannot be done quickly because crime labs are understaffed and there is a lack of fund to hire more people (DNA analysis for “minor” crimes, 2006). Even if available funds are available, there “is an insufficient pool of qualified forensic scientists to hire. In addition, many State and local crime labs lack the resources and lab space necessary to obtain and use state-of-the-art automated equipment and software that would speed up DNA analyses”  (DNA analysis for “minor” crimes, 2006).

            DNA technology helps in solving crimes but it does not necessarily deter it.  It also eliminates any errors in the legal system such as wrongful conviction. DNA also aids in expediating the trial process that happens in courts.

Biometric Identification

            Another technological advancement that has assisted law enforcement officers is biometric identification.  Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) is an example of biometric identification. This technology is now being used by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and has led to the arrest of 23,502 people with criminal records in other countries (Pappalardo, 2005). This technology “allows border patrol agents to rapidly identify individuals with outstanding warrants and criminal histories [by] electronically comparing a live-scanned 10-fingerprint entry against a comprehensive national database” (Pappalardo, 2005).

            Moreover, various biometric identification methods such as speech and retina scan—for example—are used to prevent fraud by controlling “access to private and privileged information and to items of high cost and strategic value” (Rosen, 1990). Also, biometric identification, specifically retina scan, is used as a form of security access to intelligence agencies such as the Pentagon (Rosen, 1990). This is because the retina of an individual is a unique feature that only he or she have, therefore it will be very difficult to duplicate it. In addition, it is a safe and effective method of security because “[t]he back of the eye is like a map, but the machine reads only a small area. Since no one knows which portion of the map is being read, there’s no way to duplicate or fake a retinal pattern.”… (Rosen, 1990).

            However, biometric identification requires the gathering and storing of people’s characteristics in advance (Rosen, 1990). In addition, “environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity, background noise, and ambient light” can affect its performance and reliability (Rosen, 1990). Also,  “hands can swell from work, heat, or allergies; fingerprints can be marred by scratches, exposure to chemicals, or embedded dirt” therefore fingerprint identification may not work all the time (Rosen, 1990). Finally, biometric identification systems are expensive. It ranges from “$1000 to $4000 per user terminal, including software. At this price, they are too expensive to gain a broader base of users” (Rosen, 1990).

            Overall, there is no doubt that technology can tremendously help law enforcement officers to effectively do their job. It aids the government in preventing and resolving crimes. Hence, technology saves them time and the government’s money in the long-run. However, wiretap and video camera surveillance invades one’s privacy. While DNA analysis may be used to discriminate people in the future. In addition, biometric identification may not be reliable all the time because environmental factors can affect its performance. Also, the expensive cost of acquiring the biometric identification system means that it cannot be available for every agency to use.

            There is no doubt that technology can enhance the efficiency of law enforcement. Therefore, the government should allocate more funds for new equipments that can cut down on crime. However, the implications that these new technologies may bring upon society should be carefully discussed and studied so that it will not infringe upon a person’s rights. At the same time, crime control model essentially lies in a person’s mental and emotional control over his or her actions. Thus, societal problems should be tackled as well so that crime prevention will be lessened in the future.


Boyd, D.G. (n.d). The cutting edge of law enforcement technology. FBI Law Enforcement        Bulletin. Retrieved February 6, 2008, from          http://www.totse.com/en/law/justice_for_all/lawtech.html

Case history: forensic DNA success. (2005). Retrieved February 5, 2008, from             http://www.esr.cri.nz/competencies/forensicscience/dna/DNAsuccess.htm

Congressional Testimony. (2004). Federal Bureau of Investigations. Retrieved February 1,          2008, from http://www.fbi.gov/congress/congress04/thomas090804.htm

Curran, T. (1997). Library of Parliament Parliamentary Information and Research Service.         Retrieved February 5, 2008, from http://www.parl.gc.ca/information/library/PRBpubs/bp443-e.htm#A.%20Use%20of        %20DNA%20Data%20Banks%20in%20Other%20Countries(txt)

DNA analysis for “minor” crimes: a major benefit for law enforcement. (2006). NIJ Journal.      Retrieved February 5, 2008, from http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/journals/253/dna_analysis.html

DNA Forensics. (2007). Human Genome Project Information. Retrieved February 2, 2008,        from http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/elsi/forensics.shtml

Frazier, M. (2007). Electronic eyes help NY police. Retrieved February 1, 2008, from             http://www.policeone.com/police-technology/articles/1290024/

Harris, R. (2007). Plate readers give Tenn. police extra eyes.  Retrieved February 1, 2008,          from http://www.policeone.com/police-technology/articles/1356615/

Pappalardo, J. (2005). Borderl patrol: biometric system net criminals. Retrieved February 5,       2008, from  http://www.allbusiness.com/public-administration/national-security-          international/356909-1.html

Rosen, J. (1990). Biometric systems open the door. Retrieved February 5, 2008, from

            http://www.allbusiness.com/professional-scientific/scientific-research       development/124825-1.html

Reyes, E. (2007). What’s new in law enforcement technology: part 1.  Retrieved February 1,       2008, from http://www.policeone.com/police-technology/articles/1268383/

Smith, G. (2008). S.C. police move into the 21st Century. Retrieved February 1, 2008, from             http://www.policeone.com/police-technology/articles/1656024/

Travis, J. (2003). Thinking Strategically about Developments in Law Enforcement          Technology. US Dpeartment of Justice Office of Justice Programs. Retrieved February   6, 2008, from http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/speeches/thinklaw.htm

Using DNA to solve crimes. (n.d). Retrieved February 5, 2008, from             http://www.usdoj.gov/ag/dnapolicybook_solve_crimes.htm

Vlahos, J. (2008). Surveillance Society: New High-Tech Cameras Are Watching You.       Retrieved February 1, 2008, from    http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/military_law/4236865.html

National Institute of Justice. (1999). What every law enforcement officer should know about

DNA. NIJ. Retrieved             February 5, 2008, from http://www.ncjrs.gov/txtfiles1/nij/bc000614.txt

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