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FBI Opening New Digital Forensics Labs


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Keeping pace with the explosive growth of digital forensic evidence in virtually every kind of crime, the FBI is opening two new digital forensic hubs to assist local and regional agencies with investigations spanning from child pornography to murder.

 

The Tennessee Valley Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory held its grand opening on Tuesday in Huntsville, Ala. It is the first new laboratory in the RCFL system in nine years—but it will be shortly joined by a counterpart in Boston in coming months, according to officials.

 

The two additional facilities bring the total number of labs in the program up to 17, from the single pilot project laboratory in San Diego initiated in 1999.

 

The TVRCFL in Alabama is currently located in temporary facilities. However, the $3.4-million facility will transition to a permanent building on the Redstone Arsenal military base in another 3 to 5 years, according to officials.

 

The FBI provides the facility, equipment and training for the TVRCFL. Staffing will come from both the Bureau and four agencies in the area: the Huntsville Police Department, Madison County Sheriff’s Office, the Alabama National Guard Counterdrug Program and the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office. The prosecution team handling many of the cases is the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the North District of Alabama.


“Prior to the TVRCFL, we did not have sufficient computer forensic capability to address the proliferation of cases involving digital media,” said Johnnie Sharp Jr., the special agent in charge of the FBI’s field office in Birmingham, Ala. “Today, thanks to the TVRCFL, law enforcement throughout Alabama and southern Tennessee can significantly exchange their capabilities by partnering with one of the world’s most advanced state-of-the-art digital forensics examination facilities.”

 

Local media reports that eight forensic examiners are currently working at the TVRCFL.

 

Already the facility has been active in completing investigations. For instance, the analysts were involved in the so-called “Operation Southern Impact II” investigation, which arrested 12 and rescued four children who were allegedly being sexually exploited.

 

The other service areas that have been established since the 2002 formal founding of the RCFL program include: Chicago, Greater Houston, Heart of America (Missouri), Intermountain West (Utah), Kentucky, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Texas, Northwest (Oregon), Orange County (California), Philadelphia, Rocky Mountain (Colorado), San Diego, Silicon Valley (California) and Western New York.

 

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