The different advances that consumers can take for granted with technology can also be a
great boon for the criminal justice system. This technology can help to improve the capabilities
of specialized databases that are used by law enforcement in dealing with crime. There are a
number of specialized databases that are used, such as AFIS, Live Scan, and Facial Recognition
with which improvements help to increase the effectiveness of law enforcement employees.
While there can be some drawbacks to these advances in new technology, overall it provides a
very positive opportunity for law enforcement to be able to deal with the evolving world that
exists today with cybercrimes, terrorist threats, and criminals that are becoming more
technologically savvy when committing crimes.
AFIS is a database of fingerprints that are able to be compared to new fingerprints as
accessed at a crime scene and be matched to an offender if they are in the database for being
fingerprinted previously. According to Nickell and Fischer (1999), “In one case, a serial killer
who had terrorized Los Angeles with fifteen murders was identified in about twenty minutes
after AFIS was brought into service; it was estimated that manual searching would have required
a technician … sixty-seven years” (p. 124). This technology is invaluable for saving time, such
as with this example, but also makes it possible for different law enforcement departments to see
if an offender’s fingerprint might have been found elsewhere in the country or if crimes had been
completed by the same individual.
Another fingerprint technology that is similar to AFIS is Live Scan. According to Lee
and Gaensslen (2001), “The live-scan fingerprint is a collective term for a fingerprint image
obtained directly from the finger without the intermediate step of getting an impression on
paper” (p. 286). This is a little different from AFIS in that it is using an actual finger to gain the
print off of, but it can be used in conjunction with AFIS for identifying offenders. This
technology could go beyond just being used to compile offender information, but could serve
other important public service features, such as identifying missing adults or young children that
are unable to let law enforcement know whom they are and where they belong.
Facial recognition is similar to both Live Scan and AFIS, but rather than using a
fingerprint that is hard to see in general, it uses a person’s face. One such system is in use in
California called the Imagis system offers “biometric facial recognition, and image and database
management, giving officers invaluable investigative tools in their law enforcement and
surveillance work” (Li and Jain, 2005, p. 380). This software is even used with the composite
sketches that can be made from eyewitness statements to narrow down potential suspects (Li and
Jain, 2005). This can be a valuable tool in that it can be used to located offenders, even victims,
such as those that are kidnapped.
The positive effect that new technologies have on communication is that it offers even
more ways to get information to a great deal of people in a shorter amount of time. In the past,
law enforcement was hampered by the fact that they were not able to quickly communicate with
other departments about crimes and criminals that occurred in their area. This meant that
criminals that changed location would not have been as easy to determine it was the same
criminal that committed similar crimes in a new area. Sharing information easily has made it
possible to identify these types of crimes and see patterns that might not have been apparent in
the past. The technologies make it easier and quicker than ever share information, even across
state lines or coast to coast.
The negative effect that new technologies have on communication is that it may be
something that is more heavily relied upon rather than using other methods of communication.
Some details may not be apparent from a database or data compilation, but may come to light if
the different departments actually have verbal or written conversations about the issue. This is
already becoming an issue for people addicted to new technology in that they are losing their
proper interpersonal communication skills as they have adapted to texting, IM’ing, and emails.
Another additional negative effect is that some of these technologies may be used in an immoral
way where the privacy of regular citizens are violated, or mistakes may be made, such as facial
recognition making a match with someone that is not the intended target as technology is only as
good as its human creators.
I think that I would want to be able to have access to all the specialized technologies that
are available for law enforcement’s use. AFIS can be useful in situations where fingerprints are
found at a crime scene that may help to link the criminal to other crimes or this crime to a
particular criminal. Live Scan can help to identify a person, and this could even be helpful in
non-crime situations, such as finding an elderly person with Alzheimer’s on the street that cannot
give identification. Facial recognition could be helpful in identifying missing people, wanted
criminals, and even terrorists. I believe that it is hard to determine between these types of
specialized technologies because they can work so well together and provides a full range of
tools for law enforcement to use. Criminals and terrorists do not have the same restrictions on
behavior in place as the criminal justice system sets for law enforcement. In order to combat
those without restrictions, all the tools possible should be put into use to protect society. I think
of it as a carpenter would not try to do their whole job with just a hammer, but needs saws and
other tools to get the job done. The same should be considered for these types of special
technologies.
In conclusion, technology is ever-changing for consumers, but these changes have also
helped to advance the specialized database tools that law enforcement uses to uphold the
criminal justice system. Some examples of these databases include AFIS, Live Scan and Facial
Recognition. When weighing the positives of these advances in communication against the
negatives, it does appear that law enforcement needs all the tools available to help keep the
population safe.
References
Lee, H. C., & Gaensslen, R. E. (2001). Advances in fingerprint technology. Boca Raton: CRC
Press.
Li, S. Z., & Jain, A. K. (2005). Handbook of face recognition. New York: Springer.
Nickell, J., & Fischer, J. F. (1999). Crime science: methods of forensic detection. Lexington:
University Press of Kentucky.
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The different advances that consumers can take for granted with