As society has progressed alongside new technology, cultural shifts, and economic changes, so have the ways crime is committed and witnessed. This evolution has brought about a transition in how investigators and law enforcement commonly handle crimes as new, digital evidence becomes commonplace. Virtual content such as body and dash camera footage, phone records, messaging logs, and web browser history is now more relevant in investigations than ever. With any big change, especially when it involves public safety, existing manual and siloed processes will feel considerable strain, and evidence management is not an exception. In this blog, we’ll explore how technology designed for digital evidence management (DEM) can help alleviate these challenges, as well as what solutions are available to help better oversee and analyze evidence for more effective investigations.
The Evolution of Crime and Evidence
In the past, crimes were documented in completely different ways, especially as there wasn’t technology, such as smartphones and Ring doorbells, everywhere to record videos and take photos. This meant that law enforcement and investigators were also bound to only specific types of evidence, like eyewitness testimonies and physical traces left at the scene, as they worked to solve crimes. Along with this, expectations from the public, especially in terms of a jury, have also evolved alongside what constitutes prosecutable evidence.
As technology and crime continue to rapidly evolve, so does the type of evidence that must be managed and analyzed. According to a recent industry report, digital evidence is present in more than 90% of crimes today. This puts significant pressure on traditional methods of digital storage, like desktop computers and thumb drives, as the volume and file sizes of digital evidence continue to increase rapidly. Discovery requirements are another growing challenge as agencies and prosecutors are held at higher standards for the timeliness of sharing digital evidence with penalties if that sharing is not both timely and complete. Chain of custody requirements also continue changing to reflect ongoing efforts and public requests for more transparency in public safety. With these factors, it becomes more and more difficult for agencies to manage digital evidence in-house without having computers that fill the entire room dedicated solely to storage. Solutions for digital evidence management have helped to bridge this gap between traditional methods and current needs. These tools support law enforcement professionals and investigators to streamline evidence management and enhance the analysis process.
Transforming Digital Evidence Management with Modern Technology
The integration of evidence management systems into law enforcement agencies has allowed these professionals to better handle the complexities and volume of digital evidence. They improve operational efficiency, enhance collaboration, ensure data security, and ultimately contribute to more effective and transparent investigations.
Digital Evidence Management Systems, or DEMS, are a great example of these types of applications. These tools, such as Versaterm’s Visual Labs DEMS, offer an innovative approach to managing digital evidence that provides an accurate account of events when reviewing or presenting case evidence. With these CJIS-compliant, cloud secure, web-based solutions, law enforcement personnel, and investigators can easily search, tag, and annotate digital evidence, like body and dash camera footage, with customized retention schedules and metadata such as case numbers and classifications. These capabilities help automatically track chain of custody and conduct more effective investigations.
Another feature in many DEMS is simplified redaction to protect sensitive or confidential information. For example, the Visual Labs DEMS solution leverages AI technology to automatically redact body-worn, dash-cam, or any other photos and videos as they upload.
These powerful, intuitive tools help agencies save valuable time by streamlining the process of preparing evidence for use in legal proceedings or sharing with the public after an incident.
Embracing the Future of Digital Evidence Management
While crime and evidence continue to change over time, law enforcement and investigative professionals must be willing to adapt to meet evolving needs. Digital Evidence Management Systems today save your agency money and effort by reducing errors and expediting the evidence management and analysis process. Shifting from traditional methods will transform your team by helping them spend less time manually managing evidence and more time ensuring just outcomes.