The Digital Intelligence Tipping Point—How Investigative Technology is Helping State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies, the Federal Government, and Enterprises Fight the High Costs of Crime
The numbers jump off the page at you. New research conducted by Vanderbilt University shows that in just one year, the cost of crime in the United States was estimated at a whopping $2.6 trillion.
The US reported more than 120 million crimes in 2017, including 24 million violent ones. Vanderbilt researchers calculated the steep costs to the country, which amount to 10 percent of the gross domestic product. Such numbers cannot be brushed aside. They call for efficient and intelligent solutions to the challenges at hand.
No one can argue the value of Digital Intelligence (DI) in solving crimes. Frequently, however, the question has been whether the associated investment in technology and training is worth it. By all indications, the resounding answer is: yes. (Digital Intelligence is the data collected and preserved from digital sources and data types [smartphones, computers, and the Cloud] and the process by which agencies collect, review, analyze, manage, and obtain insights from this data to run their investigations more efficiently.)
An Alarming Pattern
The costs of crime paint a consistently worrisome picture across the board: No matter the crime type, the price is steep. Take these examples:
Violent crimes and homicides
Globally, 464,000 people were reported to be the victims of homicide in 2017, according to the United Nations. In 2020, homicides in the United States jumped dramatically, by 25 percent, over 2019. The Vanderbilt study pegged violent crime, defined as sexual violence, physical assault/robbery, and child maltreatment, as 80 percent of the total crimes in 2017. That would place their costs at more than $2 trillion in the United States alone.
The variety of illegal drugs has increased over the decades, but the high costs of trafficking in them have not. What’s worse, organized crime has a strong connection with drugs and those costs are often complicated to detangle.
The findings from a “Serious and Organized Threat Assessment” report found that “close to 40 percent of the criminal networks active in the EU are involved in the illegal drug trade. Around 60 percent of the criminal networks active in the EU use violence as part of their criminal businesses. Two-thirds of criminals use corruption on a regular basis. More than 80% of the criminal networks use legal business structures.”
The drug trade is lucrative: The market in the EU alone is estimated at €30 billion. These statistics point to not just the pervasive nature of organized crime networks but to the difficulty in tracking them down. A recent case study in Brazil shows how game-changing technology solutions that lead to those at the top of the drug trafficking trade can be in destroying these businesses by seizing the assets of drug kingpins.
Human trafficking is on the rise all over the world. The United States registered a 36.7 percent increase in cases in just one year, from 2015 to 2016, with a reported 26,727 incidents. Human trafficking is also an extremely lucrative business globally—the International Labor Organization pegged illegal profits from such crimes at $150 billion annually. Those costs take a toll around the world.
Human trafficking also affects women and girls disproportionately. The UN’s 2020 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, based on 2018 data, found that out of every 10 people trafficked globally, five are adult women and two are girls. A third were children.
Despite these deplorable statistics, many criminals go unpunished: 2016 saw an estimated 16 million forced labor victims worldwide. Yet, according to the US Department of State, only a dismal 1,038 cases of forced labor were prosecuted. As trafficking moves online, agencies need sophisticated tools to track down and prosecute these criminals.
The market for wildlife products generates $23 billion annually, according to the United Nations Environment Program. That cost is steep, especially as we are collectively staring into the abyss of the loss of biodiversity. Putting a price on what that loss might be is challenging to say the least.
Busting wildlife trafficking rings, however, is not easy. Many have migrated online and have nuanced ways of finding and meeting market demand. As the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime stated, ‘strengthening cybercrime strategies will be key in tracking down perpetrators around the world.’
Financial Fraud Is Costing Businesses And Governments Billions
Globally, financial fraud costs companies a staggering $42 billion, says PwC in a report titled, “Global Economic Crime and Fraud Survey 2020.” Nearly half of all enterprises (47 percent) experienced fraud in a single year. Companies suffered an average of six fraud incidents, yet only 56 percent actually investigated their worst incident. Five percent of revenue every year is lost to fraud.
