With an estimated 5 trillion text messages being sent around the globe this year, phone companies no longer store the messages or do so for only a few hours or a few days. This can be a problem for law-enforcement officers trying to track down missing people or criminals, reports the Columbus Dispatch. “Anytime I can’t get enough information to solve a case, that’s an issue for me,” said Brance Johnson of the computer-crimes unit of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification & Investigation.
Sometimes, by the time authorities realize that they need to see text messages and try to get subpoenas or court orders seeking them, the messages are gone. Cellphone technology can aid investigators in some instances. In the recent case of triple-murderer Sammy Littleton II in Ohio, when Tiffany Brown, 26, the daughter of Littleton’s live-in girlfriend disappeared, police asked Verizon to find her phone. Using signals from tower locations, the company got a hit. Police were able to get some of Brown’s text messages, showing that Littleton had lured her to his home on the day she was last seen. When police found Brown’s body hidden in Littleton’s basement, he was on the run. He killed two more before he was arrested.