The Great Heists: 6 of History’s Most Astonishing Robberies

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Bank heists and other large scale robberies have been occurring pretty much since the advent of money. History has documented innumerable big-money heists, where brazen thieves have selfishly disregarded the personal safety of innocent workers and bystanders for the chance at a big score.

Here are some of history’s most grand heists.

Securitas Depot Robbery (Great Britain)

As the largest cash robbery in the history of the United Kingdom, this 2006 heist occurred at a high-security cash storage depot in Kent, England. In order to minimize the chance of apprehension and getting themselves hurt, many thieves carry out their large scale cash heists in a non-violent manner during non-business hours. But not this heist.

During this robbery, the heavily armed perpetrators forcibly kidnapped the cash depot’s branch manager and his family, and bound 14 employees. Once inside the facility, they forced the manager to open up the secured cages where the cash was stored.

The amount of cash stolen was a whopping £53.1 million ($68 million). Most of the gang has been apprehended and sent to prison, but at least one of the crew remains at large spending his loot.

The Robbery of Banco Central (Brazil)

This mammoth heist began when the robbers rented a home in the city of Fortaleza, Brazil. Posing as a small company making artificial turf, the crew spent three months digging an enormous subterranean tunnel, which was the length of approximately two city blocks (656 feet).

The tunnel’s terminus? Underneath the bank’s vault.

Over a hot summer weekend in 2005, the bandits broke through the reinforced concrete into the vault, where they removed the equivalent of $65 million. Law enforcement believes that this heist was the biggest in the history of Brazil.

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Dunbar Armored Robbery (Los Angeles)

This $18.9 million armored truck heist was the largest robbery to have ever occurred in the United States. The robbery occurred in 1997, and was an inside job orchestrated by a former Dunbar employee. The perpetrator recruited five of his friends to pull off the robbery, which involved a Friday night raid of a Dunbar cash depot. In order to establish alibis, the men gathered at a house party prior to heading off for the heist.

Once they were at the cash storage facility, the men subdued the guards, and managed their way inside to where the cash was stored. The thieves busted into the vault area and broke the locks of the cages containing the cash.

The thieves loaded the cash into a U-Haul and easily escaped the scene of the crime. Although the bandits got away with the crime for a while, the men involved were eventually all arrested after investigators got a lead on the U-Haul rental. The renter was one of the perps, and he eventually cracked and confessed.

British Bank of The Middle East (Lebanon)

During Lebanon’s civil war, a group of bandits claiming ties to the Palestinian Liberation Organization stole over £25 million in gold bars, cash and jewels from the bank.  This 1976 heist occurred when the thieves stood inside a church and blasted through the wall of the adjoining British Bank of the Middle East.

Once inside the bank, a group of skilled locksmiths handled opening up the vault. The amount stolen would be a modern day equivalent of $32 million.

Iraq’s Central Bank (Iraq)

In 2003, the largest bank heist in history occurred in Baghdad, Iraq. Allegedly ordered by Saddam Hussein just prior to the invasion by the United States, the thieves walked away with $920 million.

Many in law enforcement believe that Hussein instructed his son, Qusay, and a close personal adviser to steal the approximately $1 billion in cash from Iraq’s Central Bank. Much of the cash is still missing, but around $650 million was recovered from Hussein’s palace during an international raid.

Knightsbridge Vault (England)

In 1987, over £60 million was stolen at the Knightsbridge Safe Deposit Centre by notorious bank robber, and international playboy, Valerico Viccei. Implicated in over 50 other bank robberies, Viccei pulled this monumental heist off with ease.

Essentially, Viccei and his accomplices accomplished the large scale robbery during business hours, and were able to walk out unscathed with close to what would be now around $80 million. After fleeing to South America and enjoying years of freedom, Viccei was arrested on a trip back to England.

Why did he come back to England? He needed to retrieve and arrange the shipment of his Ferrari.

Many of these larger than life heists have inspired movies and books. Can you think of any of films or novels that were inspired by some of history’s greatest heists?

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Elite Law Enforcement: 11 Fascinating Facts About the Secret Service

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The United States Secret Service is a highly elite federal law enforcement agency responsible for, among other things, protecting the President, Vice President, and their respective families. These skilled agents are the last line of defense in ensuring the safety of our nation’s leaders. Here’s eleven interesting facts about them.

