What began as a misdemeanor investigation for Franklin Police Department Detective Mike Jones late last year ultimately resulted in the arrest of two people on more than 10 felony counts after Jones was able to extract information from a cellphone.
The case involved an adult man luring two underage girls into a motel. After two days of hard partying, one of the girls left and called her parents, who alerted police. The girl’s father handed over his daughter’s cellphone to Jones for a forensic exam that yielded pictures, texts and videos of illegal activity, he said.
“That broke the investigation wide open,” Jones said. “That netted two arrests of adults for various felonies that would not have happened without this forensic exam at Millstone.”
Jones is referring to Millstone Labs, which is owned and operated by retired Bowling Green Police Department Detective Mike Lemon.
Jones was one of 31 law enforcement officers or law enforcement employees who attended the Cyber Cop Boot Camp on Friday at Millstone inside Western Kentucky University’s Small Business Accelerator. LifeSkills provided funding for the daylong boot camp that was offered free of charge to area law enforcement agencies. The workshop was designed to help police identify the digital fingerprint left behind by criminals, according to Joy Graham, director of LifeSkills Regional Prevention Center.
LifeSkills’ decision to offer the training came about after a high number of suicides and suicide attempts by young people locally in the past year and after the results of a survey of sixth- through 12th-grade students revealed high percentages of children being asked for – and sending – nude photographs both to people they know and to strangers.
“This training will give law enforcement a greater understanding of how electronic evidence should be a part of their investigations and how to use electronic evidence to solve more cases, obtain more convictions and make your community safer,” Graham said. “It will also give (school resource officers) the expertise they need to assist parents, teens and school officials in understanding the correlation between online activity and increased risk of teen drug use and suicide. LifeSkills Regional Prevention Center hopes to use this opportunity to continue to foster our strong partnership with the law enforcement community and to provide a safer community for our youth.”
A Save Our Kids Coalition survey revealed that a large number of children in the city and county schools had received requests for nude photos in the 12 months leading up to the survey. For ninth-grade students, the percentage was 22.9, 10th-grade students reported 28.7 percent, 11th-grade students reported 26.5 percent and 12th-grade students reported 24.6 percent.
Of those surveyed, 49 percent of ninth-graders who were asked for a nude photo sent a photo to someone they know, while 42 percent sent a nude photo to a stranger; 42.1 percent of 10th-graders sent a nude photo to someone they know and 41.3 percent sent a nude photo to a stranger. Half of the 11th-grade students who were asked for a nude photo sent one to someone they know, while 59.2 percent sent a nude photo to a stranger; and 60.7 percent of 12th-grade students sent a nude photo someone they know while 67.6 percent sent a nude photo to a stranger.
In the past year, there were eight suicides by students in the sixth through the 12th grades. Just before the start of school at WKU, 20 percent of incoming freshman said they had contemplated suicide within the last seven days, Graham said. During the spring semester, there were seven suicide attempts among WKU students.
Bullying is not the same as it was 20 years ago, Lemon said. Because of technology, kids can’t get away from those who bully them.
“Suicides are going up because of this,” he said.
During the educational seminar, Lemon and his chief technology officer, Art McFadden, a retired FPD captain, presented officers with information on how and where to find electronic evidence, how to preserve it and how to obtain a subpoena to gain access to social media accounts, email and other electronic evidence.
“We are training them to change the way they are thinking, from cybercrimes are related to white collar and child pornography to thinking every crime is a cybercrime because there is a cybercrime nexus involved,” Lemon said. “No matter what kind of crime there is, there will be a cellphone involved, social media. There are text messages, cellphone records, instant messages, GPS location, search histories and maps that can be used as evidence.
“The problem is, with there being a traditional model of training, less than 5 percent of officers are trained every year on some facet of cybercrime. So we have crime and criminals using technology at a faster pace than police can keep up with them.”
When Millstone sent emails about the class, it immediately filled up and already other agencies have requested training from Millstone.
Warren East High School resource officer and Warren County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Waldrop said the training gave him insight on how to protect students from cybercrime.
“I’m getting the ability to understand exactly how police need to go about preserving evidence with cellphone usage,” Waldrop said. “I’m understanding. especially in the SRO position, with as many cellphones as we have students using, how to go about protecting those students and not become a victim.”
Lemon opened Millstone Labs on Sept. 1, 2015. His business offers training for law enforcement officers to conduct forensic exams of digital devices. As part of that service, those agencies have a subscription allowing them 24-hour access to his lab and equipment and for some, online access to his software from a remote location. Participants of the cyber boot camp toured the lab Friday as part of the training.
— Follow Assistant City Editor Deborah Highland on Twitter @BGDNCrimebeat or visit bgdailynews.com.