One of the criminal justice problems which technology and information systems have contributed to is the flourishment of criminal gangs. Criminal gangs are social groups of individuals that assemble with the intention of committing violent crimes or drug offenses. New and emerging technologies and information system are increasingly being adopted by criminal gangs in perpetrating various crimes. The wider adoption of technology by criminal gangs poses a great challenge to law enforcement agencies. Gangs have been lured to adopt technology given the ease with which they can set up cybercrime campaigns as well as offer their online crime services. This includes the use of ransomware to generate cash that is then used to bankroll criminal activities including people and drug trafficking. Gangs are also leveraging on technology to help make the well-established crimes more profitable. For instance, gangs are now using drones to traffic drugs across borders. Some gangs also track social media to determine when people are not in their homes so as to commit burglaries.
Gangs not only use technology as a facilitator for traditional crimes such as child pornography but also as a means of offending. Today, gangs are involved in digital piracy, hacking, money laundering and identity fraud. The returns from these crimes are then used to fund other more damaging crimes such as child trafficking. Organized criminal gangs are also leveraging on technology to evade law enforcement agencies.
The numerous number of encrypted messaging apps and mobile devices enable gangs to communicate without detection from law enforcement. Moreover, they are protected by privacy laws which prohibit the government from tracking their communications (Marshall & Thomas, 2017). This is one of the challenges that face law enforcement efforts towards breaking up gangs.
Although criminal gangs leverage on technology and information systems to commit a crime, law enforcement agencies can also leverage on technology to dismantle criminal gangs. Among the technologies to hold promise in this regard is big data and data analytics. Law enforcement can leverage on big data and analytic tools such as social network analysis to detect criminal gangs as well as understand their behavior (McGuire & Holt, 2017). Social network analysis tools provide vivid insight into the nature of society and how various actors are connected to each other. Organized crime actors are just as social as other social groups. Consequently, social network analysis techniques can be employed to tease apart the relationship between various members of gangs. For instance, the police can leverage on mobile phone data to recreate the networks that facilitate gang activity. This can then be mined to enable law enforcers to understand the hierarchies within the gangs as well as how the various subgroups are connected. This can facilitate law enforcement officers to identify where to concentrate their efforts.
Big data in combination with artificial intelligence also arguments law enforcement agencies in dealing with organized criminal gangs. An example of the application of artificial intelligence in tackling criminal gangs is the use of “Predictive policing”. This involves leveraging on data and predictive algorithms to predict places, where crimes might take place, can also curb street violence and even gangs (Moriarty, 2017). This is because such technologies ensure that law enforcement agents are deployed invulnerable areas where they would make a difference rather than being randomly deployed. Technology also enables law enforcement to detect crimes and prevent them before they occur.
Marshall, D., & Thomas, T. (2017). Privacy and criminal justice. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.
McGuire, M., & Holt, T. (2017). The Routledge handbook of technology, crime and justice. New York: Taylor & Francis Group.
Moriarty, L. (2017). Criminal justice technology in the 21st century. Springfield: Thomas.