A number of apps are widely touted as increasing neighborhood awareness and preventing crime in Virginia and across the country. However, critics note that the apps have shown little to no evidence that they actually have any impact on crime rates. On the other hand, they argue that these apps are more likely to promote racial stereotyping, vigilantism and unsupported fears about the surrounding world. Crime statistics have dropped precipitously in the past 25 years, and violent crimes are far less common than they were in the past. Still, many people believe that their neighborhoods are more dangerous despite statistical evidence.
Pew Research Center surveys and other studies have looked at attitudes toward crime, police and punishment and found that black respondents tend to be more concerned about crime in their communities than white respondents. White Americans in Virginia and throughout the country may be more likely to report satisfaction with the job performance of police than black Americans.
Police officers have long relied on breath tests to detect alcohol use among drivers. The increasing use of opioids and marijuana, both legal and otherwise, has complicated detection of impaired drivers. Blood testing can detect these drugs, but drawing blood requires a search warrant, unlike a breath test. According to a nonprofit organization based in Virginia, 45 states have laws or court rules that enable the issuance of electronic search warrants by telephone, video or other electronic means.
For many people in Virginia, a false conviction is one of their worst nightmares. The thought of spending years in prison and carrying a felony criminal record despite being innocent is chilling. However, it has also been a reality for far too many people. According to a report from the National Registry of Exonerations, wrongly convicted prisoners lost 1,600 years of life behind bars in 2018 alone. The organization tracks the exoneration of wrongfully convicted people from 1989 moving forward.
Virginia retailers have strong motivations to keep shoplifters out of their stores, but the increasing use of facial recognition surveillance systems raises concerns about privacy. Stores that deploy the software collect facial data about everyone coming and going from their properties without their consent. Images of shoplifters or alleged shoplifters can be shared among store locations to alert security departments about the potential criminals. As the law stands now, actual criminal convictions would not need to occur for a private business to label a person a threat permanently.
The current generation of young adults living in Virginia and across the U.S. are significantly more likely to be arrested than young people from previous generations, according to a new study by the nonprofit RAND Corporation. The study was published in the journal Crime & Delinquency.
As the systemic biases in the criminal justice system have come under increased scrutiny, questions have arisen regarding the importance of dialect. A recent linguistics study found that 27 stenographers made errors in two out of every five sentences when presented with Black English grammatical patterns. Moreover, the stenographers were only able to paraphrase one in three sentences.
The incarceration rate in Virginia and around the country has fallen from 1,000 prisoners per 100,000 adults in 2008 to 830 prisoners per 100,000 adults today. This has been largely accomplished by local authorities adopting a more proactive approach and focusing on rehabilitation and reducing recidivism. However, more than 2 million people still remain incarcerated in state detention facilities, and the recently passed FIRST STEP Act does not offer them any relief.
Over the past few years, digital privacy and security have been an issue that has been a hot topic, resurfacing in the media time and again. With that in mind, the citizens of Virginia might be interested to know that a Californian judge just issued a historic ruling that has the potential to be a landmark decision: The judge ruled that the government does not have the right to force individuals to unlock their phones using their biometrics, including the individual's face, fingerprint, or iris.
Criminal justice issues and sentencing reform have garnered a great deal of attention in Virginia and across the country. An unlikely coalition is supporting one bill in Congress to address some of the problems that have tainted the system, the First Step Act. The bill has bipartisan support and is backed by, among others, the American Civil Liberties Union and President Trump. Despite presenting only a modest reform agenda that fails to address many of the key concerns raised by justice reform advocates, opponents of the bill have continued to say that its adoption presents a threat to safety.