As the next generation of tech-savvy frontline officers begin to leverage technology at crime scenes, a new level of investigative effectiveness is becoming possible. Modern police forces that embrace mobile tech to collect digital evidence in the field will be significantly more prepared to meet the digital evidence challenges of 2020.

However, simply finding devices and extracting data is not enough as this is just the beginning of the investigative process that needs a comprehensive digital intelligence (DI) strategy. A complete DI strategy must cover how digital evidence is managed, controlled, and leveraged every step of the way in an investigation.

Once data has been accessed and collected, there must be a way to transfer it in a forensically sound manner to stakeholders and all the way to the courtroom. Without a DI strategy implemented from start to finish, standard operating procedures fall short in terms of digital evidence management and control.

Cellebrite recently reached out to LE in a soon-to-be-released 2020 Cellebrite Trends Survey to gain a deeper understanding of three main challenges officers and investigators are facing at crime scenes in terms of processes and technologies. Here is a preview of some of their responses.

1. Inefficient Data Collection At The Crime Scene

Survey question: How do LE officers currently collect digital evidence from victims or witnesses in the field?

  • 82% ask witnesses to submit their phones
  • 59% ask witnesses to come to the station
  • 46% photograph digital evidence using their own mobile device

None of these options are practical for working confidently with the community and promoting trust.

Victims and witnesses are inconvenienced when their primary communication device is temporarily inaccessible for an indefinite period of time. Worse yet, snapping photos of digital evidence on someone’s phone opens the door to a host of privacy concerns that can discourage witnesses or victims from volunteering information or cooperating at all.

2. Sending Phones To The Lab For Extractions Takes Too Long

Survey question: What role does the forensic lab serve in analyzing the extracted data?

Over 40% of LE respondents reported that their average mobile device backlog time was one to three months—a clear indication that frontliners need more tools at the crime scene to alleviate processing bottlenecks at the forensics lab.

When LE was asked what data would be most important to extract, the top three results were location details, information on connected parties, and relevant images.

Since LE often depends on the digital forensics lab to provide these details, it would be a great advantage to have access to this information in the field in real-time.

By having this information available at the crime scene, evidence could be seen in context to the case, and potential suspects and incriminating digital evidence could be factored in much faster. Frontline officers could surface the suspect’s or victim’s journey before and after the crime, and a data-driven investigation could immediately commence.

3. Surfacing Critical Insights In The Field

Survey question: At the scene of a crime, how important is it for you to be able to extract, review and analyze mobile digital data?

The Cellebrite survey showed that while 53% of LE frontliners feel analyzing phone data in the field is important, most officers do not have solutions to access digital evidence at the crime scene, which should be part of their comprehensive digital intelligence (DI) strategy.

When a DI strategy has been implemented, officers can perform real-time device extractions in the field and easily access mobile devices to find insights within in minutes instead of waiting for the forensics lab to turn phones around.

Witnesses and victims are much more likely to offer their mobile devices for extractions if they know they will not be separated from their phones for extended periods of time. Frontline teams that are empowered with DI can also surface location data, connections, and images to act on mobile data at specific locations, such as police stations and border-control checkpoints.

To meet the demands of a connected world, LE agencies need to rethink the way their departments are structured, how investigations are conducted, and how digital evidence is shared and used at each stage of an investigation.

Digital devices today record and store a growing wealth of data that may contain valuable evidence. Consequently, first responders need to gather consent-based data from these devices at the scene, and then upload it to a central repository where it can be securely accessed for further analysis.

Cellebrite’s DI Platform empowers agencies to access, manage, and analyze digital data to its fullest potential, to quickly yield actionable intelligence that moves investigations forward. The platform also seamlessly integrates with existing infrastructures, allowing agencies to make command decisions more efficiently to better protect their communities.

Cellebrite Field Solutions Empower Frontline Officers

By using Cellebrite Field Solutions, frontline officers can collect consent-based digital data in real-time with an easy-to-use mobile application on their device, eliminating the need for witnesses to submit their phones or send them to the station later for data extraction. Being able to quickly make extractions in the field and empowering officers to be specific about what data they are collecting will foster confidence and better cooperation from the community.

Summary

It’s one thing for frontline officers to collect and analyze digital evidence in the field but quite another for LE agencies to implement a process that eliminates backlogs and manages, controls, and shares data more effectively.

With Cellebrite’s DI Platform, pressure on the labs to make simple extractions is eliminated and frontline officers get critical data faster to expedite investigations. The integrity of case data is also maintained with a forensically-sound process, which secures accurate evidence that is defensible in court.

Learn more about Cellebrite’s Field Solutions here.

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