evidence management software

What Is Evidence Management Software?

In the fields of Law and Law Enforcement, evidence is a common yet powerful term. Evidence is the key to either conviction or acquittal in the courtroom. Of course, evidence management begins much earlier than that, in the hands of law enforcement officers. Officers must handle evidence carefully and correctly as the first part of an efficient evidence management system.

Traditionally, that system was paper-based and cumbersome. It required many man-hours of cataloging and written documentation. Today, however, evidence management software tool suites are available to streamline this essential process. Evidence management software enables police departments to control digital as well as physical evidence paperlessly. These software systems employ the latest barcode technology to initiate and manage the chain of custody. Barcodes eliminate the antiquated need to keep tickler files. Instead, the system sends automated alerts for overdue checkouts and other notifications.

Further, an evidence tracking system uses cloud technology to securely store data and allow users to access the system from the field or anywhere. For example, officers can use smartphones to take images and videos, record and log interviews, and enter driver’s license barcodes into the system from the scene.

Traditional Method for Tracking Evidence

For years, managing evidence was a paper-based process that began at the crime scene. An officer collects a piece of evidence, tags, or places the evidence in a bag. Then, he or she writes information on the bag, such as a case number, date, and address. Usually, the item is assigned an item number. By the end of the shift, the officer delivers any evidence to the evidence room or perhaps drops it in a temporary storage locker. In this case, someone from the evidence room can retrieve it later, along with the officer’s handwritten evidence report. A copy of the evidence report should also be attached to the case report.

Next, the evidence custodian receives the evidence. From there, the evidence techs or investigators determine whether lab work is required to process the evidence further. Notifications may need to be made. The evidence custodian then assigns a permanent storage location for the item and places it on a shelf or in an appropriate box. The item must be logged into a master logbook. All information must also be logged into a records management system.

As you can see, the traditional method for tracking evidence throughout its lifecycle involves handwritten notes and labels, duplication of effort, manual updates to logbooks, and entries into data management systems. Anyone with experience in the field knows that maintaining a defensible chain of custody is a long-running challenge.

While this method is still used by law enforcement agencies in the United States, it is labor-intensive and subject to a great deal of human error. This is why a digital evidence tracking system is an efficient solution that eliminates redundancies, increases efficiency, and reduces human error potential.

Features of Evidence Management Software

In addition to the apparent time-savings of evidence management software, there are several additional features that come with upgrading to an electronic evidence management system. While most developers aim for these features, it’s wise for you to understand them and target questions to your software provider to ensure they can deliver.

Accessibility in the Field

Cloud computing has become an essential element across all industries. Any device or application that runs on cloud architecture is secure, accessible to users anywhere, and cost-effective for the agency to operate. Cloud-based applications can run on just about all mobile devices and on any platform, which means law enforcement personnel can use them in the field rather than waiting to log evidence in the evidence room or at a computer terminal in a fixed location.

Rather than waste valuable time filling out reports, officers can initiate the chain of evidence from the crime scene and return to the field in a matter of minutes rather than hours.

Ease of Use

System integrity and cost-effectiveness are essential elements; however, they do little good if the system itself is too complex to use. Most evidence management software is user-friendly and intuitive, which means users can learn it quickly. If it is too complex, law enforcement personnel will waste valuable time correcting errors, searching help files, and grappling over system complexities.

Simultaneous Digital and Physical Evidence Management

In the past, digital and physical evidence were managed separately on parallel systems. In recent years, however, courts are recognizing both types of evidence equally. So, maintaining them on separate systems no longer makes sense. Both are prioritized equally regarding the chain of custody and evidence integrity. Further, we no longer store digital media on physical CDs or DVDs. Now, they are logged as digital data that displays metadata for ease of identification.

Separating physical and digital data on separate systems calls the chain of custody into question. Evidence management software allows you to support digital and physical evidence concurrently and on a single system, which creates an ironclad chain of custody for your agency.

Customizable Data Fields

More than likely, your department has used the same labels, or field names, in your paper-based system for decades, and it makes sense to use the same field names in your evidence management software. Though, consider the fact that some terminology changes over time. New terminology is continuously evolving, and you may need new labels and categories in the near future. What we are talking about here is data customization. Law enforcement changes as quickly as the technology that supports it. Thus, your evidence management system must be able to adapt with it.

