How Tech Is Solving Criminal Cases


Solving a criminal case is often challenging, and even the most skilled professionals may go months or years without getting a solid lead. However, technology can help solve these matters more efficiently. Here are five examples.


1.  Finding Previously Unidentified Patterns in Cold Cases


Big data involves looking for trends in massive amounts of information. An initiative called the Murder Accountability Project uses it to crack cold cases.


In one instance, people used an algorithmic tool to examine 60 cold cases involving women murdered over a 12-year period. They learned that several of the crimes shared hallmark factors that likely made them the same killer’s work. Getting a breakthrough like that could lead to huge payoffs for people who diligently spend time trying to understand perpetrators’ past and planned actions.


2. Catching Burglars With Specialized Liquid


Bank representatives usually deploy specialized ink packets that help law enforcement officials identify thieves. A United Kingdom-based security company called SmartWater does something similar with an invisible, ultraviolet light-detectable mist. Each version of the liquid contains a synthesized code that links stolen goods back to their owner.


The water-resistant mist also lasts for weeks on people or items and even stands up to harsh chemicals that someone might use after learning about their exposure to it, such as bleach. The idea is to use the mist to identify the burglar, then return stolen items to the victim. Some clients that use SmartWater tempt suspected thieves by applying the concoction to electronic products and leaving them out for the burglars to find, making it easier to catch them.


3. Performing Forensic Video Analysis


In today’s highly digitized world, many events are captured on film. Police officers wear body cameras, stores install surveillance videos, and transportation authorities use traffic-monitoring systems. Specially trained people use their expertise and tools to carry out forensic video analysis on recorded footage.


For example, professionals can examine the visual and audible streams of a body-mounted camera to determine a gunshot’s timing. Alternatively, they might look at collision footage to see what may have caused a vehicle crash. Such activities can provide valuable details that are brought up in court to clarify the circumstances surrounding a crime.


4. Enabling More Accurate Fingerprint Matches


Resources like fingerprint databases are not new in the crime-solving world. However, a relatively recent technological development made fingerprint information more reliable.

In a 1999 cold case involving an abducted and assaulted girl, investigators went through a nearly two-decade dry spell on leads, despite using all available resources.


However, improvements in biometric algorithms used to examine fingerprints finally brought progress. The tool can detect tiny variations in fingerprint friction ridges, and that improvement allowed law enforcement personnel to eventually catch the criminal.


5. Utilizing Cross-Age Facial Recognition Technology


Facial recognition is now so common that many smartphones feature the technology. Criminal investigators use cross-age facial recognition to gauge how a person’s appearance may change with age. That makes it possible to solve cases concerning missing or kidnapped children, for example. Algorithms can help teams understand which parts of a person’s features are most likely to change or stay more consistent, allowing them to more accurately recreate how they might look now.


One project used in China features an algorithm to make that type of facial recognition even more accurate. It distributed data about 3,978 missing kids, and 3,901 of those individuals were later found. One example involved a kidnapped boy reunited with his family 19 years after the crime.


Promising Developments in Tech’s Crime-Fighting Capabilities


People often praise the technology for how it makes life more enjoyable or helps them get more done. Those are valid benefits, but the examples on this list show why there are plenty of reasons to get excited about applying technology to solve criminal cases.


Many of the dramatic storylines on fictional TV crime shows are now more likely to happen in real life, thanks to technology. Being the victim of a crime can cause tremendous distress, but tech could help the people working toward resolutions make faster, more reliable progress.





Devin Partida is a technology writer and blogger, as well as the Editor-in-Chief for You can also find her work on Robotics Tomorrow, IoT Times, and Techopedia.