Advanced Analytics: Police Tools Combating Crime

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When we think of applying tech solutions for crime, the first thing that would spring to mind would be cyber crimes. But advanced analytics and machine learning are now employed as tools by police to identify crimes and criminals.

When we think of applying tech solutions for crime, the first thing that would spring to mind would be cyber crimes. But advanced analytics and machine learning are now employed as tools by police to identify crimes and criminals.

Different tools are used for locating a scene of the crime and identifying the people involving the crime. Some use specific forms of analysis and other incorporate biometrics. To focus on just three, we’ll look at how they correspond to the ear, eye, and hand.

Working Off Sound Advanced Analytics

ShotSpotter is the leader for the niche market of gunshot detection systems, not just in the US but around the world, as reported by Research and Markets. It does have some competition, with the likes of Raytheon Company, Shooter Detection System LLC, Thales Group, and Safety Dynamics, Inc., among the companies entering into this expanding market.

New York City was one of the first American cities to test out ShotSpotter in a pilot program rolled out on March 16, 2015. New York City’s press office explained how the technology would aid police:

The ShotSpotter system triangulates the location of a gunshot to within 25 meters of where the shot was fired. The system then forwards a notification to an incident review center where a trained operator reviews the audio file to determine if the sound was that of a gunshot or some other similar-sounding audio incident (e.g. fireworks, engine backfiring, etc.). Once the incident is determined to be a gunshot, an alert is sent to the NYPD via the Domain Awareness System (DAS). This alert includes relevant information such as number of shots fired, location of the gunshot (including map access), if the shooter was moving at the time of the incident (such as in a vehicle), and the direction of the shooter’s movement. Upon receipt of such an alert, the NYPD can dispatch units to the location of the shooting.

Equipped with that information, the police would be able to get to the site of the shooting without delay. A faster response could potentially save the life of victims and also increases the odds for catching the shooter if only by finding witnesses to the crime. The alerts also make police aware of shots that would never get reported otherwise.

That’s part of the case that ShotSpotter makes for its product: that less than 20% of shootings are called in on 911. That’s pretty close to what New York City found in its pilot program.


ShotSpotter revealed that between 75 and 80 percent of shots were never called in. May de Blasio considered the pilot program a success and announced the expansion of the program in 2016.

Other major American cities have followed suit in implementing ShotSpotter. It also has been adapted to campus safety. However, some cities have given up on it, considering the potential for increased safety not worth the cost when it doesn’t translate into significantly more arrests.

The Eyes Have It

Biometric identifiers are used by the FBI and police to be certain of an individual’s identity, and iris scans are now being widely adopted for that purpose. “The global iris recognition market is expected to grow at a CAGR of around 18% during 2019-2024,” according to Research and Markets.

It explains how it works for apprehending criminals:

The process utilizes visible and near-infrared light to capture a high-contrast image of the iris. The technology combines computer vision, pattern recognition, statistical inference and optics. This form of biometric system helps law enforcement officers to compare iris images of a suspect with an existing database.

A number of companies contribute to the iris scan market, including BioEnable, Iris ID, IrisGuard, IriTech, EyeLock, HID Global (formerly Crossmatch), and MetaDolce Technologies.

MetaDolce makes the IRIS™ Inmate Identification & Recognition System. It’s used to avert a mistake in sending out the wrong inmate or mistaking another person for an inmate by not just scanning their irises but those of visitors. That is particularly important when releasing prisoners or transferring them from one location to another.

MetaDolce also makes the MORIS™ Multi-Biometric Identification System, “a portable handheld device and identification database system that can scan, recognize and identify individuals based on iris, facial and fingerprint recognition.” As it can be carried around, law enforcement officials can use it on the go to make a positive identification and not wait until they get someone into the station.

What Your Fingerprints May Say About You

We’re all familiar with the use of fingerprints to identify people at crime scenes. But as a biometric, it can do a lot more, even detect drugs.

A research team from the University of Surrey has found a way to analyze the presence of cocaine from fingerprints alone. It works even on hands that have been washed after one has used drugs.

As the report on it says: “When someone has taken cocaine, they excrete traces of benzoylecgonine and methylecgonine as they metabolise the drug, and these chemical indicators are present in fingerprint residue.”

As Dr. Melanie Bailey, one of researchers on the project noted, "It is non-invasive, hygienic and can’t be faked — by the nature of the test, the identity of the subject, and their drug use, is all captured within the sample itself.”

It also poses no hazard to the one taking a sample for a drug test, which is a huge advantage when compared to having to handle and dispose of bodily fluids that are usually used for such tests.

This fingerprint solution was expanded to other drugs and brought to market in the United States strictly for forensic purposes by Intelligent Fingerprinting. It works with a portable device called the DSR-Plus that analyzes the cartridge containing the fingerprint. It offers results in just 10 minutes. The company is now working on adapting its technology for instant reads on COVID-19.


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Ariella Brown
Ariella Brown

Ariella Brown has written about technology and marketing, covering everything from analytics to virtual reality since 2010. Before that she earned a PhD in English, taught college level writing and launched and published a magazine in both print and digital format.Now she is a full-time writer, editor, and marketing consultant.Links to her blogs, favorite quotes, and photos can be found here at Write Way Pro. Her portfolio is at