They “See” Everything

In order to ensure the privacy of the President, Secret Service agents are not stationed inside the Oval Office. Rather, they stand right outside the door. To maintain their presence in the Oval Office, agents have installed weight sensitive pressure pads under the carpets. This way, they always know the precise location of the President.

Link to the FBI

During the first decade of the Twentieth Century, the Department of Justice borrowed Secret Service agents to perform investigations. Nine of these “borrowed” agents eventually formed the Bureau of Investigation, which later became the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Secret Offices

The Secret Service’s headquarters are located in a tan, brick nine-story building in Washington, D.C. The nondescript building is unmarked, and no public trash cans are allowed outside the office, due to the potential for hidden bombs. The HQ has armories, a joint operations center and their very own restaurant – the Silver Star Café.

Discreet Investigations

To carry out secret and private investigations within the four walls of the White House, the Secret Service “renovates” a room. During the renovations, the First Family is discreetly moved from the White House. Almost every President has renovated a room during their tenure, including President Obama, who conducted home improvements on the Treaty Room.

Killed in the Line of Duty

Like many in law enforcement, Secret Service agents put their life on the line on a daily basis. The first and only Secret Service agent ever killed in the line of duty (i.e. defending a president) was Leslie Coffelt, who was shot dead in Washington, D.C., while protecting President Harry S. Truman.

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New Department, Same Job

After President George W. Bush created the Department of Homeland Security, there were agency shifts occurring throughout the federal government. One such change occurred in March 2003 when the Secret Service moved from the Department of the Treasury to Homeland Security. The department change did not impact the agency’s mission statement.

Speaking of Mission

The Secret Service guards the President, Vice-President, their families, as well as former Presidents. They also have a litany of other roles in the protection arena including the investigation of 1,500 presidential death threats annually. Additionally, these agents investigate counterfeiting, computer fraud, identify theft and financial crimes.

Origins

The historically revered President Abraham Lincoln created the Secret Service on April 14, 1865. Unfortunately for Lincoln and the world, the 16th President was assassinated later that day same by the notorious John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln authorized the agency as an investigative and enforcement arm of the federal government to combat the recent proliferation of counterfeit United States currency.

Let’s Protect the President…

In 1901, President William McKinley was assassinated and soon thereafter, the Secret Service was given the full-time role of president protector.

…and Presidential Candidates

After presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, the Secret Service was given the detail of securing the safety of presidential and vice-presidential candidates. The earliest protection of a candidate arose during President Obama’s candidacy, when he was given full-time protection a year and a half before Election Day.

Spies NOT Among Us

Even though the CIA, NSA and FBI have all been infiltrated by spies, neither a traitor nor spy has ever been discovered to have penetrated the Secret Service.

 

It’s true what they say—you learn something new every day. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed researching it.

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The Price of Crime: 6 of the All-Time Wealthiest Gangsters

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Despite the allure of wealth and notoriety, a life of crime is never the most prudent course of action. And, generally speaking, the truism “crime doesn’t pay” has stood the test of time. But for some career criminals, their life in the underworld brought them wealth beyond their wildest dreams.

Here’s some of the wealthiest gangsters of all time.

Al Capone

One of the most notorious gangsters in American history, Al Capone operated the Chicago mafia during the criminally lucrative Prohibition Era. Ruthless, cunning and insatiable, Capone garnered his income from a variety of illicit enterprises, including bootlegging and the operation of gambling dens.

Capone was somewhat of a pop icon during his heyday, but certain events, such as the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre, led to the demise of his public reputation. Experts believe that Capone – at the height of his empire – employed over 600 soldiers to manage and protect his vast assets and businesses.

In current monetary value, Capone’s empire would be now worth around $1.3 billion. Yes, you read that correct. Over one billion dollars!

After being released from prison, Capone spent his remaining years in extremely bad health. In 1947, Capone died of natural causes in his Florida mansion.

Griselda Blanco

Miami’s “Cocaine Queen” was a high ranking member of Colombia’s Medellin drug cartel. Using intimidation, brutality and sheer violence,  Griselda Blanco had a stranglehold on the Miami drug trade throughout the 1970s and ‘80s. It is said that Blanco’s business was bringing in around $80 million a month during the peak of her operations.

