Much to his housekeeper's disgust, the great fictional detective Sherlock Holmes
carried out scientific experiments in his Baker street rooms in the cause of
solving crimes. Since his day, science had played an increasingly important part
in both the detection and the proof of crime. Technology, the derivative of
science, is used by most countries' police forces today and is responsible for
bringing many criminals to justice. Dr Crippen escaped by liner to the Unites
States, but an early ship to shore radio telephone enabled the police to arrest
him when the line docked.
Footprint casts and fingerprints are traditional
methods of detection. Fingerprinting was invented in Great Britain by Francis
Galton and has been of fundamental importance in detection for decades. Some
countries fingerprint their whole populations, though others, Britain included,
regard this as an infringement of personal freedom, and restrict fingerprinting
to those accused of a criminal offence, or to those who are screened for certain
security categories. science has greatly enhanced the efficiency of this system.
Fingerprints are now held on computer, and much time and cost is saved by the
fact that information can be exchanged instantaneously throughout the country.
Co-operation with the National Crime Information center in the US and with
Interpol in the continent of Europe greatly enhances this facility.
Records of convicted criminals are now held on microfilm in conjunction with
fingerprints, photographs and personal profiles and stores as computer data.
These, again, are capable of instant retrieval countrywide and can also be made
available overseas. In the UK this data cannot be disclosed to a jury during a
criminal trial, but should the verdict be guilty a previous criminal record
becomes available in the matter of sentencing.
The polygraph, or lie detector, is not university sanctioned. Its supporters
claim that its ability to record nervous tensions is infallible. Others
Very recently, DNA printing has revolutionized the process of bringing the
criminal to justice, and in civil actions establishing paternity. The minutes
quantities of blood, skin, hair or nail-parings can positively identify or
eliminate the individual concerned. No two individuals have identical sets of
genes. This scientific advance is particularly important in the examination of
cars and rooms where crimes have been committed.
Interrogation has always been an important part of criminal investigation. in
uncivilized counties, drugs, psychological pressure and often physical torture
have been, and still are used. these methods are banned in civilized countries.
However, even in the latter, the police occasionally enforce signatures to false
statements or to statements which are subsequently mutilated. Taped interviews
today now go some way to overcome this abuse, though even tapes can be
A good deal of crime detection and prevention has been privatized in recent
years. some countries allow firearms to security guards, others, such as the UK,
do not. Various pieces of technology are in common use. Closed-circuit TV
cameras allow centralized observation of customers in large stores.
Flood-lighting around buildings can be triggered electronically when anybody
approaches in the dark. Foot patrols are issued with light intensifiers, a
military development, enabling them to see without being seen. 'Electric eye'
burglar alarms have been in use both in public buildings and in private homes
for many years.
Observation by police 'on the beat' who know their own areas intimately has
always been a recognized and valuable means of crime detection and prevention,
bolstering the citizen's sense of security. Unfortunately, this is being
replaced by police car patrols. And although the latter are in radio
communication with officers on foot and with police headquarters, the general
public see this development as retrograde.
Despite all the above, crime is on the increase in many countries. Its
detection is no doubt becoming more efficient, due to scientific advance. this
is related to an entirely different factor; the decline in religious faith and
observance, which instills moral standards into children.