Wednesday, the FBI opened a brand new computer forensics lab at Redstone to help crack down on digital crime in Alabama and throughout the southeast. The Tennessee Valley Regional Computer Forensics Lab is one of only 17 computer forensics labs across the country.
The lab is dedicated to examining digital evidence in an era of rampant digital crime.
“It could range from homicide, to instances of child pornography, fraud — any type of crime you might imagine where a digital media device, smart phone, a tablet, a laptop, or a computer is utilized to facilitate the commission of that crime — we can now bring it to the TVRCFL to get digital media exploitation,” said Johnnie Sharp, Jr., special agent in charge of the FBI’s Birmingham Division, who oversees the TVRCFL.
The Huntsville Police Department and the Madison County Sheriff’s department are among the partners who will work with the FBI at the multimillion dollar lab, which will help them keep up with technology that is being used and drives criminal activity. The Etowah County Sheriff’s Office and the Alabama National Guard Counterdrug Program will also partner at the lab.
“The technology is just sweeping us, and we’re having a hard time keeping up with it,” said Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray. “This puts us in front of the problem instead of trying to catch up with it.”
McMurray said that keeping up with technology is something that police departments are struggling with across the country.
“When these sex offenders show up in our community, we need to be able to prosecute them for what we have, but we need to be able to take their computers apart and find out who they are and who they have been transmitting this pornography to and take down entire networks of these individuals around the world,” said McMurray.
The US Attorney’s Office will also be involved.
“When you have a national security matter or a terrorism matter, you need to get into those devices immediately,” said Jay Town, US Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama. “You need whatever real time information you can glean from — whether it be a tablet or a phone or hard drive, and it’s only facilities like these that can provide that information.”
A full brick and mortar facility is expected to be built within 3-5 years.