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High Tech Task Force helps police nab data from phones, computers

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Posted: Sunday, June 14, 2009 10:00 pm

Detective Nick Rafiq has been with the Lodi Police Department since 1995.

He has been a detective for almost five years and was recently assigned to the Special Investigations Unit. He is also a member of the Sacramento Valley High Tech Task Force. I sat down with him a few days ago to gain a little insight into what the task force does.

What does the Sacramento Valley High Tech Task Force do?

The mission of the task force is to assist local law enforcement agencies with analyzing evidence that comes from computers and cell phones. We retrieve data from phone and computers.

Which law enforcement agencies contribute members to the task force?

It is made up of officers from federal, state and local agencies. Agents from the F.B.I., U.S. Secret Service and Postal Service, and officers from the California Highway Patrol, Sacramento Police Department, Sacramento County Sheriff's Department, Elk Grove Police Department, San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department and Lodi Police Department make up the task force.

What kind of training did you have to go through to become a member of the unit?

I attended Department of Justice classes in personal computer forensics, specialized investigation tools, computer evidence recovery and cellular phone investigation. I learned things like how to retrieve deleted files off a hard drive and how to analyze the information in a cell phone. My training was paid for by a grant from the federal government.

Why did you volunteer to become a member of the task force?

I enjoy working with computers. And it's much cheaper and easier for our department to have someone "in-house" recover evidence from a computer than to send if off to another agency. It takes much longer for an officer from the outside to check the computer and get back to us. There has been a spike in computer-related crimes locally in recent months, things like mortgage fraud, credit card fraud and identity theft. We are ahead of the curve by having someone within our department who can conduct these kinds of investigations.

Do any of the cases you've worked here in Lodi come to mind?

I've had several cases where I recovered evidence from computers that showed that the person was involved in child pornography.

The Skynet computer controls the lethal robots in the movie "Terminator: Salvation." Relying on all of your extensive training and experience, how would you deal with something that sophisticated and futuristic?

Unplug it.

Any comments, questions or advice for Behind the Badge can be e-mailed to Jeanie Biskup at jbiskup@pd.lodi.gov or mailed to Lodi Police Department, 215 W. Elm St., Lodi, CA 95240, phone (209) 333-6864.

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