We recently had to sort through thousands of call data records (CDRs) from a cellular provider for a criminal case where a citizen was defrauded more than $50,000.
If you've been involved in any kind of investigation that involved CDRs, you know exactly what that feels like. Unless you're a GIS specialist, a spreadsheet full of latitude and longitude data is unlikely to be usable or so overwhelming that little is accomplished.
There are several products on the market that can address this current need of law officers to load those spreadsheets into a system that will make analysis and visualization easy, so cops can focus on being cops and less on radio frequency propagation patterns and centroid concept.
One example is the Enterprise Sensor Processing and Analytics (ESPA) from Gladiator Forensics. The ESPA is a software-as-a-service product for law enforcement that lets cops log in, upload their spreadsheets and conduct investigations at what amounts to $350 per case.
Users must have a warrant for call detail records (CDRs) and cell tower data files, and know the phone number of the suspect and have some addresses: maybe one for the victim, one for a crime scene and one for a suspect, though that's not required.
Putting the Gladiator to the test
We tested the ESPA. We first uploaded the spreadsheets containing the CDRs and cell tower data from the suspect in the aforementioned case who had an out-of-state number into ESPA.
It was not point-and-click software. At first, it was confusing. But the Gladiator support team helped us figure it out.
Logging in and uploading was simple the next attempt. Once the software imported the records, the next screen put us into the analysis mode.
The ESPA has some techniques to determine whether it was real or fake cell phone number. We found out it was a phone with an account, not a burner or pre-paid, and ended up with a lot of information about our suspect right away.
While Although the suspect had an out-of-state cell phone, we will still were able to use the software to map the movement of the cell, which showed the suspect’s we saw travels in our city and the surrounding area.
We had some questions. Was the suspect in the area on the days on which our victim met the con artist and handed over cash? Was the suspect in the exact vicinity of the victim and the bank branches from which the victim withdrew cash on the date and time of the withdrawals? Can we figure out where the suspect is staying?
Using ESPA, all of these questions were answered definitively, within minutes. We could place the suspect at each bank at the time of the withdrawals. The software’s analyses quickly showed us where and when the suspect slept. Another built- in call pattern analysis showed us the likely confederates.
An interesting built- in analysis was to checked how many calls were made from the suspect to our victim. It also provided the CDRs other phone numbers the suspect called an approximately equal number of times. That led to three new people who, based on the calling patterns, likely were other victims.
The ESPA also was easy to use. It is designed to be used by cops with no formal cellular network training and provide results that can be taken to prosecutors and court. Second, by running it as a managed service, it's securely providing all this at a rock-bottom price.
We hope to see more like this in the law enforcement technology space.
Nick Selby and David Henderson serve as officers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. David is an 18-year veteran, Nick was sworn in 2010. They write about innovations in law enforcement technology. They are co-founders of StreetCred Software, which helps law enforcement agencies find fugitives, get them out of the community and get the officers home safely each day.