Sat | Jan 18, 2020

JaRistotle’s Jottings | Byting crime bit by bit

Published:Thursday | February 15, 2018 | 12:00 AM
A CCTV camera in Ocho Rios town centre.
This damaged CCTV camera, with its glass covering missing, was installed in the Corporate Area as one of the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s crimefighting measures.

As crime and violence continue to plague the nation, the interests of individuals, sectors, and political parties have to give way to the collective good of us all. Just as how we are one Jamaica and singing One Love when Team Jamaica mines gold at the Olympics, we must unite to protect our people against those who want to impose their vile will upon us.

Regardless of the crime, there should be no doubt in anyone's mind that there will be a certainty of arrest, conviction, and severe sanctions. To this end, there are countless technology-based crime management tools which, if used prudently, improve that certainty.


Pros and cons


From a business perspective, technological factors pertain to innovations in technology that may affect the operations of the industry and the market. We live in a technologically advanced world where criminals are far more sophisticated than the common thief of yesteryear. Modern criminals rely heavily on technology to facilitate their activities, and every technological convenience is a potential tool which can be used against us. Electronic banking, encrypted electronic communications, social media services, the 'dark web', and the like are readily exploited by criminals, especially given the anonymity with which they can operate within this veiled realm. Law enforcement agencies must likewise exploit technology to disrupt the criminals' ability to operate at will.

However, there are some important issues to be considered when implementing technological solutions in any organisation. The first is the capacity of the users, and the adage 'garbage in, garbage out' (GIGO) is very relevant. Secondly, if the users are not committed, then GIGO will dominate. The human factor must never be ignored.


Common-sense applications


Kudos to the current national-level usage of technology in managing crime: the 'Stay Alert' app; closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance of public spaces (Jamaica Eye); and other 'e-policing' solutions are steps in the right direction. There are countless tech solutions that can be applied to the overall crime management effort. Careful assessment is necessary to put the threats in context and identify viable solutions and potential drawbacks as a means of ensuring that we have the right suite of applications at our disposal. This will not only lend to improved efficiencies, but will also reduce the scope for corruption assuming there is capacity and commitment.

Not all applications need to be high-end systems. For instance, we have a problem with payments for traffic tickets. Logic would suggest that we automate the entire process such that driver's licences are electronic cards akin to credit cards and the soon-to-be National ID System (NIDS) cards .

The police only need a portable device akin to a point-of-sale machine to swipe an offender's driver's licence, NIDS card, and fingerprint. With all their pertinent data on the official system, that offender is readily flagged until they have satisfactorily honoured their obligations to the taxman.

Furthermore, with electronic dissemination of data on persons of interest throughout the government system, wanted persons, tax dodgers, and the like can be readily identified. No more hiding in plain sight. Within the courts, utilising relevant tech solutions to more accurately and efficiently record proceedings facilitates real-time transcripts and speedier delivery of judgements.


Checks and balances


Machines and tech systems are merely tools that must be operated by humans; if the operators normally benefit from an absence of such technology, it is foolhardy to think that they will embrace the new approach.

A major facilitator of corruption is the discretionary powers of public officials such as the police, customs officers, and persons with approval and licensing authority. The mandatory use of technological applications diminishes that power. Resistance, sabotage, and circumvention must be anticipated, and proper systems of checks and balances must be integral to every tech programme.




Investing in technology without similar investment in user capacity is a recipe for disaster. Having the right aptitude, knowledge, and skill is one thing; personal integrity is even more important, as this determines the ultimate effectiveness of the respective initiatives. Checks and balances, particularly continuous security vetting, must be a priority requirement for enlistment into such programmes.

Costly, yes, but tech solutions are viable investments, in that they provide such significant enhancements of capabilities that operating success can increase almost immediately. Credible deterrence through capacity-building of this nature is far more sustainable than bang-bang approaches which have yet to reap the levels of success we need in the fight against criminality.

Byte crime one bit at a time.