In the field of criminal justice, police officers are endowed with power to suppress the lawless elements. In the conduct of their duties and responsibilities, inevitable problems arise. Some crimes are difficult to be solved because of unavailability of evidences that would indict the suspect. There are also unfortunate cases wherein the innocent suffer the punishment while the real perpetrator is scot-free. This is due to the inefficiency of the ability of criminal investigators to detect crime and criminals.
In the olden days, criminal investigation was considered crude because investigators merely rely on eyewitnesses, inference, and confession that were drawn through torture. For instance, in the 19th century, France relied on the informers’ testimonies, who were also involved in the crime, to arrest the thieves (Nicol, 2008). Development in crime detection occurred in 1829 in Great Britain by virtue of the famous Scotland Yard department (Nicol, 2008).
This was established by the Metropolitan Police Act that gave power to the police investigators to adopt extensive investigative techniques and activities in curbing crimes and detecting criminals (Nicol, 2008). One of the techniques which is considered the oldest way of detecting criminal activities is surveillance. Through time, surveillance has been legally accepted and adopted by numerous criminal investigators of different countries in the discharge of their duties. At present, through the help of technological innovations, various surveillance techniques evolved (Nicol, 2008). Definition of Surveillance
Surveillance is simply defined as “close watch kept over someone or something” (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, 2008). In its expounded definition, “surveillance” includes any monitoring, observing and listening to persons, their movements, conversations, or other activities or communications (Office of Public Sector Information [OPSI], 2000). Surveillance further employs recording activities or usage of any devices. In the olden times, it is used as a method in detecting when crime is likely to take place at a specific location or against a suspected person or criminal activity (Nicol, 2008).
Such surveillance may be done by a “stakeout” or police officer fixed to observe the place or the person. This may be followed by or coupled with mobile observation and may include aerial observation through helicopters or other devices. Moreover, surveillance may involve the use of technology for listening to conversations and use of undercover personnel in order to obtain information necessary in solving or tracing particular crime or criminal (Rogers, Lewis, & Lewis, 2007).
Basically, surveillance has been continuously used because of its efficiency in obtaining information in applying for a search warrant and gather reliable information for a raid (Baker & Gunter, 2005). It is also used to locate subject, contraband, or site of illegal location. In addition, surveillance is used to prevent crime from further commission through covert or overt surveillance (Baker & Gunter, 2005). In most cases, surveillance as a means of crime prevention has been effective.
Through time, due to the versatility of criminal elements, the traditional surveillance technique expanded. Technological advancements also contributed to the development in surveillance equipments. Kinds of Surveillance Techniques for Crime Investigation Generally, there are three kinds of surveillance adopted in curbing and investigating crimes. These three include the human intelligence, imagery intelligence, and military intelligence and measurement and signature intelligence or MASINT.