As the “information age” continues to expand the range, depth, and communication of information and digital data, virtually every aspect of modern law enforcement has found value in applying investigative data analytics. Law enforcement, intelligence and security agencies, private companies, and other non-governmental organizations have varying authorities and requirements for their investigations and analytic requirements, with mission success depending on applying the most efficient and advanced technologies available.
Is Investigative Analytics Technology Necessary for Law Enforcement?
Like most fields, law enforcement has become far more complex, with criminals and criminal organizations leveraging the latest technologies to conduct their activities in faster, more efficient, and profitable ways to avoid detection. Today’s investigations can involve billions of investigation data points, resulting in overwhelming volumes of unstructured information that can be leveraged and have positive impact for case closings only if it is properly and rapidly organized, prioritized, analyzed, and disseminated.
The concept of law enforcement analytics is not new, and was previously conducted by investigators analyzing data manually, limited by the factors of time and staffing. As the available data became more robust and complex, the challenge of traditional analytic methods to sort, process, and analyze the massive quantities of information became overwhelming. With the increasing proliferation of open source and proprietary digital data, software solutions for gathering and analyzing the relevant data for investigative leads and insights became critically important.
Applications of law enforcement data analytics
The applications of cutting-edge law enforcement intelligence software are extensive:
- Automated translation and linguistic analysis
Digital communications have facilitated transnational crime to an enormous degree, as criminal enterprises can be coordinated, financed, and conducted remotely, anywhere in the world. The communications required to conduct these activities can often be in a range of different languages that are not familiar to the investigators. Fortunately, the most highly advanced analytical tools can identify, translate, and analyze information in more than 100 foreign languages.Additionally, these analytical tools can be used to analyze language use to identify specific slang, cultural references, hate speech, drug terminology, code words, and other linguistic traits that enable investigators to identify persons of interest and document evidence that would have escaped the notice of most researchers.
- Social media analysis
Online platforms provide some of the best data available to investigators. It has become so integral to modern life that it has become a central part of many criminal activities, either directly or indirectly. Many criminals use social media (either through the worldwide web, deep web, or dark web) to advertise their offerings, coordinate operations, or lure victims.
- Image sorting and scanning
One of the most useful applications of analytical technology is the use of image recognition. In the past, investigators asked witnesses to look through pictures to identify suspects. This could take hours or days, and the results were not always reliable. Now, an array of pertinent images can be identified and pulled from closed circuit cameras, and other publicly available sources using various tools. imaging tools can be used to match and analyze a wide range of other significant images, including signs, buildings, vehicles, and all manner of merchandise and personal items. These details have the potential to fill in information gaps that can be crucial in an investigation.
- Financial data analysis
It has become conventional wisdom in many areas of investigation to “follow the money.” However, this is not always easy, especially in the era of digital currency, international banking, shell corporations, and trade via the dark web. Fortunately, there are technologies that can make the process of financial data analysis much easier and more efficient, tracing thousands of transactions and identifying patterns and anomalies that could easily be missed by human eyes.
Analyzing Cost Versus Benefit
Some smaller law enforcement agencies do not require law enforcement intelligence software on a daily basis. However, any department, agency, or organizations that routinely conducts investigations will likely benefit from researching intelligence analysis tools to find the right resources for their operations. The savings in time and resources often far outweigh related costs, because these tools and capabilities work as force multipliers, allowing smaller investigation teams to accomplish what whole departments would have been needed to do in the past. The speed, automation, accuracy, and reliability of this type of technology can aid virtually any investigative organization to successfully close cases and prevent crime by countering criminal activities.