New technology and policing
The Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force (RSVGPF) can attest to the utility of new technology in solving crime. In recent months, police officers have been greatly assisted by modern digital technology in their investigations, resulting in cases being solved more quickly than would ordinarily be the case.
We rely on the police to keep us safe, to protect us from violence, and to safeguard our property. Technology can help them to do all this more efficiently.
Smartphones and tablets, with their video cameras and tracking apps and closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras on commercial buildings and private homes have been capturing large amounts of data which the police have been using in their investigations into serious crimes.
But despite the relative success the police have been having, there is still a gap between what is technologically possible and what is currently achieved.
Effective policing needs customized software and hardware, versus what is available off the shelf or pre-installed on the smartphones available to our police officers. Effective policing also calls for a larger group of investigators specially trained in the use of the specialized technology, including techniques for gathering and mining data for the prevention and solving of crime.
Policing has become increasingly reactive rather than proactive, with less focus on intelligence gathering and more on responding to crimes after they have occurred. Data gathering and analysis should help in this regard.
But as with everything else, implementation of an ideal policing information technology system will be tempered by budgetary constraints. The Government says it intends to install cameras in high traffic public areas and members of the public are being given incentives to install high quality cameras on their buildings to augment the government’s efforts.
Technology is not the panacea to all our crime related ills however. As technology advances, we will have to accept a reduction in privacy in exchange for greater security.
Studies also show that cameras have limited effect on violence and aggression as experienced offenders know that if they wear a hood, CCTV footage is much less useful to investigators.
Interestingly, and unfortunately, while the rates at which police have been able to solve other types of crimes has been increasing with the use of technology, the same increase has not applied to homicides.
This, researchers say, is because the nature of homicide has changed over the years. They say the growing number of gang and gun-related murders have made it far more difficult for police to solve homicides, particularly because of the constant problem of reluctant witnesses, who either distrust the police or fear for their lives if they co-operate.
So, although technology is the way to go, it is only one component, albeit an important component, of a comprehensive, overall police strategy to combat crime.