While the data collection fields within your system are adequate today, they may be obsolete tomorrow. Your tracking system should have a customization feature that enables your system administrator to modify or add new data fields as needed. The system should also archive outdated fields rather than delete them because deleting fields can lead to a loss of old data.

Integrate with Existing Platforms

Software integration means being able to move to different platforms seamlessly without having to start over when it comes to installation and implementation. What’s more, integration is essential for evidence tracking solutions. Your systems must be able to communicate with one another.

Most evidence software developers are aware of industry standards and design their systems to be compatible with supporting systems. The system should also be able to work with depreciation data, related accounting information, audits, and other variables within your interconnected systems.

Multiple Security Protocols

It almost goes without saying that all sensitive data stored using the evidence management software must be highly secure. Whether your agency stores its information in the cloud or an on-site datacenter, that information is crucial to all your processes. Even as your department or agency maintains evidence to prosecute crimes, it is vulnerable to compromise due to cybercrimes.

Cybercrime is increasing at an alarming rate, and any data management system provider must be vigilant when it comes to data security. Your evidence tracking system provider should employ multiple military security protocols to protect your data. In addition, they should continually analyze their own security by testing procedures and hiring independent firms to employ hacking methods to determine the strength of their security defenses.

Also, the tracking system should be able to function correctly with security protocols in place. For example, if a user makes a mistake while entering data, he or she should be able to correct it without incident. Though, the system should record all revisions in order to maintain overall system integrity. No tracking software should allow users to make changes without proper notation.

Scalability as Your Agency Grows

Most evidence management software is designed to grow with its clients. Meaning, the system is easily scalable to expand as needed to support a growing number of end-users. Agencies grow steadily, and sometimes a high-profile case means the number of personnel spikes quickly. Your evidence tracking system must be able to keep up with the added load. Otherwise, users will incur the inconvenience of system crashes and loss of business processes.

Efficient Use of Resources

The primary goal of moving away from the antiquated, manual paper-based method for evidence management is to increase efficiency. Simply moving to a software management system will save time. However, there are additional time-saving features built into such a system. Evidence management systems allow you to track large bodies of evidence using a single solution rather than multiple software applications.

The integration and compatibility listed in the previous sections mean that users can enter data once, access it through multiple interfaces, and run needed reports without importing or re-entering data. You reduce menial tasks for your officers and other personnel, and you can track larger volumes of evidence data using fewer resources.

The system’s automated alert feature can send alerts to personnel. For example, when a closed case is archived, evidence custodians are notified and can dispose of or archive the physical evidence as required. They will know which cases to archive, which will eliminate the all-too-familiar backlog in evidence rooms.

Affordability of Evidence Management Software

Pricing is a factor when it comes to selecting an evidence management system. Keep in mind that determining your budget should also include accounting for the savings in man-hours and other resources that come with moving to a more efficient system. How much will it cost to continue without adding a software system? If your current solution lacks the customization, automation, and security features offered by an evidence management system, you may already be spending more than the cost of acquiring and implementing the software.

Reliable software providers offer clear pricing plans with no hidden fees. They will be eager to answer all your questions as well as offer bundle pricing if you need multiple features.

List of Updates

Due to the critical importance of evidence tracking software and the continually evolving technology surrounding it, your software provider should upgrade continuously to remain effective and competitive. Your provider should have a list of detailed improvements going back at least three years.

While this at first seems counter to “ease of use,” remember that users can expect ongoing training for any software application they use. For example, each time Microsoft Office rolls out a significant update, users receive a quick tutorial when they open an Office application that goes over the new features.

Evidence tracking applications are critical to maintaining the chain of evidence. Updates are essential in this regard.

Conclusion

Think about this: Every minute an officer spends documenting an evidence report is a minute he or she cannot be in the field. The old way of paper-based reports is time-consuming and leaves a wide margin for error. An evidence management software system allows the officer to tag and log evidence into the system from the field. Further, the system aids in flagging and correcting human input errors on the spot.

Once the evidence reaches the evidence room, personnel there receive a properly tagged and logged evidence inventory. They can then supplement the record with the required inventory information, creating instant collaboration between personnel in the field and the evidence room.

From a legal standpoint, this creates a fortified chain of custody that holds up in a courtroom. As we discussed, this applies to digital as well as physical evidence. You no longer need to convert photos and videos to a disk for storage on a separate system. Such files can be stored in the same system as the barcoded physical items, with all data being stored in the cloud for instant access as well as backup protection.

