Tracking Evidence—at the crime scene, during a criminal investigation and presentation in court, and while in storage—is an operation that is vital to the functioning of the U.S. legal system, but sometimes mistakes are made by law enforcement personnel. Last year, for example, the Houston Police Department said it had found 280 mislabeled evidence boxes in the department's property room.
The Sysgen eTraxx system can deploy a mix of passive 915 MHz UHF RFID tags from Alien Technology and 13.56MHz RF tags from Tagsys, depending on the requirements of each situation and the nature of the items of evidence set for tagging. Using the system, law enforcement personnel would be able to put RFID tags on evidence and record important details about each tagged item. Investigators have the option to use PDAs with RFID readers to do this as they collect evidence at the crime scene, or they could bag evidence, label it with a numbered paper tag and record details in a book, as they have traditionally done, and then put RFID tags on the items and enter the item details into a database after they bring the items back to the evidence room.
Once the evidence is tagged, the details of the item along with the unique serial number of the RFID tag attached to it is recorded into a Microsoft SQL database using the Sysgen eTraxx system. Fixed RFID readers placed at various locations throughout law enforcement offices and courthouses read each tag as it passes within range, creating a record of each item's last known location. In the evidence room, for example, each evidence desk would be fitted with a reader to record an item's location. Readers placed on exits from the evidence room ensure that no unauthorized removal could take place by initiating a preselected security procedure (such as sounding an alarm or locking doors) should an attempt to remove evidence be made without first obtaining permission from the evidence room staff. The serial number of each tag is then linked to a database record for that item and includes all the relevant details regarding the item.
In addition to enabling police departments to track the location of evidence, the system can also track custody of each item so that as the item moves from the police department to district attorney's office to the court, a note can be made in the custody record of that item. The issuing of smart cards to police officers, administrative staff, clerical employees, court officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys and other individuals requiring access to the evidence room, would enable the readers to detect which individual was in possession of each item of evidence.