Page 44 - Security Today, September/October 2021
P. 44

The Science of Sherlock How modern-day crime solvers are putting technology to the task
By David Petrook
Sherlock Holmes is known the world over for his amazing use of, induction, deduction, forensic science, elementary observation, and logic to successfully investigate and crack crime cases. Although a fictional character born out of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s imagination, Holmes has inspired generations of intellectuals to think analytically and scientifically, and his crime-solving methods adopted by police forces around the world, and with good reason.
The many complexities of modern-day criminal investigations, mounting case volumes, and vast troves of data have given rise to the next generation of crime analysts. With the proper tools, modern-day Baker Street detectives are making great strides in both preventing crimes and solving more cases and doing it all much more quickly.
The huge amounts of data available from video surveillance, body-worn devices, traffic cameras and other IoT devices means there is more real time and historical evidence for police to work with than ever before. Despite this, clearance rates, or the percentage of crimes that are resolved (but don’t necessarily result in a conviction) haven’t changed.
In fact, over the last few decades, where focus has turned to prevention, clearance rates for homicide cases in the United States have remained fairly constant at about 64%. Even for fictional hero-detective Sherlock Holmes, it would be difficult to process the vast amounts of information to understand which pieces really matter. Tried-and-true policing techniques supported by modern-day technologies have shown dramatic improvements in cities around the world.
Chicago for instance, has made enormous strides using the latest technology to help improve safety and responsiveness in some of the cities’ most at risk neighborhood, decreasing violent crime by 24% and shootings by 70%. In this article, we go behind
the scenes to see how the modern-day Sherlock Holmes is using technology to help solve cases, catch criminals and enhance the safety of our streets.
Crime analysts are proving to be an indispensable asset in improving and accelerating police work and are earning their place as valued consultants to many city departments large and small. The role of crime analysts is to identify trends and make recommendations based on their observations. Balancing more reactive, day-to-day crime solving with analysis, and re-opening old, cold cases to apply new data analysis techniques, they have changed the face of criminal investigation.
While they are surely employing Sherlock-like techniques, the volume of qualitative and quantitative data available to analysts, combined with modern technology to speed up analysis, changes the game. It not only allows them to help solve cases faster and catch criminals more quickly, but also apply modelling to identify patterns and abnormalities to support pro-active policing activities. Using modern technology tools, crime analysts can now also identify and analyze both short-term and long-term trends and patterns to help police and others target problems and create long-term solutions, and ultimately keep our communities and cities safer.
Traditional crime analysts are tasked with several functions. The first is detective work to find possible links in a crime. Based on any leads they have, they try to pinpoint any suspects’ device readouts, analyze network connections and multiple databases to follow paths and look for any relevant clues that may shed more light on the case. If, for instance, a blue SUV with local plates is involved in a crime, and they know that other arrests were made recently involving a similar car, they can dig deeper to see what links, if any, there may be between them.

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