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FBI cyber-crimes lab opens in Orange County

January 5, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
The head of the FBI and top Orange County law enforcement officers get a look at a new cyber-crime laboratory. The high-tech lab will help Southland agencies pool their resources to solve cases involving computer-related evidence.Authorities say just about every crime these days involves analyzing technology of some kind, from flash drives to cell phones to computers.

"With the impact of the Internet, smart phones, wireless technology and the like, the growth of this media has overwhelmed many of us in the course of doing our investigations," said FBI Director Robert Mueller.

The backlog of cyber evidence to be examined can be overwhelming. The Santa Ana Police Dept. had only one detective to handle it -- until now.

Mueller joined law enforcement from various agencies to officially open the Orange County Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory in Orange.

"You're talking about an $8 million lab here that we would never be able to afford," said Santa Ana Police Chief Paul Walters.

Local law enforcement now has access to state-of-the art equipment and training, paid for by the FBI. The equipment can gather information from a suspect's cell phone.

"Within a half-an-hour they can get everything done," said FBI Special Agent Steve Crist.

Forensic examiners can easily make copies of original evidence.

The facility also has a training center to keep law enforcement up to date on the latest crimes and technological advances.

With more technology, criminals are getting pretty creative, like trying to hide data in a toy car.

"Gang members use wireless devices and Internet to support their criminal organizations. Pedophiles hide their pornography," said Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.

Authorities expect the equipment will also help save time.

"For us it will be able to quickly get to that data, that information, to either make the case or clear the person," said Chief Walters.

The lab is the fifteenth of its kind in the U.S., a facility authorities hope will help them stay further ahead of tech-savvy criminals.