How Criminal Investigators can Fill in Story Gaps Using Vehicle and Ride-sharing Data

Blurred of traffic jam in rainy day with bokeh light. Bangkok Thailand

When talking about digital intercepts, we most often focus on mobile device data. However, there is a wealth of information available from vehicles. As investigators know, pinpointing the location of a target and victim can be crucial in putting together the pieces of a story. The transportation used by targets can help provide mobile device data, plus locations and additional information. In this article, we’ll look at the data available from Berla vehicle forensics and ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft.

Using Berla Vehicle Forensics

It’s no secret that cars use many electronic systems. But people are often surprised at the amount of data those systems collect and can provide to investigators. More and more investigators are discovering the vehicle data that Berla forensics tools can extract, including:

  • Data from devices connected to the vehicle
  • Call logs
  • Contact lists
  • Searched locations
  • Event logs
  • Tracking information such as average speed and latitude and longitude

With the proper analysis tools, the data extracted from vehicles can lead to extremely useful discoveries. Types of questions that can be answered with vehicle data extracts include the following:

Whom was a target talking to? You can use PLX filtering with Berla extracts to take a call log and cross-reference it to discover who called the target and whom the target called while their device was connected to the vehicle.

Where did they search? Berla extracts can reveal searched locations, with latitude and longitude. PLX can then map these locations and help identify patterns of concentration.

When was the vehicle parked or shifted into gear? In certain types of cases, such as hit-and-runs or homicides, vehicle event data such as when a car door opened or closed and when a vehicle was parked can be extremely useful.

Who was in the car? Event data from Berla also shows when mobile devices were connected to a vehicle, which can be very useful information. An event log could reveal, for example, when a victim’s phone was connected to a vehicle, which can help to place their location at a certain time.

Having volumes of vehicle data can be both exciting and overwhelming. Valuable information is likely included, but you have to be able to filter out the noise and get to the data you need quickly. PLX is designed to help you focus your view so that you can easily see the information of interest to you: a certain location, timeframe, device, etc. With PLX, you can combine data for all areas of interest, filling in the gaps with key who, where, and what data to clarify exactly what happened.

Picking up information from ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft

For investigations that focus on a crime that was committed at a particular time and place—such as a sexual assault, homicide, or school shooting—knowing whether a target was dropped off in that vicinity can be extremely useful. The timing can also help fill in gaps, such as the length of time the target was in the area. Ride-sharing apps can provide pickup and drop-off times and locations to fill in the backstory of how a target was moving. Did they go from home directly to the crime scene, for example?

Ride-sharing apps can provide a complete log of all pickups and drop-offs—but you will then need to filter this data and potentially prepare it for presentation to a jury. A tool like PLX can help pinpoint pickups and drop-offs at times, dates, and locations of interest and even show them visually on a map. On the day in question, did the target go from home to a meeting place, and then to a location near where a body was found? With PLX, investigators can animate the sequence of locations to show how the story unfolded.

Another key piece of data that ride-sharing apps can provide is the email address where receipts are sent. And if that email address is a Gmail account, then the search can be expanded to Google for even more information.

To learn more about the types of data available for investigators and how to efficiently filter that data for analysis, contact us or view our OnDemand webinar on this topic.