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Johannesburg - When criminals drop a cellphone at a crime scene, the police want to be able to read it on the spot.
Police want to know what phone numbers were called from the cellphone, who’s in the phone book, and they want to be able to read text messages even if they’ve been deleted.
If a GPS unit is found, the police want to be able to check that too.
Last month, the national Budget noted plans to beef up forensic capabilities, when Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said the police had reprioritised R2.5 billion over three years “to improve detective and forensic capability”.
The Star has obtained details of two forensic upgrades that the SAPS is planning - the cellphone forensics plan, and a plan to upgrade the existing ballistics system.
The SAPS declined to comment on the plans.
A government document issued this month and marked “confidential” - but freely available on a government website - outlines why the police need new electronic devices to extract forensic information from cellphones, and what those devices must be able to do.
A tender for the system is under way and officials have scheduled a meeting with potential bidders on Friday.
“The device must be mobile to enable data extractions at the scene of the crime,” says the document.
“The device must be able to extract information from mobile phones (including smart phones), mobile phone peripherals, personal digital assistants (PDAs), SIM cards, SD cards (including micro SD) and global positioning devices (GPS).
“The device(s) should perform digital forensic extraction on the following data from mobile phones: handset time and date, serial numbers (IMEI and IMSI), dialled calls, received calls, phonebook (handset and SIM), SMS (handset and SIM), MMS (if available), deleted SMSes, calendar, memos, to do lists, pictures (also deleted photos), video and audio.”
The police already have 30 devices for digital data extraction from cellphones, but want more to keep up with their increasing workload and stay up to date.
The SAPS’s plans for a new ballistics system have stalled.
A tender for a new SAPS automated ballistic identification system was issued last year, but has not been awarded.
The State Information Technology Agency, which is running both the ballistics system and the cellphone forensics tenders for the SAPS, recommended that the SAPS should not award the ballistics tender.
“The reason for the non-award is that the two submissions received did not meet the mandatory requirements,” said agency spokeswoman Anthea Summers.
“It is important to note that in reaching this conclusion, SAPS has been part of the process every step of the way.”
Bids were received from Morvest Human Capital Management and Forensic Technology WAI.
Despite Treasury rules that, “where practical”, the bidders’ prices be made available for transparency, the prices were not available from the agency. Summers refused to provide the bid prices or to explain why it was not practical to provide these.
A “confidential” document - also freely available on a government website - outlines plans for the new ballistics system, which must take on the 1.3 million evidence items in the existing system plus add another 3.6 million items over the next five years.
The SAPS already has a manual system, the integrated ballistic identification system, but wants a bigger, automated, internationally compatible system that can be used “on a 24/7/365 basis”.
It must be accessible at up to 10 places nationally and provide real-time information irrespective of transaction volumes, says the document.