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The Burnet Police Department is adding another arrow to its crime-fighting quiver with forensic software that can pull potential evidence from cellphones, tablets, and drones.

Burnet Police Chief Brian Lee told the City Council during its Tuesday, June 28, meeting that criminals are routinely using cellphones for illegal activity. 

“As you all know, technology changes rapidly,” Lee said. “In law enforcement, we’ve found that cellphones contain an immense amount of evidence.”

The City Council approved the purchase of Oxygen Forensic software services to help extract data from devices police have seized in a criminal arrest. Officers can then connect a device to the software, which sorts through thousands of pieces of information, allowing the swift investigation of possible offenders.

Currently, the Burnet department relies on the Texas Department of Public Safety and other larger law enforcement agencies to conduct forensic analysis of phones. This slows investigations and forces the Burnet agency to wait several months before receiving relevant evidence.

“Currently, we’re in a situation where we can’t do any forensic downloads of cellphones,” Lee said. “We’re at the mercy of other agencies.”  

According to Lee, the ability to conduct this process locally would dramatically increase the speed of these investigations.

“I would say it’s a critical need,” the chief added. “We have nine cellphones pertaining to one case that need to be forensically downloaded. They are sitting at another agency right now, and we have no priority with them.”

The forensic software service gives law enforcement a myriad of ways to look for evidence. According to the company’s website, it can decrypt passwords, categorize faces in photos, and pull data from tablets and drones. The software also can extract data from over a hundred different Cloud applications.

“Cloud extraction is the one really unique tool that it has,” Lee said.

Councilor Mary Jane Shanes believes the purchase of this software was a no-brainer.

“I think this looks like a great program,” she said.

The cost of the software and training for the first year is about $11,000. Additionally, the computer and external storage required to operate the software will cost roughly $4,000. The city will also pay a $2,900 annual licensing fee.