The “Black Widow”  was responsible for up to 200 murders during her drug smuggling days – which involved moving cocaine from Colombia to Miami, Southern California and New York. After spending time in an American jail and released due to a technicality, Blanco was deported back to Colombia in 2004. Her wealth, at its zenith, was valued at approximately $500 million.

In 2012, Blanco was assassinated in Medellin, Colombia.

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman

Joaquin Guzman, otherwise known as “El Chapo” (or “Shorty”) is a ruthless and dangerous Mexican drug lord who heads the Sinaloa Cartel. Forbes magazine has ranked El Chapo as the world’s most powerful drug kingpin. He is one of the richest men in Mexico, with an estimated worth of approximately $1 billion.

The United States DEA considers El Chapo to be the “godfather of the drug world” and many in law enforcement believe his sphere of influence has surpassed that of the notorious Pablo Escobar.

In January 2017, the United States extradited Guzman so that he may stand trial for numerous high level criminal charges in connection with his role as the head of the dangerous Sinaloa Cartel.

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Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno

In the 1960s, Fat Tony – based in East Harlem –  controlled one of the largest numbers racket operations in New York City, which was estimated to gross up to $50 million per year.  Although a large number of Italian mobsters moved out Harlem and East Harlem when those neighborhoods became predominantly Latino and African-American, Salerno kept his headquarters in East Harlem, not far from where he was born.

Salerno was once the boss and underboss for the infamous Genovese crime family, which was started by the infamous Italian mobster Lucky Luciano. By the mid-1980s, Fat Tony had accumulated a wealth of over $1 billion. Salerno was convicted of racketeering charges in 1988, and was sentenced to 70 years in prison.

In 1992, Salerno died in federal prison.

Frank Lucas

Dealing heroin out of Harlem in the late 1960s through the early 1970s, Lucas broke the drug trade monopoly  held by New York’s Italian mafia. How did he break the monopoly? He traveled to Bangkok, Thailand and secured a direct connection in the famed opium producing area of Southeast Asia known as the ‘Golden Triangle.’

Lucas cut out the middleman, and this unique business model served him well. Lucas’ drug empire was at its peak during the Vietnam War, and it is claimed that his heroin was smuggled in the pallets used to ship the coffins of fallen American soldiers.  Lucas accumulated a net worth of approximately $52 million.

Despite being sentenced to 70 years in prison, Lucas has served two separate prison terms for only a total of 12 years. He is 86 years old and the father of seven kids.

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Pablo Escobar

Needing no introduction, Pablo Escobar is infamously known as being one of the most powerful, wealthiest and ruthless gangsters of the modern era. Dubbed a narco-terrorist by international law enforcement, Escobar’s wealth was built by flooding the United States with an exorbitant amount of cocaine.

By the late 1980s, Escobar controlled over 40% of the Medellin Cartel’s drug business. Commencing in 1987, Escobar made it on Forbes’ list of international billionaires for seven straight years. At one point in his notorious career, he offered to pay down his native Colombia’s national debt – a whopping $10 billion.

In 1993, Escobar was killed by the Colombian National Police after a massive and time consuming manhunt. At the time of his death, Escobar’s net worth was $30 billion, of which most (if not all) of the income was derived from his cocaine trade.

 

Many of these infamous individuals have been glamorously portrayed in television and film, but despite any of the allure shown in popular media, they were cold-blooded killers that destroyed neighborhoods and families. Can you think of any notorious gangsters that amassed a great deal wealth like these criminals?

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Crime and Serial Killers: In the Beginning for Emily Stone

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When Serial Killers Terrorize a California Beach Community, One Woman Stands in Their Way

Emily Stone doesn’t have a badge. But that hasn’t stopped her from tracking down some of the West’s most dangerous child-killers. Armed with a digital SLR camera, laptop computer and her trusty Beretta, Stone uses her innate gift for detective work to identify the perps — and then anonymously e-mail the evidence to the cops.

Now, the hunt for two brazen serial killers on the loose right in her own coastal California town threatens to expose Stone’s identity — unraveling her carefully constructed cover and jeopardizing her life’s work. But when she gets too close to the action, this razor-sharp hunter becomes the hunted. Cooperating with the handsome local police detective could be the only hope for stopping the rampage directed at unsuspecting young women — and saving herself. Can they piece together the clues in time?

