Investigative Tools and Techniques Used by Law Enforcement

Introduction: What are Investigative Tools and Techniques

Investigative tools and techniques are a set of aids and skills that investigators use to gather information to solve crimes. This blog will cover five different investigative tools and techniques used by law enforcement agencies to give you a better understanding of the power that law enforcement has at their fingertips.


The investigative process is a systematic way of solving crimes by gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence. Investigators use investigative tools and techniques to quickly collect information about witnesses, suspects, crime scenes, and other evidence.


With the rise of SaaS business models, investigative tools used by law enforcement have become more accessible, meaning anyone can act as an investigative journalist to analyse and document events.

Investigative Tools and Techniques Used by Law Enforcement

5 Investigative Tools Used by Law Enforcement Agencies

The following is a list of investigative tools and techniques that can be used by law enforcement agencies to solve crimes.


Many investigative tools and techniques may not be included in this blog - if you have anything else to add, please get in touch with the Hunt Intel Team!


#1. OSINT Tools

Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) is a term used to describe intelligence gathering from publicly available sources.


Legitimate OSINT techniques are often used either as a precursor to or even during an illegal attack, but the techniques themselves are generally not unlawful. Law enforcement agencies usually try to stay ahead of the game by using advanced OSINT tools to spot trends and information before an event happens.


An example of OSINT tools used by law enforcement agencies is Hunt Intel's geographical open-source intelligence tool (below) that allow investigators to view social media posts and activities around a geographical point.


Hunt Intel: investigative tools used by law enforcement

Sorting through the vast amounts of social media data allows agencies to find and validate data quickly to make correct decisions. Making the correct decision fast is a vital part of any investigation process - which is why as of April 2022, over 14,000 people have used Hunt's range of OSINT tools.


#2. DNA Testing

Genetic evidence is one of the most reliable forms of evidence in many criminal cases. This kind of evidence can be collected from different body fluids and parts, such as blood and hair. Once blood or hair is captured, DNA testing (sometimes referred to as DNA or genetic typing) allows investigators to investigate unique sequences on areas of a chromosome to identify someone.


DNA testing has been widely used in forensic science, as well as in genealogical research. It has become a powerful diagnostic tool for identifying hereditary diseases or other conditions and pinpointing a suspect at a crime scene.


There are three types of DNA tests:

  1. Autosomal DNA test: it identifies genetic information that is not gender-specific and is inherited from both parents.

  2. Mitochondrial DNA test: it examines only the mother's genetic information and can be used to identify maternal lineage.

  3. Y-chromosome DNA test: it examines only the male's genetic information and can be used to identify paternal lineage.

The accuracy of DNA tests makes it one of the most common investigative tools and techniques used by law enforcement agencies. Moreover, it is so powerful that it can even be used to solve old crimes prior to the development of DNA-testing technology.


#3. CCTV Data Analysis

CCTV cameras are becoming more common and advanced - meaning there is more footage being collected by the day, and there is more valuable data that we can extract.


High-definition digital cameras with night viewing capability can capture footage at any time of the day or night, meaning investigators can understand what is happening in real-time and analyse footage against existing data. Hidden cameras are also used during undercover operations, meaning data can be analysed even when the suspect thinks they're hidden.


For example, the use of AI in CCTV data analysis has been on the rise. AI can identify and track objects that move in front of a camera, count people and vehicles, or even measure traffic flow. Not only is footage being used as evidence, but AI can also pinpoint who was present in the footage and cross-reference this to social media activity to pinpoint someone to a crime.


#4. Computer Forensics

Computer forensics is the process of examining digital media to find out what happened. It is a branch of forensic science that deals with collecting and analysing data from computers, mobile devices, and other electronic storage media.


A computer forensics expert will often be asked to examine a system to answer questions like:

  • What was the last thing that person did on their computer?

  • How did the hacker get in?

  • Who else has been using this machine?

  • Where has the data been copied or sent?

  • Is this data encrypted?

  • How long ago was this machine used last?

Computer forensics is different from traditional forensics, where tools like fingerprint kits, casting kits, and sterile swabs are used to collect evidence behind crime scene tape.


#5. Interviews and Interrogations

Interrogations are a vital component of the criminal justice system. They are used to collect information from suspects and witnesses.


Police officers should always be aware of their surroundings and never interrogate a victim or witness without a partner present. This is because interviews can pressure people into giving false information - check out this paper covering "Techniques and Controversies in the Interrogation of Suspects' to find out more.


Despite how many investigative tools law enforcement use have moved online, there will always be a case for interviews and interrogations in-person, as picking up the body language of someone can be a key part of any investigation.


Criminal Investigative tools FAQs

What are investigative tools?

Investigative tools are devices and software used by investigators to find out more about a person, event, or scene. Law enforcement agencies often use them to gather more evidence to solve a crime. For example, an agent might use DNA test investigative tools to pinpoint a criminal at the crime scene or OSINT tools to find out more about a disturbance at an event.


What technology do investigators use?

An investigating officer will use surveillance footage, social media activity and data, cell phone data, and advanced forensic tools (such as 3D scanners) to gather information about suspects, criminal activity, or witnesses. Then, they use these tools to track down people who may have been at the crime scene or know something about it.


What are investigation methods?

Investigation methods are used by law enforcement to solve crimes - often as part of a crime scene investigation. Some of the methods they can use include forensic examination, interviewing or interrogating witnesses, and more. These methods help gather evidence and information about the crime to solve it.


What are the 3 types of investigations?

Investigations are the process of finding out the truth about something. There are three main types of investigation: descriptive, comparative, and experimental. Investigative tools and equipment are used by agencies to come to the correct conclusion of an investigation.


Conclusion: Investigative Techniques Used by Law Enforcement is Evolving

In my research and journey building Hunt Intelligence, I found that law enforcement extensively uses investigative tools and techniques to solve crimes. This has been exemplified by some of the use cases Hunt is being used for as well as the conflict in Ukraine this year.


Sometimes, tried and tested investigative tools and techniques are the best way forward during investigations, but in the wake of technological advancement, new tools can make things faster and more accurate.


To see how Hunt Intel could play a part in your law enforcement agency's suite of investigative tools, feel free to make most of our 7-day free trial or £9.99/month pricing.

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