Spoofing a call to a suspect is by no means a new concept, but a new offering from Shoutpoint that puts a number of interesting new wrinkles into the mix for law enforcement agencies seeking to further extend their investigations capabilities with all the emerging technological innovations in so-called “cloud computing.”
First developed in 2001, Shoutpoint technology is a “fully-hosted, white-labeled, telecommunications platform” historically used by schools, political campaigns, and marketers seeking to “deliver all types of multimodal messaging on a large scale.” Through the years, the company has developed a wide range of telephony capabilities for a variety of markets. In the education space, for example, Shoutpoint has licensed a certain application to a large SIS provider that uses the platform to provide voice messaging capabilities to thousands of schools around the nation. Further, Shoutpoint for Schools provides interconnected VoIP services to dozens of school districts. In the political market, Shoutpoint works with firms that provide voice messaging, town-hall style conferencing, and surveying solutions to many of the largest campaigns, unions, and Political Action Committees.
The Shoutpoint Law Enforcement Application represents a new market for the company — one that could prove to be a real benefit for cash-strapped police agencies all over the country. The application is a “caller ID spoofing tool, designed to aid authorities in a variety of capacities. The application is accessed through an Internet browser on any connected device and can be setup to call in just seconds. Using the technology, authorities can make any caller ID appear on a target’s phone.”
Cloud Computing Solution
There are two key benefits to this type of service being “in the cloud” as opposed to being an “on-premise” piece of hardware. Internet-based solutions can be accessed from anywhere — even from multiple locations at once. With Shoutpoint for Law Enforcement, all you really need is a laptop and an Internet connection and you’re good to go.
Perhaps the most compelling advantage is that multiple parties who need to be present on the call do not have to be in the same location. Once someone is logged into the application, they can use it to bring the other parties on the call, so they can be spread out and in multiple locations. With the click of a button their phone will ring, and they will be brought on to the call.
Last week I was able to connect with Detective Perry Kuhl of Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, who guided me through the way in which his agency is using Shoutpoint’s software. When I spoke with Kuhl, he was quick to note both of those benefits.
“It’s mobile — I don’t have to be at my department to use it,” Detective Kuhl explained. “Because it’s Internet access to the interface... I can be sitting in a house doing surveillance and we can initiate the call from a half a block away to all the various people involved in the investigation,” he said.
Pretty Much ‘Cop Proof’
“If we’re doing some sort of rape investigation,” Kuhl continued, “we like to spoof those calls. We do have cold accounts — cold lines — but when I use these lines the number will pop up on the other end as being restricted or unknown. If we’re calling a suspect, we want him to pick up so we can engage him in conversation. He’s not picking up — if he’s not answering his phone because it’s displaying an unknown number — then our investigation is stalled. If we can pop something in there where we embed the name of someone in his contacts, we’re good to go.”
Another scenario may be when you don’t need or want to use a number known to the recipient of the call. Detective Kuhl says one example of this type of investigation is a murder-for-hire case. “We’ll use a number that no one recognizes, or have it come out of a specific jurisdiction or area. Maybe our CI is here in Santa Barbara, and we want to make it look like the call is coming from L.A.”
All the calls made with the service can be digitally recorded with just the click of a button. Those recordings can be streamed directly to agency servers where they are then securely transferred to digital media like CD or DVD for entry into evidence.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department has been using the solution for just about a year, and Detective Kuhl says they’re happy with it. The solution does not only present a cost savings over what some agencies are being charged for their cold lines, but the technology is easy to set up and configure.
“The nice thing about this setup is that it’s pretty much cop-proof,” Kuhl remarked with a good level of humor in his voice. “It’s five tabs. I mean come on, cops can figure out five tabs.”
There’s really no telling whether or not this solution will end up selling with police agencies, but it is definitely exciting to see a company which traditionally has nothing to do with law enforcement work so hard to develop something intended to help solve a pain point for the law enforcement community.
For further information, you can visit the Shoutpoint website or call them at 877-746-8878.