At ERIN Technology, we provide evidence management software tools to help you improve your workflow for managing evidence and related assets through an easy, user-friendly process. Our system provides the first line of defense for the chain of custody and evidence integrity. Ours is a fully secure and industry-compliant solution for law enforcement agencies. We ensure efficient, accurate collection and storage of physical and digital evidence. Further, our system solidifies chain-of-command, manages convenience copies of forms and reports, metadata analysis, and reporting.

Contact us today to learn more about our comprehensive evidence tracking solution.

ANNOUNCING ERIN7 AND NEW WEBSITE

Today, ERIN Technology LLC (Evidence Room Information Management) announced the launch of its redesigned website www.erintechnology.com, and the innovative update of their evidence tracking software, ERIN7, an end-to-end chain of custody system for tracking digital and physical evidence.

The website will provide visitors with continuously updated educational content relating to best practices for managing evidence with its included blog provide enhanced evidence management content and resources.

“ERIN7 combines over 17 years of knowledge in this market and provides innovative features never seen before for this type of product. All the knowledge gathered from our customers and support personnel has been included in this version. The website and product release reaffirms our commitment to, and leadership role in the evidence management market.” said Dennis Lamb, founder and president of ERIN Technology LLC.

About ERIN Technology LLC

ERIN Technology LLC is a leader in the world of evidence management software. Founded in 2010 and headquartered in New York, ERIN Technology assists customers around the world with advanced solutions to improve workflow and secure digital and physical evidence.

EVIDENCE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM : PRICE VS VALUE

The Bitterness of Poor Quality Remains Long After the Sweetness of Low Price is Forgotten ~ Benjamin Franklin

Government Agencies are often forced to make a decision of choosing between a quality evidence management system that forces the department to raise their budget, and a sub-par evidence management system that meets their budgetary constraints. As consumers, we all face the same dilemma. If you don’t believe me, watch one episode of HGTV’s House Hunters where the husband is a freelance hamster trainer and the wife is a substitute teacher and their budget is $980,000.00.

Price vs. Value

We often convince ourselves, post-purchase, that we negotiated a good deal on the product or service that fit within our given budget. No one wants to admit they purchased a sub-par product or paid for horrible service, yet in this industry, we consciously make these decisions and work backward through the process when purchasing evidence management systems.

Shouldn’t we find a quality evidence management software first and then equate a value once we’ve determined the product is of superior quality and exceeds our needs? The Value of a product is different to every individual. Warren Buffet is often quoted as saying “Price is what you pay, Value is what you get”.

If you could put a value on an evidence management software that saved you tremendous time and effort, automated a majority of your tasks that require an inordinate amount of time, you would probably place the value extremely high. On the other hand, your supervisor or the decision makers may place a very low value on the evidence management software simply because it does not save them any time as they do not or will not use the system at all. Good leaders understand Value, while others shop on Price.

“It’s Better than what we have”

If you think big picture, not just short-term, but put things in perspective and think future needs, you will never utter those words.

mobileforensics

10 Ways Mobile Forensics Can Benefit Your Law Enforcement Agency

Cell phones are everywhere and they often contain information law enforcement professionals need to solve crimes.

People don’t do anything without their smartphones. When one shows up at a crime scene, you need to know how to use it for your investigation, and track all the actions completed for the chain of custody. 

Mobile forensics helps you use smartphones and other mobile devices to aprehend criminals or terrorists. Law enforcement once had to pound the pavement for hours to get information. The same information is often available on cell phones.

Don’t believe us? Check out these 10 ways cell phone forensics makes your job easier and faster. Proper use of mobile tools can mean the difference between life and death.

1. Mobile Forensics Tracks Victims

When you have a kidnapping by a non-custodial parent or runaway situation, time is of the essence. Every second that ticks by means your victim is in more danger. Before mobile phone forensics, police relied on information from friends and family, eye witness reports and credit card tracking.

These are still important tools, but GPS information on cell phones can help you find your victims much faster, or find out the location of your runaway without all the extra work.

Time is always against law enforcement. Cellular forensics can help turn the tide.

2. Find Out Their Timeline

When investigating a case, knowing the previous locations of a victim or suspect is vital. If a suspect’s alibi relies on him being at a certain place at a certain time, then using mobile phone data can determine if he’s telling the truth.

