by Thusitha Bulathgama
The advancement of contemporary technology has ushered in novel experiential dimensions every day. Current technology uses advanced tools, techniques, and processes developed through scientific and engineering research. This technology has made our lives easier, more convenient, and more productive. From smartphones and tablets to social media and cloud computing, modern technology has transformed how we communicate and access information. In this context, Artificial Intelligence (AI) plays a vital role. AI applications can be found in many areas of our lives, from agriculture to industry, communications, education, finance, service, medicine, and transportation. The most significant thing is that even public safety and criminal justice benefit from AI.
AI is a rapidly advancing major field in technology that has the potential to revolutionize various industries and sectors. In the mid-1950s, John McCarthy, credited as the father of AI, defined it as “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines” (Rigano, 2018). According to the article titled “Using Artificial Intelligence to Address Criminal Justice Needs” by Christopher Rigano, AI is a machine’s ability to perceive and respond to its environment independently and perform tasks that would typically require human intelligence and decision-making processes without direct human intervention (Rigano, 2018).
The new report, “Artificial Intelligence and Robotics for Law Enforcement,” which has been published by the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, and Innovation Centre of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), examining use cases by national law enforcement agencies at various stages of development shows the contributions AI and robotics can make to policing. It demonstrates that their use is a fact rather than a distant possibility (UNICRI, 2018).
Due to the interconnectedness of crime and AI, this article aims to enhance understanding of how modern technology like AI can contribute to solving crimes in society and, at the same time, highlight the risks of using AI technology. As we all agreed, every situation may encompass both positive and negative impacts.
How does AI contribute to solving crimes?
Image and Video Analysis
Crimes occur frequently in society. In the present-day scenario, AI can help resolve or reduce crime by acquiring information about people, objects, and actions to support criminal investigations through video and image analysis. Law enforcement and criminal justice communities use this technology, which requires significant investment and personnel with subject-matter expertise.
For instance, researchers in Malaysia are currently developing AI software for CCTV cameras to reduce the number of street crimes in the country. This software autonomously detects crimes by only analyzing the footage in the security camera. According to these researchers, the software can perform several tasks, such as determining whether a person in the video is holding a weapon, inspecting if the suspect is displaying ‘aggressive actions,’ and informing the law enforcement authorities if the crime is suspected (Schoppa 2022).
Nevertheless, rapid technological advancement and a sufficient number of experts in the field have led to vulnerabilities in video and image analysis due to human errors. With the development of AI, these human-induced errors associated with technology have been overcome. Traditional software algorithms mostly require human support and can only generate limited data such as eye shape, eye colour, and distance between eyes from facial recognition or demographic information from pattern analysis (Rigano, 2018).
AI video and image algorithms learn complicated tasks and generate and determine their own independent, complex facial recognition feature parameters to complete these tasks. This is much beyond what humans are capable of. These algorithms can match faces, identify guns and other items, and detect complicated incidents such as accidents and crimes.
Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) Analysis
Another field that AI can use to resolve crime is by analysing DNA-related criminal activities. Biological materials such as salvia, blood, semen, and skin cells can be transmitted during a crime through contact with people and objects. Since the beginning of DNA evidence in forensics in 1986, investigating crimes has become more accessible and tangible. DNA processing improves as AI technology advances (Rigano, 2018).
Advances in DNA technology can now detect even small amounts of DNA, making it possible to find DNA from multiple people, even in small quantities. However, this presents a challenge for crime labs. When susceptible methods are used on evidence, they can sometimes pick up DNA from multiple individuals, including those not connected to the crime. This creates a problem in figuring out whose DNA is whose, and it is crucial to separate and identify individuals’ profiles to help law enforcement with their investigations (Rigano, 2018).
To explore this area further, researchers from Syracuse University and partners from the Onondaga Country Center for Forensic Sciences and the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner’s Department of Forensic Biology worked together to explore a new method for separating mixed DNA samples. They used a combination of human analysts and AI algorithms supported by the NIJ research award. This hybrid approach aimed to overcome the limitations of using only one method. While further evaluation is necessary, research indicates that AI technology can be a valuable tool in helping analyze complex DNA mixtures (Scalese, 2014).
Gun Shot Detection
Detecting gunfire is another advancement of AI technology that can be used to identify unknown shootings. Sensors are doing their best to accomplish this mission. For example, sensors can be installed in municipal infrastructure. These sensors linked to a cloud-based program can reliably detect pinpoint gunshots. These sensors record when and where guns are fired, which can be helpful in investigations. They also aid in determining the location of the shooter. This data is forwarded to the police stations and displayed as a pop-up notification on a computer or mobile device. AI technology to detect and warn police about gunshots can improve their reactions to such situations, even if they are not recorded (Chowdhury, 2021).
Can ChatGPT - 4 be a crime solver?
ChatGPT - 4 extends many capabilities to various forensic techniques, including fingerprints and facial recognition, age progression, toxicology, digital forensics, and biological evidence analysis. Within this scenario, a criminal investigation can benefit significantly from using ChatGPT- 4 in numerous ways. For instance, it can assist investigators in determining the cause of death in poisoning cases, but its capacity to interpret and handle complex toxicology data ChatGPT- 4 can also be used for DNA analysis, suspect identification, and linkages between victims and offenders. Regarding the non-medical context, ChatGPT-4 can sift through text data from emails, online forums, and social media posts to find hidden links between suspects and victims and possible plans and motives (Castro, 2023).
ChatGPT - 4 could be used within investigation tools or platforms to successfully collaborate with human investigators or law enforcement organizations. This would allow investigators to smoothly interact with the system, enhancing their own expertise. Furthermore, constant oversight, verification, and validation by human investigators and domain experts would be required to verify the accuracy, reliability, and ethical usage of its output. Regular feedback loops and continued contact with law enforcement authorities can aid in the system’s refinement and improvement over time.
Risk of AI Use in the Criminal Justice System
Even though, as outlined above, the AI’s benefits in crime-solving are immense, addressing the ethical consideration of privacy issues that affect criminal investigation procedures is essential. Hence, it is crucial to initiate clear guidance and regulations that govern applications in criminology to avoid AI being misused or causing unexpected harm. Furthermore, this AI technology is not a well-structured mature technology in many applications. With that, the data derived from AI related to criminal justice and law enforcement incidents might not always be accurate. Although AI technology is operating without any human intervention, it is created by humans, and in this context, it implies a particular room for errors.
Published on Modern Diplomacy on 26th October 2023
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* Mr. Thusitha Bulathgama is a Research Assistant at the Institute of National Security Studies (INSS) the premier think tank on National Security established under the Ministry of Defence. The opinion expressed is his own and not necessarily reflective of the institute or the Ministry of Defence.
-The Ministry of Defence bears no responsibility for the ideas and views expressed by the contributors to the Opinion section of this web site-