New Developments in Law Enforcement Technology

As the world’s tech companies develop amazing new technologies, law enforcement takes that technology and uses it to solve crime…

In general, that’s a good thing – except that new technology brings new privacy and constitutional concerns that will ultimately be litigated in the courts. What’s coming down the pipeline?

  • Facial recognition technology;
  • Advances in the use of DNA to solve crimes; and
  • Pervasive surveillance of citizens everywhere.

Are Police Using Facial Recognition Technology?

In China, law enforcement is already using sunglasses that have facial recognition technology built into them.

Because the glasses are linked to a database of photos of criminal suspects, Chinese police can wear the glasses at travel hubs like train stations – and have, apprehending at least seven suspects so far this year. According to the manufacturer, the glasses can “identify faces from a database of 10,000 in 100 milliseconds.”

Amazon is now marketing a new facial recognition service called Rekognition to law enforcement in the US. According to Amazon, the service can:

  • Process millions of photos each day;
  • Identify people and objects in images;
  • Inspect photos to identify objects or persons;
  • Identify as many as 100 people in one picture; and
  • It can be placed on billboards to collect data on motorists passing by.

It appears to be an effective tool for “surveillance of large crowds, like at protests, crowded department stores, or subway stations.”

US law enforcement is already using the service in some locations – for example, a sheriff’s department in Oregon has been using it to match booking photos to video from surveillance cameras, and they have developed a mobile app for officers to use on the street.

Advances in Use of DNA to Solve Crimes

New technologies to collect and analyze DNA evidence are constantly being developed, and new methodologies must be tested by independent defense experts when it is used in a criminal prosecution.

In recent news, police in California used a public DNA database to help identify the suspected Golden State Killer – they uploaded a DNA sample found at the crime scenes to the site, created a “family tree,” and found a possible suspect by narrowing the search using what they knew about the killer’s age and location and his other family member’s information that had been uploaded to the site.

When they narrowed their search down to a former police officer, Joseph DeAngelo, they were able to collect a DNA sample from him and match it to the DNA collected from the crime scenes.

Surveillance Everywhere – Big Brother is Watching

Facial recognition technology may be most useful when it is paired with surveillance cameras – this is already happening in China, and it is coming to the US. The Chinese government has already installed 170 million surveillance cameras, and many of them are integrated with facial recognition technology.

In England, there may be nearly 6 million CCTV cameras installed across the country, according to a 2016 report.

And, in the US, the number of security cameras are steadily increasing as well as the use of license plate readers nationwide. Private companies install the license plate readers, create a database of information on every driver that passes the camera’s location, and then sell the information to law enforcement and to private businesses for marketing purposes – these cameras are tracking your movements right now in SC cities like Myrtle Beach.

Fingerprint Drug Tests

Another new technology uses scanners with either lasers or chemicals, depending on the version of the method that is used, to test fingerprints for drug use. The scanners, which can detect marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and other drugs, is already in use in England.

Charleston, SC Criminal Defense Lawyer

Some of these developments will be challenged on constitutional grounds when they are used in criminal cases in South Carolina. Others will continue to be developed and used to solve crimes and prosecute defendants, and new technologies seem to pop up every year.

Grant B. Smaldone focuses on criminal defense in the Charleston, Georgetown, and Horry County areas of Eastern SC – if you have been charged with a crime, get help from an experienced defense attorney in Charleston, SC. Call now at (843) 808-2100 or send us a message to discuss your case.


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