Computer Crime Research Center


Computer Crime Targeted

Date: June 01, 2004
By: Katie Melone

NEW BRITAIN -- Joining a handful of departments across the state, the city police department has created a special detective unit to handle computer crimes in addition to the polygraph examinations it has conducted for several years.

The creation of the computer crimes and polygraph unit makes official what has been virtually a one-man computer-evidence analysis operation in the department.

For about the past six years, Sgt. James Wardwell - a veteran detective promoted to sergeant last month - has slowly built expertise in computer forensics. He also has been the department's polygraph examiner.

Such a unit is a rarity among local police departments statewide, law enforcement officials say.

When presented with computer crimes or criminal evidence contained in a computer, most local departments rely on the state police crime lab - which has a considerable backlog - for evidence analysis.

So few local departments have computer crimes units because they are hamstrung by the high cost of training officers and purchasing equipment, said Joe Dooley, a supervisory special agent in the FBI New Haven office.

"It's very expensive," said Dooley, who heads up a computer crimes task force.

In Wardwell's case, his interest in computer crimes was sparked in 1998 when the first case involving computer evidence analysis fell into his lap.

"I knew nothing about computers," he said. A group was running a sports trading-card scam over the computer. Determined to crack the case, Wardwell began educating himself. He spent a day at the state lab shadowing a computer forensic examiner. He read books, took classes and learned as he went along.

Now he has become one of the go-to detectives in the state for computer crimes analysis. He was one of eight law enforcement officials recently chosen to attend a special computer forensics training sponsored by the federal government.

Having such a skilled person in a department is invaluable, law enforcement officials say, as criminals increasingly grow comfortable and gain access to computers.

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