SEARCH Provides 'Immeasurable' Cellphone Data Recovery Assistance to Operation SNAG

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SEARCH's expert high-tech crime training team is credited with providing "immeasurable" assistance to Operation SNAG 2012, a five-agency effort in which nearly 100 law enforcement officers saturated the cities of Elk Grove and Sacramento, California, to conduct probation/parole/warrant searches.

The searches focused on documented gang members, individuals on high supervision, and those with prior weapons history. The concept of the operation was to be a proactive method of addressing a raise in violent crime, much of which is attributed to gang and drug activity. The sweep was conducted by 125 officers divided into 9 teams.

Elk Grove is a city south of the state capitol of Sacramento. It is the second-largest city in Sacramento County, and between 2004-05, was the fastest growing city in the U.S. The entire county covers 994 square miles and has a population in excess of 1.4 million.

SEARCH helped the Operation SNAG teams by coordinating their use of CelleBrites, products that enable law enforcement to extract data stored in cell phones and mobile devices, transfer the extracted data to other devices, and analyze the content. SEARCH also provided hands-on assistance to officers as they attempted to recover data from seized cellular devices.

The SEARCH High-Tech Crime Training Services team is a leader in providing both training to law enforcement agencies nationwide in investigating cellular devices, as well as in developing guides, worksheets, and primers on how to prepare for and troubleshoot cellular device data recovery.

Tim Lott, Director of High-Tech Crime Training Services for SEARCH, said, "Our assistance was crucial in recovering data from 12 cell phones seized from parolees and probationers—and these devices potentially can contain a wealth of evidentiary data. We were pleased to be able to assist Operation SNAG by providing both our equipment and our expertise in helping officers to properly retrieve the cellphone data for later analysis."

According to the Elk Grove Police Department, in the day-long operation, conducted on October 4, law enforcement—
  • Contacted 90 individuals and arrested 7 for new crimes or active warrants.
  • Recovered 4 firearms, 3 pounds of processed marijuana, hundreds of marijuana plants, 7 grams of methamphetamine, prescription narcotics, and $16,000 cash.

The operation was a collaborative effort of the Sacramento Police Department, Sacramento County Sheriff's Department, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and Sacramento County Probation Department.

"Our philosophy is to take a balanced approach between suppression, enforcement, and intelligence-gathering," said Elk Grove Police Chief Robert Lehner. "It's important to utilize a regional approach by working closely with other agencies to share information and resources."