The interactive parts of this resource no longer work, but it has been archived so you can continue using the rest of it.

Crime and PunishmentThe police and new technology Return to the main page
Case Study 1 - Did the police make use of 20th century technology? Task Glossary

New technology made many changes to the way the police did their work in the 20th century. Some discoveries, such as fingerprinting, 1901, and, right at the end of the century, DNA testing, were new ways of catching criminals. Most were ways of allowing police to move faster and communicate with each other more quickly. Police began to use bicycles in 1909, radios in 1910, cars in 1919 (although it was not until the 1930s that cars and motorbikes were used regularly). Closed circuit TV has changed police supervision of difficult areas as well as speeding and other traffic offences.

As Sir John Fielding realised back in the 1750s, (see Gallery Crime Prevention 1750-1900), information is crucial in identifying criminals. In the late 20th century, computers opened up enormous opportunities to hold and search far more data than could ever be done manually. The National Police Computer holds records on 25 million people and can be searched in all kinds of ways, including the criminal's way of operating. This has led to some concerns about how far ordinary citizens should be allowed to see what information the police hold about them.

Although the police constable on the beat still looks very much the same as 150 years ago, greater use of firearms by criminals has led the police to carry guns more often. Tough public order situations have led to police being provided with riot gear which makes them look like the armed soldiers Sir Robert Peel was so careful to avoid in 1829 (see Gallery Prevention 1750-1900).
Case Study 1 Sources
Source 1 Source 3 Source 2 Source 4 Source 5 Source 6