How mobile analytics help law enforcement fight crime

By Rose de Fremery

Two FBI agents conducting an investigation using mobile analytics on a tablet


Many organizations today rely on mobility as a core technology, and that now includes law enforcement. In fact, mobile analytics play a much bigger role in police departments than people might expect.

Here’s why mobile devices have become such a critical factor in today’s efforts to fight crime and how they help law enforcement officers around the country fight crime and keep communities safe.

Fighting crime with mobile analytics

As enterprises and government agencies know well, digital analytics can empower an organization to better understand its own operations and continually optimize decision-making. Law enforcement agencies are harnessing the power of mobile data insights to better ascertain the criminal landscape they are charged with policing so they can refine their strategies to boost outcomes.

Police officers can now use mobile analytics to map individual threats or access historical or real-time situational awareness information, ascertaining at a glance how best they should proceed. Mobile facial recognition software also allows officers to identify a potential suspect, returning a positive match if that person’s face is found in a law enforcement database.

Some police organizations, as well as the FBI, are leveraging mobile technology in the transition to predictive policing, aiming to identify potential crimes before they occur. Using this model, police departments gather a large array of data sources such as crime reports, calls for service, 311 calls, and both traffic and weather patterns to identify hot spots and forecast criminal activity. They then proactively deploy police officers to potential crime scenes and equip them with mobile insights to help them determine whether or not unlawful activity is about to take place.

With the help of these new technologies, law enforcement organizations hope to prevent crime and improve public safety.

Mobile data insights for better community relations

Effective law enforcement depends on a strong, collaborative relationship with the community. Here, too, mobile analytics provide benefits. As TechCrunch reports, some police departments are using mobile solutions to become more responsive to the communities they serve, even conducting mobile polls on public approval of the police department in some cases.

This type of real-time information sharing and exchange between law enforcement and the public can enhance police effectiveness, providing law enforcement officials with the insights they need to fight crime more effectively. In this way, law enforcement is aiming to improve the customer experience, not unlike a modern enterprise would.

Such platforms can also be leveraged to automatically provide automated mobile notifications to victims including contact information, detective details and the status of their case — a worthy endeavor that would have been prohibitively challenging to accomplish using the manual resources of the police department team.

By providing proactive mobile notifications to victims, police departments can reduce their incoming call volume, allowing them to focus their resources more effectively. In the process, they can receive instant mobile feedback on how the department and its officers are performing, identifying trends that can help them further improve their operations.

Analyzing mobile devices in the field

Police departments and the FBI have also been using mobile technology — controversially in some cases — to track and monitor the communications of mobile devices in localized public spaces. Stingrays — also known as cell-site simulators or IMSI catchers — are capable of intercepting mobile devices’ cellular communications, accessing their data and tracking them as they move from location to location.

As Wired reports, a stingray accomplishes this task by masquerading as a legitimate cell phone tower, forcing nearby cell phones to register with it instead of the nearest cell phone tower. Police can use stingrays’ mobile analytics to determine which mobile devices are in a given area to track and find specific criminals.

Although stingrays provide a clear benefit to law enforcement — giving police departments visibility into suspects’ mobile communications and physical locations in a way that would have been unthinkable a short while ago — privacy advocates have raised the specter of stingray technology giving rise to Orwellian-style mass surveillance. Little is known about how widespread stingray use is across the country since police departments typically refrain from disclosing their investigative methods for fear of tipping their hand to criminals.

That being said, as bad actors increasingly use mobile technology to plan and carry out their crimes, it’s likely that law enforcement will continue using stingrays and other data analytics capabilities to uncover such activity before it poses a threat to the public.

Although fighting crime is always a tough challenge, mobile data insights can make the difference in solving a case or catching a criminal. Whether identifying or anticipating crimes in the community, soliciting feedback on police department performance or spotting criminals in the field, mobile technology is becoming ever more central to modern law enforcement operations. Equipped with the right mobile analytics at the right time, police departments are poised to become more effective in their mission than ever before.

Written By

Rose de Fremery


Rose de Fremery is a New York-based writer. She currently covers business IT topics such as technology innovation, mobile strategy, unified communications, CRM and marketing automation, IT management, and the virtual workforce for HP, Intel, Vonage, and IBM Mobile Business Insights.…

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