Cyber crime lab in Vanderburgh County gathers data for law enforcement

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) – As smartphones become increasingly common, they can be a vital source of information for those investigating crimes.

A local lab plays an important role in making that information available to law enforcement.

Technology is everywhere, and our interactions with it leave a record.

“You have a computer in your pocket, and you’re leaving a digital footprint everywhere you go,” task force director Jessica Powers said.

When it comes to investigating crimes, smart devices can be a gold mine of information. Getting information from these sources used to be a slow process. On average, it took about six months to get data back from a device.

When the Vanderburgh County Cyber Crime Task Force started at the beginning of last year, that changed. It now takes about two days.

This capability isn’t very common across the country.

“We’ve actually found out with the technology that we have existing here in Vanderburgh County, we are one of a few labs across the country that has this technology,” said Powers. “One of the best labs in the country is placed here in Vanderburgh County, and not many people know it.”

Since getting started, they have realized how much demand there is for what they do. Task force leaders say they expected to undergo 150 cases in their first year, but they ended up with 613 cases instead.

Their work goes beyond the Tri-State too. Officials say they processed devices from across the country, and from multiple government organizations.

“It is a huge deal,” said task force investigator Jon Carter. “We consider this to be a unicorn.”

Task force leaders say last year they processed about 19 terabytes of data. Much of that work was done by student interns, who are gaining experience while they study and work towards goals of working in law or counterterrorism.

“It’s absolutely vital,” said intern Flavio Felix. “Here I’m learning the skills that I’m going to be using for counterterrorism: intelligence, recognizing patterns, seeing how evidence can fit into a case.”

While only a year old, the task force has already been recognized by the secret service for its contributions to investigations.

They say one of the side effects of working on the task force is that it can make you a little paranoid to see just how closely technology is monitoring each of us, and how much you can learn about someone just from their phone.

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