An Assessment of the role of Police in the application Of Information and Communication Technology (Ict) in Property Crime Detection
This study examined the impact of Inon and Communication Technology (ICT) in detection and control of property crimes. One of the basic functions of every government is the protection of lives and properties. Hence, it is the sole responsibility of the formal police structures to see to this objective and the problem of crime has become acute that the police force as a government apparatus has no choice other than to employ the use of technologies to curb crime. This study was positioned to evaluate the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in property crimes detection and controls by the police in Abuja Municipal Area Council. The sample size for the study comprised of four hundred (400) respondents cutting across two hundred (200) members of the police force and two hundred members of the public. The sampling technique for the study was the multistage sampling technique. The structured questionnaire and in-depth interview (IDI) served as the instruments of data collection. The findings from the study therefore revealed that the utilization of ICT by the police in property crimes detection and control has been significantly felt within the Abuja Municipal Area Council. The study therefore recommends proactive strategies to effect a change in the attitude of police and police organisational structure to accommodate ICT in their schemes.
1.1 Background to the Study
One of the basic functions of every government is the protection of lives and properties. Without this priority, the hope of today and the future living would not be guaranteed. Hence, it is the sole responsibility of the formal Police structures to see to this objective. In a developing democracy, the police force plays a creative role that no other agency of government is so critically able to assume. Thus the nature of the police force represents the character of the state (Alemika, 2010). These roles are summarized by Martin as cited in Alemika and Chukwuma (2003, p.2):
Police work involves a variety of tasks and responsibilities. Officers are expected to prevent crime, protect life and property, enforce the laws, maintain peace and public order and provide a wide range of services to citizens such as maintaining peaceful co-existence among communities. A common trend unifying these diverse activities however, are that potential for violence and the need and right to use coercive means in order to establish social control. Understanding that the police act as the representatives of the coercive potential of the state and the legitimate users of force help explain a number of their attitudes and characteristics( Alemika, Chukwuma, 2003) .
In the face of globalizing and advancing technological world of 21st century, the trend of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has come to be a major issue of discourse among many people especially scholars within various disciplines. There has been increased expectations that the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) would facilitate ease in various activities of human beings of which, the security of lives and property is not exemption. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is concerned with the storage, retrieval, manipulation, transmission or receipt of digital data. This in no small measure has to do with the sharing of information through the internet (Amit, Adebayo, Abdullahi and Mabayoje, 2012). In this direction, there are various ICT gadgets and channels which people and groups manipulate to achieve their interests such as the mobile phones, the internet, Digital Cameras, iPods, etc. According to Riley (2012), a good way to think of ICT is to consider all the uses of digital technology that already exist to help individuals, businesses and organizations access information. The most crucial aspect of Information and Communication Technology is the use of the Internet which has to do with wireless communications to the World Wide Web (Amit, et al, 2012). Also, Information and Communication Technology in terms of policing has to do with the digital tools and methods of detecting criminal activities especially with regards to property crimes such as digital burglar alarm systems, finger print detectors, closed circuit televisions, car plate number identifying systems etc. (Oyebo, 2010).
According to Russell (2007), ICT has facilitated the prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution, adjudication and punishment of crime. Examples include the use of encryptionto ensure that data are held securely, neural networks to detect financial crime, biometric systems to identify suspects, hard drive imaging to secure data from alteration or destruction, sharing of data held in official data bases to identify suspects and risks, electronic courtrooms to present evidence clearly, and electronic monitoring of offenders to enhance surveillance during periods of home detention. In most developed economies like USA, Canada, Japan and England etc, surveillance cameras are used to capture people or criminal activities without their knowledge. Also, the use of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) in banks, airports, hotels, supermarkets etc. seems to have discouraged theft and other criminal activities and has also eased or curtailed security threat (Ikhazuagbe and Sule, 2012).
The use of Information and Communication Technology in policing has been evident in the detection and control of property crimes which is one of the most committed crimes in every society. Home invasions, property vandalism, auto theft, shoplifting and other types of property crimes in the technologically advanced world, require systematic and technologically enhanced alternatives to the manual methods of detecting crime perpetrators. This is because; criminals have utilized the advantage of Information and Communication Technology to perpetrate crimes. They use communication systems such as mobile phones to interact and communicate with each other; hack through peoples’ credit cards and bank accounts to steal money. According to Russell as reported in (2013), more and more criminals are exploiting the speed, convenience and anonymity that modern technologies offer in order to commit a diverse range of criminal activities. The situation becomes more problematic when the police lack the basic ICT knowledge required to detect such criminals.
