Role of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) in policing
Mecosoft Systems Pvt. Ltd.
GPS technology can offer numerous benefits to Criminal Justice agencies of all types. For some agencies, the navigational capabilities offered by GPS might enhance efficiency and safety. These navigational applications can be used to support a variety of policing and criminal justice functions. Other agencies might be interested in using GPS to carry out special operations or to provide enhanced personnel safety. GPS is still an emerging tool in Indian policing, which may offer a multitude of unforeseen applications for law enforcement and the criminal justice system. We can expect to see this technology decline in cost and/ or improve in quality in the years to come. As a navigational tool, GPS can be a powerful asset for law enforcement users. This paper deals with the potential of GPS in policing.
The availability of Geographic Information System (GIS) and Global Positioning System (GPS) technologies to the modern law enforcement profession represents a quantum leap forward in operational management and strategic planning capabilities. With GPS/GIS, the modern law enforcement agency now has a new array of tools for combating crime and managing traffic. These new technological applications provide police officers with a wide variety of analytical capabilities and resource management information. GPS/ GIS will allow them to direct resources in a manner that is both flexible and responsive to the dynamic and volatile nature of public safety operations. GPS technology, when combined with automated wireless mobile field data gathering, represents the path that law enforcement agencies will be taking into the future for records and resource management. GPS data, embedded in the DBMS, will provide the common thread that binds the tapestry of modern lawenforcement business process. This technology will
revolutionize the way in which the police department is conducting its business. The challenge will be to harness the power of GPS/GIS, and to point their development in a cost effective direction so that all law enforcement agencies, both large and small, can reap the benefits that these applications will afford. As a tool for law enforcement, GPS can assist agencies by increasing officer safety and efficiency.
What is GPS?
The United States Coast Guard defines GPS as “a satellite-based radio-navigation system.” In layperson terms, GPS operates when a network of satellites “read” the signal sent by a user’s unit (which emits a radio signal). A GPS unit receives data transmitted from satellites at least three satellite data inputs are necessary for accurate measurements.
The unit then interprets the data providing information on longitude, latitude, and altitude. GPS satellites also transmit time to the hundredth of a second as coordinated with the atomic clock. With these parameters of data and constant reception of GPS signals, the GPS unit can also provide information on velocity, bearing, direction, and track of movement.
GPS receivers can be integrated with other systems, such as a transponder or transmitter. The transmitter takes information from the GPS receiver and transmits it to a defined station, such as a police dispatcher. The dispatcher must have the system to both receive the transmission in “real time” along with the GPS data. To be truly useful, this information must be integrated with a Geographic Information System (GIS), which has a map of the community and translates the longitude and latitude into addresses.
GPS units allow users to process this information regardless of weather conditions and location anywhere in the world—Land, Sea or air. As a general rule, however, GPS receivers will only work outside where the signal from three satellites can be clearly received. Thus, transmissions from police cars inside a structure—such as a parking garage—will be obstructed. Similarly, use in a building will generally be limited.
GPS was originally developed by the military to aid in navigation. Naval vessels, aircraft, and land vehicles could all determine their exact location to a high degree of accuracy in a matter of seconds without human error. A civilian GPS system now allows commercial and private users to enjoy the ability to accurately navigate anywhere in the world. Currently, corporations are developing GPS as a way to enhance customer service, to track inventory, and enhance security.
GPS and Policing
GPS technology can offer numerous benefits to law enforcement agencies of all types. For some agencies, the navigational capabilities offered by GPS might enhance efficiency and safety. These navigational applications can be used to support a variety of policing and criminal justice functions. Other agencies might be interested in using GPS positioning technologies to carry out special operations or to provide enhanced personnel safety.
GPS is still an emerging tool, which may offer a multitude of unforeseen applications for law enforcement and the criminal justice system. We can expect to see this technology decline in cost and/or improve in quality in the years to come. As a navigational tool, GPS can be a powerful asset for law enforcement users. The Riverside (California) Police and Ventura County (California) Sheriff use GPS to enhance the efficiency of their aviation units. Using computerized maps of their jurisdictions in conjunction with GPS, aviation personnel can determine their exact location, their speed, and
their estimated time of arrival when responding to calls. A GPS unit
provides a computer with constant updates of the helicopter’s
location. The computer is able to plot the location on a map of the
agency’s jurisdiction. This map is displayed for the flight crew; this
enables flight personnel to always know their true location.
