Can wireless technology help fight crime?

Wireless Crime-Fighting: Cell Phones, Cameras and GPS

Wireless surveillance camera fighting crime in the forest?
Wireless surveillance camera fighting crime in the forest?
Thomas Jackson/Getty Images

More than half of the 741 million cell phones in the world are equipped with some type of photo capability [source: Reardon]. You're probably well aware of this, having taken countless pictures of you and your friends. Some of these photos do more than just preserve memories; they fight crime. Police in London used cell phone images to find the terrorists behind the 2005 bombings. Elsewhere a man who tried to abduct four teenage girls was arrested a month later when the same girls spotted him and took a picture of his license plate.

Amateur sleuths also can send their digital videos and pictures of crimes in progress to 911 call centers in places like New York City. A new technology allows the sent images to be incorporated directly into the record of the related call. They also can be forwarded to emergency crews on their way to the scene. Linking the images with the specific call makes them easy to find later for use in an investigation.

>Cell phone images work with other wireless weaponry, like surveillance cameras, to capture criminals. Although surveillance cameras themselves are nothing new, wireless ones can be installed where wired ones can't, such as in out-of-the way areas and in moving objects like patrol cars. They also cost less than wired cameras and are easily moved to new locations to follow high-crime areas.


In Dallas, wireless cameras with motorized controls allow officers watching from a remote location to pan around and zoom in and out to look for information that could help to solve a crime. In Baltimore, officers can watch live feeds for suspicious activities, which have enabled them to catch several violent offenders in the act. On the West Coast, Los Angeles police reported a 32 percent reduction in crime after installing wireless cameras [source: Jones]. Video surveillance systems can help to deter crime, monitor suspicious activities, identify license plates and collect evidence.

Some police forces also use global positioning systems, or GPS, in their vehicles. This locator technology can alert 911 dispatchers to which officers might be able to respond to an emergency the quickest, as well as allow those dispatchers to reassure panicky callers who want to know how far away help is. In addition, if an officer ever gets into trouble and can't radio his location back to base, the GPS will broadcast the officer's position, speed of travel and location.

­Another wireless technology has even been used on the likes of Martha Stewart. Wireless radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags are often used by police to keep tabs on parolees and people on house arrest. The tags relay a signal that monitors the subject's whereabouts, notifying the police if the subject is entering an area he or she shouldn't.

If your cell phone doesn't have a camera, have no fear, you can text yourself to safety. Find out how text messaging assists investigations next.