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What once took as long as a year will now take a few days. And that will likely make it easier for local law enforcement to catch criminals.
Taylor County Sheriff's Office is now a mini forensic laboratory, certified to conduct forensic investigations of cell phones and computers.
And the software to conduct the investigations, which could cost $50,000 or more, has been provided free.
Detective Brian Pickard recently spent five weeks in Alabama at a training seminar to learn to conduct forensic investigations.
Before the sheriff's office had the software, Pickard said, he had to send hard drives and cell phones to a certified forensic lab for examination. Kentucky State Police, the FBI and Secret Service all have labs in Louisville.
When doing that, Pickard said, the labs are so behind because of the large amount of investigations they conduct, it could take as long as a year for the evidence to be analyzed.
But thanks to the U.S. Secret Service, Pickard can now do his own investigations in a matter of hours or days.
A member of the Secret Service's Electronic Crimes Task Force, Pickard said the equipment he will use to conduct the investigations is technically owned by the Secret Service, though he can use it now that he has been certified to do so.
"In return, they provide you, on loan, all the equipment you need for a lab," he said. "Anything you need, they provide it."
There are only a handful of the mini forensic labs in Kentucky, Pickard said. To be eligible to become certified and operate a lab, law enforcement agencies had to be nominated for the training. Out of about 300 in the United States nominated, Pickard said, only 24 offices were chosen.
The local social services field office nominated the sheriff's office for the training.
"We're definitely advanced," he said. "It was a good deal."
The goal of the Secret Service setting up mini labs, Pickard said, is to see forensic investigations performed much quicker. And with that comes more time for the law enforcement officers to complete investigations in a timely manner.
"To take the burden off of everybody else," he said. "Some of the cases are getting a year behind."
And now that Pickard can do forensic investigations himself, he can do them for not only his office, but others in the area. He has already received requests from Bardstown, Greensburg and Glasgow law enforcement offices.
"They can just bring it directly to me," he said. "And the turnaround is much, much less."
Another benefit to being a certified lab, Pickard said, is forensic investigators won't be called as often to testify in court about the investigation they did after local sheriff's deputies sent evidence to them. That will save money, he said.
Pickard said having the software to forensically examine hard drives and cell phones will also allow deputies to know the results of their investigations much quicker. This can result in criminals being arrested and charged much sooner than in the past.
"It keeps the case fresh," he said. "I can do the processing ... and have the results in two or three days, a week at the most."
And having the results quicker, Pickard said, can encourage officers to collect more evidence.
"And it can lead to something bigger," he said. "We can process stuff a lot faster."
Pickard said having the software also eliminates deputies having to explain to forensic technicians what they need to look for when examining the evidence.
"I like it a lot better now that I can process my own evidence. I know what I'm looking for."
With the software, Pickard said, he can recover deleted files, study a person's computer usage patterns, recover passwords and search for anything a deputy requests.
"And we get to help other agencies as well," he said.
Pickard said his office wouldn't have been able to afford the equipment had it not been nominated for the training.
"Without them doing it, we would never have it," he said.
Along with several high capacity and performance computers, Pickard received copies of Encase, Forensic Tool Kit and Internet Evidence Finder software.
FTK, released by Access Data, is available for public use, Pickard said, but costs $6,000 to $7,000.
Pickard said the software will definitely help solve computer crimes and put those criminals behind bars.
"Once you put something on a computer, it's there forever," he said.
And now, Pickard said, his office has more tools to find that evidence.