Technology means more work for police – Idaho Press-Tribune: Local

Posted: March 19, 2012 by scaryhouse in Uncategorized

By HOLLY BEECH

TREASURE VALLEY — Technology is always changing, and for police, it could take thousands of dollars and overtime hours to keep up.

But as “cybercrime” becomes more and more prevalent, police will tell you it’s crucial that they don’t fall behind.

“When you talk about cybercrime, that’s pretty much anything that can be transmitted over a computer or telephone or anything else — whether it’s transferring pictures or whether it’s running a scam or maintaining evidence of a crime in a computer or cell phone,” said Canyon County Criminal Investigations Section Lt. Marv Dashiell.

Drug dealers, child enticers and scammers are finding new ways to use technology to their advantage. This presents pros and cons for police.

“When drug dealers kept their logs in a notebook sitting in their night stand it was easy to find. Now … they’ve got it buried and password protected and hidden into a computer,” said Detective Tony Pittz with the Caldwell Police Department. “You get more detailed information when you do find it, but the looking takes time, and not every person can do it.”

Within the last two to three years, law enforcement agencies have put more money and manpower into digital forensics. Nampa and Caldwell police departments and Idaho State Police have two officers each who are specifically trained to examine digital evidence, and Canyon County has one.

Most local agencies will tell you that’s not enough. These examiners are tasked with the job of copying data from electronics and finding evidence to support cases. As more and more criminals use technology, it can take police several months to sort through all the electronic evidence in their labs.

And, except for the ISP team, these officers still work on other units and have other cases to investigate.

Pittz, for example, works on the Special Victims Unit.

“I’m buried. I’ve got numerous hard drives sitting back in the lab right now, plus I’ve got probably a dozen cell phones I need to do …” he said. “And, (with lack of) manpower and budget-power, I can’t give up my other caseload.”

Two years ago, Caldwell didn’t have a cybercrime unit. Computer and cellphone evidence had to be sent to ISP.

But a child enticement case spurred Pittz to get a unit established in Caldwell.

“We had a 46-year-old man that was posing as 14- to 17-year-old boys on the Internet. And just the devastation of some of the victims, them talking about how hurt they felt and destroyed they felt,” he said.

With the backlog of evidence at ISP, the evidence would have to wait for up to 18 months to be examined. Pittz told himself, “There has to be a better way for this, we should be able to do it ourselves. So we got affiliated more with ICAC — Internet Crimes Against Children — and it’s just grown since then.”

ICAC funds a large chunk of the training, equipment and software for local agencies.

But even with that support, agencies would have to sacrifice in other areas to dedicate more officers to cyber crimes.

“You’ve got to go in front of the Legislature and you’ve got to say, ‘I need these people to do cybercrime.’ But they’re going to say to us, ‘Well then we can’t give you the troopers you need on the road,’” said an ISP digital forensics examiner who will be referred to as “John.” His real name can’t be used for safety reasons.

And as technology changes and develops at a rapid pace, the cost for agencies to buy and update software reaches tens of thousands of dollars. Nampa may have software that ISP or Canyon County doesn’t have, so examiners across the agencies will often help each other out and share capabilities.

Even with the cost of equipment and the need for more examiners, technology’s progress does have its advantages for investigators.

“Everybody’s so … open with their information. They share it on Facebook, Twitter,” said Canyon County Detective Michael Bryant. This information can provide supporting evidence or lead to a new case.

And even when the evidence is erased or the device is destroyed, examiners still have software to extract most of it. Police can send search warrants to social media sites and cellphone companies to potentially gain information that was deleted.

Officers still use the traditional investigation techniques: interviewing witnesses, examining hard evidence, viewing surveillance footage. But the evidence gained from electronics helps them drive the case home. In 95 percent of the cases John investigates, for instance, the suspect pleas guilty.

“Data just doesn’t lie,” he said.

But the downside is, tech-savvy criminals may get away.

“They know how to cover their tracks really well,” Pittz said.

In the future, technology’s presence in crimes will just keep growing.

via Technology means more work for police – Idaho Press-Tribune: Local.

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