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Cybercrimes Detectives on the Case in Cary

A new unit of Cary cops is chasing sexual predators, child pornographers and armed robberies – all from behind a desk.

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CARY, N.C. — 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.


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