Solving Crimes: Past vs. Present

The process of solving a crime is not always an easy task (and typically doesn’t neatly wrap up at the end of the prime-time hour).  As with many aspects of life, new technologies have positively and dramatically changed the investigation and crime solving process to make the cutting-edge technologies seen in dramas closer to being a reality.  We’re going to look at three different crimes and what technologies were used to solve them in the past and present.

Crime: Shoplifting

Past: Shoplifting is extremely common with approximately 27 million shoplifters in our nation today.  Shoplifters report that they are caught one out 48 times they steal and are turned over to the police 50 percent of the time.  Due to this epidemic, companies are losing money and have taken steps to stop shoplifters. Over the decades, technology has been developed in an effort to deter theft and aid in loss prevention.  The 1970’s introduced Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) as a form of surveillance video as one strategy to help with loss prevention.  The recording could be used to identify shoplifters and then in a subsequent criminal case.  Electronic article surveillance (EAS) tags are another deterrent that stores placed on merchandise.  The tag is disarmed during checkout, but if the merchandise is being stolen it would trigger an alarm at the exit of the store.

Why these methods weren’t super effective – video required a ridiculous number of man hours to review and often details were missed.  Think of it like finding a needle in the haystack (research has been done on how much is actually missed in video review).

Present: While both technologies are still being utilized in loss prevention today, there have been significant enhancements to video, allowing for a more accurate and faster lead.  BriefCam technology elevates the surveillance video process by having search capabilities.  If the store is aware of missing items from a certain section, then a rapid search can be performed.  The search can focus on specific areas such as select activity in a particular area like a spot on a shelf or follow a suspect around the store. Now, hours of searching through a video can be reduced to minutes.

Crime: Motor Vehicle Theft

Past: Motor vehicle theft has been a major problem dating as far back as 1919, when motor vehicles gained popularity.  The epidemic resulted in The Dyer Act, or the National Motor Vehicle Theft Act, which made interstate transportation of stolen vehicles a federal crime.  Federal crime or not, motor vehicle theft continued to grow, with a peak in 1991 at 1.7 million reported thefts.  A reason motor vehicle theft was so abundant was the ability to use a screwdriver in the ignition to hotwire and start the vehicle.  Tracking a stolen vehicle required many hours of actively searching and remembering which cars were reported stolen.  Recoveries mainly happened when a car was stopped or impounded for other reasons and after manually running the plates were discovered.

Present: Today there are two technologies that have helped in reducing and solving motor vehicle thefts: keyless vehicles and license plate readers (LPR). Keyless ignitions have eliminated the opportunity to hotwire cars, and as a result, new models are more difficult to steal.  Vigilant Solutions‘ LPR technology and the corresponding database aid law enforcement in motor vehicle thefts.  A stolen vehicle gets added to the hotlist on the database.  If the plate is detected on a reader, then the police receive a notification and can determine the location of the vehicle.

Crime: Bomb Threat

Past: A bomb threat is a time critical crime, and police have to investigate the threat thoroughly to ensure there is no harm to the public.  When a bomb threat is reported, there is an investigation to determine the integrity of the threat.  The bomb squad is dispatched to investigate and remediate if the threat is valid. Previously, there has not been a tool to combine information and give detailed support and alerts in real-time.  Immediate response was impossible because situation evaluation is a time-consuming process when comparing information across desperate systems.

Present: Law enforcement has to respond in a timely and organized manner because of the threat of immediate danger.  The details of the threat can be very vague; therefore, pertinent information can be missing that would help in resolving the threat without incident.  A useful technology is Live Earth, a real-time platform that connects multiple systems into one interactive map.  HERE Floor Plans, a mapping platform to manage indoor assets, is a connector that is beneficial in a bomb threat investigation.  If evacuation of a location is required, the floor plans give insight into the safest areas to do so.  It can also help locate the where the device is and the best path to get to it.  Another connector is Milestone’s XProtect.  Milestone offers access to live and recorded video.  The video can be used retroactively to investigate the suspect to see if the placement of the device, as well as to manage the on-going investigation without having to be at the location.  This technology provides law enforcement real-time alerts and insights to investigate the threat and keep the public safe. 

The technology used in the crime-solving process has greatly benefitted with the evolution and development of technology.  The cutting-edge technologies used today have positively impacted the investigation and crime-solving process by having the ability to develop insights and hot leads in minutes instead of hours. If you’re interested in the technologies, find more information here.