Going high-tech to catch the bad guys

HOUSTON While the work done at digital forensic labs has traditionally focused on crimes against children, the scope is widening and now includes everything from national security and counter terrorism cases to corporate fraud.

Tech savvy criminals are always looking for ways to outsmart the cops. Advances in technology are raising the stakes on both sides of the law.

"As technology grows, we are seeing new types of equipment coming in that we have never seen before," said lab director Ryan Dusek.

For local and federal investigators battling to stay one step ahead, there's the FBI's new $3 million digital forensics lab in Houston.

"Clearly what this laboratory can do, has done, and will do is to shape law enforcement for the future," said Andrew Bland, III, with the FBI.

Digital forensics is the application of science and engineering to the recovery of digital evidence, whether it's from a computer, cell phone or PDA. A forensic examiner, David Hendricks with the FBI always has a wide variety of tools at his disposal.

"A lot of times you have no idea what you are walking into," he said. "It may be one computer. You may be walking into a hundred computers."

The lab played a prominent role in a few recent local high profile cases, the investigation into Enron being one of them. In addition to pouring through thousands and thousands of documents, examiners reviewed scores of computers owned by Enron, digital evidence from the Travis Mullis baby death case out of Galveston, as well as the Sylvester murders in Pasadena is being processed and stored at the lab.

"As we look at the future, it is absolutely categorically critical that we have this level of sophistication and these types of skills to be able to drill down and look at that type of evidence," said Bland.

Through a partnership with area law enforcement, the FBI trains other law officers how to be forensic examiners. They, in turn, teach police officers on the street how to recognize the different types of devices that can hide and store information.

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