The incidence of crime in India is increasing alarmingly with a disastrous spatial distribution of population due to mismanagement and an overwhelmingly ubiquitous new technology. The profile of the criminal has undergone a sea change from the earlier stereotypes, requiring a new paradigm to comprehend and manage the emerging scenario. Today’s criminal could well be your suave, smooth talking colleague or neighbour, someone who is relatively well off and well educated. The criminal mind is no more matching the orthodox definition of an economically deprived background but one that seeks to compete, outsmart and short-change the society that he or she lives in.
Recently, an internal survey conducted by a leading retail chain found that the largest section of loss due to theft was of women’s clothing and women’s innerwear. This by natural extension points to women as the emerging segment for pilferage in the organized retail sector.
There is a fair chance that most of the women stealing come from reasonably well-to-do families but their craving for excitement from pilferage is what drives many to the crime. Several Hollywood celebrities are known to be compulsive kleptomaniacs. But this is a relatively mild crime when compared to the number of child rape and molestation that is being reported from all parts of India and include urban, semi-urban and rural areas. Violent crime is on the increase.
Emerging trends in cyber crimes include hacking, phishing and cyber stalking with social media as the new playground for the criminal mind to let itself loose.
With these emerging trends in crime, it is time for India to revamp and reform how crime is reported, investigated and followed through with scientific evidence, which can ensure successful prosecution of the criminal.
The Indian system of policing and criminal investigation is still stuck in the old ways of information gathering and beating out a confession from the suspects. The police force is completely untrained on modern methods of criminal investigation and is not primed to gather scientific evidence to present a watertight case in the court. This is why the gap continues between reporting of crime, arresting a criminal and finally ensuring successful prosecution of the accused.
Three of the problems
Police is a State subject and the number and quality of the police force varies from State to State. Most of the recruits at the entry level are barely school educated and come from diverse backgrounds, where their upbringing has been influenced by their religion, caste, community or economic status and this usually comes in conflict when policing urban areas, where the mindset of society that they serve, is different from the one that they grew up in. This cultural difference is very visible when it comes to police dealing with women related issues or the educated section of society.
In addition, the lack of education also hampers the police from scientifically investigating any crime. The training is restricted to basic beat policing and does not expose them to modern techniques of criminal investigation. Even the so called ‘dedicated’ departments that are supposed to be primed up with scientific investigation techniques, is usually saddled with obsolete technology and techniques.
Furthermore, the method and content of data on crime collected and recorded varies from State to State. With cross border crime occurring frequently, tracing criminals is a challenge for any State police, in the absence of criminal data sharing and cooperation. The data collected and recorded by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) is basic and data access at all levels is limited.
An integrated approach to criminal investigation
Without compromising the federal structure and authority, criminal data recording and access has to be standardized and seamless, if India is to keep crime down to minimal levels. The first step towards this has to be data recording and capture.
Criminal profiling and data
Every person who is brought into the police station as a suspect must be full body scanned and facial data recorded. This will include bone structure, facial and dental profile, iris scan along with finger print and DNA profile collected and recorded for posterity.
The data can be kept under suspect, accused and prosecutedgroupings. Sub groupings may also be created, as per need. While, this may evoke strong debate on the need for profiling, it is necessary to understand the importance of collecting this data as the primary requirement in surveillance, tracking and subsequent arrest of a potential criminal.
Today, software is available to capture real time data through surveillance cameras located at public places like airports, railway and bus stations. The data captured is matched on the basis of bone structure and facial recognition software. So if there is a potential terrorist or criminal passing through any public area, there is a fair chance that the software will pick him out of the crowd in real time. This would be possible only if his profile has been collected, recorded and made available to all law enforcement agencies, seamlessly.
The National Security Agency (NSA) of the United States is using this widely and the same data has helped agencies like FBI, CIA, State Police, Homeland Security etc solve several cases, in addition to monitoring and tracking suspects to prevent crime. There is no point in data being collected by one agency and not being available to other agencies, seamlessly. This was one of the biggest lessons the United States learnt post the 9/11 incident.
India has no choice but to learn and implement similar strategies if it were to seriously attempt crime prevention and crime control. Data collection, availability and access is the first tool in this battle.
Technology is rapidly evolving in the field of homeland security and specialized tools are available for human identification, authentication, tracking, access control through a variety of bio-metric technologies.
Cyber crime is increasing and therefore cyber security, access and user profile analytics is becoming imperative, in an increasing cyber dependent world.
Adopting forensic science
Crime scene investigation is the first and most important moment in solving any crime. The forensic information captured by way of pictures, body fluid sample, DNA sample, fingerprinting or material sample can go a long way in helping the police to solve crime.
In India, the police appearing at a crime scene is usually not even aware of the need to maintain crime scene integrity for forensic purposes nor are they geared to collect crime scene evidence from a forensic perspective.
Need for criminal profiling
Criminal profiling to understand the criminal mind and thought pattern is emerging as an important tool in criminal investigation. This has evolved as a specialized field of science and India must encourage our police to use criminal profiling as a tool in investigating crime.
Adopting modern techniques of interrogation
One of the biggest challenges for any police is to get a suspect to confess to a crime. In India, the police still follows all kinds of physical force to get suspects to confess to a crime, only to have them deny the same in court, subsequently.
All developed nations now follow basic human rights principles and have done away with physical means to elicit confession from a potential suspect. Modern techniques are applied to confirm innocence or psychologically break down a suspect into confessing a crime.
If a watertight case has to be built against an accused, then all evidence collected against him must pass judicial scrutiny during trial. The process of interrogation is one component of this evidence gathering and therefore the same has to comply with accepted norms, as permitted by the law in India.
India has made some progress with initial training in modern interrogation techniques, as followed by FBI of the USA and Scotland Yard of the UK. But India is still a long way from introducing these techniques as part of Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for all arms of police, at the State level.
It is time India implemented reforms across all State police and integrated and shared all criminal data, seamlessly.
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