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Licensed Investigators | Collections & Investigations

Using Real-Time Data to Investigate Crime


In today’s world of technological breakthroughs, the way crimes are investigated and responded to has changed. Over the past decade, advances in analytical capabilities have made it possible for law enforcement to track geographic and social dimensions to indicate where crimes are likely to happen.

Real-time data to investigate crime is used by law enforcement for a number of reasons. For example, certain patterns of crime can be detected and appropriate measures can be taken to prevent future crimes and inform how certain crimes are responded to. If a vehicle is reported stolen or involved in a crime, the vehicle can be tracked using license plate readers.

Real-time crime center for Law Enforcement

In 2010, the first real-time crime center was opened in New York City. This platform was initially conceived as an analytical tool. However, these centers have now evolved into real-time situational awareness platforms that help law enforcement officials respond in real-time.

When investigating crimes, time is critical. When law enforcement has not only analytical information but also real-time information such as access to security camera footage. For example, the time that is taken to solve a crime is diminished dramatically because the investigators often have all the information they need before they even leave the building.

How real-time data helps law enforcement solve murders

In the past, detectives charged with solving a crime would spend hours and days pouring over archival documents looking for clues. Time is critical when solving murders and the “colder” a case gets, the harder it is to solve.

Today, thanks to big data analytics, detectives are able to process huge amounts of data faster than any human could. They can also spot trends that may have otherwise been overlooked. These analytics can look at things such as genealogy data, parole dates, and telephone call records. Details of any one of these things or a combination of them can help investigators solve crimes quicker than ever before.

What information is available?

Tools such as networked cameras, automated license plate readers, and gunshot detection have been used in several cities to help investigators track vehicles or pinpoint where a gunshot has been fired. Technology like this can be a powerful tool for law enforcement as all the data is centrally located and readily accessible.

Facial recognition can be used in combination with surveillance data. By using photos or videos of a victim or a criminal, investigators can identify these people more quickly and efficiently and see if they have a criminal record.

When time is of the essence, such as in an abduction case, many of these various points of data can be consolidated and analyzed. This will help police officers locate the child and apprehend the abductor quickly. The Washington State Attorney General’s Office conducted a study of abduction cases from 1968 to 2002. They found that in 76% of the murders of an abducted child, the child was murdered within 3 hours of the abduction. And in 89% of cases, the child had died within 24 hours of disappearing.

Criminals are finding it harder and harder to commit crimes thanks to real-time data. It’s almost impossible these days for anyone to fly under the radar so to speak. Almost every person now leaves a trail of data that will follow them to the grave. Using this data can help investigators not only track down criminals and crime investigation but it can also predict where crime might happen and prevent it. Using real-time data to investigate crime is only going to get better as technology improves.

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