Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that more than 81,000 people in the United States died of a drug overdose between 2019 and 2020. When drug use increases, violence is sure to follow. In 2020, major spikes in homicides occurred in almost all of our major cities; Chicago saw a 50% increase in homicides, New York saw a 40% jump in homicides, and Los Angeles saw a 30% rise in homicides. The illegal drug trade is costing lives and putting our communities at risk.

The increased consumption of fentanyl, whether intentional or due to compromised heroin or prescription painkillers, adds yet another layer to this complex issue. In Columbus, Ohio, there was a 45.6% increase in overdose deaths in 2020 over the previous year, and 87% of these deaths were fentanyl-related.

Kansas Investigators Use Cellebrite Technology in Narcotics Trafficking Case
A malinois searching after drugs. (photo credit: Shutterstock)

Agencies working to curb drug trafficking have a complex job ahead of them, and it will take time, investment, and technology to accomplish it. Dismantling the drug trade is not an easy feat, yet with the right solutions, state and local law enforcement can make significant strides to better protect local communities.

The Challenge

Drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) have extremely well-connected networks, from small American towns to major international cities. The DTOs’ large revenue streams allow them to secure distribution routes by forcing competitors out. They also have professionals on their payrolls—lawyers, accountants, and bankers—to establish and maintain numerous shell corporations that launder the proceeds from the drug trade and minimize law enforcement scrutiny.

These criminal organizations can buy the best technical equipment, utilize the most sophisticated and encrypted methods for communications, and fund logistics plans that allow them to meet the global demand for their product.

The challenge for law enforcement is to continue to evolve their focus on the DTOs’ by concentrating on those at the top of the supply chain rather than low-level dealers peddling drugs on the street.

The Missing Piece

While technology is enabling drug traffickers to flourish worldwide, it also presents a huge opportunity for law enforcement. With the right technology and sufficient trained personnel, law enforcement can quickly identify key DTO players.

Capturing data from cell phones, computers, and the Cloud is one of the most effective ways to track down these players. Cell phones are the most used method of communication between organized crime members. In Cellebrite’s 2021 Digital Intelligence Benchmark Report, 96% of examiners surveyed said that smartphones appeared frequently or very frequently in their investigations.

Benchmark Report 2021 Cover
2021 Digital Intelligence Benchmark Report

Respondents also noted that 63% of cases include digital evidence as part of the investigation. Digital intelligence solutions that capture this data are key to putting cartel leaders out of business.

Equally important are analytics solutions (powered by AI) that allow investigators to sort through mountains of data generated by today’s sophisticated devices to connect the dots between disparate bits of information to provide actionable intelligence. These solutions not only save time but also help law enforcement put all the pieces together to see the bigger picture, allowing agency managers to map the relationships between cartel members and those at the top of the supply chain.

In addition to automating the data-gathering process, analytics solutions also provide the means to increase collaboration within state and local law enforcement agencies to solve more cases faster.

Ultimately, Digital Intelligence technology enables law enforcement to exploit the DTOs’ communication networks, identify their patterns and practices, and effectively dismantle the organizations that are plaguing major cities.

cellebrite featured pathfinder
Cellebrite Pathfinder is an industry-leading investigative analytics solution that helps investigators and analysts in Federal, State, and Local use analytics to expedite investigations related to Narcotics Trafficking and more.

At Cellebrite, we’ve spent years collaborating with law enforcement and military organizations around the world to hone our understanding of their training requirements and specialize our products. As a result, we’ve developed cutting-edge, scalable solutions that are user-friendly and highly effective at connecting law enforcement agencies with the information they need when they need it. With Cellebrite solutions, agencies can track data, automate data analysis, and increase collaboration within departments and across agencies, helping them track down criminal activity faster and more efficiently than ever before.