Aviation personnel observing activities on the ground might
not know the exact location of the events, which they are witnessing.
Using a computerized map integrated with a GPS unit, these observers
could accurately direct personnel on the ground to a specific location.
Aviation personnel do not have to fumble with paper maps or
provide vague locations in reference to major streets or landmarks
(“Subject is three streets west of Main”).
This technology can improve the performance of aviation
personnel and enhance communication between members of
different units. In addition to aiding aviation units, GPS could easily
be applied to assist personnel operating in ground vehicles. The
advantages of GPS for ground-based personnel are most profound
for employees working in large jurisdictions. State and county officers
of United States were recently assigned to a particular jurisdiction
will never be lost if their vehicle is equipped with a GPS unit (although
there is still no substitute for a solid knowledge of one’s jurisdiction).
Officers engaged in a pursuit, which has taken them outside of
their jurisdiction, can always determine their precise location. Officers
responding to a mutual aid call can plan their route and estimate
their time of arrival. There are a variety of other GPS applications,
which go beyond supporting patrol and aviation functions. Personnel
who routinely travel in unfamiliar or semi-familiar territory may
find GPS helpful in improving their efficiency.
For example, state-level investigators may frequently be called
to assist in major crime investigations in an area encompassing
hundreds or thousands of square kilometres. GPS systems could help
guide these employees to the exact location where their assistance
is needed. Correctional personnel might frequently be called to
transport prisoners and detainees between locations. Having access
to a GPS system provides an extra level of security.
The positioning capabilities offered by GPS may also
contribute to the success of specialized law enforcement operations.
A bait vehicle is one such example for the capability of GIS and
GPS. A bait vehicle was equipped with a GPS unit, which relayed
information about the vehicle’s location to a remote unit. This
allows investigators to easily track the vehicle and make an arrest
once it had been stolen.
The studies show that, one such program operated in
Minneapolis led to a 60% reduction in auto theft after only one
month. GPS may make it easier for investigators to track a vehicle’s
movement over longer periods of time and across larger distances.
A team of investigators might not simply want to track a vehicle to
apprehend the thief. Using GPS, a vehicle could be tracked for
several hours until it is taken to a “chop shop” in another city. This
would enable investigators to attempt to prosecute a ring of car
thieves, rather than just targeting isolated offenders.
In addition to being a tool for law enforcement “bait”
operations, GPS can also provide enhanced security in the private
sector. By outfitting expensive (and relatively mobile) equipment
with GPS units, stolen items can be quickly located and recovered.
Corporations owning these vulnerable “mobile investments” (semi-trailers,
heavy machinery, construction equipment, automatic teller
machines, etc.) could enjoy an element of security knowing that
their inventory is safer.
Law enforcement agencies might also profit by being able to
clear major theft cases. In addition to tracking stolen cars,
investigators could use GPS to create bait operations for a variety of
vulnerable merchandise. An area having problems with the theft of
heavy machinery could set up an operation to attempt to catch the
guilty parties. This would allow investigators to target a wide variety
of theft operations. In addition, GPS is increasingly being used as a
precise method of defining locations of crimes, evidence, and traffic
The future prospects of GPS technology are virtually limitless.
Police officers operating in unfamiliar territory will always know
their location. Investigators can track stolen merchandise anywhere
in the world (imagine if a credit card sized transmitter could be
slipped into a stack of $100 given as ransom money). The greatest
advantage of GPS technologies is their ability to help police officers
do their jobs more efficiently and with a greater degree of safety.
The accidental bombing of the (Chinese Embassy in Belgrade,
Yugoslavia is a testimonial to the vital need to keep maps updated.)
When mapping and positional systems are properly integrated, GPS
can be a powerful asset to support law enforcement agencies in a
broad (and expanding) variety of operations.