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  • Correspondent illustration by Bruce Preston

    The Nashua Police Department has obtained several pieces of equipment to help them investigate crimes involving computers, cell phones and other electronic devices.

  • Correspondent illustration by Bruce Preston

    The Nashua Police Department has obtained several pieces of equipment to help them investigate crimes involving computers, cell phones and other electronic devices.



Monday, April 2, 2012

Training, equipment enable Nashua detectives to go after Internet crimes

NASHUA – New training and equipment for two city detectives means police are now going harder than ever after Internet predators in Greater Nashua.

Detectives Steve Sweeney and Bob Powers are leading the department’s efforts and helping police throughout the area thanks to their new expertise in computer forensics in cases involving not just child predators, but in a wide range of crimes that involve electronics.

In addition to their normal duties as detectives, Powers and Sweeney are now detailed to the New Hampshire Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

During their training for the task force, the detectives learned how to use two pieces of high-tech equipment to conduct forensic examinations of computers, cell phones, pagers, GPS devices, video game consoles, or anything else that has a hard drive and stores data.

One of the pieces of equipment is called a Cellebrite UFED machine. Once police have a search warrant or consent from a suspect, they plug the machine into a cell phone or other device and can extract valuable evidence, including call logs, text messages, pictures, videos and contact lists.

The exams they conduct with the Cellebrite can be done on scene – the device is stored in a small suitcase that the detectives can bring anywhere – to get preliminary information from the phone or other device.

Another machine, called a Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device, or FRED, is more powerful.

With it, the detectives can conduct more thorough forensic exams and even create a carbon copy of an entire machine that they can examine in detail without fear of changing any data and compromising its value as evidence.

All of this new capability was available to Nashua police before through the New Hampshire State Crime Lab as well as labs contracted by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

But doing the forensic searches in-house saves time, Nashua Police Lt. Frank Sullivan said.

“You could do a cursory search but you wouldn’t find everything this is capable of doing,” he said.

Doing the searches in-house means police are quicker to get information for arrest warrants and getting wrong-doers off the streets sooner.

“(Crime labs) are inundated and there can be a substantial waiting period,” Sullivan said. “Having the capability to do these in-house searches, there’s quicker clearance of crimes.”

Sexual crimes against children aren’t the only crimes the equipment is helpful for, Powers said. Technology can be involved in nearly any type of crime, particularly online fraud or an activity in which the participants use a computer or phone to communicate.

“Technology is involved in a number of different crimes,” he said.

Powers said the equipment has given the detectives the ability to more aggressively search out wrong-doers rather than waiting for reports of child abuse and other crimes to come to them.

“We have the ability to do more proactive investigations,” he said. “We can go out and search out those guys instead of waiting for it to come in.”

The two devices cost around $10,000 combined, Sullivan said, and were paid for through grants.

He estimated the department’s new search capabilities have been useful in more than 50 investigations in the last half a year.

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or jcote@nashuatelegraph.com. Also follow Cote on Twitter (@Telegraph_JoeC).