ITGS Syllabus

Monday, June 04, 2007

Topic 221

Police: DNA data collection, video surveillance by Tommy

In the past, crime fighting was extremely difficult due to the fact that the only kind of evidence that the police could utilize was clues found at the crime scene. When a technique was discovered to find fingerprints and use them to identify criminals, things became much easier. However, fingerprints could still be tampered with. Criminals could go for operations to remove the ridges on their fingertips, effectively ensuring that they would never leave distinctive fingerprints anywhere. Fingerprints found at crime scenes could also be tampered with and cleaned or smudged. This made it very difficult to find good fingerprint samples to match certain individuals. In modern times, however, the police have much easier and accurate ways of identifying criminals.

One of the ways that modern police forces use to identify villains is DNA collection. DNA from various criminals is collected and stored in a database, and when body fluids such as saliva or blood are found at a crime scene, the DNA in them can be extracted and matched up with that of someone in the database. This method has proven to be highly effective and has aided in the capture of many criminals. The main problem with this is the fact that it is limited only to past convicts and certain other individuals. If a relatively new criminal arises, then his DNA data will not be in the database and it will be harder to find him.

A possible solution to this problem would be to collect the DNA of every single person and making it a law that every newborn baby has to go in for DNA extraction. This ensures that whenever DNA is collected from a crime scene, there will be a match in the main database. The main problem with this is that it is very time consuming to have to collect the DNA of every individual, especially in more rural or remote areas, where advanced technology does not have much presence.

An issue with video surveillance is the fact videos from security cameras are often unclear the faces of the people in them are often blurred at a distance. While videos can show what happened, they often fail to identify exactly who is doing what, due to the fact that it is so easy to hide one’s identity in a video by wearing a mask or through other means. Videos can also be edited and cameras can be rigged to display loops.

Possible solutions to these problems would be to increase the quality of surveillance cameras so that they present a much better picture. This would cost more money, but it would help more in identifying suspects. If the culprit wears a mask, other attributes can be used to identify him, such as height, and body type. Camera security systems could also be upgraded so that it is harder to rig them.

One of the ethical issues with video surveillance is the fact that video cameras can be seen as an invasion of privacy. Having cameras set up to cover every single location in a certain area may help boost security, but certain people may not be comfortable with the idea of being watched wherever they go. This may create a feeling much like that in George Orwell’s 1984, where the Party monitors its members closely through the use of telescreens.

The only alternative decision to this would be to remove video cameras altogether, but this would cause a significant drop in security. It is not possible to have both security and privacy at the same time.


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