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The New DNA fingerprint: Cell phones

May 23, 2013 2:43:34 PM PDT
It's exclusive look inside the brave new world of cyber-cops. Technology is revolutionizing how police catch criminals. Cell phones are now the new DNA fingerprint.

Here's a statistic for you: In Suffolk County alone cases involving cell phones have gone up 1400% in the past 6 years. The bottom line: if you're a bad guy, what you capture on your phone or computer, could help police capture you.

The cyber cops in the Suffolk County Police Department Computer Crimes Unit are pulling out evidence from a phone that could seal a rape case.

A rape suspect took photos of his encounter with a 13 year-old girl.

"There were actually 319 images on an SD card that's deleted. We were able to carve them back," Sgt. Dan Molloy said. "We have software that we are able to extract pretty much everything. You think you deleted something, you didn't. We can get it."

It is called a Ramsey box. It prevents a suspect from remotely erasing what's on a phone once it's in custody.

"What we do is put it in here, power it on, and it won't connect to a network. It won't receive any new data," Jim Pace said. "If you've been somewhere in the subway or the bottom of a building and there's no cell service. This does the same thing. It won't give it service."

The new technology is revolutionizing investigations. It's a different kind of DNA fingerprint.

"Those smartphones they're basically computers and every crime has something to do with a phone," Pace said.

It's a different kind of DNA fingerprint.

"The bad guy is always calling somebody or videotaping something or texting something," Pace said.

Or potentially targeting your child.

"One of the dangers that are on the smart phones now is the capability of people going on the video, especially children," Deputy Chief Kevin Fallon said. "They can get in some of these rooms and now they could be viewing some boy from across the world who's trying to engage them in some type of sexual conduct, so it's a danger out there, and it's a new danger. It didn't exist while I was growing up. It didn't exist 20 year ago. It exists now."

The unit's biggest challenge is tracking pedophiles, who frequently troll the internet.

"Our website that we have set up and it tells us the people in our geographical area that are visiting known child pornography websites because they're out there," Pace said.

From there, they get search warrants to seize computers. Sometimes, it's much worse than just perverts trading images. One woman was recently convicted and sentenced for the unimaginable.

"When we forensically checked the computer, we found images of a 4-year-old child that was being abused. Further investigation revealed the child lived in the exact house. It wasn't just images, it was an actual victim," Pace said.

The woman in that case is now serving 20 years. Police are still hunting for her male accomplice who was also living in the house. Back to the whole issue of kids and computers and smart phones, experts can't stress enough you absolutely need to monitor the apps your kids are downloading and who they're video chatting with. It is a minefield.

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