What intelligence gathering methods are used by Law Enforcement?

Strategic intelligence gathering is the prevailing best practice in the management of crime by law enforcement. Tactical intelligence that involves the timely collection and sharing of intelligence has become an essential component of stemming crime and criminal activity. Intelligence is the synergistic product that provides actionable information that is relevant, trustworthy and meaningful to law enforcement officers and which focuses complex criminal behavior, criminal organizations, career criminals and terrorism related matters. The most effective crime fighting law enforcement units rely on real time actionable intelligence that results in the arrest and successful prosecution of criminals. Organizations such as the FBI, INTERPOL, National British Police Service and others have actively developed databases that act as the major source of intelligence for the fight against all forms crime. In the past intelligence activities within the police system were focused on collecting information on organized crime because of its huge influence on society and its hierarchical structure. The narrow scope in the use of intelligence meant that only a few elite units collected and stored information as a tool of crime fighting. The threat of terrorism has particularly energized law enforcement agencies to share and use intelligence to identify potential targets and suspects and prevent any attacks. The pressure to counter terrorism and to keep levels of crime down has led to a paradigm shift in law enforcement. Intelligence led policing is the future of law enforcement because it is proactive and methodical in its approach towards crime. Police and other agencies have in recent times begun to collect data related to crime and to analyze it in order to assess crime trends and to identify criminals (Ratcliffe 2008). Law enforcement agencies currently use several intelligence gathering methods in their proactive crime fighting strategies because criminals have become more sophisticated and resourceful.