On October 23, 2006, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office unveiled its new state of the art 2.5 million dollar Crime Scene facility. The facility consists of a 15,000 square foot building designed to enhance the collection, processing and packaging of forensic evidence in Essex County. The facility includes a vehicle processing room equipped with a hydraulic lift which allows the Crime Scene Detectives to examine vehicles from all angles; a forensic processing room designed to better enable a Detective to locate and identify fingerprints on various types of evidence; a drying chamber room designed for the processing and packaging of blood soaked clothing; a digital photography room, as well as a new large evidence storage room capable of handling more than 50 times the amount of evidence which could be stored at the previous facility.
The Crime Scene Unit enables the Detective staff to access the Internet via a high speed computer system thus allowing for instant communications with all law enforcement agencies. The computer system also features a 3-D animated Crime Scene Sketch and Reconstruction software to which allows the Detectives the ability to visually reconstruct a crime scene. Also, the Unit utilizes three fully stocked field vehicles for processing evidence at any crime scene. These vehicles are equipped with portable lighting systems, and alternate light sources which enable the Detectives to view bodily fluids, hairs, fibers and latent fingerprints invisible to the human eye under natural light.
In December 2010, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office formed a Cyber Crimes Unit to investigate child pornography, computer fraud and the use of the Internet and other technology in crimes. This unit is staffed by an Assistant Prosecutor, a Lieutenant of Detectives, and several Detectives. The Unit works with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, and provides a valuable local resource given that many local police departments don’t have the facilities and expertise to thoroughly investigate computer related matters.
Whether dealing with homicides, rapes, domestic violence, drug cases, online predators, child pornography or cyber stalking, technology is often the key to effective crime fighting in the 21st century. The Cyber Crimes Unit solves traditional crimes using computer forensics. The unit also educates members of the community on cyber bullying. Once limited to name-calling, today’s bullying has morphed into cyber space and often involves much more complicated issues.
In 2012, the Cyber Crimes Unit expanded its mission to include assisting the Megan’s Law Unit in obtaining necessary evidence that registered sexual offenders were utilizing the Internet and social media in violation of the terms of their Community or Parole Supervision for Life. The Cyber Crimes Unit’s forensic abilities continued to grow as it secured additional forensic devices and software. As a direct result of additional resources, the CCU enhanced its ability to conduct in-house examinations.
In 2015, the Cyber Crimes Unit became a part of the newly created Forensic Analysis and Cyber Technical Services (FACTS) Unit which is staffed by six detectives, a Lieutenant and a Captain.
In 2016 the FACTS Unit continued to provide support for the ECPO and local police departments by performing searches and forensic examinations of cellular telephones and other digital media obtained during criminal investigations. In 2016, the FACT Unit did more than 700 cell phone extractions and analysis, 82 computer or external media extractions and 400 video downloads.
Increasingly this kind of technical assistance is essential to the investigation and prosecution of cases. It can provide call history, text messages, photos and other information that is crucial to the successful prosecution of a case.
Additionally, the Unit continues to provide legal and investigative assistance to municipal police departments on cyber and technology-facilitated crimes. Members of the Unit also provide training and engage in community outreach, including presenting information on internet safety and cyber bullying to students and teachers throughout the County.