Forensic Intelligence and Crime Analysis
The evolution of policing strategies and new technologies has dramatically increased the role of intelligence in law enforcement agencies. Despite difficulties implementing former community-based and problem-oriented philosophies beyond specific experiments, it is now generally recognized that intelligence has an important role to play in both the diagnosis of insecurity problems and the design of targeted, preventative actions.
The strategic allocation of resources to the most significant problems and the measure of police performances provide additional managerial motivation for enhanced intelligence-based approaches to policing.
The increased role of intelligence has been augmented through the creation of crime analysis units within police organizations and law enforcement agencies.
However, the implementation of these new structures has occasionally encountered resistance. It is not always clear why the police should expand their role when there is often a lack of resources to carry out their traditional job.
Ideologically, the new strategies can be perceived as reducing the importance of single investigations and consequently changing the role of the investigator.
Moreover, it opens the door of the confined police community to civilian employees.
Intelligence-led policing tempts forensic science to operate in a new context, within which it is yet to find its place.
Computerized databases have been developed in forensic science to provide intelligence for the investigator. For example, automated fingerprint identification systems (AFIS) and DNA databases efficiently help identify potential suspects or, particularly for DNA, link crime scenes. Other evidence such as various marks transferred during the offense, items left by the offender (such as clothing or accessories), or information captured through devices such as surveillance cameras could also be exploited systematically to provide similar intelligence.
However, if such systems exist under the form of operational databases,
they commonly struggle to overcome computational complexities pertaining to the retrieval and comparison of traces from large quantities of data.
Thus, the use of forensic case data combined with the temporal and geographical dimensions of the crime is often felt as a necessary development, but the circumstances in which the visualization of traces on maps can help to provide accurate and useful analyses remain to be identified.
A limited study will illustrate the potential of forensic case data to provide intelligence through inferences which vary from the traditional model initiated by DNA and AFIS databases. Specifically, it shows that the occurrence of certain characteristics of shoemarks, toolmarks and/or glovemarks can be concentrated in geographical areas and/or during delineated periods of time. These clusters can then be scrutinized to help reveal a series of potentially linked crimes. The experiment confirms that this two-step process, which does not require the implementation of complex computer systems, can be systematically applied as a crime analysis method and as an investigative tool.
As a result of this background, crime analysis has attracted researchers from different academic communities such as Geography, Psychology, Sociology, Jurisprudence, Criminology, Security, Intelligence. etc.
Their work has provided the analysis structure with an impressive set of models,
methods, and computerized tools. Moreover, thoughts about the relationships between criminal intelligence analysis and specific bodies of scientific knowledge are now appearing in the literature, for example in the discipline of psychological profiling.
Forensic scientists have also participated in the debate, mainly through the development of databases, but also through crime reduction projects and research programs that encourage increased utilization and awareness of forensic science among all the contributors of the criminal justice system.
This change of attitude has led to more funding, a remarkable technological expansion, and specific successes in crime-solving. For instance, innovative uses of databases provide new forms of intelligence that were previously unimaginable or simply precluded by legal rules. However, whereas recent progress allows forensic intelligence to assist better the police in specific criminal cases, there is still a lack of understanding of how to go beyond traditional identification, such as is possible through DNA.
Other forensic science research suggests the systematic use of traces combined with geographical information in order to provide Crime Scene linking.
These approaches help to narrow the gap between forensic science and crime analysis.
By definition, forensic science already plays an intermediary role between specialized fields of science and law enforcement. In the definition, forensic intelligence is the accurate, timely and useful product of logically processing forensic case data.
By Dr. Tomori Mareglen
Criminologist & Crime Analyst
Expert in Forensics Sciences,
Investigative Criminology & Intelligence
International Police Organization IPO