Digital detectives fight crime with technology - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Digital detectives fight crime with technology


Eau Claire (WQOW) - More arrests could've been made this week in an online sex sting if law enforcement had more manpower.

Altogether five men were picked up in the Chippewa Valley suspected of child sex crimes.

Detectives in Eau Claire are on the cutting edge with the latest tools to investigate online crime

"All the data that's obtained is ultimately stored on the server operations that are held within here," says detective Paul Becker, Eau Claire Police Department's full time digital officer.

What now fills phones with gigabytes of data could be compared to using a diary decades ago.

"In today's world, in a lot of ways, those diaries are on people's hips, or in their pockets or in the form of a computer that's sitting on the desk," says Becker.

Each leaving a footprint for police to follow.

"This station here is designed to accommodate some of the mobile device forensics," says Becker.

Although these systems are state of the art and able to handle enormous amounts of data, they lack some of the manpower needed to keep up with digital crime.

"We need the resources, we need the latitude to move into the digital world, which we're going to be in from here on out," says Eau Claire County sheriff Ron Cramer.

The Eau Claire Police Department has a full time detective assigned, but the lab is a joint effort involving multiple agencies. 

The county is hoping to make its resources more of a permanent installment.

"We have two people now that are trained that could be in that lab, we're just asking for one full time position," says Cramer.

A position to keep up with the sting operations, digital recovery and evidence exploration in the lab.

"Software changes, hardware changes, we're able to download cell phones, a lot of the texting, the iPads.  We're able to get into the person's computer," says Cramer.

"We would take the hard drive out.  This would potentially be our suspect or our victim's hard drive," says Becker.

Detectives do this at a higher standard because they cannot corrupt files while they collect evidence.

"Able to be relayed and presented and bare the scrutiny of the court of law," says Becker.

To do this they use equipment that's like a one-way street where they can only pull data and not publish it, ensuring their findings are legal in a court of law.

"We are state of the art at this point.  We will continue working, law enforcement agencies, will continue working with one another," says Cramer.

Keeping the streets safe in person and online.

Investigating child sex crime is only a small part of what the crime lab does. 

Many other investigations require law enforcement to go after digital information.

The lab also works with private local companies to keep its hardware and software up to date to fight digital crime.

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