Purdue Northwest's new High Tech Crime Unit collects digital evidence for police, prosecutors

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Monday, September 25, 2023
New Indiana program collects digital evidence for police, prosecutors
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A new High Tech Crime Unit in Hammond, Indiana at Purdue Northwest can break phone passwords and collect evidence, like a browser history.

HAMMOND, Ind. (WLS) -- On the Hammond campus of Purdue Northwest, there's a new effort to help drive down crimes in Lake County, Indiana and surrounding areas by investigating what's part of our everyday lives.

"There's five phones working on that one. This is the break key unit, which will break into a phone when we don't have the particular passcode," said High Tech Crime Unit Executive Director Edgar Rodriguez "The phone is a mobilized computer. Everyone's caressing that thing every two seconds."

Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter helped to bring the new High Tech Crime Unit to the county, which will help with investigations by collecting digital evidence for police and prosecutors.

"Just about that we investigate now, we're always looking for that technology," Carter said.

The new unit is part of a $600,000 state-funded grant helping to support cases being investigated at all 24 police departments in Lake County, Indiana.

"Browser history tells a lot of somebody's prepping to do something," Rodriguez said. "Recently, we had a phone that actually had the murder on it, the shooting."

And, those types of investigations are what third-year forensics and chemistry student Joshua Buggs is eager to help solve.

"I remember gunshots as a kid. I remember our first car getting stolen," Buggs said.

He grew up in nearby Gary, Indiana, and with the unit being at his school, it will also allow students like him to be deputized to help with cases.

"I know of crime and how it's a thing in the community, and if I can help alleviate that, and help solve these mysteries and generally help people, that would be the greatest thing I ever do," Buggs said.

The grant will fund this unit for two years. Carter says lawmakers have promised him it will be renewed, and says it is here to stay.