Fraud isn’t just a problem in the private sector. Governments at all levels from federal departments to local municipalities are being defrauded. In the US, The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is wrestling with fraud in a number of sectors including health care. A recent report from OIG cites a major takedown in which the OIG, along with state and federal law enforcement partners, identified more than 345 defendants in 51 judicial districts who were charged with participating in health care fraud schemes involving more than $6 billion in alleged losses to federal health care programs.
There is no reason to sustain such losses, especially when emerging technologies and training in Digital Intelligence can help corporations and government departments get ahead of such crimes. Legislation that leads to funding for the right tools and training, however, is key. While some in the private sector might espouse that fraud is simply “a cost of doing business,” they can get much smarter about fighting illicit activities by investing in digital technology solutions that can accelerate justice while paying rich dividends today—and in the long haul.
The Complex Landscape
As agency managers and corporate leaders are all too aware, the costs of crimes around the world are staggering, yet these figures may only be the tip of the iceberg. Calculating the true costs of crime is a complex endeavor. In the corporate world, there are tangible costs like the loss of income, but there are also intangible costs which can include the loss of reputation and future business. On the governmental side, the hard costs of police investigations and incarceration are substantial, but there are also intangible costs in the loss of credibility and public trust as crimes increase.
Being equipped to conduct digital investigations can’t prevent crimes from happening, but it can help deal more swiftly with the issues at hand. Such investigations can often lead to other information that can help companies and agencies get ahead of the issues. This, in turn, may foster cost benefits in the long run. Fighting crime costs money: security systems and the cost of insurance are expensive for the private sector as are government crime prevention programs, and costs litigate cases in court.
The exact cost breakdown of costs to the public and private sector, and even which factors to consider, might be beyond the scope of our discussion, but if digital technology can help investigators identify criminals and stop their illicit activities more swiftly, dollars can be saved. The challenges extend far beyond crime-fighting costs, however.
Today’s law enforcement organizations are engaged in a constant game of cat-and-mouse. The insidiousness of the crimes has also changed. Solving crimes needs to be about using the right tools at the right place at the right time. When criminals utilize digital technology in any form—cellphones, computers, tablets, drones, etc.—a trail of digital breadcrumbs left behind demands Digital Intelligence as the solution.
The costs for crime globally are increasing at an alarming rate. Investing in Digital Intelligence tools is not inexpensive. Yet agencies cannot use antiquated tools and outdated training methods to solve today’s sophisticated crimes. The cost of inaction is even worse. Establishing strong public/private partnerships with companies like Cellebrite that can provide the products, training, and services agencies and enterprises need to get their jobs done and turn the tide against the rising sea of crimes is paramount.
Digital Intelligence technology is the right solution to level the playing field when paired with proper training. Law enforcement agencies need powerful solutions in a true end-to-end platform that streamlines the data analysis process, allowing members from every arm of an organization to access and share key information in a collaborative environment that enables them to gain important investigative insights from the data presented.
Cellebrite’s complete end-to-end platform empowers law enforcement to collect, review, analyze and manage digital data to find actionable intelligence—all in one continuous workflow. And the DI Platform is backed by Cellebrite’s best-in-class training, service, and technical support – all unmatched anywhere in the world.
With Digital Intelligence technology and training regimens in place, there is a solution. But we have reached the DI tipping point and digital transformation is the path forward.
With crime now costing tens of billions of dollars annually, law enforcement needs the solutions and training to level the playing field. Digital transformation is no longer a “nice-to-have,” it’s a necessity, and with the right partner agencies will see the impact on their investment in higher cases closure rates.
About the Author: Mark Gambill oversees Cellebrite’s global marketing operations, including product marketing, advertising, promotions, analyst and public relations, field marketing, brand management, and corporate events. Mark has over 20 years of executive marketing experience across a diverse set of technology sectors with concentrations in Big Data, AI, Machine Learning, and Augmented Analytics.