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Digging Deeper: Inside the forensics laboratory of officer who leads child pornography investigations

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Digging Deeper: Inside the forensics laboratory of officer who leads child pornography investigations Digging Deeper: Inside the forensics laboratory of officer who leads child pornography investigations
ROCHESTER/MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (KTTC) -- Investigators in Rochester go through countless man hours to get enough evidence to even conduct a search warrant on one of these suspects, and sometimes that is still not enough to pursue a case. However, without the help of one officer in the Twin Cities, some of these cases wouldn't even get off the ground.

When it comes to solving cyber crime, Minnesota has a card up its sleeve and it lies deep in the corners of the Minneapolis Police Department.

"When I discover a case in that area or in that city, I'll usually notify the agency that there's a case available," said Officer Dale Hanson of the Minnesota Police Department.

Hanson was the first to alert the Rochester Police Department to the seven suspects arrested in a recent child pornography investigation.

"We do have some programs that we use to constantly do searches on the Internet looking for these types of files," said Hanson. "These are running 24 hours a day always looking for the next possible target who has these files available."

Hanson has a digital map revealing the number of people that have accessed images of child pornography in Minnesota since 2013. The Rochester cases all started with the software on the program, and after months of investigation, ended in search warrants and a seizure of nearly 100 devices containing child pornography.

"It's not uncommon that we find many, many devices in these homes, sometimes the beginning level, all the way to advanced computer expertise," said one RPD investigator who asked not to be identified.

It's a challenge that leads investigators to tools similar to those in Hanson's forensic laboratory, which can open the gates to your device in just a matter of moments. Detectives can download anything in an instant, including call history, texts, contacts and information from your apps.

Some tools even do all the searching for you. "This arm moves up and down, grabs the discs, takes a picture of it up at the top here," as Hanson describes a machine that reads and stores disc files. "There's a camera up above here that puts it into the tray and extracts the data off it."

However, it is not uncommon that these cases take investigators much further than just the trash bin on your computer. "The suspect had claimed that his laptop had been stolen, but here it is," Hanson said as he pointed to a laptop. "And we found it in his car that was in the impound lot."

"People have sometimes the feeling of what it's like to be a detective and doing the search and trying to find the needle in the haystack, and for some of these investigations that's what it is," said Lt. Mike Sadauskis of the RPD. "You're talking terabytes of information and you're trying to find in some cases small photographs within all this data."

With technology changing every day, it can be a game of cat and mouse.

"Every single day something else is becoming new, sometimes to prevent us from being able to effectively do our job, however, the adaption is the biggest thing we have to overcome," says the anonymous officer.

In 2014, Rochester had 21 child pornography investigations compared to 13 in 2013, six in 2012, and seven in 2011. Officers said more resources will be needed in the future to bring these predators to justice.

"These cases, there are so many out there and unfortunately, we just don't always have enough adequate resources to investigate these, but we do the best we can with the resources that we have," said the anonymous officer.

"Oftentimes people say homicide, murder is the worst, but if people could see some of the photographs and the things that are being done to young children that are in these videos and in these pictures, it drives you to try to say, 'hey, we've got to protect our kids and this is one way you can do it,'" said Sadauskis.

According to Sadauskis, there are seven ongoing cases here where a suspect has been developed, but if there isn't probable cause to charge them, that person is then kept in mind for the future in case the department receives any further information on their activity.
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