The growing use of body cameras among police departments is evidence of how technology has impacted state and local law enforcement. Recently, police in Boulder, Colorado, used technology to capture cell phone data to try to end a string of heroin overdoses.
The Boulder Police Department utilized Cellebrite’s Universal Forensic Extraction Device (UFED) link analysis software to tap into the data retained by cellphones of overdose victims, StateScoop reports. Boulder investigators used the software to rifle through the victims’ phones to find call records, as well as data stored in applications and even deleted information.
“We were looking to see who these people might be getting the heroin from,” Detective Mike Heidel explained. “When there were search warrants done and people arrested, we were collecting cellphones and uploading those and then putting them into the Cellebrite analytic.”
This allowed investigators to analyze the data themselves, cutting a forensic analyst out of the equation. The software, which can be installed on any computer, allows detectives to circumvent the cellphone’s passwords once the device has been connected to the computer. The other benefit is that the software automates the tedious process of organizing the data:
Cellebrite’s program then lets users compile that data into a spreadsheet, or lay things out in a timeline. The tool also allows for data from multiple phones to be included in the same visualization, which Heidel feels is crucial for cases involving a variety of suspects or witnesses, like those involved in Boulder’s heroin overdose case or even gang investigations.
According to StateScoop, Heidel maintained that his team only uses the UFED software after they’ve secured a search warrant. Although the software may still face obstacles like encrypted devices, it’s been essential to Boulder Police Department investigations, he said.