KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Three Blount County law enforcement agencies will soon have a new tool to better read cell phone data as evidence in crimes.
The Blount County Sheriff’s Office, the Maryville Police Department, and the Alcoa Police Department are all paying $18,000 each for access to three mobile extraction programs called Cellebrite, GrayKey, and Axiom.
With these applications, the agencies would be able to track geo-fencing information from phones, break down data, go through communications on apps, and even find materials criminals may think they have securely deleted. That’s just some of that District Attorney General of the 5th Judicial District Ryan Desmond said that’s just some of what the apps will be able to do.
Desmond also explained these apps and technology will cut down on the amount of time it takes to solve crimes.
He said some of the main crimes they’re focused on include drug trafficking and the opioid epidemic in East Tennessee.
“When you’re talking about drug trafficking it can be difficult to catch those acts while they’re occurring, so the hope is that you can use this technology to build evidence against individuals that you might not otherwise have,” Desmond began. “When you get into the phone of a person and they are a drug trafficker you’re going to see who all they’re communicating with, who their supplier is, who they’re dealing with and then you just build from that case.”
Just as the software can find evidence of crimes on phones, the system can also be used to prove someone’s innocence.
Desmond also spoke about the constitutional privacy east Tennesseans and all Americans have, shedding light on when the software could be used. He explains if consent is not given by a person, a warrant would be needed.
“You’ll have to bring evidence before a magistrate to establish to a judge that it is more than likely than not that probably cause exists, not only that a crime has occurred, but the information being sought is likely to be evidence of that crime that will point towards that individual,” said Desmond. “There are some constitutional protections definitely in play there that will protect an individual’s right to privacy.”
The goal is to have these three agencies using the new software by the Spring of 2023.