To determine the timeline of a victim’s last night, cell phone pings can paint a picture of their last night or week. Mobile forensic tools can create a road map that you can use in your investigation, and keep track of all that has happend to a phone for the chain of custody record.

3. Find Out Who People Talked Too

Cell phone records are invaluable to modern criminal investigations. With proper court documents, you can get a list of phone records, texts and more to help with your investigation.

They help support your investigative theories. It clears a person of interest or helps determine the perpetrator of the crime. You can find out who was the last person the victim talked to or verify the suspect talked to the victim before the crime.

Law enforcement officers use cell phone records routinely. They are an important part of clearing suspects and closing cases.

4. Gather Evidence from Cell Phones

People use cell phones for everything. In fact, 3/4 of adults own a cell phone and they look up information on Google and store pictures on them. They are a treasure trove of potential evidence.

Law enforcement officers have discovered suspects often look up where to find ropes, duct tape, etc., on their phone before a kidnapping.

People don’t realize how important cell phones can be in a criminal case. They make mistakes and assume that no one will find out.

Pictures tell you who their friends are, places they visit and much more. There are apps for everything. Investigators find amazing evidence from the contents of a cell phone.

5. Find Out Criminal Activity from Cell Phones

Cell phones are miniature computers. They have processing power and capabilities far beyond checking Facebook and snapping selfies. Criminals can use them for identity theft, illegal surveillance, and many more crimes.

If a forensic scientist gets a cell phone, they use it to find out if it has been used for crimes.

They can dig into the data and discover hidden information the criminal tried to hide or delete. Cell phones are important for investigations and must be tracked with the chain of custody just like any other evidence item.

6. Paint a Picture with Cell Phone Images

When a criminal act happens in a large area, people take pictures and videos as it happens, and before. It could be a fight in an alley or a bombing of a public place.

Many high-profile bombing cases used cell phone images and videos to create a picture of what happened. They see where people were, any unusual activity or items and much more. It’s a way to recreate an event even though you weren’t there at the time.

7. Criminals Post Incriminating Evidence Using Cell Phones

Cell phones and social media go hand in hand. Millions of people use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and more every day. Most people post mundane activities or funny memes. Criminals often use it to brag about their crimes.

They assume no one will see it, but police use these posts in criminal proceedings. They take cell phone videos using firearms, drugs and showing off their loot.

Cell phones are small, unlike traditional video cameras. It’s easy to take it out and make a short video that puts them in prison.

8. Get Leads with Text-A-Tip

It’s not always easy for people to talk to the police. Face-to-face and phone conversations intimidate people. Police need tips from the public to solve cases and text-a-tip programs help make it more discreet.

In today’s digital culture, texting is easier than talking. Police receive tips from cell phone text messages that help solve cases. They send confidential and anonymous texts to police and avoid meeting or talking to people.

9. Increased Crime Reporting

Before cell phones, people needed to find a phone to report a crime. They walked several blocks to find a phone, left the victim alone and other issues that hampered the investigation.

Now, cell phones let them report crimes as they happen anywhere in the world. Someone gets attacked in a rural cornfield. If they call 911, they can get their location and send help.

People record crimes as they happen. They take pictures of license plates and more.

10. Saves Time and Effort

When you’re in the field, time is of the essence. No matter what the crime, the longer it takes to solve, the colder the trails gets. What used to take hours of manual police work may now take only minutes.

Mobile phone forensics speeds up the investigation process. Instead of spending hours asking witnesses about someone’s whereabouts, you know it from cell phone records. Track people in real time instead of hours after they’ve gone.

Never Underestimate the Power of Cell Phones

Mobile forensics is growing in use and scope for investigations. Software developed to crack cell phones, examine data and track people get used daily by law enforcement in large cities and small rural communities.

If you’re interested in learning more about cell phone forensics and tracking, or law enforcement technology, feel free to explore our site.

cloud-based-evidence-management-1024x512

10 Reasons Why Cloud-Based Evidence Management is Ideal

Cloud-based evidence management is more secure, easily accessible, and backed up in multiple locations. Learn more about the benefits here.

Is your paper and digital evidence starting to stack up? Then you might want to consider an alternate storage method.

While some evidence simply has to be kept in its original physical state, other files can be converted to electronic formats. This eliminates the need for piles and folders full of paper.

Simply storing files on a computer isn’t enough, though. You run the risk of losing evidence if you do it that way.