Compulsion mixes CSI-style investigation with a ripped-from-the-headlines plot and a dose of romance for a keeps-you-guessing, fast-paced and savvy thriller, right up until the shocking finale.

You can read COMPULSION now!

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Recent 5-Star AMAZON Reviews

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Extraordinary!!!

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Emily Stone has hunted down some of the most dangerous serial killers and child kidnappers, which rivals anything you’ve seen on TV or the movies. Every Emily Stone Thriller is written to stand alone, but you might want to check out all of her stories. If you love small towns, high-tech Gamers, Hawaiian islands, or deserted Army bases, her stories have you covered. If you haven’t met Emily Stone yet–then I think it’s about time.

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9 Key Steps for a Successful Crime Scene Investigation

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To perform a successful crime scene investigation, there are a myriad of individual procedures used by investigators. And, of course, different crimes call for specific methods. Despite, however, the various tactics and circumstances, individual investigators generally utilize the following nine universal steps in order to conduct a fruitful and efficient crime scene investigation.

Establish Scene Dimensions / Identify Potential Hazards

An investigator must initially locate the main area of the disturbance, i.e. the focal point of the crime. This could be a ransacked living room, a traffic intersection where a collision occurred or a remote part of nature where a murder took place. Once the focal point has been ascertained, the investigator creates a radius of the area, in which all the immediate, relevant physical evidence may be present.

It behooves the investigator to create a relatively large radius, due to the fact that it is much easier to later condense the crime scene than enlarge it. It would be detrimental to the investigation if the area was too small, and crucial evidence (outside of the area) was compromised by onlookers or the media.

In addition to establishing the focal point’s radius, the investigator must identify the potential areas of ingress and egress of the criminal. The safety of all people in the area must also be taken into consideration. Therefore, any sort of hazardous materials, weapons or intentional traps must be identified.

Secure the Perimeter

Every single person who enters and exits the crime scene will “add or subtract” crucial material from the crime scene. Thus, it is vital that the lead investigator secure the area as quickly as possible.

In order to control access, the scene is generally cordoned off with yellow crime scene tape or other methods, such as rope or cones.  Further,  an entrance is established for all personnel to use when entering and exiting the scene. Once the common entryway has been created, all people who enter and leave the area must be documented. For larger and more complex crime scenes, additional consultation and evidence storage areas may be created.

Organize and Communicate

Prior to the collection of evidence, the crime scene investigators must develop a theory concerning what exactly transpired at the scene. Once the team has a working knowledge of what type of crime occurred, the investigators will be more prepared to anticipate what kind of evidence may be present.

A method for developing the crime theory is to interview witnesses, or persons of interest. Once the investigators have obtained sufficient information, the team will develop their strategy for collecting evidence.

Perform Initial Survey of Scene

A preliminary crime scene survey is performed in an effort to prioritize the collection of evidence. While conducting the scene walkthrough, the lead investigator will identify and take photos of important evidence.

Investigators will also document certain aspects of the crime scene, so that the scene conditions are properly captured. For example, the investigators will note weather conditions, the exact position of items such as furniture, the presence of any smells and whether the lights were on or off.

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Process the Scene

After the plan has been established and the initial survey has been performed, the crime scene investigators conduct a diligent, thorough and coordinated investigation of the scene. At that time, the team will collect all probative evidence. The collection of evidence includes the proper digital documentation of the scene and evidence, which also may include 3D scanners, diagrams, models and sketches.

While the collection of evidence is being conducted, it is vital that all investigators follow strict protocol in the collection, packaging and preservation of the evidence. If the integrity of any of the evidence is compromised, it could hinder the investigation and eventual prosecution.

Conduct Second Walkthrough

For quality control purposes, a secondary walkthrough is conducted by the lead investigator so as to ensure that the entire crime scene has been thoroughly searched.

Preserve and Record Evidence

In order to ensure that all collected evidence has been documented, the investigation team will create an inventory log. Each piece of evidence is described in the log, and such description must match the photo of the evidence and the crime scene report description.

The evidence log and crime scene report establishes the chain of custody, which will follow the evidence throughout the duration of the case.