Property crimes typically refer to the criminal offenses of burglary, larceny, fraud, embezzlement, forgery, motor vehicle theft, and arson (Inciardi, 2005); other less known property crimes include pick pocketing, counterfeiting and shoplifting (a type of larceny). Since the range of activities included in the property crime definition is vast, the term shouldbe viewed as a representation of offenses that describe material-based criminality in society. In other words, the focus is on crimes against property, not persons. The two leading data collection agencies in the United States are the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) of the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). The bureau defines index-one property crime as burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. Index-two offenses include bribery, counterfeiting and forgery, vandalism, embezzlement, extortion, and fraud.
Thus, the importance of ICT in property crime detection and control in the modern technologically enhanced crime society cannot be overemphasized. This is because, major issues like: fast growth of population, rapid process of urbanization, increasing disparities between the rich and poor, illiteracy, human rights abuses, armed robbery, Right to information, natural and unnatural calamities, human trafficking, corruption in public life, cybercrime, terrorism are issues which have increased the pressure on the police. Therefore, with ICT, the police should be able to detect crime scenes, relate with the public in terms of crime reporting and maintain accurate crime statistics. Also, because the police officials are bound to face increasing heavy pressure from all the stakeholders, not only from the public and media for detection, investigation and prevention of crimes but also from its employees, for the efficient working and service conditions; ICT is therefore, the best solution for enhancing effectiveness in the police duty (Kumar, 2012).
ICT improves effectiveness and efficiency, capacity to store and process large volumes of data. It also improves intelligence and investigative capabilities and makes ready access to criminal records and other kinds of relevant data (Kumar, 2012).
Also, Information and Communication Technology helps to render the police officers accountable through documentation and control of actions, provide a sense of security through connecting to control rooms and colleagues, support officers with awareness of current state of affairs, such as other incidents, the active queue of incidents and remote access to police databases as they innovate police operations (Bouwman, 2008; Sorensen and Pica, 2005). However, crime detection and control may be difficult in situations where the police are faced with difficulties that may either arise from police organizational structure, level of public readiness to report crime cases as a result of public distrust in the police, lack of police willingness to change strategies to the changing dimensions of crime, low level of education to manipulate computer systems, lack of governmental support to the provision of basic ICT requirements, ethnic differences among police officers and struggle for authority. Also, in a political system whereby the police exist to protect the interest of the ruling class, the possibility of adequately protecting the masses through Information systems is scarce.
Information is the key word in property crime detection and control. How the police access information and manage it go a long way to determining the level of efficiency they are likely to achieve in their roles as security agents. Thus, ICT becomes the best tool for the formal police organization to achieve this efficiency in property crime detection and control (Home Office, n.d). It is against this background that this study seeks to evaluate the extent to which the F.C.T police Force has employed these new information technological tools in the detection and control of property crime in Abuja Municipal Area Council.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The trend in the level and tactics of crime globally is rapidly changing especially in Nigeria. These changes pose a great deal of threat to the general society and challenge to the existing modus operandi of the police force all over the world. There is often increasing rate of cybercrimes, property crimes, criminals tend to communicate easily via mobile phones, hack through bank accounts and perpetrate crimes without being detected (Gallangher, 2012). These have necessitated reactions by the police in most nations especially developed ones, to deal with the situation by updating their knowledge and skills to equivalent or superior methods used by criminals via Information Technology systems.
When a property crime is reported to the police, because the police security cameras are located in almost all the strategic places, the duty of the police is then, to use the digital data relayed by the cameras to detect the movement around the reported crime zones at the time of the crime. Such digital systems have the ability to store data which can be retrievable to facilitate the accurate investigation of reported crimes (Wexler, 2012). The situation with the Nigerian police is rather awkward that in the face of these technologies adopted to deal with security situations, they may be lagging behind in ICT based skills and knowledge; hence the difficulties they encounter in tracking down criminals. According to a speech made by the Executive Chairman, Technology Development Company Limited Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem cited in Nkanga (2011, p.39):
Nigeria has a very robust ICT industry with enough experts to help the government devise water-tight security across the country, but one wonders why these relevant government agencies are not very sufficiently keen on taking advantage of the enormous power of ICT to leverage our national security operations as it is the case in advanced countries of the world.
