Attorney General Kamala Harris on Monday announced that Fresno would be the inaugural location for a new cyber crime center that will assist local law enforcement with investigations where digital expertise or assistance is required.
Dubbed the California Cyber Crime Center – or C4 by state Department of Justice officials – the initiative is a recognition of the increasing role technology plays in society today, and the greater need to have the tools to both deal with the new technology, and also use it to law enforcement’s advantage.
“This, what we are unveiling today, gives law enforcement tools that for the most part most (police and sheriff’s) departments do not have,” Harris said at an afternoon news conference outside of the Bureau of Forensic Service’s Fresno Crime Lab on the Fresno State campus.
This, what we are unveiling today, gives law enforcement tools that for the most part most (police and sheriff’s) departments do not have.
Attorney General Kamala Harris
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She said the new initiative would bring together an eCrime unit established in 2011 to investigate and prosecute large-scale identity theft and technology crimes, the state DOJ’s Office of Cyber Security experts, and the Digital Evidence Unit, which uses scientific methods to extract and analyze information from items like cell phones.
In one real-world example, Harris said many criminals have a habit of leaving a digital record of their crime, maybe through a photograph. But once a piece of evidence like a cell phone is seized, there must be a way to get the picture off the phone. Once that happens, the digital footprint is more than a picture, it also records such data as when and where a photo was taken.
The problem is many local law enforcement agencies don’t have the tools to do that sort of forensic research.
Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer, who joined Harris at the announcement, welcomed the launch of the new initiative.
“We have utilized DOJ repeatedly for forensics on digital evidence,” Dyer said. “It is something that has become more and more prevalent in our society.”
In the past, he added, the Fresno Police Department has relied on the state DOJ for the processing of evidence and analysis of evidence for drugs, DNA and ballistics.
“This is another step in terms of the analysis of digital information,” he said.
Harris – who stressed multiple times that she is sensitive to privacy concerns and that policies on digital evidence gathering still needs to be worked out – said the Fresno unit will be the first, but she hopes to expand it to the northern and southern parts of the state. The unit includes in a retrofitted mobile van that has the tools for digital forensic analysis.
Though the official visit was Harris’ primary reason for coming to Fresno, she also worked in some campaigning in her quest for the U.S. Senate. Before the Fresno State event, Harris attended a lunch fundraiser on the patio of the Daily Grill in north Fresno. Attendees paid between $50 for a single ticket and $1,000 for a co-chair to attend.
Harris is facing fellow Democrat Loretta Sanchez, an Orange County congresswoman, for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Barbara Boxer.