How is Computer Technology Used in Law Enforcement?

By Linda Ray


Computer technology has been both a bane and a benefit to law enforcement. Computer technology has created an entire new realm of criminal activity for law enforcement to deal with--in the form of hackers and Internet predators. Those same technical advancements have increased the power and range of law enforcement to capture criminals. Most police forces, local sheriff departments and government agencies are computerized and employ some form of technology in their everyday crime-fighting efforts. From laptops in squad cars to community online services and accessible databases, law enforcement incorporates the latest technology when budgets allow.

On Site

Law enforcement officers with notebook computers in their squad cars can easily access databases to check credentials of motorists and individuals they interview at crime scenes. They can write and send reports while the events are still fresh. Mobile electronics are used to catalog evidence at crime scenes and to manage the evidence once it's transferred to the police facility. Portable crime scene technology can help investigators identify fingerprints and other evidence on the site, allowing the officers to move quickly to apprehend the perpetrators.


Agencies utilize encrypted emails to communicate across agency lines to work together to solve crimes. Missing person reports, fugitive alerts and unsolved crimes can be posted to secure law enforcement websites to allow international cooperation. Gang-related activity, sex offenders and terrorist activities can easily be broadcast to law enforcement agencies worldwide immediately, limiting the amount of time others need to respond to requests and to post the necessary alerts to their own officers. Digital radio frequencies are being used to coordinate first responders and other law enforcement agencies that need to communicate simultaneously in certain situations.


Advanced global positioning satellite (GPS) technology and cell phone ubiquity has provided law enforcement officials with additional resources to track and investigate criminal activity. By incorporating tower triangulation, most cell phone users can be traced to a location that is relatively accurate. Emergency call systems and 911 operators can trace a cell phone call as quickly as they can trace a land line call. Vehicles equipped with GPS equipment can be tracked as long as the device remains activated. Small GPS tracking devices can be planted on suspects to track movements. Geographic information systems (GIS) are utilized to map the movements of criminals and their activities as well as to store the information for later use. Most wireless phones have GIS technology embedded, which further adds to the ease in which movements can be tracked.

References & Resources