With Information and Communication Technology, people, corporate organizations, and government agencies share information for the public knowledge. This means that, the police are expected to share information regarding crime trends and records via the internet for public awareness. However, a search through the internet regarding annual statistics of property crime in Nigeria particularly in Abuja Municipal Area Council shows that no reliable or updated statistics were uploaded or shared by the police at the time of this study. One may then wonder if property crimes do not occur in Nigeria. It is rather, an indication that the police in Nigeria especially, F.C.T, have not come to terms with latest trends and knowledge regarding the appropriate usage of ICT in crime detection and information management.
Day by day, incidents of property crimes are being reported to the police; many are not even reported due to the inability of the police to respond effectively to the reported ones. In F.CT, property vandalism especially public properties like petroleum pipe lines, school properties, shoplifting and burglary are some of the property crimes experienced by members of the public. People feel there is no need to report such cases of property theft when there are little or no chances at all of police response to the reported cases (Johnson, 2012). In this Information Technology age, what the police require is the ability to use digital security systems to detect perpetrators of a reported crime. Biometric systems can help to detect the finger prints of those who are suspected to have been in the crime scene at the time a crimes was committed. Burglar alarm systems can also alert the police of forceful and unauthorized entry into private and public properties when they are synchronized with police ICT control database, surveillance cameras can capture crime scenes without the notice of criminals and mobile phones can facilitate fast public reporting of incidents of crime etc. (Oyebo, 2010). However, the extents to which these new technologies have been used by the Nigerian police especially Abuja Municipal Area Council police force, falls into questioning.
There are fixed and mobile technological equipment’s such as the mobile gamma and x-ray-scanning devices that can be installed at strategic locations to monitor vehicles and persons with a view to checking the movement of arms and ammunitions including all sorts of dangerous weapons (Nkanga, 2011). Computer assisted technologies worldwide have also facilitated intelligence information gathering, sharing and data management in relation to crime statistics; however, the police force in Nigeria have not adequately utilized these new innovations in their roles as security agents; they are still in their usual manual paper work and speculative investigations in the phase of new technological innovations (Aniekwe, 2012; Adama and Agemerien, 2013).
The inadequacies and reluctance of the police force to change strategy in security have been attributed to the numerous factors affecting the performance of the police force in Nigeria; these include: inadequate qualified manpower, lack of expertise, lack of adequate equipment, low level of education, low morale, inadequacy of training facilities and lack of technological knowhow (Falaye et al, 2013). This assertion is also in accordance with the submissions of former Inspector-General of Police DIG Onovo cited in the Voice Magazine (2009) who noted that poor/inadequate funding, poor budgetary allocation, poor welfare/poor conditions of service, poor training facilities, inadequate logistics such as communication equipment’sand scientific aids e.g. CCTV Cameras, fingerprint equipment, lack of motivation (death benefits, Insurance etc) are factors affecting the performance of the police force in Nigeria.
More so, there is high level of illiteracy in the Nigerian police force which has militated against their zeal to have computer knowledge. According to (News Express, 2013), up to 95% of the members of the police force particularly from her constables to inspectors are not computer literate. Also, most of the so-called investigating police officers in her over 6,500 field formations in the country including most of her CID operatives fear computer and their hardware and software methodologies. Most of them are Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSCE) holders and can hardly improve in computer knowledge easily; they rather stick to their usual manual methods of record keeping.
In F.CT though, property crime records may not be available relating to the inability of the police force to incorporate ICT in their schemes, the problems mentioned above may not be farfetched as there are often reports of home breakings, shop lifting and mostly the vandalizing of petroleum pipelines which occur frequently. Some of the factors mentioned above also constitute obstacle to the ability of the police to detect and control the levels of property crimes in the face of technologically advancing era and have therefore made the growing trend and utilization of ICT in almost all areas of human endeavor unnoticeable within the F.C.T police force structure. It is against this backdrop that this study tends to evaluate the extents to which the police in Abuja Municipal Area Council have come to terms with the latest technologies in property crime detection and control.