By Kristen Eskow, Fox 59
INDIANAPOLIS — A new state law going into effect next month will expand Indiana’s ability to process digital evidence in criminal investigations.
The state will begin the process of adding six new high-tech crime units across Indiana. Currently, there are only four statewide — located in Marion, Tippecanoe, Vanderburgh and St. Joseph counties, according to officials.
“The information that the cyber crimes unit can get off of these devices really helps to add some technicolor into a gray world,” said Eric Tamashasky, chief deputy prosecuting attorney for St. Joseph County.
In St. Joseph County, investigators have teamed up with students from the University of Notre Dame for the county’s cyber crimes unit, processing large quantities of digital evidence — like laptops and cell phones — for prosecutors across northern Indiana.
“A lot of police departments, it’s difficult for them individually to invest the money and the training to train someone to do this type of work,” said Mitch Kajzer, director of the St. Joseph County cyber crimes unit.
The expansion increases the total number of these units, also known as high-tech crime units, from four to 10 statewide.
“Up to 10 districts who will partner with different universities and their computer departments to analyze these tech devices,” said State Rep. Greg Steuerwald (R-Avon), the author of the law.
Hancock County Prosecutor Brent Eaton said he believes the expansion will allow offices like his to have more digital evidence processed and get the information they need more quickly.
“If you’re somebody who didn’t do something and somebody’s made an allegation against you, this could help us find that out too,” Eaton said.
According to Eaton, it sometimes takes several weeks or months to retrieve evidence from electronic devices that can’t be examined locally.
He and other prosecutors believe having more of these units will lessen that wait for justice.
“When we increase the efficiency, then we no longer have victims who sitting waiting for their day in court for over a year,” said Courtney Curtis, assistant executive director of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, which advocated for the law.
All 10 high tech crime units are expected to be in operation by January, according to State Rep. Steuerwald. The law grants each unit $300,000 in state funding, which will be used for startup or expansion costs.