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What Is Law Enforcement Surveillance?

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  • Written By: Keith Koons
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 05 October 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Law enforcement surveillance is a term that refers to how police departments and government entities detect possible criminal activity. Traditional methods of law enforcement surveillance have relied on actual people to watch or listen to the areas around them to detect crime, but more recent methods have made most of these tasks fully automated. Modern law enforcement surveillance teams use satellites, video cameras, and even unmanned flying drones to capture images and voice data.

When the average person thinks of law enforcement surveillance, he likely thinks about a police officer sitting inside a car or building while watching a possible suspect for many hours at a time. While the classic stakeout approach is still used throughout the globe, technology has largely replaced many of these traditional methods of law enforcement. Hi-tech cameras and listening devices, for example, can watch a suspect's home for months at a time without a single police officer present.

Larger police departments around the world use even more sophisticated equipment. Some of them rely on satellite imagery to gather intelligence on criminal enterprises, while others implement long-range listening devices that can capture even a whisper from several city blocks away. Devices like locator beacons are also used as tracking devices on vehicles in question, while infrared goggles are equipped for police officers and soldiers to see in complete darkness. Each of these items allows law enforcement to keep close contact on suspects without actually being present.

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Military groups use even more advanced equipment when it comes to law enforcement surveillance equipment. Unmanned drones are one of the latest innovations that allow the military to spy on enemies from almost halfway around the world. Naval ships use sonar to detect even the quietest of vessels in the middle of the oceans; many reconnaissance aircraft employ this same technology. While many people assume these types of equipment are only used for combat, many governments instead use it to scout their shorelines for drug cartels and other types of criminals.

Of course, technology alone can never truly replace human beings when it comes to law enforcement surveillance. There will always have to be countless civil employees to watch recorded video images, listen to recorded cellular conversations, and keep track of people of interest when they attempt to disappear. All of this gathered information then has to pass through a chain of command so that leaders can make the decision of how to decipher it.

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