Money will come from grant and drug asset forfeitures

Taft Police are going to add another high-tech crime fighting tool to their arsenal, and they're going to make criminals pay for it.

Taft Police Sgt. Shad Swanson and Chief of Police Ed Whiting got the go-ahead from the Taft City Council Tuesday night to spend about $5,000 in drug forfeiture funds to by software that can be used to download a surprising amount of information from cell phones seized during criminal investigation.

Whether its from a suspect's phone or one provided by a witness, there is information – metadata – in addition to voicemails, images, text and other data, can pinpoint exactly when and where a phone was used.

Currently, Taft Police have been getting help through the Tehachapi Police Department, but now there is a grant that will pay for more than half of the $12,390 cost of the Susteen svNUC system used to extract information from the phones.

There is a limited availability of the grant, Swanson told the council, so it has to act soon.

Swanson proposed taking $4,999 from the city's asset forfeiture funds to pay the cost, and the council readily agreed.

“It's no cost to the taxpayers and the bad guys are going to pay for the tools you are going to catch them with. Pretty cool,” Mayor Paul Linder said.

Without their own system, Taft Police have had to rely on outside agencies. But the cost, and length of time it takes (up to 6 months, Swanson said) make more more sense to purchase a system for Taft.

Swanson said a conservative estimate will have the system recover the cost for the city in seven months.

“With this software, we'll be able to take information off it (a cell phone) and get it back the same day.”

It will also come in handy in the the city's Modified CCF, where inmates are prohibited from possessing cell phones.

As many as 50 phones per month were seized when CCF inmates worked out side the institution but that has stopped.

However a few phones can still be smuggled in anyway, and, now when correctional officers seize a phone, they can determine who is responsible for it and what it is being used for .

One thing won't change, though. Because of a recent United States Supreme Court ruling, police must get a search warrant to search through a phones data.

With a warrant, however, police can search through the phones metadata, which Swanson described as “data about data.”

If a phone is equipped with GPS, metadata will include the time and exact location photos or video were record or calls or texts made and can be recovered in an hour, Swanson said.