Computers, labs winning the battle against crime [Part 2 of a series]
In Part 2 of a week-long series, “Technology and Policing,” we take a look at how advances in forensic science and phone apps have assisted New Jersey police departments with crime-solving.
“CSI,” a popular crime drama television show on CBS, follows a group of forensic science technicians that use physical evidence, like DNA, footprints, blood stains and fingerprints, to solve homicide cases. Across New Jersey, law enforcement agencies are relying on forensic science to do the same.
Al Della Fave, a spokesman with the Ocean County’s Prosecutor’s Office, said forensic science has aided law enforcement tremendously with helping them develop some solid cases where individuals are now pleading guilty, due to the overwhelming amount of physical evidence against them, instead of choosing to “roll the dice” and go to trial.
When the crime scene evidence proves overwhelming, according to Della Fave, law enforcement refers to it as “checkmating” because there’s nothing else the defendant can do, but plead out.
But forensic evidence can also work in favor of someone that is being fingered for a crime they didn’t commit.
“It’s just as important to show that it’s the person, as it is to show that it’s not the person,” said Nicholas Irons, a criminal justice professor at County College of Morris.
In New Jersey, many local law enforcement agencies get help with their forensic science needs from the state police.
The Office of Forensic Sciences is a section within the New Jersey State Police Investigation Branch that runs four regional crime laboratories and one DNA laboratory. The labs are used to analyze body fluids, skeletal identification, drugs and arson. All of the labs are internationally accredited by The American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors-Lab Accreditation Board.
In addition to forensic science, some local police departments are relying on phone apps to aid in the battle against crime.
In Ocean County, a new app called MyPD connects citizens to a two-way channel of communication with law enforcement. People can get alerts from police about threats or other important matters, and they can send police important tips and information as well.
“The app for us is really a minimum cost of less than a thousand dollars to participate. It’s paid for with drug forfeiture funds, so it’s not coming out of the taxpayer’s pocket, and it just makes us more accessible to the public we serve,” Della Fave said.
Police departments are also looking to advances in technology in the air to help them keep the streets safe. Camden County officials used a blimp with a tethered camera to keep an eye on crowds during an event in August. In California, police departments are working on using drones to watch over things.