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How Is Math Used in Criminal Justice?

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Who Done It?

Those who choose a career in criminal justice rely on mathematics skills in order to do the job. Police officers, drug enforcement agents and ballistic experts are among the criminal justice jobs that require math skills.

Fast and Furious

Police officers use math to assist them in conducting thorough investigations of traffic accidents. In determining the sequence of events that occurred at an accident scene, officers are called upon to take measurements and discern angles in order to compile the necessary evidence to reconstruct the event. Precise measurements of skid marks and distance from the point of impact to the final resting place of the vehicles are both necessary should the officer be called upon to testify in court. Additionally, crime scene investigators must take similar measurements and make similar assessments regarding the location of evidence at the crime scene. Accurate assessments are crucial to a criminal justice professional's ability to testify reliably regarding the facts of a criminal investigation.

Chances Are

Statistics are an invaluable tool in any criminal justice professional's toolbox. With a mathematical ability to understand statistical calculations, professionals increase their ability to predict the most likely locations for and frequency of criminal activity. Statistics are also useful in investigations where professionals utilize criminal profiling to identify characteristics of the person responsible for a particular type of crime. Without an understanding of math, professionals would have difficulty applying probability and other statistical principles that could -- when combined with physical evidence collected at the scene -- expedite the investigative process and bring a case to a satisfying close.

How Much is Too Much?

Criminal justice professionals involved in drug enforcement would have a hard time enforcing the law without a grasp of weights and measures. The laws governing possession of controlled or illegal substances are clear, but the punishments attached to those offenses is often dependent upon the amount of the substance in the suspect's possession. An officer who is unable to differentiate between grams, ounces, kilos and pounds won’t be able to determine the seriousness of the crime.

Truth or Dare

Criminal investigators use rate, time and distance to help them determine the veracity of statements given during interrogations. When a suspect uses time and distance to establish an alibi, it is the job of the investigator to use those facts as grounds to release or evidence to convict.


Kaycee Austin has been writing professionally since 1984. Her experience includes copywriting and editing, opinion and perspective articles, technical and training documents, and short stories for a variety of clients. As an avid traveler, Austin travels outside the United States several times a year, and enjoys writing about her trips.

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