In the last 20 years, advancements in technology and new laws have given law enforcement more ways to investigate and solve crime.
* DNA or deoxyribonucleic acid is the unique, genetic blueprint of each individual. Each cell contains the hereditary information. DNA can implicate or exonerate suspects. Usually, a possible suspect's DNA is checked against DNA stored in a DNA forensic database. That DNA has been collected from individuals and as possible evidence recovered from a crime scene.
* The use of cameras and video taping/digital recording has proliferated. Municipalities and businesses have installed surveillance cameras; police departments use cameras in high-crime areas; police units have dashboard cameras as well as tiny cameras officers can wear on a lapel or headset. There are high-speed, infrared night vision cameras which capture the license plates of passing cars and compare that information with an onboard database to check for wanted and stolen vehicles.
*Besides police units equipped with onboard computers, some police departments have invested in in MORIS Mobile Offender Recognition and information System) biometric devices which when attached to a mobile phone, read and compare on-site eyes, faces and fingerprints to a criminal record database.
*Social media plays a role. Police departments use Facebook, Twitter and other such websites to profile suspects, collect evidence in open cases, report crimes and provide crime maps.
*GIS (Geographic Information System) allows law enforcement to collect and organize criminal incidents to look for possible patterns and determine how to fight back.
When a minor is abducted, local and state authorities can issue an Amber Alert to quickly disseminate information about the victim, suspect and vehicle used. The information is sent to news outlets, highway message boards and can be received by text, email and Twitter.
Kristin Smart's disappearance spurred the Kristin Smart Campus Security Act of 1998. Since 1999, all publicly funded educational institutions must have a formal agreement with local police agencies to report cases involving violence or possible violence against students, including missing students.
Smart's roommate reported to campus police that Kristin hadn't returned to their dorm room by the morning after she was last seen but her disappearance wasn't investigated until several days later when the local sheriff's department was notified. The delay was atrributed to Kristin disappearing at the start of a long Memorial Day holiday weekend and authorities saying it was common for students to take off for several days.