Perform Final Survey

The final survey allows the investigators to conduct a critical review of all aspects of the crime scene investigation. Each team member participates in the final survey to ensure that no inadvertent errors are found in the documentation, and that the paper trail is thorough, accurate and complete.

One last search of the area is performed to ensure evidence was not overlooked in hidden or hard to access sections of the crime scene.

Release Crime Scene

Once the final survey has been completed, the lead investigator or other authorized persons may release the crime scene. Oftentimes, in order to gain re-entry to a released crime scene, a warrant is required.

I thoroughly enjoy the topic of crime scene analysis and investigation. I hope you found this article both informative and interesting. And, most importantly, I hope you learned something about the fascinating world of criminal science.

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6 Groundbreaking Moments in Criminal Justice

Throughout history, the criminal justice system—both domestic and abroad—has been consistently challenged to develop innovations to combat the growing threats that confront society. Here are six historical moments that forever changed how law and order is preserved.

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The First Murder Solved by Utilizing Fingerprints (1892)

The world’s first fingerprint classification system was established by the Central Police Department in La Plata, Argentina. The system was developed, in 1892, by Juan Vucetich, who used data obtained from earlier fingerprint analysis experiments performed by English scientist Sir Francis Galton.

The criminal investigation in which the fingerprint evidence was used involved the gruesome double murder of two children. A bloody fingerprint found at the scene of the crime led to strong evidence against the murderer, who eventually confessed to the crime.

The killer? Shockingly, it was the mother of the young victims.

America’s First State Police Force (1905)

Pennsylvania established the first state policy agency in the United States. The department was formed in 1905 under strong opposition by organized labor, who believed that Pennsylvania would use the agency as a small, private army intent on disbanding strikes, and other labor disputes.

Pennsylvania’s State Police quickly became a model by which other states used to form their own departments. The original force consisted of 228 men, who were responsible for patrolling Pennsylvania’s 45,000 square miles of territory.

America’s First Female Police Officer (1908)

In 1905, Portland, Oregon hosted the Lewis and Clark Exposition, which drew over 1.5 million visitors to the city. In an effort to protect the city’s women from the “inevitable con men, pimps and other criminals,” Lola G. Baldwin was hired to run a traveler’s aid program directed at women.

During the 4-month event, Baldwin was paid $75 a month, and was charged with recruiting other women to help with surveilling the fairgrounds. Most importantly, Baldwin was granted the authority to arrest. Three years later, Baldwin was officially sworn-in as the nation’s first female police officer.

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The Creation of INTERPOL (1923)

Vienna police commissioner, Dr. Johanness Schober, created the International Criminal Police Commission (CPC) in 1923. The CPC was a collaboration between 16 sovereign nations, including countries such as China, Egypt, France and Sweden. In 1946, the organization became known as INTERPOL, which is merely a contraction of the phrase “international police.”

Today, INTERPOL is based in Lyon, France and is comprised of 190 member countries, which cooperate with the unified goal of combatting international criminal activity.

DNA’s Utilization As a Biological Identification Tool (1984)

On what appeared to be a regular day in the lab, British geneticist Dr. Alec Jeffreys encountered a “horrible, smudgy, blurry mess” on a slide containing biological material from his assistant, Jenny Foxon. But after closer examination, the blurry mess turned out to be an encounter of a lifetime. A discovery that dramatically changed the landscape of criminal science.

Upon studying the biological material on this fateful September 1984 day, Dr. Jeffreys came to the realization that he could distinguish all three members of Foxon’s family by a deciphering a pattern of inheritance. Over the next two years, Dr. Jeffreys used his newfound knowledge to solve a complex immigration issue, which led to the reuniting of a young African boy with his family in England, and to the conviction of a perpetrator who raped and murdered two young girls.

Today, the National DNA Index contains more than 10 million offender profiles, and DNA analysis has helped with innumerable investigations and led to countless convictions. All thanks to the smudge left behind by Jenny Foxon on a microscope slide.

Government Sanctioned Use of Sustained Cyber-Warfare (2010)

In June 2010, Iran discovered that a highly sophisticated virus had infiltrated the computer network that controlled five of its nuclear facilities. The virus – Stuxnet – was designed by the United States to contaminate and destroy the uranium enriching centrifuges used at Iran’s facilities.

