New computer in the Bay to stop criminals

By Al Showers - bio | email

BAY ST LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - The Bay St. Louis Police Department has a new weapon in its arsenal to help combat cyber crimes. It's a Forensics Science Mini Computer Lab designed to catch criminals who use computers to commit crimes. Hancock County Reporter Al Showers has a look at why Bay Police Investigators say the new equipment is a necessity in a growing computer savvy society.

The computer lab is simply called 'FRED' which stands for: Forensic Recovery Of Evidence Device.

Detective Joe Kepfer, Bay St. Louis Police Department says, "We found more and more crimes are being committed with computers. I'm not talking about just child pornography, although we see some of that, but computers are being used to commit frauds forgeries in some cases, counterfeiting, identity thefts."

Detective Kepfer is in the process of becoming certified to operate the high tech cyber crime fighting equipment. He says right now identity theft and credit card fraud are public enemy number one.

"Criminals, instead of going out on the street and putting a gun to your face and taking a chance on one or both of you getting hurt or him getting caught doing this, why should he do that and take those risk when he can sit in his living room and steal your life savings out of his bank account," Kepfer says.

With the help of FRED, he aims to prevent that.

"This equipment is designed to do digital recovery on other computer hard drives, particularly information that's been deleted or hidden in some way," says Kepfer. "This Bay pulls out, and I can connect a hard drive that I want to examine to one of these through the right blocker system to anyone of these two bays. And I can copy or clone that hard drive."

The lab also gives investigators mobile capabilities. This device allows police to collect cyber evidence in the field.

Kepfer says, "If the computer is a business computer, and it's essential that the business keep its computer. Rather than take the computer and possibly crippling that business, we would just copy that hard drive as it existed in it's present state at that time."

It's a tool Kepfer says unfortunately will be used a lot by his department and surrounding law enforcement agencies.

"Crimes that are committed over the computer are just as harmful as crimes committed on the streets and in some cases worse. People are getting hurt by these criminals who are committing crimes over the computers. I want to do my part to stop them," Kepfer says.

The equipment was funded by a 15-thousand dollar grant from Mississippi State University's Center for Computer Security and Research Department.

The Biloxi Police Department has had a similar system in place for sometime now and is assisting the Bay Department in getting its new equipment fully operational.