Police take byte out of crime, Officers link up with program that shuts down computer-related offenses
By Tim Hahn
Date: October 18, 2003
Dennis Angelotti made a hobby out of computers. He's about to make a career out of them.
Angelotti, a computer enthusiast who has spent 17 years as an Erie police officer, is trading in his patrol uniform for a jacket and tie as the newest member of the Erie Bureau of Police Criminal Investigation Division.
He's also joining at least 35 other police officers from across the region as members of a task force being set up locally to combat crimes involving computers.
There are several similar task forces taking shape throughout the state.
Angelotti, a detective sergeant, and other members of the state police Region IV Computer Crime Task Force will get training and the use of specialized equipment to investigate an array of computer crimes for their respective police departments.
The members also will be called upon, when the need arises, to assist other departments in handling computer-related caseloads.
"Right now, what's been going on is there has been three state police troopers and (Erie County Detective) Larry Dombrowski handling all of this crime," said state police Trooper Robert Pearson, who did the computer crime investigations for state police Troop E and will now serve as coordinator of the task force.
"We want to kind of teach people to fish so we don't have to keep feeding them. They can handle their caseload, and if they can't, we have others who can assist them."
Computer-related crimes include child pornography, identity theft, Internet sale scams and credit-card fraud. They happen in small communities such as Albion, where the two-officer police department investigated a half-dozen ID theft and harassment cases, and in larger cities such as Erie, where the 209-member Bureau of Police is investigating a sales scam to which an Erie business fell victim.
"These are the kinds of crimes I really, really like to investigate," said Albion Patrolman Dave Meyers, a member of the Computer Crime Task Force.
The Region IV task force will cover the 151/2-county area of northwestern Pennsylvania covered by state police Troop C in Punxsutawney, Troop D in Butler and Troop E in Lawrence Park. There will be one full-time investigator from each troop assigned to the task force, Pearson said.
There are currently 35 local police departments from the Region IV area represented on the task force. The number is expected to grow as the task force gets up and running.
Task force members must first go through a four-day training program, one of which is scheduled Monday in Meadville.
State police will offer additional training in the coming months and will supply some equipment that task force members will need in their jobs, Pearson said.
The money to get the task force started came through a grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
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