Lake County Prosecutor, Purdue Northwest Dedicate New High Tech Crime Unit Partnership
The Lake County Prosecutor’s office, in partnership with Purdue University Northwest (PNW), celebrated the beginnings of their cooperation through a state-funded High Tech Crime Unit (HTCU) during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 25.
Under the supervision of the prosecutor’s office, the HTCU will provide significant assistance in the investigation and prosecution of criminal acts committed through various digital devices. The unit will assist law enforcement agencies and prosecutors’ offices in Lake and Porter counties. The HTCU will be housed on PNW’s Hammond campus and partner with its existing Center for Crime and Forensics.
“We are so grateful and excited about this opportunity to partner with Purdue Northwest,” said Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter. “This partnership will have a tremendous impact on the criminal justice system as we work in tandem with Purdue Northwest students to extract crucial evidence for prosecution.”
“It is central to the mission of Purdue University Northwest as a metropolitan university to grow its partnerships with community stakeholders,” said PNW Chancellor Thomas L. Keon. “The High Tech Crime Unit at Purdue Northwest is a win-win for the prosecutor’s office and the university. Lake and Porter counties have an important resource to support their law enforcement agencies. The operations will be enhanced by our experienced Forensics faculty members and highly motivated students involved in Forensic Science, Computer Science, Cybersecurity and more. PNW’s high-quality programs in these disciplines made it the prime choice for the Lake County prosecutor’s office to partner with to meet an important need for digital forensics knowledge and application.”
Approximately 80 people gathered for the ribbon-cutting and tour of the HTCU, including local law enforcement leadership; state and federal elected officials; Lake County Prosecutor’s Office staff; and PNW administrators, faculty, staff and students.
This partnership will have a tremendous impact on the criminal justice system as we work in tandem with Purdue Northwest students to extract crucial evidence for prosecution.
Modern tools to prosecute crime
The HTCU at PNW will develop specialized operations and process digital evidence from computers, cameras, laptops, tablets, cell phones and other electronic devices to reduce turnaround time for evidence collection. Work at the HTCU is expected to assist in investigations of financial and violent crimes.
Two full-time Lake County Prosecutor’s office members will staff the HTCU and process digital evidence submitted by local law enforcement agencies in Lake and Porter counties. The HTCU is also located near PNW’s Center for Crime and Forensics to offer seamless sharing of resources and subject-area expertise. The Center for Crime and Forensics provides education, training, research and development, and forensic science testing services to academia, law enforcement and legal communities alike. Its aim is to promote the advancement of science while improving the resources needed to ensure public safety at the local, state and federal levels.
PNW has two full-time forensics faculty members with over 30 years of combined experience in crime lab management, including building and operating multidiscipline forensic testing facilities. PNW students in pertinent disciplines are also expected to have opportunities to contribute at the HTCU as deputized workers that can help process evidence and testify in criminal prosecution.
The HTCU helps meet a modern turn in the prevalence of increased electronic device use by perpetrators, and the subsequent “digital fingerprints” and evidence trail that can be left behind. From instant messaging to global positioning system (GPS) data, law enforcement officials and digital forensics experts are leveraging new technology pieces to solve and build solid cases for the prosecution of criminal acts.
It is central to the mission of Purdue University Northwest as a metropolitan university to grow its partnerships with community stakeholders.
In spring 2021, Indiana lawmakers agreed to award county prosecutors across the state with resources for fighting computer-related crimes. Legislation authorized the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council to establish high tech crime units with the intention of aiding investigation and collection of digital evidence and prosecution of financial, sexual or other digital crimes committed with computer networks. The units were also intended to partner with higher education institutions to collaborate with resources and provide students real-world experience in digital forensics.
The Lake County Prosecutor’s Office was selected as a recipient for funding. The office chose to partner with PNW to leverage existing resources in academics and research in forensics, criminal justice and computer-related disciplines.