Next Steps

Adopting an analytics solution to defeat drug traffickers isn’t a “set it and forget it” exercise. It needs to constantly evolve. This is all part of the digital transformation process that agencies must undergo if they are to remain effective in protecting communities against drug-related crimes and other violent crimes in the future. Team members should engage in continuous training as well as self-directed learning. Technology must be kept up to date. And the team should be adequately staffed to meet the needs of the department.

pathfinder analytics Investigative Analytics is A Game Changer

Also, anyone in the agency working with analytics should be encouraged to keep digging deep on data to uncover leads and connections that can help the department address unsolved drug-trafficking cases and accelerate future investigations. For example, the Junction City Police Department in Kansas, which recently adopted Cellebrite Pathfinder, plans to create a “map” of the local crime community and hopefully, dismantle and disrupt criminal networks in the area.

Collect and review, and analytics solutions paired with a strong Digital Evidence Management System (DEMS) like Cellebrite Guardian or Axon’s Evidence provide the ultimate end-to-end solution. This complete solution allows data that is collected, analyzed, and reviewed to integrate seamlessly with a digital evidence management solution to provide law enforcement with one place in which they can manage, review, and safeguard all of their digital evidence.

Queensland Police Use Digital Intelligence to Achieve a 97% Solve Rate of Homicide Cases

Queensland Police Use Digital Intelligence to Achieve a 97% Solve Rate of Homicide Cases
Detective Senior Sergeant Chris KNIGHT of the Queensland Police Service – Homicide Investigation Unit Operations Leader (Photo credit: Queensland Police Service)

Australia’s Queensland Police Service has put digital workflows to good use in the field and in its labs, solving 97 percent of its homicide cases in the process. With digital workflows, the department is able to match old-school shoe-leather policing with Digital Intelligence to crack cases faster. As Detective Senior Sergeant Chris Knight explains it, Digital Intelligence gives the police force directional guidance: Instead of dead ends and wasted time on leads that go nowhere, investigators get data that points them toward suspects and reveals admissible evidence.

“It’s allowed us to place our resources into precisely targeted areas and get independent corroboration that confirms our data is accurate—which gives us greater credibility in court,” Det. Knight says of Digital Intelligence.

The Roadmap to the Future

As the following excerpt from Policing 2025: Envisioning a New Framework for Investigations (©2020 IDC #US46946220), a recent white paper created by Alison Brooks at IDC and sponsored by Cellebrite shows, modern policing is an evolving practice that requires constant introspection by agency managers to evaluate their digital strategy, retool where needed, and make training a key element in improving their investigative process. Many of Alison’s suggestions are extremely relevant to agencies tasked with cracking down on drug-trafficking crimes.

Policing 2025: Envisioning a New Framework for Investigations

“Police agencies globally are experiencing a series of rapid, momentous changes, the pace and scale of which are unprecedented. They must reinvent core service delivery while simultaneously re-establishing public trust in policing. COVID-19 has been a catalyst to deploy new technology that can provide a solid foundation to enable future reinvention in response to the inevitable next disruption. The crisis has also highlighted the need for consistent digital maturity across solutions, agencies, and jurisdictions.

Policing agencies looking for digital intelligence platform solutions to make them more efficient and transparent, and to establish credibility while enhancing trust, should heed the following advice:

  • With the continuous escalation of digital assets, digital intelligence platforms are more important now than ever. Digital intelligence platforms rein in data chaos and complexity, quickly transforming data into information, then into knowledge, and then into insight. This translates into a faster time to establish evidence.

  • It will be increasingly important to automate the collection, analysis, and sharing of heterogeneous data sets. Agencies will need to focus efforts on force multipliers such as AI, machine learning, and cloud processing to deliver insights at scale.

  • Understand where there are gaps in the agency’s digital maturity; the vendor community supporting this market understands how to help surmount critical gaps, no matter how and where you are in the process of digital reinvention. There is no wrong door.”

With Cellebrite, state and local law enforcement can get the support they need to fight against drug trafficking and keep their local communities safe.

Learn how Cellebrite solutions can be your agency’s force multiplier and take advantage of the funding that’s available now by clicking here.

About the Author: Zach Cohen brings years of sales and management experience at both the national and international level to Cellebrite with a deep and diverse background in mobile services to protect, control, encrypt, and archive electronic communications.

His experience working with CEO’s and executive teams to transition their businesses for rapid growth has made him pivotal in working with Federal, SLED, and Fortune 500 Organizations that are transitioning their workflows to digital platforms. Mr. Cohen holds a degree in business management from the University of Maryland.

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