Kristin M. Finklea Specialist in Domestic Security
Savvy criminals constantly develop new techniques to target U.S. persons,
businesses, and interests. Individual criminals as well as broad criminal
networks exploit geographic borders, criminal turf, cyberspace, and law
enforcement jurisdiction to dodge law enforcement countermeasures.
Further, the interplay of these realities can potentially encumber policing measures.
In light of these interwoven realities, policy makers may question how to best
design policies to help law enforcement combat ever-evolving criminal
Criminals routinely take advantage of geographic borders. They thrive on their
ability to illicitly cross borders, subvert border security regimens, and
provide illegal products or services. Many crimes—particularly those of a
cyber nature—have become increasingly transnational. While criminals may
operate across geographic borders and jurisdictional boundaries, law
enforcement may not be able to do so with the same ease. Moreover,
obstacles such as disparities between the legal regimens of nations (what
is considered a crime in one country may not be in another) and differences
in willingness to extradite suspected criminals can hamper prosecutions. The
law enforcement community has, however, expanded its working relationships
with both domestic and international agencies.
Globalization and technological innovation have fostered the expansion of both
legitimate and criminal operations across physical borders as well as
throughout cyberspace. Advanced, rapid communication systems have made it
easier for criminals to carry out their operations remotely from their
victims and members of their illicit networks. In the largely borderless cyber
domain, criminals can rely on relative anonymity and a rather seamless
environment to conduct illicit business. Further, in the rapidly evolving
digital age, law enforcement may not have the technological capabilities
to keep up with the pace of criminals.
Some criminal groups establish their own operational “borders” by defining and
defending the “turf” or territories they control. Similarly, U.S. law
enforcement often remains constrained by its own notions of “turf”—partly
defined in terms of competing agency-level priorities and jurisdictions.
While some crimes are worked under the jurisdiction of a proprietary agency,
others are not investigated under such clear lines. These investigative
overlaps and a lack of data and information sharing can hinder law
enforcement anti-crime efforts.
U.S. law enforcement has, particularly since the terrorist attacks of September
11, 2001, increasingly relied on intelligence-led policing, enhanced
interagency cooperation, and technological implementation to confront 21st century crime. For instance, enforcement agencies have used
formal and informal interagency agreements as well as fusion centers and task
forces to assimilate information and coordinate operations. Nonetheless,
there have been notable impediments in implementing effective information
sharing systems and relying on up-to-date technology. Congress may
question how it can leverage its legislative and oversight roles to bolster
U.S. law enforcement’s abilities to confront modern-day crime. For instance,
Congress may consider whether federal law enforcement has the existing
authorities, technology, and resources—both monetary and manpower—to
counter 21st century criminals. Congress may
also examine whether federal law enforcement is utilizing existing
mechanisms to effectively coordinate investigations and share information.
Date of Report: January 17, 2013
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