Salem Police Department will soon have a technology that extracts data from cell phones for criminal investigations.
Funding raised through the Salem Police Foundation will pay for the forensic flash device reader which allows officers to acquire data from flash memory cards inside of cell phones and tablets.
They work even when the devices are broken, waterlogged, or have had the memory card's data erased. Yes, even after erasure, sufficient traces remain to build a clear image of what was on the card. Unless the card's been repeatedly overwritten with zeros and ones, which is beyond the capability of the majority of users, the data are recoverable.
The police still need to obtain consent from the suspect to go rooting through the data, or barring that, they have to get a court order - though as a practical matter, district attorneys and judges in Oregon routinely sign off on such orders, so the process adds a small amount of delay. Somehow, it seems unlikely that your basic drug dealer or gangster are going to have the skills required to effectively wipe the data in their devices.
I can do it, but then, I'm geeky. Just not criminal.