The cyber-attack was ordered by President Obama, and it was a continuation of President George W. Bush’s strategy  of destabilizing and eliminating Iran’s unsanctioned nuclear program. Apparently, the virus’ code most likely took a whopping ten years to write due to the code’s complexity. Many people believe that the Stuxnet was the first government sanctioned, and sustained, cyber-attack on an adversary’s infrastructure.

Are there any seminal moments in the history of criminal justice that particularly stand out for you?

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The Age of Technology and the Impact on Law Enforcement

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Law enforcement’s utilization of contemporary hi-tech tools in preventing and combating crime is certainly not a new concept. But, what separates modern technology trends from those of yesteryear is the exceptional rapid pace in which technology is progressing.

As a result of this ever-changing tech landscape, police departments (and other agencies) are constantly forced to familiarize themselves with new hi-tech trends and gadgets. So, not only are police officers trained to defend against, and disarm perpetrators, they are also becoming increasingly skilled in effectively using technology to their advantage.

Not too long ago, the only technology an officer had was a police radio, and the knowledge of where the nearest payphone was located. Nowadays, police officers are armed with body cameras, cell phones and radios that scan over 30 channels. Additionally, police cruisers are equipped with radar units, hi-tech engines, surveillance cameras, computer data terminals with internet access, and point of view (POV) cameras.

3D Crime Scene Imaging

Crime scene analytics have fascinated the general public for generations. That’s an obvious fact when you consider the amount of television shows centered around forensic science. A relatively new tool being used in this regard is known as 3D crime scene imaging.

The 3D device essentially conducts a complete scan of a crime scene, and recreates a three-dimensional model of the area.  Sketches and photographs are still being used, but many believe that the 3D model will become the primary method of recreating and analyzing a crime scene.

Through the Wall Radar

This technology utilizes radio waves to detect action on the other side of a given wall. It is an amazing method of limiting the potential harm that may fall upon officers, who would otherwise walk into a potentially volatile, unknown situation.

The radar can alert officers to the slightest movement, which can lead to understanding the full scenario of what lurks on the other side of the wall.  A potential roadblock to this tech is the Fourth Amendment right we all have to not be subject to unreasonable searches and seizures, which generally begins with an “expectation of privacy” argument.

As with any emerging technology, the courts must balance the rights of an individual with public safety concerns.

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Social Media

When you think of social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, your mind does not generally think of the ramifications on law enforcement. But, with the advent of the social media age came the ability for criminal enterprises to coordinate in a new fashion; social media enables people to organize in a virtual world with little-to-no societal or geographical boundaries.

Nevertheless, for every single nefarious social media purpose, there are hundreds of innocent, good-hearted outcomes. Once such example is the social media mobile app known as “Waze.” This app is a commuter-centric program that allows users to communicate with one another and navigate through traffic with real-time, user-based updates. So, for the most part, it’s a positive app that helps people “beat” traffic.

However, one of the features on the app allows users to identify the locations of police officers. This is generally used as a warning to “slow down” but, for those with malice in their heart, it could be used as a way to find and hunt down officers.

Although social media lends itself to criminal abuse, it also bestows countless tools for law enforcement to track down perps. Privacy issues versus public safety are always at the forefront of evidence gathering through social media. And the law revolving around, and concerning, these issues continues to evolve.

It is widely known that criminals leave behind valuable personal information when they engage these sites. Using the proper analytical tools, police can piece together quite a story about criminals, ranging from behavioral patterns and habits through actual confessions.

As social media continues to impact society, so will its influence be felt in law enforcement.

Predictive Analytics

The internet (in general) has given those with criminal propensities many avenues to further pursue their malicious goals. Law enforcement analysts are now able to sift through the plethora of data left behind by these criminals. Drawing on data from cell phone companies, financial institutions, and other publicly accessed forums, analysts are able to determine connections between cases and activities, and oftentimes, they can predict a future threat.

Predictive analytics is a highly complex science, which uses statistical data and algorithms to make predications concerning a myriad of behavioral issues. And through the utilization of cutting edge software coupled with the services of highly trained analysts, the often insurmountable amount of internet data can be tamed, and the outcome can yield positive results in the fight against crime.

In your opinion, what emerging technology will most impact law enforcement in the near future?

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