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Taking a “Byte” out of Crime
New Digital Forensic Lab Opens in the Windy City

07/17/03

On July 17, the Chicago Regional Forensic Computer Laboratory (RCFL) officially opened its doors for business. This cutting edge cyber lab, which is dedicated to analyzing evidence found on computers and other digital media, is a partnership venture of the Chicago and Palatine Police Departments, Cook and Will County Sheriff’s Departments, Illinois State Police, Illinois Attorney General’s Office, the University of Illinois at Chicago Police Department, and the FBI. “Law enforcement at every level has seen a steady growth in the use of computers to facilitate criminal activity,” Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Chicago Office Tom Kneir noted. “The establishment of this RCFL will give law enforcement in northern Illinois the resources needed to combat this growing trend.”

Using the latest imaging software and high-end computers, and having undergone exhaustive training, eleven specially trained examiners from the 8 partner agencies are hunting for digital evidence of criminal activity in everything from cell phones and video cameras to MP3 players and computers seized in investigations of a variety of crimes: terrorism, child pornography, white-collar crime, fraud, intellectual property theft, and even violent crimes in the Illinois region. “They’re putting in first-rate equipment, and it will be more advanced than what we have,” said Sgt. David Hudspeth of the Chicago Police Department. “Everyone needs collaboration like this.” In fact, the examiners at the facility are already processing thousands of pages of evidence files from cases in the region.

The Chicago RCFL is the fourth regional lab to open in the U.S., following Kansas City’s opening earlier in the month, and San Diego’s and Dallas’ last year. A fifth lab is slated to open in San Francisco in 2003. All these multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional facilities are designed to support the explosion of cases involving computer-based evidence. Between 1998 and 2001, this number rose nearly 650%.