Fighting crime through technical measures

In the contemporary global community, crimes have become abruptly and blatantly prevalent in such a way that one could boldly argue that they are rapidly becoming synonymous with modern society otherwise known as the “digital age”.

As such unwarranted and barbaric activities unabatedly prevail, it has clearly become imperative for the concerned authorities in each affected area to think within with a view to initiating new and innovative mechanisms to combat them.

Mobile technology, such as tracking devices, also known as “trackers”, which has become a powerful tool in the fight against crime, has had a significant impact in most countries around the world in recent years.

A tracker is specially programmed equipment intended to trace the actual location of a person or thing. However, it should be noted that devices such as mobile phones, computers, cameras, etc. can also work as a tracker if used properly.

Cell phones, especially smartphones, contain built-in mechanisms, including Global Positioning System (GPS), among other location information that various law enforcement agencies find useful. Information such as voice call history, text/multimedia messages, phone book contacts, web browser history, and emails can immensely help investigators to gather people’s goals and the occasions on which they attended, thus providing the direction required.

Tracking people via their mobile devices has been adopted by several agencies in most countries and has become an integral part of most surveys as virtually all adults now own a mobile phone. Cell phone records can identify calls made and received.

Cell towers that have been used in conversation, data communication, as well as short message service (SMS), can also be obtained. Cell phone records contain latitude and longitude information that can be used as a historical reference to identify where the mobile device was at a given time.

Likewise, citizens are advised to regularly send digital photos and videos of the crimes in their custody to the appropriate neighborhoods. The new technology allows the images sent to be directly linked to the recording of a related call and transmitted to emergency responders en route to the scene of the crime.

A good example of such technology is CrimePush, a cross-platform smartphone application that allows users to report crimes efficiently and easily. It also gives users the ability to forward multiple GPS tagged distress messages to designated emergency contacts/districts.

High profile criminal incidents around the world have proven beyond doubt how valuable cell phone images can be in criminal investigations. The bombings in the United Kingdom (UK), specifically in London, in July 2005 marked a turning point in news coverage and the role of mobile phone images.

Witnesses to the attacks used their cellphone cameras to record their experiences afterwards. Not only did this mark a new era of citizen journalism, but London police were able to use the submitted photos as clues to track down the terrorists who orchestrated the attacks.

SMS is more discreet and safer in certain circumstances to include burglaries and kidnappings. Several police departments in various countries have texting programs that allow people to send anonymous messages from their cell phones.

In order to provide people with a confidential means of communication, text messages are sent to a separate third-party server where identifying information is stripped and associated with an encrypted alias to ensure caller anonymity.

The various security agencies in Nigeria, especially the police, are bound to make full use of the use of various tracking devices in matters relating to crimes. The technology is developed and deployed by several criminals to perpetrate crimes, with the aim of leaving little or no digital footprint. This ranges from the sale of illicit goods on the Internet to mass identity theft and credit card fraud.