Today the East Lansdowne Police Department adopted the ‘DataPilot 10‘ to help collect and secure digital evidence.
This new tool, manufactured by Susteen Inc of California, is an easy to use handheld device that collects and preserves digital evidence from cellular phones within minutes. The device will allow officers to collect digital evidence from victims, witnesses and suspects alike. Evidence collected by DataPilot10 can then be reviewed by investigators and/or the District Attorney’s Office just moments after it is encountered, allowing for critical decisions to be made in near real time. One of the unique features of Datapilot10 is the ability for police to collect only data that is needed for the investigation, thereby giving victims and witnesses confidence that other personal data on their phone will not be seen or collected by police.
Police departments across the country have been struggling for years with the issue of how to collect and preserve digital evidence from very traditional crimes scenes such as robbery, burglary and sexual assault as well as crimes scenes that exist solely within the digital world such as social media stalking, ID Theft and cyber bulling in a timely and cost effective way.
When people are victimized by criminals or commit crimes themselves, the cell phone often plays a central role in the investigation. If the crime involved threatening text messages, phone calls or social media posts (commonly found in Protection from Abuse violations) the phone will contain digital evidence vital to the investigation and prosecution. Even if the cell phone was not used to send or receive threats or other evidence, the very existence of the cell phone can record the location of a person at a certain date or time. This can be valuable evidence in and of itself. A cell phone can also be used to disprove allegations of criminal behavior as well to validate a victim or witnesses claims, thereby solidifying police investigative decisions and increasing the veracity of the victim or witness accounts in court proceedings.
Before we adopted DataPilot10, the standard method of collecting digital evidence was to send the victim/witness or suspect’s cell phone to a regional digital forensic laboratory for examination. A process that can take many months if not longer to see any results. This method has many problems associated with it, some of them routine and annoying and some very cruel with real consequences. Just a few are listed here:
Crippling the Investigation: One of the downsides of sending a cell phone to the laboratory is that the digital evidence is not in the hands of officers who are attempting to investigate the incident. It’s waiting to be processed miles away. Officers need to make timely and crucial decisions on such matters as which person was responsible or not responsible for the crime and to what degree. Also hampered is the ability to identify possible co-conspirators or even additional victims or crimes scenes that are unknown to the police.
Delayed Court Proceedings: Another downside is that the cell phone results are often not available for the initial court appearances and sometimes they are not available for the final trail, meaning that police would get the results back from the lab after the court case was closed. The results themselves can boarder somewhere between useless and heartbreaking depending on what story the results told.
Incomplete Victim Services: Detailed decisions on victim care can be hampered by not having all the facts available in a timely manner. The County and State have many very useful and beneficial victim based services available. Depending on the nature of the case, the data contained within the phone can be helpful in aiding victim services professionals in their care methods. We have seen this type of data be of great benefit in sexual assault cases that involved some manner of grooming or coercion.
The Final Problem: A final and somewhat cruel problem is encountered by front line patrol officers as they attempt to locate evidence. Over time, the general population becomes very much aware of what happens when police take in interest in their $1,000 cell phone….they become aware that they won’t see it again for months if not longer. As such, witnesses become scarce and people who are willing to cooperate with police just vanish. Sometimes this can even mean that the victim of a crime will hide or refuse to produce evidence on their cell phone because they don’t want the police to confiscate it as evidence.
Now with DataPilot10, police can identify, collect and bring to bear digital evidence in a timely and cost-effective manner, ensuring that all available information is utilized to apprehend and prosecute criminals and to better serve justice for victims.