Crimes occur in different forms and cause socio-economic losses to both the victims and the government (Felka et al. 2020). For this reason, several efforts have been made to reduce them, including the use of technology (Ademu & Imafidon, 2012; Agangiba & Agangiba, 2013). For mobile phones, the key factors responsible for inconsistencies in mobile devices include digital forensic evidence extraction process and forensics extraction tools used, forensics extraction methods applied, the nature of the data, devices and policy factors (Ocen et al. 2019). To meet the requirements when assessing the evidential weight of a data message or an electronic record (ACPO, 2007), competence of the investigator in mobile phones forensic is the key factor. Otherwise, the evidence may not pass admissibility test in the courts of law. Investigators should be trained on how to manipulate manually MPAs to effectively identify and extract evidence(s) from phones using digital forensic tools following digital evidence governing laws, preservation of digital evidences and maintaining chain of custody for them (Ademu & Imafidon, 2012).
In this study, most of the respondents (75%) were males because activities related to crimes are beloved to be of a masculine nature. The largest number of the respondents (44.4%) were in age group of 31–41 years, meaning that they are in the active working age. At least 80.6% of the respondents reported having undergone through a professional training whereas 19.4% had received no such trainings. Of the 36 respondents, only 38.9% had undertaken digital forensics training. Of the respondents reached, majority (86.1%) had no training in mobile phones forensics. Additionally, 50% of the respondents had no experience in mobile phones forensics, 22.2% reported to have at least 5 years of experience, more 22.2% had 1–2 years of experience and 5.6% have between 3–4 years of experience. These findings emphasize the need to put in place measures to train criminal investigators in Uganda.
Criminal investigators in this study were found to be averagely good at utilizing MPAs for criminal investigations. Particularly, call log registered the highest competence mean followed by mobile money transactions and then SMS. However, training on password removal and data recovery using forensic tools are required to enhance the use of mobile phones in crime control.
MPAs use as a potential source of incriminating evidence had an average response of 2.283, implying that they are used as a potential source of incriminating evidence for 1 to 3 of the ten files of criminal cases. For investigators to embrace mobile phones as potential source of evidence, some degree of apps competence is a prerequisite and this can only be achieved through training. The respondents agreed that Uganda’s delay to advance in mobile phone forensics is greatly affecting crime control effort. This is consistent with The Uganda Police strategic policing plan to, among other things, sustain the declining trend of crime rates through strengthening of criminal investigator’s capability to enhance application of ICT in crime reduction (Uganda Police Force, 2021).
The proposed application-based framework considers the process of criminal investigation to be initiated by suspicion/occurrence of a crime which is detected/reported to the Police by the local residents, local leaders or intelligence communicating through mobile phone networks. For effective crime reporting, this study recommends that the Police Force in addition to toll-free hotline and SMS should consider developing customized police mobile applications and sensitizing the public on how to use them through capacity building among crime investigators so as to curb mobile phone-related crimes in Uganda. Such a platform should allow all modes of phones to communicate with the police control centre. The platform may further allow the transmission of photographs, video and voice clips but only using smartphones.
Given the wider connection on the internet and increasing literacy rates in Uganda, using a mobile phone app (preferably WhatsApp since the platform allows transmission of multimedia) is a better option for timely crime reporting. The platforms should be used for community sensitization as well. This would be analogous to Agangiba and Agangiba (2013) framework for metropolitan crime detection and reporting which suggested a mobile communication framework based on the client server model, allowing both the police and the general public to interact more effectively with the help of a mobile application. Kenya’s Hatari.co.ke which is used is web-based platform enable citizens to report various crimes by sending a text message containing the location and the type of crime being reported to a number, the message is displayed on the platform including a position on the map where it was reported from. Whereas it provides GPS, it only targets smartphones but the prospective TEXT-A-TIP is compatible with all modes of phones.
For collaborating evidence, investigators ought to consider preliminary examination of MPAs for evidence retrieval without Forensic Tools. Generally, cyber-attacks can primarily be identified from security settings of the phone. The Applications under emphasis shall depend on the crime at hand. Determining the type of network within which a mobile phone has functioned is essential prior to commencing the investigation. For serious crimes such as homicide, fraud, robbery, theft/burglary among others are subjected to sophisticated analysis using Forensic Tools by trained Forensic professionals. Wondershare, Dr. Fone and Whaspy are some of the forensic tools which are efficient and are not affected by screen lock. Smart Phone Forensic Professional (SPF Pro) and mobile Tracker Free are other perfect ones but only work on phones with unlocked screen. Most expert extraction is always done with the aid of the internet. The tools provide all operations including voice calls, SMS record and GPS, showing how the suspect moved while in possession of the mobile phone among others. This could improve on the current criminal investigation efforts in Uganda which entirely depend on network service providers.
For the proposed framework, the investigator summarizes the findings during the investigation to obtain information that can be used in case settlement. A report is written, accompanied by a description of the incident, evidence(s) obtained, findings data, relevant information and other supporting documents. Several copies of the report can be made for different officers and archiving. The Expert or any other investigator presents the findings in the trial court.
Whereas this study proposes similar framework to communication framework of mobile solution for metropolitan crime detection and reporting (Agangiba & Agangiba, 2013), it possesses some unique components (such as using all types of phones, elaborate description of evidence collection, GPS tracking, community sensitization and extraction of collaborating evidence) that can enhance effective use of mobile phones in crime control. In addition, the framework accounts for the legal requirements for mobile phones forensics as per the Ugandan Law and the professional standard in general.