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Cybercrimes Detectives on the Case in Cary

Posted September 21, 2007
Updated October 4, 2009

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— In a high-tech world, some Cary police officers find it easier to be behind a desk – where they chase child pornographers and even help crack armed robbery cases.

Town leaders approved $230,000 to set up a cybercrimes police unit this spring. Since then, two dedicated officers have been hired and are helping Cary police investigate more than 200 computer-related crimes from this year alone.

"I've always been a computer gadget person," Detective Todd Thomas, of the cybercrimes unit, said.

"This is really cool stuff," he said of the computer system FRED, or Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device. Pop in a hard drive, and FRED recovers all data, including pictures, images and even deleted e-mails.

Before the cybercrimes unit was formed, such work was done BY state or county law-enforcement agencies.

"Depending on their caseload, priority of cases, sometimes it could take a couple weeks or even a couple of months," up to a year, Thomas said.

In March 2006, Cary police handed hard drives belonging to Johnathan Thomas Smith to county authorities. The results came back in March 2007 and indicated the hard drive contained images of child pornography. Smith was charged with sexual exploitation of a minor.

Cary officers said having the resources of the cybercrimes unit on-site will let them speed up investigations into that and other types of cases.

"We're working a couple cases of armed robberies where the suspects had information on their computers that we need to get off their computers," Capt. David Wulff, of the Cary police, said. "A lot of fraud investigations are done through computer work."

The cybercrimes cops will also try to bait sexual predators through online chat rooms.

"The quicker that they're off the streets, the safer our community is," Wulff said.

40 Comments

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  • piperchuck Sep 22, 2007

    "It's a waste of Cary taxpayer's money...especially when they admit they can get the same service at the state...

    I think they should have given the money to the department for raises and recognition..."

    Agreement on both points. Instead of individual police depts buying the equipment, building the labs, and training officers, this could be done much more efficiently, and effectively, by a single statewide agency. Unfortunately, if the state can't handle the workload, or don't do things the way the towns/counties want, individual agencies are going to reinvent the wheel...

  • piperchuck Sep 22, 2007

    "Well, I'm no 'puter expert, but I'm fairly certain that the relationship on IP addresses to accounts is connected to whether an account has a static IP or a dynamic IP. If the RPD officer was testifying about an account with a static IP address, then most cedrtainly no error on his part."

    Even on DSL and cable accounts with dynamic IP addresses, the subscriber usually has the same IP address for months on end. Anyone who is curious can connect to their cable or DSL modem and see what WAN address is assigned. Power it off and back on and check again and you'll find that the address usually doesn't change. This address is what is seen by the external network, not the IP address(es) of the individual computer(s) that might be in your home, or business.

  • LuvLivingInCary Sep 22, 2007

    It's a waste of Cary taxpayer's money...especially when they admit they can get the same service at the state...

    I think they should have given the money to the department for raises and recognition...

  • RonnieR Sep 22, 2007

    Well, I'm no 'puter expert, but I'm fairly certain
    that the relationship on IP addresses to accounts
    is connected to whether an account has a static IP
    or a dynamic IP. If the RPD officer was testifying
    about an account with a static IP address, then most
    cedrtainly no error on his part. The story does not
    give enough detail for a blog reader to reach a conclusion. Probably, what the pooster intended.

  • Made In USA Sep 22, 2007

    I read a lot about idenity thef - stolen credit card numbers, social security numbers, etc., in the Cary paper. I hope they can apply this tool to preventing/catching some of these thuds too.

  • Harrison Bergeron Sep 22, 2007

    " It's much better if open-source software is used, where everyone can examine exactly how the software recovered the data and how everything works; and where there isn't a potential conflict of interest." -dcatz

    dcatz,

    Unlikely. First, LEO's are not computer specialists and aren't going to "recompile the kernel" each time they need to do something. These guys need solid, easy to use, specialized systems otherwise they aren't going to use them.

    Second, some forensic tools are very specialized and not necessarily going to be developed by a bunch of guys in their basements. Certainly they won't be integrated to the level required for ease of use.

    Finally, sometimes it is better if the forensic algorithms are closely held so that the development of detection defeats would be delayed.

  • nolyinghere Sep 22, 2007

    smcallah, you missed the point, the cop was ingnorant or lied. An IP has nothing to do with your ISP, anybody claiming to be a cybercop, should know that, again "computers 101" but that cop was a idiot and the defendant was found to be "innocent", not even "not guilty" but "innocent", a very rare finding in a courtroom. The Lacrosse guys were found to be innocent, and the cop got a lecture from the judge.

  • Timbo Sep 22, 2007

    Cary has more money than sense.

  • jgirl5830 Sep 22, 2007

    @ rkba How else would you suggest the police catch these animals who go after children? Good job Cary PD!!

  • Jokers Wild II Sep 22, 2007

    phil - Nice try, but your hard drive would STILL have fragments of information..enough for fred to put it all together.. dont believe me? look it up!

    RKBA - Sure it is.. When it comes to this type of crime, everytime a Officer is Approached by one of those SICK individuals it is the SAME as your 10 or 11 year old child being approached.. Do you think they should ignore the problem, and let online predators have free roam?

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