Cloud-based evidence management is much more effective. Keep reading to find out why.

1. Better Security

The evidence you’ve found and tracked down, needs to be kept safe and organized. Court cases have been lost due to mishandling of evidence. Plus, if you don’t take the time to organize and protect your evidence, you may just find it missing when you need it.

Cloud storage offers high-security evidence storage that is much better than storing lots of evidence on a shelf. When you store evidence in the cloud, it’s stored digitally and is always available to authorized users.

But hacks keep happening right? So how does cloud storage secure your data?

Since hackers continue to try to steal data, the good guys are hard at work too. Technology updates and constant monitoring helps prevent data loss.

2. Easily Accessible Anywhere

Have you ever wished you had a specific case, or piece of evidence available to you, no matter where you are? If so, cloud storage is perfect for you.

Evidence that’s stored in the cloud can be accessed by you in any location, as long as you have an internet connection and a browser. This means you can pull something up on your phone when you’re away from the office, or look through evidence on your computer at work.

Cloud storage offers access flexibility you just can’t get any other way. This flexibility doesn’t alter security, though. You’ll have access, and those who shouldn’t, won’t.

3. Multiple Backup Locations

One way to prevent data loss is through regular backups. These backups make sure you have your important files kept in more than one place.

You can backup your data to a physical location, but using the cloud is better. The best option is to use multiple methods for storing your most important files.

Storing in the cloud along with different physical locations means you won’t have to worry about crashes. If one storage location goes down, you’ll have the other one.

More than having multiple backup locations, cloud storage offers you an entirely different type of storage. This offers greater protection from data loss.

4. Compliance Options

Since you’re working with sensitive data, you must follow all compliance rules. Cloud storage does offer compliance options. You’ll just need to make sure you choose an option that fits.

Check all requirements to make sure your online storage choice matches all compliance rules.

Don’t only focus on that, though. Choose an option that gives you all the tools you need to access your data properly, as well as remain compliant.

5. Budget-Friendly

There are a couple ways to utilize storage of evidence data. First, you can pay a company up front for the software and any equipment you’ll need. Once you have those things, you’ll host everything at your site. 

Or you can have someone else do your hosting for you. Buy storage as needed ,and don’t worry about housing any software or server hardware. Just utilize the service and know your evidence is securely protected.

Having a company host your data and software for you offer a more affordable option. You’ll pay month by month, where you’ll have to put down a large lump sum if you want to host your storage in-house, and then pay an annual maintenance fee.

6. Readily Available

Not only can you access your storage from multiple devices and wherever you have internet and a browser, but you can also access it whenever you want. You won’t have to wait for a company to be operating to see your data.

Do you need emergency access at 2:31 a.m.? No problem. Simply access your cloud storage and you’re in.

7. Always Up-to-Date

When hosting your own data, you’re in charge of making sure that all important software and hardware updates happen. Updates are important for maintaining security and ease of use.

Cloud storage that’s hosted elsewhere will automatically be updated when needed. You won’t have to oversee this at all. Instead, you’ll just have the convenience of knowing that everything is up to date.

8. Options That Fit

If you’re thinking that cloud storage isn’t as flexible as choosing your own physical storage, think again. There are many options when it comes to storing things in the cloud.

If you don’t need a ton of space, you don’t have to pay for a ton of space. Simply choose a company that has the options you need and you’ll be good to go.

Need to change your storage amount later, or the number of people who have access? No problem. You’ll be able to do it quickly.

9. Free up Storage Space

You have a lot to work with when you’re cracking a case. Help things go smoothly by eliminating piles of paper and evidence.

Cloud storage keeps your files and evidence off your desk and out of your file cabinets. This leaves you more room to work and gives much better retrieval of information.

10. Reap Benefits Instantly

Whenever your cloud storage provider has an update for security or just a cool new feature, you won’t have to wait for it. Instead, they’ll simply roll it out.

This saves you time and money since you don’t have to spend time visiting stores or talking to customer service people. New features and updates will show up in your storage automatically. This keeps everything convenient for you.

Cloud-Based Evidence Management is the Way to Go

There are some benefits to storing evidence in a physical location in-house But there are more reasons to go with cloud-based evidence management.

Cloud-based storage frees up your space, time, and money, making sure you can optimize all of those things. Try it out to see how it can improve your operations.

Want to see exactly how we can help? Contact us today!