Barton County Attorney Levi Morris and Sheriff Brian Bellendir have entered into a joint venture to enhance criminal investigations in Barton County. Their departments will share the cost of software used to pull information from ceased cellphones.
Cellphones have become commonplace essentials for most people, including criminals. BCSO routinely uses information from suspect cell phones to gather information and evidence in all types of cases.
A search warrant is obtained from the District Court, then the device is connected to software and equipment that allows for downloading of many types of data that may be in the suspect’s phone. This allows law enforcement to present a stronger case to the prosecutor for trial. Until recently, cellphones were submitted to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation for examination. Due to high demand for the technology, the processing time for a cellphone with the KBI has increased dramatically and is only used in the most serious cases. This presents problems for local law enforcement who are attempting to conduct pressing investigations.
BCSO detectives investigated the possibility of obtaining the same software as used by the KBI. BCSO Detective Bryan Volkel researched and contacted the Cellebrite Corporation, the producer of the software. The cost of the equipment, training and software will be approximately $12,000. The County Attorney’s office and BCSO have agreed to split the costs evenly.
The County Attorney’s office is paying for its portion from their diversion fund and BCSO will be paying for its portion from asset forfeiture money. In the case of the County attorney, these funds are obtained from diversion agreements in the District Court. The BCSO portion is paid from seized assets and currency obtained during drug arrests and other criminal investigations. No tax dollars will be used for the purchase of the equipment.
The addition of this equipment will allow for more thorough investigations and stronger cases to be made. In a joint news release issued Tuesday, both Morris and the Bellendir stated the new asset will enhance capabilities to keep the citizens of Barton County safe.