Forensic backlog refers to the accumulation of unprocessed forensic evidence that has yet to be analyzed. This backlog can have severe consequences for law enforcement agencies and the criminal justice system, causing delays in investigations and potentially leading to wrongful convictions or acquittals. These delays can also have an adverse effect on public safety.
Digital evidence backlogs are commonplace in agencies and crime labs throughout the world. All law enforcement levels such as local, state, and national experience some degree of backlog. This can vary from one to two years, with some backlogs exceeding four years . Detectives are often left waiting for digital evidence to finally be processed.
There are three main factors that have been determined to contribute to forensic backlog such as; an increase in the number of cases that require digital evidence analysis, an increase in the number of digital devices per case that are seized for processing, and an increase in the volume of potentially pertinent data stored on the devices .
The volume of cases along with the volume of data to be analyzed per case will only continue to increase. This is largely due to the digital era we are currently in with crimes also occurring through online channels. In this blog post, we will explore the causes of forensic backlogs and discuss ways that law enforcement agencies can reduce delays and improve efficiency through evidence management.
Causes of Forensic Backlog
Forensic backlogs are caused by a combination of factors, including limited resources, high demand for forensic services, and limited funding. In many cases, forensic laboratories are understaffed, making it difficult to keep up with the increasing demand for forensic services. Additionally, limited funding can result in outdated technology and equipment, which can slow down the processing of evidence.
The Solution: Improving Efficiency and Reducing Delays
Law enforcement agencies can use several strategies to reduce delays and improve efficiency in their forensic laboratories. These include:
- Increasing funding: Additional funding can be used to hire more personnel, purchase new technology, and improve laboratory facilities.
- Forensic laboratories may not be able to request additional resources and have to operate with existing resources. Stakeholders must be educated to allocate the proper resources .
- The lack of funding can hinder the ability to fund additional staff, continuing education opportunities, and training.
- Prioritizing cases: Forensic laboratories can prioritize the processing of evidence based on the severity of the crime, the likelihood of finding valuable evidence, and the need for a quick resolution.
- Streamlining processes: The use of technology and automation can help streamline processes and reduce the amount of time needed to process evidence.
- In 2010 the Netherlands Forensic Institute implemented the DFaaS solution in order to combat the volume of backlogged cases. Digital Forensics as a Service (DFaaS) is a modern approach to the digital forensic process. It handles much of the storage, automation, and investigator inquiry in the cases it manages . It also has helped to facilitate between the same detectives working on a case, it provides efficient resource management, and allows detectives to directly query data.
- Information Retrieval Technology can be exploited to speed up the process of searches. By expanding queries and synonym matching recall can be increased .
- Studies have been conducted to investigate how Machine Learning (ML) can enhance digital forensic processes. It has been applied in CSAM materials to identify automatic filename categorization, content classification (RGB-based skin detection), and hash-based detection .
- Offering training and education: Providing training and education to forensic scientists can help improve the accuracy and speed of their work, reducing the likelihood of errors and delays.
- Crime scene investigators may over-collect evidence items when the full circumstances of the crime are unknown. Since COVID-19 new methods have included a virtual forensic scientist as part of a proactive crime scene response team. This has helped to improve evidence recognition, collection, and expedited selection of items for forensic analysis .
- Better choices can be made regarding which electronic devices are collected for analysis at the scene.
Evidence backlogs can have serious consequences for law enforcement agencies and the criminal justice system. However, by taking a proactive approach to reducing delays and improving efficiency, law enforcement agencies can ensure that evidence is processed quickly and accurately, ultimately leading to a more efficient and effective criminal justice system.
In conclusion, forensic backlogs pose a major challenge for law enforcement agencies and the criminal justice system. However, by implementing the strategies discussed in this blog post, such as increasing funding, prioritizing cases, streamlining processes, and offering training and education, law enforcement agencies can significantly reduce delays and improve efficiency in their forensic laboratories.
It is important for law enforcement agencies to prioritize the reduction of forensic backlogs in order to ensure that justice is served promptly and fairly. By taking a proactive approach to improve the efficiency of forensic processes, law enforcement agencies can play a critical role in strengthening public trust and confidence in the criminal justice system.
ADF’s Digital Evidence Investigator PRO allows law enforcement agencies to improve the efficiency of their forensic processes. DEI PRO is an all-in-one tool that gives investigators the software they need to investigate mobile and computer devices. This digital forensics tool is automated and can be used for iOS, Android, Mac, Linux, and Windows.
ADF software quickly processes and analyzes smartphones (iOS and Android), computers, external drives, drive images, and other media storage (USB flash drives, memory cards, etc.). Live preview mode gives investigators the power to view phone content immediately without waiting for a backup or imaging to finish. With preview mode, investigators can make informed choices on the evidence they collect.
DEI PRO collects digital evidence in cybercrime and presents it in a timeline view to tie the user to files and artifacts creating a digital evidence collection to help you solve your investigation and reduce forensic backlogs.
Take the steps needed to improve your department's efficiency and reduce delays in digital forensic investigations with DEI PRO.