There is a new tool the Orange County Sheriff's Office will be using to solve crimes. Starting Thursday, the department will start utilizing a new forensic software to unlock cell phones during investigations.
"With technology forever changing, we feel that it's important for our agency to rise up to challenges of the change in technology,” said Orange County Sheriff’s Office public information officer Janois Strause.
The software is inside a small thumb drive that should be able to be plugged in to the department’s computers in the field or in the office, according to Strause. The sheriff's office got it in the mail Wednesday.
Strause said it will be used to pull information from people's phones to solve and prevent crimes.
“A lot of times you may see it in sexual assault, child porn, fraud cases,” she said. “Even abductions and death investigations."
The department could not share specifically how it works because they do not want to compromise confidential information with criminals.
But some residents are uneasy about it.
"I think it's a complete invasion of privacy,” said Georgie Allen who lives near Vidor in the county.
However, according to the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, it is legal if a search warrant is obtained.
It is also legal if the phone's owner gives police the OK – or if it is in the possession of a fugitive – for whom an arrest warrant has been issued for committing a felony offense.
Other people in the county said the device is helpful.
“I think that it could possibly help us,” said Crystal Brown, who lives close to FM 1442. “With all the people that we have in this world – we have crazy people."
The new software also means the county will not have to depend on the Orange Police Department or other agencies to unlock cellphones as it has in the past.
The Orange County Sheriff's Office said the forensic device was bought with drug asset forfeiture funds.