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GSN_Magazine April Digital Edition

Law Enforcement/Public

Law Enforcement/Public Safety Taming the rising tide of digital evidence By Linda Haelsen, NICE Crime solving in the 21st century hinges on digital evidence. Paper silos have been replaced by digital silos and these silos are growing faster than ever, creating a rising tide of digital evidence that’s increasingly challenging to collect, analyze and share. For police departments, this is creating a big problem. There’s so much data, coming from so many silos that it’s becoming increasingly difficult for investigators to ingest it, correlate it, and absorb the relevant facts of a case. Put another way, the growing variety and volume of digital evidence has outpaced the tools investigators have to collect, analyze and share it. While CCTV video has certainly taken off, the spectrum of digital evidence is far wider. Think of all of the abundantly available sources of digital evidence that address many of the questions investigators once labored to answer. There’s in-car video, interview recordings, crowd-sourced information (like citizen tips, photos, and videos), 911 recordings, and information from other systems, like Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR), Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD), and Records Management Systems (RMS). There are also body-worn cameras, which are being adopted by police departments in growing numbers. With digital evidence growing exponentially and coming from more places, it’s clear that police departments need better tools so they can leverage all of the available digital evidence to improve case solvability and reduce crime rates. Collecting evidence: the conundrum Consider how investigators gather evidence and build cases today. They often have to log on to a dozen or more systems to collect evidence and then manually search for connections in cases, which wastes time and increases the likelihood that crucial evidence will be missed. Even though CCTV is now commonplace in investigations, collecting it is still incredibly time consuming. It’s not uncommon for a detective to physically drive to a crime scene to canvas for video cameras. The cameras can be hard to spot, especially in high rises where they’re not always visible. When video is located, the investigator then needs to download a copy and bring it back to the station. Despite the fact that citizens are readily willing to share it, departments also lack scalable solutions for crowdsourcing evidence. According to a recent Nielsen survey recently conducted by NICE, 95 percent of Americans polled said they’d be willing to share pictures, videos, tips, or other evidence if they witnessed a crime or serious incident, providing they were given an easy means to do so. Still, too many police departments don’t provide an easy way for citizens to submit photos, video or tips. They don’t have the systems or the infrastructure to readily accept this evidence for everyday investigations, and especially for large-scale events. Investigators also waste incredible amounts of time emailing, phoning, filling out paperwork, even driving from place to place to manually collect digital evidence. All of this evidence is then painstakingly copied and saved on CDs, DVDs or USB drives, and added to paper case folders. How new digital investigation and evidence management technology can help New digital investigation and evidence management technology is now helping to break down these barriers by enabling police departments to seamlessly connect all of their digital silos through one application. The technology provides a one-stop shop for gathering evidence so investigators don’t have to waste time logging on to all of the individual systems to manually collect evidence to build their cases. In addition to simplifying access, the technology is able to search across all connected systems and recommend evidence that is potentially relevant to the case. Advanced content analytics make both structured and unstructured data sources searchable. This includes audio recordings, databases, narratives from CAD comments, incident reports, FI cards, reports, documents, and more. This means that investigators can uncover connections and generate new leads, which ultimately helps them solve cases faster. An investigator also has the ability to add key words to a search. Let’s say, for example, a witness in a homicide investigation said they saw a panel van with ‘Joe’s Plumbing’ marked on the side, fleeing the scene. By adding ‘Joe’s Plumbing’ to a key word search, all connected sources – from incident reports in the CAD system to tagged crime scene photos and witness statements – would be searched for those two key words. In addition to searching docu- 22 23 ments and databases, the technology can convert audio to text to make it searchable, so for example, 911 calls and interview room recordings could be searched for the words ‘Joe’s Plumbing’ as well. All the investigator would need to do is review the suggested evidence, and select it to add it to a virtual case folder. Investigators can also initiate and track evidence requests using built in workflows, and receive automatic notifications when those requests are fulfilled. This makes it easier for an investigator to stay on top of active cases, while not losing track of evidence or leads. Furthermore, citizens can submit video, photos and tips through a secure public portal. Private businesses can also use the portal to register their CCTV cameras and provide contact details, making it easier for law enforcement agencies to crowdsource evidence. By geo-locating both city-owned and private CCTV cameras, the technology enables investigators to look at the area where a crime occurred and know where cameras are located, minimizing time spent canvassing for video. The technology is also cloudbased so it can scale to growing evidence storage requirements if there’s More on page 42